By Ogova Ondego
Published August 19, 2020

Wiki Loves Africa contest has over the past six years generated more than 64 000 photographs to Wikimedia Commons for potential use on Wikipedia.They organise an annual photographic and media competition whose aim is to encourage Africans to document Africa by generating royalty-free images about this mother continent they describe as ‘a continent that is often the subject of an external gaze and many subsequent stereotypes’. Ogova Ondego speaks to Isla Haddow-Flood who, together with Florence Devouard and under Wiki in Africa initiative, presides over the Wiki Loves Africa photographic and videographic competition that in 2020 marks its sixth edition.

What is Wiki in Africa?
Wiki In Africa is a South African registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) whose work across the continent encourages the contribution of African content to global educational platforms, such as Wikipedia.
The programmes Wiki In Africa creates are specifically aimed at skills-transfer and community building to bridge the content and contribution gap that perpetuates the digital divide that plagues Africa, thus decolonising knowledge and the internet through the online celebration and contribution of the information, cultures and histories of Africa under free licenses.

When was Wiki in Africa founded?
March 2017

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Florence Devouard is the founder and is/has been the lead executive of several non-profit (Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia France, Wiki in Africa) and she is very involved in others (Ynternet.org, Open Food Facts, LSC), thus demonstrating an in-depth experience of running non-profit organisations and understanding their unique challenges.What are the objectives of Wiki in Africa?
The objective of Wiki in Africa is to empower and engage citizens of Africa and its Diaspora to seize their own agency by providing access to, awareness of, and support for open knowledge, the open movement and Wikipedia-related projects, working in collaboration with like-minded organisations.

What does Wiki in Africa do?
Wiki In Africa encourages the contribution of African content to global educational platforms such as Wikipedia.
The programmes Wiki In Africa creates are specifically aimed at skills transfer and community-building to bridge the content and contribution chasm that perpetuates the digital divide that plagues Africa. This helps in de-colonising knowledge and the internet through the online celebration and contribution of the information, cultures and histories of Africa under free licenses.
Thousands of participants across our projects collect, develop and contribute educational and relevant content that relates to the theme of Africa.
Through strategic layering that answers to specific needs, Wiki In Africa has created programmes that bridge the glaring content gaps and digital skills divides. It initiates fun-engaging programmes to create multiple pathways for people of varied ages, genders, backgrounds, cultures and access to resources.
Wiki In Africa programmes address the following key areas:

  • Youth and education through WikiChallenge African Schools and WikiAfrica Schools; Since 2017, the francophone and primary school-focused WikiChallenge African Schools has rolled out in 9 countries, involving over 100schools that has resulted in 139 articles and 600+ photos being submitted to Vikidia.org, 17 schools received prizes. 2020’s edition has been merged with the 2021 edition due to COVID-19
  • Gender gap through its groundbreaking Wiki Loves Women programme that has been rolled out across 8 African countries, in partnership with 76 civil society organisations
  • Contemporary society and cultural heritage through the annual Wiki Loves Africa photographic competition which in its 6 editions has seen the contribution of nearly 64,000 images to Wikimedia Commons by 8120 photographers from across the continent. On average 82% of all contributors are new to Wikipedia, and the images have a life beyond the competition with Wiki Loves Africa’s images being viewed 81 million times on Wikipedia articles in May 2020 alone
  • Technological solutions to Africa’s challenges by creating the offline editing solution WikiFundi (with offline resources) and the award-winning ISA tool
  • Volunteer development and community support through all of the projects listed above.
    Though each individual initiative is designed to stand alone, they are integrated and specifically designed to accelerate and develop the skills of online communities across Africa. Working closely with and supporting the efforts of Wikimedia Usergroups and volunteer groups, they encourage a culture of contribution from and about Africa to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects.

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Wiki In Africa is a South African-registered Not-for-Profit oerganisation whose work across the continent encourages the contribution of African content to global educational platformsWhat challenges does Wiki in Africa face?
Lack of access to

  • quality education
  • digital technology on which to learn digital skills and to upload meaningful content
  • affordable and available data.
    Many of these kinds of issues are national and social and difficult for us to overcome on our own, although we have created workable solutions for targeted interventions, with the creation of the WikiFundi offline Wikipedia editing environment and resource library.

What are the achievements of Wiki in Africa so far?
There are many but since this article is focusing on Wiki Loves Africa, we can say that the project has since 2014 made progress in the following areas:

  • More than 64 000 images have been entered by 8 120 competitors from up to 55 countries under a free licence (CC-BY-SA)
  • Wiki Loves Africa’s images from the first 6 years have been viewed 484 million times altogether
  • Wikimedia communities from 24 African countries have hosted participation events, information sessions and training workshops; this year, the African-Brazilian community also got involved
  • More than 250 participation and training events have been held up until 2020 where a spate of local COVID-inspired online events happened for the contest in early 2020
  • The competition attracts high levels of new contributors to the Wikimedia projects – an average of 82% of participants are new contributors
  • A Wiki Loves Africa prize-winning image was included in the Journeys Through Our Fragile Heritage exhibition at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France
  • Wiki Loves Africa’s ISA tool is a pilot project for Structured Data on Commons and the winner of the WikiData Award for Best Multimedia Tool in November 2019
  • It has helped to build the Wikipedia communities in 23 countries across Africa by drawing people together around common goals and focusing on consistent regional in-person and online events.

