How we should tell our story on the internet through Wiki Loves Africa

Garikai Dzoma Avatar
Poverty in Zimbabwe

The internet contains a lot of information about almost anything under the sun, and indeed the entire universe-the sun itself included. Information on things African however tends to be less abundant,  is sometimes scant and often non-existent. In fact there are way more articles about the moon than there are about Zimbabwe. The folks at Wiki Loves Africa are in a mission to remedy that however.

Being cognizant that Africa’s citizens are a little less enthusiastic or unable to share details about their life and culture online, Wikipedia launched an annual media (photos,video and audio) contest called Wiki Loves Africa.

This year’s competition started on 1 October and will end on until 30 November. There is a specific theme set for each year. Examples of themes include “markets, rites of passage, festivals, public art, cuisine, natural history, urbanity, daily life, notable persons, etc” This year’s current theme is “African Cuisine.”

The expressed aim of this year is to:

document in the form of various media, the diverse types of cuisines across the continent of Africa. The theme will encompass the “foods”, “dishes”, “crops”, “husbandry”, “culinary art”, “cooking methods”, “utensils”, “food markets”, “festivals”, “culinary events”, “famine food” and any other issues related to cuisine on the African continent.

According to organisers of the project, one of the reasons why information on African topics is scant is that most people on the continent do not even know that you can edit and create wiki pages on the pages.

Personally I think that is disingenuous considering the number of blogs on African subjects on the internet. I think African people’s reluctance to edit the Wiki has got something to do with the overly complex editor, a Western-centric committee that oversees the site and occasionally impose their views on topics.

To solve the issue of a complex editor the Wiki Loves Africa team has come up with a special overlay that will allow contestants to upload images without worrying much about technical requirements.

There is also a special oversight team that includes a Zimbabwean born Capetown (South African) citizen Isla Haddow-Flood. The official website is also in English, Arabic and French allowing for wider participation. I guess Mozambicans and Angolans are not invited to the party.

Before you snap a lunch photo Sadza and Derere however you should know that Zimbabwe and about other 41 countries do not make it onto the list of focus countries. The list of focus countries only has nine countries on it Cote D’Ivoire, Egypt, Malawi, South Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tunisia, Algeria and Ghana.

For some reason I cannot still fathom why people in the West and Hollywood in particular seem to think these are the only countries in Africa-if you include Nigeria. But then again these are the people that think every bomb has a red dial and makes a large ticking sound.

The absence of Zimbabwe on the list does not mean that you cannot participate, you can still participate by uploading a picture of your Sadza and Derere but you will have to fund the project on your own because non focus countries do not receive funds nor do we get local event organisers or “in-country events. “You will have to read the rules and English tutorial here before you participate.

Hopefully you will participate in the competition and aid in bringing more information about African cuisine onto the internet. I am a terrible cook myself so I will stay out.

Download Wiki Loves Africa Pdf here.


  1. Florence

    First thank you for your post. Even if it is critical, I appreciate it does exist anyway 🙂

    But it requires some clarifications.
    The two people (Isla and myself) who decided to launch that project did *not* (emphatically) choose the current *focus countries* with any negative view on the others. Let me explain…
    We currently run another project funded by Fondation Orange (Kumusha Takes Wiki). This project involves the presence of two wikimedians (in Ivory Coast and Uganda) already in charge of organising events. We also run another project (Wiki Entrepreneur) which involved the presence of two other wikimedians (in Ghana and Ethiopia), whom will help to relay the contest. It would be non sense not to take benefit of their own presence there. Besides, when we proposed that photo contest, we made a call to current african wikimedians asking who would love to be involved. More people showed up and said “yes, we want to help” (for example in Tunisia). Last, it is so that the wikimedia mouvement already has some constituted user groups or wikimedia associations in other countries (such as in Egypt or in South Africa). So when the funding was approved, a bit of money was secured to help these groups that we know already exist and we know are willing to be involved. We can simply not ask money to support unknown groups ! And really, I don’t think we should be blamed for “not supporting non identified people”. Let’s be serious here !
    We have no user groups in Nigeria. We have no wikimedia association in Nigeria. We would love to ! And one of the reasons we do that contest is precisely so that people would get excited and join ! So, if you feel like, just please join ! And next year, maybe Nigeria will have a group of motivated volunteers to help. And in this case, we will glad to look for funding to support these guys. But the first move to make is on YOUR SIDE.

