Friday, October 24, 2008

Africa's best bloggers

The Christian Science Monitor published an interesting story earlier this year by Kari Barber who profiled two of Africa's outstanding bloggers, Congolese blogger Cédric Kalonji and Dakar-based Chadian blogger Makaila Nguebla.

Cédric Kalonji's blog is the more familiar to the outside world, having won the award for "Best French Language Blog of 2007" in Deutsche Welle's Best of the Blogs competition.* Barber quotes Cédric:

"Blogging allows me to be a middle man for Congo, between those in power and those without any, thanks just to free Internet and a small digital camera," says Kalonji, who does not have an Internet connection in his house and detects a nearby wireless signal on his laptop computer to update his blog.

Kalonji is among a growing number of bloggers in Africa who are using their websites to question or challenge their governments. But, although Internet access is slowly becoming more affordable and available in Africa, bloggers say their audience is still mostly outside the continent.

Concerning the other blogger profiled, Senegal-based Makaila Nguebla, Barber writes,
Makaila Nguebla receives phone calls and text messages tracking the movements of Chadian rebels who have been on the offensive in recent days. He publishes information about new attacks, along with opinion articles supporting the rebellion.

Mr. Nguebla sleeps next to his computer.

"This allows me to receive and follow, without delay, what is happening in Chad," Nguebla said. "I receive messages and telephone calls 24 hours a day."

Nguebla is one dedicated blogger!

Barber also spoke with Leonard Vincent of Reporters Without Borders, an an expert on freedom of the press issues in Africa. Leonard Vincent told the CSM reporter,

that while expanding freedom of speech in Africa is important, some opposition and rebel blogs are taking it too far.

"You have the personal bloggers and the political bloggers: Political parties publish whatever they want – full of libel, defamation, violence, sometimes very graphic images," Mr. Vincent says. "I have the feeling that the ones who are blogging in an individual way are more conscious of their responsibility and are more likely to be measured and moderate in the publication than those who use the Internet and their Web sites as war tools or propaganda tools."

For the time being, Vincent says, African governments don't seem too concerned by bloggers.

Whereas both Cedric and Makaila blog in French, a most informative -- albeit specialized -- African who blogs prolifically in English is Chido Makunike of African Agriculture. I recently met Chido at a conference in Bonn. I find Chido's blog indispensible for staying up-to-date on the impact of the food crisis on the continent. You can find links to these and other interesting African blogs here.
* This year's Best of the Blogs (The BOBs) contest is presently taking place. DW's BOBs are described as "the world’s largest international Weblog awards for Weblogs, podcasts and videoblogs." The competition features interesting blogs from every continent. It provides insight into the vast scope of the world of blogging today.

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