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Isla Haddow-Flood is a writer, communications and marketing expert who works across education, arts, culture, film and broadcast sectors across Africa.How does Wiki in Africa meet its operation costs?
Wiki In Africa is funded by a variety of organisations, mostly on a project by project basis. In 2020 for the first time, the Wikimedia Foundation has provided part organisational funding as part of their Simple Annual Plan Grant process. This has allowed us the opportunity to focus on the whole, rather than from project to project. With regards to projects, we have been very fortunate to have such funders and collaborators as the Wikimedia Foundation, Goethe-Institut, Orange Foundation, Moleskine Foundation and Creative Commons.

Is Wiki Loves Africa photographic and media competition the flag ship of Wiki in Africa?
Yes. I think you could say that. Because of its popular appeal it is our most visible project. All the projects are of equal importance, though they intentionally have different models because they apply to different audiences. WikiChallenge is a writing competition run in primary schools and Wiki Loves Women celebrates women on Wikipedia by working with gender activism, cultural and civil society organisations. Each project is of equal importance but some are not as visible as others.

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Wiki Loves Africa photographic competition Invites EntriesWhy does it look like North Africa dominated the 6th Wiki Loves Africa competition, with the prizes going to Egypt, Ethiopia and Ivory Coast?
We have been pondering this!! We think it is due to the photography clubs and societies in Egypt being made aware of and getting excited by the competition and sharing it among themselves, therefore attracting high quality images. There are images from all over Africa, but Egypt’s photographers stand out this year.

What is the background of Isla Haddow-Flood and Florence Devouard whose concept Wiki Loves Africa photographic and videographic competition is?
I am a writer, communications and marketing expert who has worked across education, arts, culture, film and broadcast sectors across Africa. The main focus of my career has been to leverage publishing platforms (online and offline) to facilitate the access to, and amplifying of voices from Africa in whichever medium they choose. Above the work done for Wiki In Africa, my strategic thinking, knowledge of Africa, the open movement, and project management has been valued as a consultant by a number of international organisations. In 2019, the Wikimedia Foundation selected me as a member of the Advocacy Working group for the recently completed Movement Strategy 2030. I have also been approached to join as a reviewer for the Wikimedia Movement Strategy Transition Design Group.
Florence Devouard was initially trained as an engineer (ingénieur agronome ENSAIA 1992 + DEA in genetic and biotech) and secondary in Computer Sciences. She has been an independent worker since 2008 (EI status in France). Her professional focus are quite various, some of which likely to be interesting assets for this Evaluation Work.
Florence is the founder and is/has been the lead executive of several non-profit (Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia France, Wiki in Africa) and she is very involved in others (Ynternet.org, Open Food Facts, LSC), thus demonstrating an in-depth experience of running non-profit organisations and understanding their unique challenges.
Florence also had the experience of funds distribution to other parties, or support/reviewing/commenting grantees requests as part of her roles within Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia France. She has been reviewing several ANR grant requests, and has been a member of the Comité de Pilotage de l’ANR, commission CONTINT during three years. She has been involved in several European funded projects.
Besides, Florence has been running various non-profit projects over the past few years, most of them in Africa, with a subsequent significant expertise in project management, budget, project implementation, reports, metrics, evaluation and assessment, dealing with the unplanned… but also fundraising and management relationships with funders (USD 432,000 collected between 2013 and 2020 as part of Wiki in Africa programs).

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The second prize winner is Bread Delivery Bicycle by Abd Elhamid Fawzy Abd Elhamid Tahoun from Egypt.Is Wiki in Africa the same as Wikipedia or Wikimedia?
No. We are entirely separate. I know it does get really confusing!!
Wiki In Africa is a completely independent NGO based in South Africa, that supports the aims and objectives of the Wikimedia community by creating continental projects that helps to grow the community and help others to add local content.
Wikipedia is the product/project (the encyclopaedia platform) that has been created by the Wikimedia Community. There are other projects that are created by the Wikimedia Community, besides Wikipedia. These products include Wikimedia Commons, WikiData, WikiVoyage, Wikitionary, etc. This is why Wikipedia is separated in name from the Wikimedia community.

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Coronavirus Conspires with Technology against Print ProductionWhy is writing and editing content for Wikipedia a complicated process?
If you want to be factually correct and share specific knowledge, it has to be researched, your sources need to be verified, and correctly cited, and then the article should be written in a way that adds context and layered understanding.
These are not simple skills to learn and cannot be likened to writing a post on Facebook … besides these, there are added elements that need to be learnt with regards to the correct licensing, how the community works, what the many different rules are, how to upload images, etc. these elements take time to learn and navigate, and therefore it is quite complicated to add content, which is why we have programmes and encourage people to take part in the community so their contribution is supported and they feel part of something.

How can the authority and credibility of user-created content on Wikipedia be enhanced?
There is a lot of misinformation about Wikipedia’s accuracy and credibility. The Wikimedia community is VERY focused on ensuring that all facts in a Wikipedia article has correct and reliable sources – this actually causes problems for African writers/editors, as historical or even contemporary subjects are not always found in sources that are known to some of Wikipedians and so notability and verification of the facts is often disputed and discussed.
With the global focus on Fake News and the emergence of the novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) crisis, Wikipedia has made huge steps to ensure that all COVID-19 information on Wikipedia is factual and up to date and is doing everything possible to push back against the fake news phenomenon.