Two years ago at barcamp Abidjan, a local web/IT forum, representatives from Google asked for a list of all the Ivorian websites producing local content. About the only site anyone could come up with was the excellent Avenue225. Amazingly, two years on, things have hardly changed at all. Two years! That’s a lifetime on the web and still people aren’t producing content. It’s clearly got a whole lot easier for even luddites to produce good-looking websites (cf. Joomla, WordPress), but there’s still a real shortage of content. I’d even go so far as to suggest that the best blogs about Ivory Coast are in English, which says a lot. Obviously the foreigner often has a unique perspective on things and is more likely to be curious about things the local takes for granted, but still, this is disappointing. An Ivorian friend of mine living in Abidjan who just started a blog is even writing in English!
Unless I’m very much mistaken there are only two Ivorian bloggers producing regular content (in French); Yehni Djedji and Edith Brou. Former greats such as Israel Yoroba occasionally reppear and I hope he’ll be blogging regularly again now he’s back in the country. There have also been some good posts recently from J.P. Ehouman and T. Koumanou. I sometimes worry that the worst thing for any blogger is to win an award, because too often that’s the end of their blogging!
So, I still stand by the bizarre conclusion that the best blogs about Ivory Coast are in English. There aren’t many in English but they tend to be of high quality. I like the number four, so here are four suggestions.
– West Africa Wins Always – for me, this has everything I hope for in a blog – short, personal entries, written to a very high standard and full of stories from real life/the street. Sadly the author will soon be moving on after several years here. When I recommend this blog to people, I tell them to take the time to read every entry from the blog’s creation, and you don’t say that about many blogs. My only criticism would be that posts are few and far between, but nevertheless regular enough for a sustained production over several years.
– Until Our Independence – I’m trying to remember an exchange I had with this blog’s author when it was first started, and from memory, this is an Ivorian living overseas, who writes in impeccable English.
– Hotel Ivory – I read tens of newspapers and websites everyday, but when I go to a blog I look for insights and perspectives that you just don’t find elsewhere. This blog has many things to recommend it, but I think the strongest is the sense of accompanying someone on an adventure. We get good information from the coal face as the author tries different investment projects. I find you get hooked in just by being a reader and following a developing situation.
– Nnenna – long posts, but well written and with the level of ground-level detail and humour I find appealing.
The interesting thing here is that three of the four anglophone blogs are written by people whose mother tongue is not English. Impressive. For Ivorians, I think there are certain lessons to take away;
– talk about your own experiences – what you see and do or want to do – take us to where you are; the stories from your street, the funny thing that happened to your brother, what the civil servant said to you when you applied for a nationality certificate, etc. If a few Ivorians produced half of the funny stories from real life they tell when chatting with friends in a maquis, we’d have some fantastic content.
– learn the importance of good writing – forgot the formal French school essays that no-one has time to read online – be brief and to the point (not always my strong point)
– be regular – find a way to make your blogging sustainable – build a community of followers and keep going, even if it’s just a few posts a month
– the best blogs have a sense of development – unfinished plans and projects that advance like a sit-com – that way you’re left wanting more because there’s a cliff hanger. There’s always a question – what will happen next? Will the person fail or succeed? These are blogs that are going places and you’re excited to return to them.
There is a lot going on in the Ivorian twitter and facebook sphere, and some people sometimes argue that blogging has had its day. But I think there’s so much that needs to be communicated in long-form that doesn’t fit into 140 words. In that respect, I think blogging is essential for building an informed and educated community in Ivory Coast. We can form an educated online community that will strengthen civil society.
For the time being, Ivorians just simply aren’t blogging. Almost no-one’s telling me about great Ivorian food, about their house building project, about life on the cocoa farm, about their developing business, about what’s on tv, about their life as a waitress in a garbadrome, about the latest coupe decale album, about the experience of an Ivorian coming back from abroad…