Global Media Intelligence 2020: South Africa

Key Features

PC ownership is rising in this mobile-first country, but the smartphone reigns supreme in penetration and time spent.

  • More than 83% of internet users in South Africa ages 16 to 64 owned a desktop or laptop in H1 2020—a more than 7-percentage-point rise year over year (YoY), per GlobalWebIndex. In addition, PC penetration passed 90% among respondents living in higher-income homes.
  • While PC ownership advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, these devices hardly compete with smartphones. Fully 98.9% of survey respondents in South Africa owned a smartphone in H1 2020—up slightly since 2019.
  • Unlike PCs and smartphones, tablets were less widespread than last year; the share of internet users who owned one slipped from 46.0% to 42.1%. That said, tablet penetration was notably greater among several audiences favored by advertisers, including those in more affluent homes (56.3%) and adults 35 to 44 (50.3%).
  • PCs and tablets did claim more total media time each day than smartphones, according to GlobalWebIndex, though both had risen markedly since H1 2019. Time spent daily with PCs and tablets jumped to 5 hours, 11 minutes (5:11) on average, while smartphone time climbed from 4:10 to 4:46.
  • As those figures suggest, mobile phones are now a key access point for many media activities. Social networking is a prime example. The share of internet users who visited social platforms in the prior month rose to 94.2% of those polled in H1 2020, and time spent with social media was also up to 3:31 per day on average.
  • Smartphones are also integral to the rising penetration of voice search, via services like Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri. Overall, more than one-third (34.8%) of internet users polled had used a voice assistant or smart speaker in the month prior to polling. Usage was more widespread among males (40.0%) and 16- to 24-year-olds (46.1%), as well as those living in cities and at both ends of the income scale.


Karin von Abrams


Anam Baig
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Joanne DiCamillo
Donte Gibson
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