Students create content about Africa in local languages

An initiative that has been creating an enabler platform for university students in Africa to create content about the continent on Wikipedia in African languages to widen access to information about the region, has already yielded 200 articles in at least nine local languages, including Igbo, Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, isiZulu, Dagbani, Lologooli, Yoruba, and Sepedi, generating more than 150,000 views on the website.

For this project, university students, aged 18-27, who know and can write about Africa in African languages can apply to be trained in online training sessions on skills to become knowledge producers in their localities.

The training sessions for 2023 will commence in March with applications closing at the end of February. The last training sessions of this year will take place in October.

The initiative by Fondazione Aurora, an Italian non-profit organisation, has established the WikiAfrica Education Programme for university students in Africa under its Higher Education Initiative, jointly with the Moleskine Foundation Africa also provides students who participate in content creation with technological and digital skills.

Currently, students based at institutions that form part of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) network, such as Kenya’s University of Nairobi, have been invited to the project to publish on Wikipedia and represent their culture and countries, as well as “being change-makers and supporting other students and people to have access to knowledge”.

Content producers and change-makers

“Africa is a continent rich in history, multiple cultures and languages, and is emerging as a land of innovation, but it is not well represented online on a global scale. This means countless missed opportunities and cultural misunderstandings,” said Dina Rosa Agyemang, the project promotion assistant at Fondazione Aurora.

Speaking to University World News, Agyemang said there is a need to promote African content, citing that, on Wikipedia, the most used online encyclopaedia in the world, there is more information on the city of Paris than on all 55 African states.

In an effort to face the challenge of representativeness of Africa and also to contribute to the young generation’s education, she said, the project has attempted to encourage “active participation of students speaking African languages who can contribute to increase the production of knowledge and specialised information on Africa ...”

“We aim at making Africa known by overcoming stereotypes [about the continent] in order to contribute to an improved business climate towards Africa by promoting training programmes and offering scholarships and internships to young people with a migrant background as well as international campaigns to stimulate the production of digital content on Africa,” Agyemang added.

Agyemang said that this initiative provides a chance for African youth to become content producers and change-makers in their communities.

She added that ARUA is one of the many education and research networks involved in the initiative that is open to all university students in Africa.

Adding as many African languages as possible

“Building networks and partnerships is crucial to addressing complex issues, particularly to ensure tools and support for young people. [The] youth is the group most affected by the recent crises, but they also represent the largest segment of the world’s population that can offer development solutions through knowledge sharing and research,” said Agyemang.

“The expectation is to publish more and more articles and achieve the widest coverage of the continent by adding as many African languages as possible to Wikipedia.

“We also expect that spreading language and culture of origin will result in consolidated identity, empowered people and making the population capable of growing strong, resilient and inclusive,” said Agyemang.

According to Butinyi Matete, a postgraduate sociology student at Kenya’s Kenyatta University, the production and publication of content on Africa in African languages could increase awareness about the continent.

“People will have access to relevant information from across Africa. They will appreciate our culture and many generations to come can access this information,” she said.

Agyemang affirms that the WikiAfrica Education initiative is an opportunity to develop the African media presence as “this allows local languages to be part of the world’s linguistic heritage”.