Thursday, April 4, 2013

Uhuru joins Africa’s top 10 tweeting politicians

African leaders on Twitter. President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta is among leaders active on the micro-blogging site. File

President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta is among leaders active on the micro-blogging site. File 

By DAVID HERBLING

No sooner had Uhuru Kenyatta been declared winner of last month’s General Election than he updated his @UKenyatta Twitter handle to read: President-Elect, The Republic of Kenya.

When the Supreme Court upheld his victory on Saturday, Mr Kenyatta took to the micro blogging site to thank his supporters and express his elation at the judgment.

“Thank you Kenya. Thank you Kenya. Thank you Kenya. I pledge that I will deliver. God Bless you all,” tweeted the President-elect on March 30.
The post has so far been retweeted or shared 710 times and marked as ‘favourite,’ the equivalent of ‘like’ by a further 291 followers.

The 51-year old @UKenyatta is set to be Kenya’s first tweeting President; and East Africa’s third Head of State to have a verified Twitter account after Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania.

He was in October last year listed among Africa’s top 10 tweeting politicians by British newspaper the Guardian. Last week, he appeared on Sahan Journal’s list of top 10 African presidents on Twitter.

Mr Kenyatta joins @PaulKagame and @jmkikwete who are the region’s active tweeps in the social blogosphere.

The President-elect’s says his favourite gadget is an iPhone, while US President Barrack Obama uses a BlackBerry smartphone.

There are less than 10 African presidents with verified Twitter accounts, usually marked by a blue tick badge on the profile to establish the authenticity of the user.

Other tweeting presidents in the continent with genuine accounts include South Africa’s Jacob Zuma whose handle is @SAPresident, Ghana’s @JDMahama, Egypt’s @MuhammadMorsi and Cameroon’s @PaulBiya.

The other African leaders have multiple unverified accounts on Twitter which makes it impossible to identify the real faces behind the profiles.

Most African leaders take to the micro blogging site limited to 140 characters to trumpet their achievements, share pictures and speeches and interact with their subjects.

It is likely that Mr Kenyatta will choose to announce some of his decisions, thoughts, itinerary and even solicit public views through social media.

Mr Kenyatta, who joined Twitter on August 26, 2010 and has 147,980 followers, is not new to using to social media as a public participation tool.
During his reign as Finance minister, Mr Kenyatta twice used social networking sites Twitter and Facebook to invite the public to input their thoughts in the National Budget.

“I also took the liberty to include the growing number of tech savvy Kenyans who are active on social media through an online suggestion form and a Facebook and Twitter campaign on my official pages,” Mr Kenyatta said in a statement dated June 2, 2011.

In the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 Budget preparation cycles, Mr Kenyatta sent out Twitter alerts and Facebook posts calling on Kenyans to participate in the crucial exercise by giving suggestions, ideas and proposals on the interventions or actions taxpayers would like to see in the fiscal estimates.

“Hey guys. I’d like to invite you to share your ideas on the 2012 - 2013 Budget following the success we had last year,” tweeted @UKenyatta on January 19, last year. “Also, please feel free to blog, DM or email me your suggestions.”

The Treasury reported that it had received more than 3,000 submissions last year through tweets, Facebook wall posts, emails and blogs.

A study by Portland Communications released in January last year ranked Kenyans are the second most active Twitter users in the continent after South Africa.

Kenya is estimated to have about three million Twitter users and more than four million Facebook accounts, most of whom are in the 20 to 35 age bracket and access the sites via mobile phones.

Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee coalition touted itself as the ‘digital team’ and outlined a raft of promises in its manifesto to revolutionise the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.

“We aim to propel Kenya into Africa’s high-tech capital and creating a ‘Silicon Savannah’ of interconnected telecommunications hubs to power our growing economy,” reads the coalition’s manifesto.

Mr Kenyatta promised to establish a universal single registration system activated at birth which will streamline registration, national identity registration, voter registration, Nation Health Insurance Fund, National Social Security Fund, and any other tax or commercial related registration.

The President-elect also pledged to supply primary school pupils with solar-powered laptops in a drive towards e-learning, set up incubation hubs for ICT start-ups in each county and make government records available through open data.

With his presence in Twitter and Facebook, you may easily take the incoming President to account through social media, to ensure he delivers on his promises.

And in the spirit of Article 10 of the Constitution, which recognises inclusiveness and public participation as part of national values and principles of governance, why not drop @UKenyatta a tweet?

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