A few days ago I bought a promotional e-book on Akendewa, an association of young Ivorian web enthusiasts. It’s written in French by Jean-Patrick Ehouman, a friend of mine and one of the main driving forces behind Akendewa, of which I am a member. I knew of the book’s existence for a while, but I hadn’t owned a Kindle until recently and I only recently recalled the book’s existence.
I wasn’t a founder member of Akendewa, though I remember hearing about it within hours of the association being set-up, from friends Frederic Tape and Paul Sika. I met Jean-Patrick at a barcamp organised just before Akendewa was formed, and went to every barcamp since, until the 2013 edition. There was an excitement about the movement in those early years.
The book was written at what from a certain perspective might be seen as the height of the Akendewa movement’s trajectory. The book is full of vision about what’s to come, and I confess to being a little disappointed that the momentum hasn’t seemed to continue. I hope this is just a false impression given from now being slightly removed from the scene, but there are a few warning signs that raise my eyebrows. I first started worrying when at barcamp 2011 I asked to be a member and it took 18 months for these membership applications to be processed. Ditto for the ‘annual subscription’ which no-one seems to be interested in collecting.
Let me go through some of the initiatives outlined in the book, especially the list of Akendewa projects that take up the final third of the book…
- From barcamp 2011 in October of that year (just a few months after the post-electoral crisis) it took until December 2013 for the next barcamp, the biggest gap yet. As a reminder, these are the biggest gatherings organised by Akendewa. I haven’t yet seen mention of barcamp Abidjan 2014.
- The Akendewa blog was only updated twice in 2012, and not since May 2012.
- On a slightly more positive note, the Akendewa group (open) on Facebook continues to see members post there regularly, though the debates that were once held seem to have declined, suggesting that people are using it for marketing but not exchange. A post by leading web mover, Dr Antoine Tako, which read: “Au vu du foisonnement et du dynamisme dans le milieu des TICs, au niveau de la communauté de bien entendu, cette année sera-t-elle l’année du vrai boom de l’économie numérique en CIV? En Afrique? Sinon que manque-t-il?” (Given the abundance and dynamism in the ICT sector, at a community level, will this year be the year of the real boom of the digital economy in CIV? In Africa? Otherwise what’s missing?) on 13 Feb has received zero comments and zero likes. You have to scroll down quite a way (two weeks) till you get either a post that has more than 10 likes or that has more than a single comment. I’m writing this in a rush, but scrolling down and down I can’t find the last entry in the group that has anything concrete to do with Akendewa, or its activities, or an event which carries its logo.
- The brightest spot is the Akendewa facebook account, which seems to show regular activity and information. Tres bien.
- Born in the post-election crisis, the #civsocial hashtag seems still to be getting regular use on Twitter. The website doesn’t appear to have been touched since January 2013, when it came into action during the New Year’s stampede in Plateau. So, still certainly a useful tool for situations as they arrive, but there doesn’t seem to be a vision on how to move forward with this.
- The Akendewa webschool website tells us it’s ‘Coming soon’.
- The Akwachi website project gives an error when loading, page not found. The Twitter account shows no followers, and no tweets (though some show up in the list).
- The Wonzomai website links to some Chinese spam. The twitter account hasn’t been updated since 18 April 2011. The same Chinese spam seems to have taken over the mobilehackaf website as well.
- Finally, and to end on a more positive note, the Matinées Kakou Ananzè, workshops do seem to have restarted after a long hiatus, though the Akendewa blog hasn’t mentioned anything about them since October 2011. However an event took place in January and I think another is planned for this month. The only other place where I can see a bit of life in Akendewa is on Google+ where mention has been made of these events in around four posts in the last couple of months (the first posts since 2012).
Maybe much of this is just a communications problem. But still, at the very least, the web presence of Akendewa seems on the moribund side, and that’s no advertisement for the Ivorian web community, even if things are happening ‘off-line’.
In conclusion, Akendewa made a great start, and I still believe it has a lot of potential. But there is a sense that some of the initial energy and dynamism is dissipating, sadly at a time when the IT revolution is only just happening. Ivory Coast needs a strong Akendewa in the next five years – it was created for such a time as this. I recognize that individual members are still dynamic, and that there are a host of different meetings under new organisations and under particular individual’s steam. However, working together could bring stronger results. These things were meant to build and build a movement.