Do you know where the Wikimedia movement is growing the fastest in the world?
Over the last three years, there has been tremendous growth of the Wikimedia movement in Africa, as seen from the increased number of User Groups, newcomers and the region’s participation in movement events and projects.
Growing knowledge equity through deeper regional learnings
This expansion and increased activity in Africa is aligned with the two pillars of the movement’s Strategic Direction, knowledge equity and knowledge as a service. This year, as part of the Wikimedia Foundation Annual Plan, we introduced a focus on regional work as part of our own commitment to advancing knowledge equity and supporting movement strategy. We are all part of a global movement that spans regions, languages and communities, and this regional focus will allow the Foundation to better understand localized needs and regional trends as part of our work.
We launched this new approach at the beginning of this fiscal year by improving our coordination on a regional level. Foundation teams working in the regions and partnering with local communities now convene more intentionally around defining the impact that is possible for us to make together in different regions of the world. Each quarter, we will meet to discuss regional and historical trends and activities by individual volunteers, Chapters, User Groups, Thematic Organizations, partners organizations in the free knowledge ecosystem. These sessions are an important check-in as part of our Annual Plan, and look at planned work by various teams at the Foundation to prioritize and align resources for focused results and more impactful partnerships. Here are our learnings for Africa.
Wikimedia in Africa
Tremendous growth in African user groups and affiliates
Although South Africa is still the only chapter in Africa since its affiliation in 2012, the region is home to a growing number of User Groups, some of which are well structured and run akin to Chapters in other regions. Affiliates in the African region have grown from 6 Affiliates in 2014 when we hosted our first Wiki Indaba in Johannesburg South Africa to 21 affiliates.
The ease of creating a User Group compared to Chapters is what inspires most communities in Africa to opt for the former as a starting point. Some of the new User Groups in the region, which have been formally recognised recently by the Affiliations Committee include; Dagbani Wikimedians User Group, Gungbe Wikimedians User Group, Wikimedia Community User Group Rwanda, Wikimedia User Group Kenya, Wikimedians of Lagos User Group and Tyap Wikimedians User Group. A majority of the communities in the region are focussed on projects around culture and local languages.
Support for the movement
With over a billion people and over 450+ countries, Africa represents one of the youngest regions in the world – 97% of the population is under 65 and this youth bulge is being felt in the movement. There is however room for growth in the region as Africa represents only 1% of unique active editors globally despite having 7% of global internet users.
Fortunately, we’re already seeing some notable successes in the region. Newcomers are three times more likely to come from Africa, according to data from the 2020 Community Insights Report . Regional partnerships in Africa have focused on developing partnerships models to drive newcomer contributions by focusing on education and capacity-building campaigns. The Africa Knowledge Initiative (AKI), in partnership with the African Union (AU) is one such partnership that is aimed at increasing capacity building for communities in the region.
The Let’s Connect Peer Learning program, which creates a space for Wikimedians to share their knowledge and learn from others, has also proven to be a great avenue for horizontal learning in the movement. Africa and Asia comprised the majority of individuals who signed up for the Let’s connect programme, a great indication of the region’s commitment to not only learn but share the knowledge with peers as well.
There has also been notable increased participation in the African region in global campaigns such as the Wiki for Human Rights, which has seen remarkable growth in Africa. Approximately half of the events and participation in the #WikiForHumanRights campaign has been with communities in Africa, who are also leveraging it to collaborate closely with environmental and human rights organizations.
Over the last several years, communities in Africa have received increased funding from the Foundation. This is a result of the Wikimedia Foundation’s strategy to decentralize resources especially among underrepresented communities.
During the 2021-2022 fiscal year, globally there was a 51% increase in funding in comparison to the previous year, going from 8.2 million in funding to 12.4 million. The Middle East and Africa (MEA) Region received a 279% increase this year – going from USD $784,951 to USD $2,189,257 in fiscal year 2021-22. General Support funds made up the biggest chunk of funding at 59% followed by Rapid Funds 30% and the Wikimedia Alliances fund at 10%. 100% of total investments in this region were to emerging communities.
African countries also showed higher than average “pageview to active device” ratios in the Android app, relative to the rest of the world. This means that a given Android app user in Africa reads more pages than app users in the rest of the world. The highest are in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, and Nigeria.
Machine translation support was also provided for the first time in Content/Section Translation for the Luganda language. Luganda editors provided positive feedback about the quality of the translations provided by this tool. This innovation may help to grow free knowledge in new and smaller language Wikipedias across Africa. The Foundation collaborated with nine communities lacking machine translation support for their languages (Wolof, Iloko, Kongo, Lingala, Northern Sotho, Swati, Tswana, Oromo and Tigrinya).
From 4-6 November, Wikimedians and partners across Africa will come together to celebrate these successes and share learnings at WikiIndaba, the regional conference for Africans both within Africa and across the diaspora. This conference will aim to build capacity for African Wikimedians, foster growth of the coverage and involvement of Africa in Wikimedia projects, connect African Wikimedians both within the continent and in the diaspora, and turn ideas into action in line with the 2022 conference theme; “Advancing Africa’s Agenda in the 2030 Movement Strategy”.
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