Internet Trends

Where is South Africa digitally in 2019?

The digital landscape differs from country to country, and because of global perspectives, we often neglect to consider the unique nuances of the South African state of digital affairs. It is imperative when making business decisions to consider the South African digital scenario. The following provides an important snapshot of South Africa’s digital state of affairs:

Internet Usage

  • 31.18 million active Internet users (Statista, 2019);
  • 28.99 million active mobile internet users (Statista, 2019);
  • A 7% growth from 2017 in Internet penetration totalling 54%. This represents a connected population of over 31.18 million people and is slightly higher than the 30.8 million users recorded at the same time in 2018. Penetration rates are a mix of relatively low (51% for internet, and 38% for social media), to comparatively high (162% for mobile – over 100% due to dual SIMs and multiple connections). (We Are Social, 2018);
  • An average Internet usage of 8 hours and 32 minutes per day on any device (We Are Social, 2018);
  • Internet usage for personal reasons amounts to 65% every day, 22% at least once per week, 8% at least once per month and 4% less than once per month (We Are Social, 2018)

The top 10 websites used on average monthly traffic in Q4 of 2017:,,,,,,,, and (We Are Social, 2018).

Digital Usage

South Africa has 66% of Internet users who believe that new technologies offer more opportunities than risks (We Are Social, 2018). There is a lucrative growth opportunity in the digital commerce sector since Geraldine Mitchley (Visa senior director for digital solutions in sub-Sahara Africa), estimates R10bn has been spent during 2017 (Fin24, 2017). This is evident in the increase in online purchases as reflected below:

29% of South African Internet users bought something online, and as of August 2017 their preferred payment methods were: credit card (45%), debit card (21%), bank transfer (20%), PayPal (7%) and other (8%) (Statista, 2019). 18% of these purchases were conducted via a mobile phone (We Are Social, 2018). While not all South African users buy products online, 47% searched online for a product or service to buy and 49% users visited an online retail store in the last 30 days (We Are Social, 2018).

Online shopping categories that are the most popular for South African consumers were clothing/apparel (53%), entertainment/education (digital/downloadable) (51%) and event tickets (51%) (Bizcommunity, 2019). Due to better prices, availability and variety of styles South African online shoppers purchase mostly from that U.S followed by China (28%) and the UK (16%). Christmas, Black Friday and seasonal sales are the three top occasions for shopping cross-border more frequently than usual (Bizcommunity, 2019).

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Percentage of South African population that uses: any type of mobile phone (85%), smartphone (60%), laptop or desktop computer (24%), tablet computer (12%), TV of any kind (82%), device for streaming internet content to TV (3%), e-reader device (1%) and wearable tech device (2%) (We Are Social, 2018).

How do South Africans spend time online?

South Africans watch 3 hours of TV per day (broadcast, streaming and video on demand) (We Are Social, 2018) and spend an average of 1 hour and 7 minutes per day listening to streamed music (We Are Social, 2018).

For an average of 8 hours and 25 minutes each day, which is far higher than the global average of 6 hours and 41 minutes, South Africans are glued to their screens. South Africa’s social media activity is also one of the fastest growing in the world since 40% of connected South Africans are using social media platforms. This means that 23 million people are following threads and posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like.

Stranger Things was the most popular digital original television show on Netflix based on audience demand in South Africa in February 2018 with 2.14 million average demand expressions (Statista, 2019). Netflix will have more than 337 thousand subscribers in South Africa and will generate approximately 31.5 million U.S. dollars with its South African streaming segment in 2020 (Statista, 2019).

Online Marketing: South African’s growing Industry

The rise in internet usage in South Africa is tantamount to a rise in both online marketing and e-commerce. Online marketing has boosted Internet advertising since South African spending is expected to grow from 5.1 billion in 2017 to 9.4 South African rand in 2022 (Statista, 2019). Businesses are increasingly harnessing digital marketing in terms of marketing, sales and customer engagement. The role of the digital marketer is growing by leaps and bounds and educating the South African youth about digital marketing is essential in meeting employment demands and the surge in the digital marketing industry. 

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