Under the Influence

The Rise of Social Media Stars in Ethiopia

Welcome to the world of social media influencers, where the cameras are always rolling, the ring lights are always shining, and the group dances are always in full swing. With the exponential rise of social media users in Ethiopia, it seems like everyone and their grandma is vying for a slice of the influencer pie. Let’s uncover how this phenomenon is taking hold of hearts across the country, what the numbers indicate, and why your son or daughter may skip college for the ‘Gram.  

On social media, popularity pays— literally and figuratively— and it has a name, ‘influencing’. What is an influencer, really, you ask? Well, they’re like a unicorn, a celebrity, and your best friend all rolled into one. They’re the ones with the highest following, the ones with the perfect hair and makeup, the ones who seem to be living their best life 24/7. But they’re not just pretty faces. They’re [self-proclaimed or, less frequently, actual] experts in their field, whether that’s fashion, beauty, fitness, travel, or anything in between. They’ve built a reputation by sharing their expertise and/or experience, creating engaging content, and connecting with their followers on a personal level. They frequent the streets of Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and the like.    

Traditional marketing is slowly losing its touch with the consumer of the future— those who are conscious, brand-loyal, and empowered— and it’s becoming increasingly expensive. This is where social media influencers fit in neatly. Influencers are bringing a whole new level of creativity and inspiration to the table. They’re giving people a glimpse into their lives and providing a platform for underrepresented voices to be heard. They’re helping businesses reach new audiences, and in turn, boosting the economy. 

If you’re an aspiring social media star— or at least a business owner looking to tap into this digital marketing— you need only be concerned about two conditions. First, an influencer must have a significant following in a particular niche— followers who are into what they’re into. Following is important, but followers are not necessarily fans. Engagement is a good indicator of how fans view the influencer— likes, comments, and shares are indicators that followers are keyed into the content and the influencer. Ethiopia’s influencers boast an impressive engagement rate compared to global numbers— for contrast, Cristiano Ronaldo, one of Instagram’s most followed, boasts an engagement rate of 1.5%, whereas our local number one Instagrammer, Danayit Mekbib, has an engagement rate of 2.15%. The second condition is that an influencer needs the power to shape public opinion and affect the buying decisions of a large group of people. If the individual holds great sway over their followers and considerable control over their choices, that makes them an effective social media influencer.

The statistics are telling. The beauty, cosmetics, and lifestyle niche has dominated social media globally this past decade, and Ethiopia is no exception. Beauty brands were among the first to harness the power of social influence and make it a central part of their marketing strategy. The same trend is observed in Ethiopia, with the highest average follower count belonging to beauty and lifestyle influencers. On Instagram, Ethiopia’s top ten influencers are all female and hold immense influence in the realms of fashion and beauty. And the perks are impressive— from VIP access to exclusive events to financial gain and daily freebies, being an influencer seems like the ultimate way to live it up!

Gender Distribution of Followers

The rise of Tiktok in Ethiopia has also brought another dimension to our digital consumption and capacity to be influenced, with a generally younger (and thus more impressionable) audience than other platforms. Lifestyle and entertainment influencers have taken charge of this platform in Ethiopia, playing a critical role in shaping the culture and trends of the platform. Younger audiences are attracted to TikTok because it encourages creativity and self-expression, and lifestyle and entertainment influencers exemplify this. 

Is there a downside to having influencers warp our virtual spaces? Well, yes. Influencers can sometimes be a little, well, disingenuous. They can present a picture-perfect life that’s not always attainable or realistic, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy or even depression. There’s also room for the spread of misinformation or the promotion of unhealthy standards. And sometimes, the lines between advertising and genuine recommendations can get a little blurry. Younger audiences may be especially vulnerable; being more likely to engage in risky or dangerous behaviors if they see them promoted by their favorite influencers.

Despite the contorversy, resistance, and popularity, the creator economy in Ethiopia has untapped potential and unseen consequences on society as a whole and marketing as an industry. If we’re to learn anything from the west, where the influencer world has evolved much further, research shows that 1 in 4 Gen Zs wants to become a social media influencer. Another statistic is that 4 in 10 millennials say their favorite creators understand them better than their friends. These are staggering indications of where we’re headed. As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to the rise of influencers in Ethiopia. But one thing’s for sure— they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.


For a detailed searchable and sortable breakdown of each influencer data for both Instagram and TikTok platforms, please see below. This data is accurate as of early March, 2023. Please note that data on social media influencers, such as their number of followers or engagement rates, can fluctuate dramatically due to various factors such as changes in algorithms, content strategies, or even fraudulent activity. Therefore, the information presented may not be accurate or up-to-date at all times. We encourage you to take this into consideration when using any data related to social media influencers for decision-making purposes.

