For Sub-Saharan Small Businesses, Digital Technologies Emerge as Pivotal for Sustaining Operations through the Pandemic and Embracing Future

This Facebook/Ipsos poll explored how SMBs use digital tools, social media and direct messaging platforms, with a focus on the Facebook apps.

Washington, DC, June 29, 2021 - In Sub-Saharan Africa, small and medium-sized businesses and solo entrepreneurs report a growing reliance on social media and digital technologies to reach new markets, communicate with customers, and raise brand and product awareness, according to a new Facebook, Inc. study.

The survey explored how SMBs use digital tools, social media and direct messaging platforms, with a focus on the Facebook apps (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger). It also explored the adoption and use of social media by SMBs during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they sought to reduce operational barriers. This multi-mode study was conducted for Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”) by Ipsos, interviewing more than 4,000 small business owners and senior managers in eight Sub-Saharan countries in February and March of 2021.

Across the eight countries surveyed, key findings include:

  • Many businesses say Facebook apps helped them to start their business (63% in South Africa; 48% in Côte D’Ivoire; 37% in DRC; 67% in Ghana; 51% in Kenya; 39% in Mauritius; and 52% in Senegal)
  • For most businesses, Facebook apps have been important for their business growth (89% in South Africa; 80% in Côte D’Ivoire; 73% in DRC; 87% in Ghana; 90% in Kenya; 72% in Mauritius; 89% in Nigeria; and 86% in Senegal)
  • A large majority of businesses report of Facebook apps helped them build brand recognition (84% in South Africa; 81% in Côte D’Ivoire; 77% in DRC; 93% in Ghana; 87% in Kenya; 68% in Mauritius; 92% in Nigeria; and 90% in Senegal)
  • Majorities of businesses—and a near-majority in the case of Mauritius—say they improved products or service offerings based on information gathered through Facebook apps in the past 6 months (74% in South Africa; 69% in Côte D’Ivoire; 69% in DRC; 87% in Ghana; 90% in Kenya; 46% in Mauritius; 85% in Nigeria; and 73% in Senegal)
  • Substantial shares of businesses say social media and online messaging helped their business to operate remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic (53% in South Africa; 50% in Côte D’Ivoire; 34% in DRC; 54% in Ghana; 48% in Kenya; 35% in Mauritius; 51% in Nigeria; and 49% in Senegal)


This offline and online study was conducted between February 10 and March 5, 2021, among 4,020 founders, solo entrepreneurs, business owners and senior managers from small and medium-sized businesses—defined as those that employ no more than 250 employees, including informal businesses—using online opt-in panels in Nigeria and South Africa and telephone and face-to-face interviews of randomly selected businesses in the six other countries.

The study was conducted in English and French.

The sample sizes ranged from n=312 to n=569 per country:

Côte D’Ivoire (n=569), DRC (n=552), Ghana (n=527), Kenya (n=500), Mauritius (n=312), Nigeria (n=501), Senegal (n=534) and South Africa (n=525)

Targets were set to balance for industries within countries. In Nigeria and South Africa, businesses and solo entrepreneurs were sampled from online panels nationwide; in the other six countries, business lists and consumer lists, as well as face-to-face recruitment for informal businesses, were used to complete the study in metropolitan areas, including their suburban and rural sections. 

For more, see report How Social Media is Powering SMBs in Africa

About Facebook

Founded in 2004, Facebook's mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook's apps and technologies to connect with friends and family, find communities and grow businesses.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people. Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions. ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP