I’m not sure I ever mentioned my Abidjanito project on this site. It was an idea I worked on for a number of years in Abidjan, interrupted by the post-election crisis, and delayed by a long and eventually fruitless path with one Ivorian web designer, before eventually using the services of my friend Franck Baye at Madox. The idea was for a leisure time website giving information on hotels, restaurants etc, while also having a diary of what’s happening in Abidjan. I was actually initially in talks with Time Out, but the idea was a little too small for their sort of scale.

I wasn’t the first person to try this, though perhaps I tried to do more than others had tried in the past. I thought I could provide much better photos, professional reviews and bi-lingual content. The site’s been live for a year now – visitor numbers aren’t amazing and since leaving Abidjan, the website has received little attention from me.

What happened?

The initial problem was investing a lot of money in a web designer who took a long time to not build the final product I wanted. He got close, but not close enough. He had some strengths, but his failure to reply to emails and slowness almost scuppered the project. Things were a lot better with Madox although even here, things took far longer than initially promised due to switches between Joomla and Drupal as the software base for the site. To top it all off, I paid a writer to produce French content for me (a European), who promised 50 articles in two months and has produced about 20 articles in two years. I’m a little too trusting – perhaps I should stop paying people up front.

Then of course I left Abidjan just after launching which didn’t help. My assistant carried on some of the work, but the quality of the content and particularly the photos took a hit. The current strategy is to keep it ticking over and perhaps when I’m back I can do a thorough update. Hopefully I’ll be back in Abidjan for another extended period of time and I can give this another go. On the financial side, if I was able to generate even a small amount of money it would give me confidence to leap back in. Having said that, I do wonder about the value of such local sites compared to the Tripadvisors of this world.

Still, I think we have some unique content and more content than most in English, so hopefully it’s still useful even in its present form, and I learned a lot putting it together. It’s still early days for the internet in Abidjan and people don’t yet use the web for much outside social media, but that will likely change very quickly, very soon, though probably through mobile connections than computers.

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