This has been a pet peeve of mine for a while: the laziness of the international media in relation to the (post-) colonial tower of babel. Articles in English about “Africa” suffer from the “Africa is a Country” lens, but I would go further and say it’s “Africa is a Country That Speaks English” lens.
The tech scene itself is guilty of this! (Ironic because the language of code, one would think, would break down barriers.) We hear about great projects in Nairobi, Capetown, Kampala, Accra, but we hear very little noise about some great smaller projects in DRC, Cameroon and Mozambique. (What happens in these countries is inevitably smaller due to structural and historical differences.) I was heartened by the recent initiative to map African tech hubs – but much more is to be done to highlight and nurture smaller-scale innovation.
CNN’s recent post on “Top 10 African Tech Leaders” seems to have at least provoked a reaction. Perhaps those who want a “top 10” are too busy to hear about what is bubbling up in unexpected places, but Jean Patrick Ehouman’s post cataloguing francophone tech leaders is more than necessary.
I am not great in French, but I can read and have learned from @Fasokan @JulieOwono among others. In the tech field, many are tweeting more in English than in French. (Also where do Rwandan and Cameroonian techies go on these lists, as both countries have a vocal cohort tweeting in English?)
The same could be said for the lusophone tech scene – much of their tweeting is in English.
As it turns out, my list is exclusively Mozambican (surprise surprise) but I have tried to highlight the gaps. Just as Jean Patrick Ehouman suggests in his post in French, let’s start a thread here below assembling the best tweets.
Angola (small population, rich)
Google’s outreach wing in Africa was in Luanda late last year, but not one tweet with the hashtag #gangola appears to have survived. I have never seen too much tech activity in Angola on Twitter, and yet the country has quite a few ICT-related businesses. The perceived lack of tech tweets from Angola says to me that presence on Twitter is not about markets or financial capital. Please leave top tweets in the comments below!
Cape Verde (mini population)
Again, very absent on Twitter. Cape Verde was the only lusophone country with a winner in the Creatic4Africa #ICT4D competition, an academic called Simão Paulo Rodrigues Varela. But he is absent from Twitter and I could not even find a blog signed by him. Shame.
Guinea Bissau (mini population)
While not on Twitter, the Guinea-Bissau based Rising Voices project “Netos de Bandim” (Grandchildren of Bandim) is definitely worth a look – last I heard they had suffered flooding and rather large set-backs, and a microgrant only goes so far. Twitter is not a priority when even uploading photos and posts is a chore.
Mozambique (small population)
Maputo Linux evangelist and tech community builder Celso Timana appears to have recently left Twitter (formerly @ctimana) – a real loss. His training center @Cenfoss is carrying the flag of opensource in Mozambique.
@_Mwaa_ Works by day in a Mozambican government ministry related to tech but tweets in English and Portuguese about all kinds of southern African topics.
São Tomé and Príncipe (micro population)
The only tweets from these islands appear to be tourism-related.
This list seems to beg the question: can Twitter grow in the lusophone tech scene in Africa? If not with geeks, where will it grow?
I would question to what point some countries have the figure of the “public intellectual” beyond say poets, writers and maybe very dry university professors. Often it does not occur to technical-minded people that they could open this space, on Twitter for example.
I would also like to suggest that we need to consider where arts – especially hiphop – collide with tech, because most of the best tweets in Angola and Mozambique are about urban music, fashion, arts and protest. Instead of tweeting about technology, they are simply appropriating the tools and pushing things forward. For better or for worse, it is the nascent creative industries in these countries that seem to have more of a chance than the tech sector of being heard on a world stage.
Please comment on this post, it’s a mere attempt to start a conversation, nothing more than a very subjective view from outside. (I will be translating this post to Portuguese.)