afrol News, 26 May - A new tool by Google reveals how Africans use the Internet. Not being a surprise, "sex" is one of the most searched words in the Internet, but it may come as an embarrassment to many Muslim countries that their citizens are the world's most frequent digital sex searchers; in particular North Africans. But also in sub-Saharan Africa, "sex" is among the most popular searches. The Google Trends tool also reveals Africa's most popular celebrities and potential markets for African products.
When it comes to using the Internet to look for sex, North Africans in particular seem to have found a new outlet for societal taboos. The sex search on Google is topped by Pakistan, but closely followed by Egypt. Moroccans even reach the top-ten list both in English (6th on "sex") and in French (2nd on "sexe"). Algerians top the search for "sexe", showing twice as much interest as the French and Tunisians. A quick look inside the booming cybercafés in North Africa confirms this obsession.
On a regional outlook, Mauritanians, Malians and Nigerians are the most sex-searching West Africans, followed by the Senegalese, while Ivorians and Gabonese already have found other uses for the Internet. In Southern Africa, Zambians and Malawians are searching twice as much for sex as Angolans and Mozambicans. Tanzanians however are even more interested in finding sex on the Internet, while Ethiopians and Somalis demonstrate a true obsession.
Even homosexuality, which is illegal in most Muslim and African countries, spurs much interest in Muslim Africa. While the search word "gay" is dominated by Latin Americans, it is mainly Filipinos and Saudi Arabians looking for "gay sex". The African "gay sex" list is topped by Kenyans, Tanzanians, Namibians, Zimbabweans and South Africans. In the francophone world, however, Algerians and Moroccans by far top the world's search for "la homosexualité". Algerians also by distance top the search for the "sexe gay", with the French and the Moroccans being somewhat more timid on the issue.
There is of course also an awareness of the risks of unprotected sex. South Africans by far are those most searching information about "AIDS", followed by Indians. Disappointingly, however, there is no other African nation on the AIDS search top-ten list. On the French, Spanish and Portuguese equivalent - SIDA - Moroccans are on second place in a list dominated by Latin American countries.
Also when it comes to meet the AIDS treat, South Africans are the most aware in Africa, Google searches indicate. There is a significant search for condoms in South Africa, but the interest for this AIDS preventing object is by far much bigger in India. South African however top the world's search list of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). The lack of other African countries on the ARV top-ten search list again indicates that the public awareness of these drugs is as low as their availability in other African states.
There are of course quite a few African celebrities attracting fans and followers. Football stars are among the most searched for. Ivorian star Didier Drogba is the most searched African football star, closely followed by Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o. Nigeria's Augustine 'Jay-Jay' Okocha has fallen well behind Eto'o since end-2004 on Google searches. No African football star can however beat French superstar Zinédine Zidane, of Algerian descent, who totally dominates searches.
As expected, football stars are most popular in their home countries. Eto'o is among the searches most done in Cameroon, but he also is very popular in Gabon, Mali and Côte d'Ivoire. Drogba is most searched in Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon and Mali. Okocha has a totally different fan basis, comprising of Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Côte d'Ivoire and Kenya. Zidane has an even wider audience, being most popular in Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Algeria, Morocco and finally France.
It may be hard to believe that any African politician could compete with the popularity of the continent's football stars, but the pan-African icon Nelson Mandela almost reaches the world-wide popularity as Zidane. In South Africa, Mandela knocks out any football star - even local hero Lucas Radebe by a facto of one to twenty. Only in a few francophone West African countries, Eto'o generates more searches as Mandela; in Nigeria the two are on level.
Moving further into South African politics, three ANC leaders are competing for attention. On a world-wide scale, scandal-ridden ANC deputy leader Jacob Zuma has drawn more Google searches than ex-President Mandela since early 2004. President Thabo Mbeki lags very far behind both of them. Only among South African Internet users, President Mbeki narrowly beats Mr Zuma, but doesn't even reach half the searches as Mr Mandela. Outside South Africa, President Mbeki draws almost no attention.
Comparing African leaders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe seem to take a clear lead among Internet users in 2006. Congo's Joseph Kabila is fighting with Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo and South Africa's Mbeki over the third place - which in April was temporarily conquered by Chad's embattled President Idriss Deby. Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had her heydays in January and has been falling on statistics since then.
Even when it comes to economics, Google Trends could prove a nice tool for African business analysts. If you want to offer safari holidays, Google reveals that the word "safari" is most searched by South Africans, followed by Singaporeans, Britons and Swiss - a good market indictor. The biggest non-African markets for "beads" may be found in the US, Australia and Singapore, it seems. Sweet mangos catch special interest in Lithuania, ostrich products in Iran, while there seems to be a market for khat in Viet Nam and Malaysia.
The Google Trends tool was only presented earlier this week - in a basic, unfinished version - but has already been praised on the technology market for opening up new possibilities within sociology analyses and market research. Search trends can be followed to a city level in most countries. Critics however warn that making search results public in an ever more detailed manner could collide with privacy rights.
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