A new report indicates that only 5.8 percent of Ethiopians are on social media, painting a picture of a country lagging behind in the Fourth Industrial Revolution where social media usage is at an all time high across the globe, and access to online information becoming a basic human right.

According to the Digital 2021: Ethiopia Report from DataReportal, social media usage in Ethiopia, which has experienced several internet shutdowns in the recent past, remains extremely low with just 6.7 million social media users in January 2021, out of a population of 116.4 million.

“However, the country did add about 500,000 new social media users during the year, an 8% increase on the previous year.”

The survey shows that 96.2% of social media users in the country connected via a mobile phone and Facebook seems to have the biggest reach in the country with about 6.4 million users. Instagram had about 490,000 users; LinkedIn about 600,000 and Twitter just 139,600.

Not surprisingly, only about 20% of Ethiopia’s population has access to the Internet and less than 40% own a mobile phone.

This makes the Horn of Africa nation’s telecoms industry a massive growth opportunity because it is one of the last nations with a complete telecoms monopoly, but that is set to change in 2021 with the government planning to award two new licenses and sell a 45% stake in state-owned Ethio Telecom.

The liberalization of the market has been on the cards since 2018 , and is likely to promote much-needed competition and growth in the telecoms market.

Ethiopia has extended the deadline for telecom firms to bid for new operating licenses to April 5 with a number of big operators interested in expanding into the East African market.

Econet, Orange, MTN, Etisalat, Vodacom and Safaricom have all expressed interest in expanding their African footprints into the country.

The DataReportal report shows that Ethiopia had a population of 116.4 million in January 2021, with about 78% of those people living in rural areas. The number of Internet users in Ethiopia increased by 13% between January 2020 and January 2021, to 23.96 million, or Internet penetration of 20.6%.

There were 44.86 million mobile connections in Ethiopia in January 2021, or about 38.5% of the total population. This number did grow by about 710,000 users (or 1.6%) during the year. Of those mobile users 99.4% were on prepaid and just 0.6% had a postpaid or contract subscription.

Web traffic from mobile devices was dominated by Android with almost 90% of web traffic in the country originating from an Android device and just 5.6% from Apple devices.

E-commerce figures remain extremely low in Ethiopia due to a lack of financial inclusion in general.

DataReportal’s stats show that only 34.8% of Ethiopians aged 15 and over have an account with a financial institution and only 0.3% of men in Ethiopia have a credit card and only 0.2% of women.

When it comes to mobile money on average only 0.3% of Ethiopians older than 15 have a mobile money account, compared to almost 73% of Kenyans. Only 0.6% of Ethiopians make online purchases or pays bills online, with more men shopping online than women.