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27/10/2009

A linguistic "Berlin Wall" divides African web

This post was inspired by discussions with friends bloggers living in the United States, in France and Africa. It seems like the small world of Afro-techies (bloggers, developers, entreprenaute) reaches a certain maturity. We can observe beautiful initiatives here and there. But a vague impression remains: something like "linguistic Berlin Wall" is separating us, including Francophones and Anglophones, who seem to operate in parallel universes.
I would not contradict the evidence. It is difficult to keep ourselves informed regularly of what is happening on the other side. It may seem almost impossible to read afro-bloggers who write in a language we do not know - although a friend pointed out to me that Google Translate is not for dogs ;)
It seems nonetheless that we must not resign ourselves to our linguistic ghettos that neither history nor geography justifies. We must be more curious and we should manage to know us better and to have better exchanges.

How many times have I heard complaints about the Web 2.0 players in Anglophone Africa, who make “no effort” and do not instinctively associate other Afro-oriented “techies” to their events and meetings? How to explain this kind of autism, if it exists ?
Beyond what can be considered like interpersonal communication problems, it seems that the linguistic challenge is also a technological and economic challenge for us. For example, large platforms like Facebook and Google are safe to translate their interfaces in as many languages as possible, simply because they want to expand their user base and their financial value, simply.

Should we not do the same? How many Kenyan or South African start-ups are interested by developments in Côte d'Ivoire and Gabon? How many Cameroonian startups would benefit to cross the border and conquer Nigeria? I think that investor’s interest would increase if we could develop online brands which go beyond language barriers. In this regard, the blogging platform Maneno shows the path.
How to start it ? The debate is open.

(With Google Translate)