Instagram

RankNameCategoryFirst Post YearNumber of Posts*Number of FollowersEngagement RateAverage InteractionsAudience Quality ScoreMale FollowersFemale FollowersTop Followers by Country — 1Top Followers by Country — 2Top Followers by Country — 3Top Followers by Country — 4Top Followers by Country — 5
1Danayit MekbibPublic figureOctober 20212501,264,6432.15%26,92378.70%52.00%48.00%Ethiopia: 49.88%



United States: 12.67%United Arab Emirates:
3.73%
Saudi Arabia: 3.17%Germany: 2.80%
2Hanan TarqActressFebruary 20166981,260,8651.41%17,66078.40%52.03%47.97%
Ethiopia: 47.28%


United States: 10.66%United Arab Emirates:
4.44%
Saudi Arabia: 3.18%Germany: 3.05%
3Addisalem GetanehActressOctober 20162911,196,2541.86%22,14278.98%56.69%43.31%Ethiopia: 45.67%United States: 9.15%United Arab Emirates:
4.33%
Saudi Arabia: 3.28%Germany: 3.21%
4Amleset MuchieActressFebruary 20153001,007,8261.22%12,26377.78%48.54%51.46%Ethiopia: 48.44%United States: 13.04%United Arab Emirates:
4.04%
Germany: 2.67%Saudi Arabia: 2.67%
5Selam Roman TesfayeActressFebruary 201550902,5092.35%21,22279.85%42.10%57.90%Ethiopia: 51.76%United Arab Emirates:
9.83%
Saudi Arabia:
4.36%
Germany: 3.97%United Kingdom: 2.47%
6Fryat YemaneActress/TV HostJanuary 201729731,3304.01%13,21079.11%49.83%50.17%Ethiopia: 46.75%Saudi Arabia: 12.98%United States: 5.11%Germany: 2.76%United Kingdom: 2.58%
7Etsehiwet AbebeActressSeptember 2016130713,4342.1%14,98480.10%46.48%53.52%Ethiopia: 51.20%United States: 10.24%United Arab Emirates:
5.90%
Germany: 2.79%United Kingdom: 2.33%
8Rahel GetuSinger/ArtistFebruary 201719710,9512.63%18,70178.05%50.15%49.85%Ethiopia: 49.29%United Arab Emirates:
8.77%
Saudi Arabia:
5.06%
Germany: 4.07%United Kingdom: 3.28%
9Helen BediluActressNovember 20184704,1790.33%2,31078.92%48.55%51.45%Ethiopia: 50.43%United Arab Emirates:
8.61%
United States: 6.21%Germany: 4.50%United Kingdom: 2.95%
10Mekdes TsegayeActressJuly 2017428681,5690.72%4,932
80.37%43.53%56.47%Ethiopia: 49.78%United Arab Emirates:
11.80%
Saudi Arabia:
5.27%
Germany: 3.71%United Kingdom: 2.74%

Tiktok

RankUsernameCategoryLikesFirst Post YearNumber of PostsNumber of FollowersEngagement RateAverage InteractionsAudience QualityMale FollowersFemale FollowersTop Followers by Country — 1Top Followers by Country — 2Top Followers by Country — 3Top Followers by Country — 4Top Followers by Country — 5
1@Yuti_NassEntertainment7.1M 2020-2-21161
1,100,000
6.29%62,92082.88%60.40%39.60%Ethiopia: 84.53 %United Arab Emirates: 3.34%


Saudi Arabia: 2.92%United States: 1.74%Lebanon: 0.73%
2@MensurLifestyle7.8M2021-7-21400835,6003.8%30,04581.09%66.18%33.82%Ethiopia: 86.63%United Arab Emirates: 3.22%Saudi Arabia: 2.83%United States: 1.09%China 0.49%
3@Dani_royal_Entertainment7.1MJune 2020167685,0007.77%78,23182.12%51.56%48.44%Ethiopia: 78.83%United Arab Emirates: 6.27%Saudi Arabia: 5.39%Lebanon: 1.52%United States: 1.27%
4@BertemiosComedy7.6MSeptember 2020157665,40010.07%64,10088.06%65.61% 34.39%Ethiopia: 92.21%United Arab Emirates: 1.22%Saudi Arabia: 1.17%United States: 1.01%China: 0.47%
5@RosiyeEntertainment7.8MFebruary 20205642,7008.99%68,12087.19%53.18%46.82%Ethiopia: 51.8%United Arab Emirates: 14.54%Saudi Arabia: 12.13%Lebanon: 2.70%Sudan: 2.04%
6@Meski_mengeEntertainment9.1MMay 2021521617,5004.1%25,15083.28%68.82%31.18%Ethiopia: 80.96%United Arab Emirates: 4.42%Saudi Arabia: 3.11%United States: 1.3%Somalia 0.88%
7@y_e_t_iComedy7.4MNovember 2019306588,1005.25%30,77084.20%55.96%44.04%Ethiopia: 88.57%United Arab Emirates: 1.84%United States: 1.71%Saudi Arabia: 1.34%China: 0.58%
8@yabmarakiEntertainment7.2MFebruary 2021870563,8000.3%1,81080.24%65.72%34.28%Ethiopia: 18.90%United Arab Emirates: 18.52Saudi Arabia: 17.04%United States: 15.18%Qatar: 2.48%
9@Abela_etComedy7.3MFebruary 2021240578,5000.8%24,71279.23%31.08%68.92%Ethiopia: 62.57%United Arab Emirates: 8.84%Saudi Arabia: 20.71%United States: 1.34%China: 0.58%
10@YabpapaComedy7.1MNovember 2020251557,3004.3%46,20384.65%51.92%48.08%Ethiopia: 52.8%United Arab Emirates: 16.54%Saudi Arabia: 8.13%Lebanon: 2.70%Sudan: 3.04%
11@Danayit_MCelebrity and lifestyle3.3MFebruary 2020204521,8005.3%26.94k84.24%57.12%42.88%Ethiopia: 82.50%United Arab Emirates: 2.57%United Arab Emirates: 2.21%Saudi: 2.14%China: 0.94%

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