    You also comment on the euro-americano centric tendency of Wikipedia. That’s all true. But again… if Africans are missing… maybe… it is up to Africans to join and weight in. Don’t you think ? I know one thing… when I joined Wikipedia back in 2002… europeans were a handful. French people were about 3. The project was essentially run by Americans and British. Well… I changed that in joining.

    Last, you also comment on language, saying that portuguese people are left aside. You may not be familiar with the wiki process. Our projects are essentially run by volunteers. Translations of content are made by volunteers. Isla and I made sure both English and French would be available since those are our primary languages and are well spoken in many parts of Africa. We looked for volunteers for the other languages. Several volunteers showed up for arabic (and translation is not yet complete). No volunteer showed up until now for portuguese. But I am desperate on this. The contest will run 2 months. I am optimistic someone will show up and help us translate it.


  2. Florence

    Hmmm. I made a couple of typos. So… correction…

    “I am NOT desperate” about the translation. It will come in time. Please have a look here:
    Some people started translating in… japanese and … russian. Is not that amazing ?

    Of course, when I say portuguese people… I mean Portuguese speaking people…

    And last… of course…. what I said about Nigeria is true for Zimbabwe as well.

    Forgive for the uncertain text. I am not primarily English speaker.

    1. Zack Chapepa

      Hello, Florence

      Wikihowian here (don’t know if that’s a word, just made it up), Wikimedia hasn’t had a huge presence in most African countries partly because accessing the web has taken some time to come here, let alone make valuable sense outside of being social and media consumption. But that is changing. A whole LOT.

      It was only until recently that Wikipedia launched a stripped down WikipediaZero service which was then adopted by other carriers (including Zimbabwe’s own Econet), but is it going to make any difference when it comes to contributing to the online encyclopedia? that’s another wait-and-see.

      About weighing in, I personally think that’s true, there’s probably thousands out there who could contribute but the problem remains that they just don’t know it yet because I believe most people don’t know they can.

      Also I read an article last year? something about a bot modding articles, or something that sounds like that (I don’t quite have a source 🙁 ). Long story short, a new system to remove bad pieces which I think when people out there start putting out articles will only be exposed to disappointment when finding that their article was pulled.

      I think this front is still nascent as can be and probably an effort to put this through to as many people as we can can make for better collaborations or fundings.

      1. Zack Chapepa

        PS. Those stereotypes regarding South Africa and Nigeria are real.

  3. victory

    Thanks for the article, great initiative, look forward to seeing the outcome. All the best team Wiki loves Africa.

  4. REWMO

    can’t u just admit that u don’t care about certain African countries? if you wanted them to participate you could’ve just created awareness.

    1. Florence

      Wikipedia is in the top 10 websites in terms of visits in most countries. A banner inviting for participation to the contest appears at the top of every single page on Wikipedia for ALL inhabitants of ALL African countries for the next two months. If you do not call that “raising awareness”…
      Most companies would die to get such an exposure 😉

  5. Trey

    Zack, quick question mate.

    Don’t you think its best to contact the people involved in a story before publishing. I have noticed they do that with newspaper articles. I don’t think it was necessary for Florence to have her side of the story in the comments. For some people that just browse through stories and don’t get to the comment section, they may now have a sour taste in their mouth with the whole idea around Wiki Loves Africa which is really noble as it is run by volunteers. You already hinted you were aware she exists in the article, so why didn’t you contact her beforehand. I was a bit skeptical but her comment has completely changed my view of the whole program.

    1. Trey

      Ooops, I just noticed its Garikai who posted the article and Zack just commented. Sorry bout that one.

    2. Elisha

      Sensible observation this. It should be a matter of policy for the whole TZ team and would go a long way to shield them from accusations that their content is merely uninformed opinion.

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