By Prince Bill M. Kaping’a Political/Social Analyst
Prior to finally winning the August 12, 2021 general elections, President Hakainde Hichilema was constantly lampooned by his critics and opponents alike that he was good at winning elections on Facebook. The man who is fondly referred to, as Bally, by his ardent followers probably better understood use of Facebook as an effective tool to reach-out to the masses more than anyone else.
In as much as the dictatorial and intolerant regime of Lungu tried to throw spanners into Bally’s campaigns by restricting his movements and denying him permits to conduct rallies; the more he resorted to Facebook. And when the outcome of the polls was finally declared by ECZ, Lungu was left in shock! This is testimony enough that one can only ignore social media at their own peril.
According to Wikipedia, as of January 2020, there were 2 280 000 active Facebook users in Zambia, accounting for 11.6% of its entire population. The majority of them were men – 56.3%. People aged 18 to 24 were the largest user group (810 000).Now, translate this into potential votes…..it’s more than enough to usher a candidate into plot 1 Independence Avenue, provided they may have already secured additional votes elsewhere!
Former US President Barack Obama is probably one of the foremost modern-day leaders who put social media to better use. According to a case study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business; early in his campaign, Barack Obama was a little-known senator running for president against Democratic nominee and household name, Hilary Clinton. But on November 4, 2008, Obama made history as the first African American to win the election against Republican candidate, John McCain, thus becoming the 44th president of the United States.
The study goes on to highlight that many factors contributed to his success, but a major one was the way Obama and his Chicago-based campaign team used social media and technology as an integral part of their campaign strategy, not only to raise money, but also more importantly, to develop a groundswell of empowered volunteers who felt that they could make a difference.
The other leader who appreciated the effectiveness of social media in influencing public opinion was 45th US President Donald Trump. Speaking on CBS’ 60 Minutes programme shortly after being declared winner of elections against Hilary Clinton, the president-elect specified that social networks helped him win without him needing to spend as much as the Clinton campaign on advertisement.
According to a 2016 report by the United Nations Population Fund in Zambia, young people aged 15-35 made up of 36.7% of Zambia’s population (4.8 million). By this time, this segment of the population may have doubled or tripled! A good number of them are obviously technologically savvy investing much time on social media including podcasting, Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube, as opposed to listening to the radio or watching TV.
Well……if you are a politician in Zambia and want to remain relevant in the eyes of this significant portion of the population, you better up your game and hone your social media skills!