The implication of the Twitter ban on businesses in Nigeria is certainly taking a toll on e-commerce, and is making things even harder for many young Nigerians who have leveraged technology for their economic empowerment in significant ways.” says Fareeda Abdulkareem, a McHenry Fellow at Georgetown University. She said that the ban reflects a clear trend of the government making attempts to heavily regulate sectors that are central to the country’s digital economy. Tech, she says, is now responsible for contributing to more than 10 percent of the country’s GDP. Many small business owners in Nigeria operate on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn either through targeted ads or organic engagement. In a country that ranks second in global unemployment, with an estimated 13 million young unemployed people, methods such as these are literal means of sustenance and livelihood.
We examine how this ban could affect Nigeria’s economy.
Over the past few years, the influencer marketing space in Nigeria has grown so much that almost anyone with dedicated followers could snag deals with organizations looking to extend their reach. Though some influencers — mostly lifestyle — use Instagram more, Twitter is the primary platform for most of them. While the organizations that work with them can easily use other channels for their marketing activities, it could be harder for them to do the same. Also, while they may be able to afford VPN services, their followers who keep them in business may be unable or reluctant to do so. Either way, this does not end well for these influencers.
The increase in Internet penetration has increased the number of people making a living off the Internet, specifically social media. From social media managers to content creators and product photographers, thousands of Nigerians have created careers off these platforms. This ban puts their sources of livelihood at risk.
Nigeria’s startup scene has experienced tremendous growth in a short time, with $3,77.4 million raised in 2019, although that figure fell to $120.6 million in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. This has resulted in jobs for a significant number of people and revenue in the form of taxes for the government. However, this ban puts all of that at risk. For most startups, their businesses depend, in some part, on social media. Without access to social media to run marketing campaigns or build relationships with their customers, businesses would take a hit. Applications that are built using Twitter APIs are also affected. While these businesses would find ways to innovate around the ban, their users may not.
Small and medium enterprises are vital to the growth of any economy, frequently providing as much as 60-70% of the economy with jobs. Numbering about 117.4 million, SMEs in Nigeria contribute 48% of national GDP, account for 96% of businesses, and 84% of employment. Many SMEs have leveraged the Internet, especially social media, for business activities such as marketing and customer service. The number of vendors on Twitter and Instagram is a testament to this. While these businesses could move to other platforms, their posts might not gain as much engagement as Twitter provides. What’s more? There are no assurances that a ban on other social media platforms would not follow.
As much as social media is a crucial part of business branding and it helps in promoting and getting businesses done, the Twitter ban in Nigeria has proven that it shouldn’t be the final and only option for promoting businesses online but rather a part of it. A lot of businesses in Nigeria rely on social media to run their organization; don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad idea to rely on it but it should not be the only mode. Having a functioning website would have saved the affected businesses a lot of money as their customers would have been redirected to their website when social media and the government fail them.