The advantage of discussing the Ivorian web is that being outside the country is less of a hindrance than say if I was talking about the price of fruit and vegetables in Adjame. Looking back on the year, there were some interesting trends, almost all for the positive.
– The rise of e-commerce
Back in July I noted that 2014 seemed to be the year that e-commerce finally saw significant start-up growth in Ivory Coast, and indeed this trend has continued. Just look at this fancy advert for Jumia.ci. Towards the end of the year we even saw the web commerce launch of the main bookshop company, LDF, which shows even traditional names are getting in on the act. As Jeff Bezos says, it starts with books! Here’s a list of 12 Ivorian e-commerce sites that I’m copying with only minor edits from Facebook.
– Bloggers grow in power
Blogging has been part of the Ivorian web community from the start. In 2014, I felt that for the first time that the community was getting a bit more respect from the traditional powers that be. The latest Jeune Afrique magazine entitled Abidjan 2.0 highlights stalwarts of the field like Edith Brou, JP Ehouman and Israel Yoroba. Edith, Cyriac Gbogou and Yehni Djidji were recently invited by Nestle for a future leaders conference in Accra. Bloggers were also given a role by the organizers of the traditional institutional tech conferences. Members of the Association des Blogueurs de Côte d’Ivoire (A.B.C.I), formed in 2013, are now regularly invited to events, which in turn gives organisers credible online coverage (and as far as I know you don’t need to pay them a la presse ecrite either).
Ivorian blogging has been a mixed bag over the years – blogging doesn’t get much hype internationally now, and its a global trend that many blogs, like new year resolutions, are frequently started but quickly dropped. In my opinion, there are still too few with an interesting independent voice that are prepared to hold people to account and challenge. Bloggers are also often drawn from a rather narrow social strata – Abidjan based, 20s/30s, interested in tech, well educated within the country. What you don’t get almost anything of is someone blogging about buying a house, starting a business, retiring, working as a high ranking government employee, educating children. Sadly you don’t even see much blogging about people’s projects – Akendewa doesn’t blog any more, I didn’t see a single blog post written about this year’s barcamp, almost no one talks about what they are doing…
But perhaps the event that seemed most significant to me was the online discussion of Air Cote d’Ivoire, the recently created national airline. Bloggers and web folk are now increasingly travelling around the sub-region, and the encounter with extremely poor performance and service from the national airline has not been pretty. While the majority complain on social media, Israel Yoroba summed things up in a blog post (Air Cote d’Ivoire, the decline?). But what was interesting is that Air Cote d’Ivoire actually responded to the complaints, even going as far as to contact him and issue an apologetic public statement, published in local newspapers and distributed to customers. I’m less than convinced my next trip on Air Cote d’Ivoire will be entirely pleasurable, but I think the company response revealed a lot about the growing recognition certain bloggers are getting.
– The emergence of physical hubs
The first few days of 2015 saw the opening of the whub co-working space, while in 2014 things really got going at Ovillage and Akendewa’s Tech hub. These all join the pioneer AMN, while Israel Yoroba has a hub project in the wings for Abidjan, and this year launched Eyolab in Bonoua (an hour’s drive from Abidjan). I don’t have a good visibility on what’s going on in many of these places, which I think is to their discredit (how can you have a tech space with so limited an online voice), but anyway, the literal ‘concretisation’ of the web community has been interesting, and looks positive. What is worth noting is that the e-commerce web projects mentioned in the first section haven’t come from the young Ivorian web community. The hubs are in part meant to be a transition point so the web community can move into serious business, so they are the real testing point.