President Museveni gained a 26 per cent follower growth on Facebook, the highest of any sub-Saharan African leader, helped in part by citizens looking for guidance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Museveni’s Facabook page, @PresidentYoweriKagutaMuseveni, had 600,000 followers as of March 1, according to the latest ‘World Leaders on Facebook’ rankings by global communications agency Burson Cohn and Wolfe (BCW).
Uganda confirmed its first case of coronavirus on March 21, with President Museveni announcing a partial lockdown the following day. As the President took charge of guiding the nation through the tough times, his follower growth hit 700,000.
“Those numbers are a mark of faith and confidence,” Mr Don Wanyama, senior presidential press secretary, told Sunday Monitor.
“The President has been an authority in the storm. People have been looking up to him for information, guidance and leadership, and it’s what he’s been offering.”
In an opinion article published by PML Daily website, Mr Wanyama said since March 18 when the President held his first televised address over Covid-19, he has gone on to conduct 10 other addresses in one month.
“On a nearly daily basis, he has also kept the country abreast on key developments around the pandemic through brief write-ups on his social media platforms,” he said.
“In all this, he has simplified the key messages and delivered them in very layman language.”
Mr Museveni’s Covid-19 addresses have been one of the most followed to in recent times. With citizens eager for positive news amid shut down of public life, he is the one person whose message everyone looks forward to.
Bernard Sabiiti, a researcher and public policy analyst, confessed he was under Museveni’s ‘spell.’
“How else can I explain the fact that I look forward to his Covid-19 addresses and actually miss him when he doesn’t give one? His old school, traditional demeanour is kinda cool too,” he tweeted.
BCW communications agency’s chief innovation officer, Chad Latz, said the significant increase in followers of world leaders on Facebook is a “logical result” of populations seeking definitive answers on the coronavirus issues and their country’s definitive policy on managing the pandemic.”
As of yesterday, Uganda had confirmed 75 cases of Covid-19, with 45 recovered and no death.
By yesterday, the virus had infected 2.8 million people globally and claimed 197,000 others.
Looking up to leaders
The BCW report, released on Friday, shows that world leaders have seen their follower numbers grow exponentially in March, with the 721 pages analysed in the study having 13 million new page likes.
Mr Museveni, who is among the top 10 Africa’s most liked leaders on Facebook, is followed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who had 16 per cent follower growth.
Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta (420,000 likes) and Tanzania’s John Magufuli (83,000) are not among the top 10 on Facebook on a list topped by Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, Kagame and Paul Biya of Cameroon.
Akufo-Addo is the most popular leader in sub-Saharan Africa with 1.6 million likes (1.8 per cent growth), ahead of Kagame, who has surpassed the one million like mark.
Cameroon’s Biya (2.5 per cent), Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari (7.7 per cent) and Guinea’s Alpha Condé (3.1 per cent) complete the top five list with more than 785,000 each.
Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali made it to the top 10 list with 735,000 page likes. He created his page on October 16, 2019.
Zambia’s Edgar Lungu, the presidency of Ivory Coast, and Madagascar’s Andry Rajoelina complete the Top 10 list of Africa’s most liked leaders on Facebook.
Between March 27 and April 23, Sunday Monitor’s analysis of reach per post shows that when Museveni reached more than 5.5 million users, almost 785 per cent of his Facebook community, and engaged with 3.9 million.
A reach is the number of real views one gets per post rather than the volume of followers alone.
This newspaper could not immediately obtain similar data from Kagame’s page and Kenyatta, two of the region’s most active leaders on social media.
Ethiopian PM Abiy is reaching almost 300,000 fans, which is 35 per cent of his Facebook community, while DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi is reaching more than half of his 150,000 total followers.
Globally, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaches 1.7 million of his fans (3.8 per cent of his Facebook community). US President Donald Trump, who has 26 million likes, reaches 877,000 fans.
The World Leaders on Facebook study analysed the activity of 721 pages of heads of state and government using aggregate data from CrowdTangle tool.