We’ve all heard the greatly encouraging statistics about Africa and its potential. It is the second largest, and second most populous continent on the planet, and it’s the continent with the youngest and most useful demographic. 167 million Africans are online every day, with over 50 per cent of them accessing the internet through their mobile phones, so it should come as no surprise that Africa’s tech industry is the fastest growing on the planet.
Yet Africa is basically the least visible continent on the Internet. Only 2 per cent of all published matter comes from Africa. The people who are writing about Africa are predominantly male (4 out of 5), half are under the age of 22, and 90 per cent are from the global north.
WikiAfrica is a project of the Cape Town based nonprofit called the Africa Centre. The project uses a range of collaborative grassroots activations and innovations to rebalance the lack of information about all aspects of Africa on Wikipedia.
The first of these interventions was a program launched in 2010 that aimed to generate and expand 30,000 Wikipedia articles on Africa in two years. In November 2012, this goal was surpassed, with 32,000 new articles about Africa added to Wikipedia.
Since then, WikiAfrica has continued its work. It has set up a series of programmes across the continent to encourage individuals to write and edit articles for Wikipedia, and to remind people that the reason Wikipedia exists at all is because thousands of people all over the planet volunteer their time to write articles about the things that interest them.
Some of these projects include the WikiAfrica Incubator, which provides volunteers with the opportunity to harness their wiki-skills; WikiLovesAfrica, a continent wide photography competition that encourages participants to contribute media from the continent to Wikipedia, and Kumusha Takes Wiki, which encourages the sharing of content on a community level.
There have been several appeals recently for Africans to use whatever tools they have to tell their stories. WikiAfrica is adding a necessary layer to this call by encouraging people to contribute information, in whatever language, about the thing which they, particularly, are an expert on. It might be a local word or phrase, a traditional meal, or song that they grew up listening to.
Wanjiru Koinange is a Kenyan writer. She recently completed a Masters in Creative Writing the outcome of which was her debut novel that is based on the events around Kenya’s post election violence in 2007. She currently lives in Nairobi where she is working to re-install libraries into primary schools and public spaces.