Why Uganda needs bloggers as much as tweeps.

 

With the advent of social media platforms to Uganda and the wider Africa, came the opportunity for every African with access to show the world a piece of their country. Africa has never been showcased as deeper, clearer, indicatively, positively and negatively as ever before. Social media has allowed the world to see Africa in its raw form; the good and the bad as seen by Africans and not Europeans or Americans.

p1

Through social media, corruption and political have been exposed and ridiculed, new creative talent has been discovered, communities are much more informed, social causes a creating a big and the news media has been redefined. This is all good; however along the way Africans are yet to define the continent and what happens there.

p1

Source: http://www.ruthaine.com

Enter blogging.

The African mentality more specifically to Uganda is largely biased in response to reading or writing. This is in part due to the extensively theoretically founded education systems were creativity is shunned upon and focus is instead directed to meeting the academic passing grade. Social media has created an environment that spurns creativity since the users hold the power to craft their message to according to preference and influence.

The downside to social media in Uganda and African at large is it has created a “bandwagon effect” of consumerism and “fitting the trend,” which has meant that the stories we are meant to tell as Africans have been lost in the clutter of western media craftiness.

My question arises from this dilemma, why even with the power of telling the African story in the hands of Africans is the story still being told by the West and its media.

p1

As a Ugandan social media user, I particularly monitor how Ugandans use these platforms and it is a sad affair. One finds that when established international media organizations such as CNN with the exception of BBC which has a rich background on telling the African story; the main sources of “credible” information on what is happening on the continent are non-African .

This was reflected in a recent Twitter conversation where an African American Talib Kweli made a claim that the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group in Uganda was engaged in targeted killing of gay people.

p1

Much as this claim is short of ludicrous, it revealed how little the West knows about Africa.

So this elicits another question, why doesn’t the West trust /rely on Africa to tell its story ?

 

Reason: because Africa does not know how to tell its story. The Twitter engagement I mentioned earlier was an embarrassment for Ugandans, who tried to defend the falsehood of Talib’s claim but still could not prove to be reliable of being “well informed” about their own country.

p1

It seems no Uganda has found it of any meaning to document the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army and support their findings with credible video, imagery and causality numbers as well as accounts from victims of the war. The insurgency of the Lord’s Resistance Army as well as other countless untold stories reveals an insight into the bias among Ugandans and Africans at large of defining the image of the continent or their countries.

American or European media has largely been reliant on blogs, not as a source of stories necessarily but as a means to check the authenticity of its sources. As much as we think that the western media is controlled by the conglomerates, this is not entirely true. With the exception of international media, the domestic front of news in the western world is a co-op with the main news outlets relying on the blogs to validate their stories.

Everything is documented in the western world to the point that the continent is nearly out of stories to tell, and so they come to Africa to tell its stories.

In my experiences of writing research papers on various topics, I have found it nearly If not impossible to access information about broad topics in Uganda. No data repositories are existent and the content in place is outdated. Our national archive is so ill equipped, Wikipedia would provide a better alternative and so I search for blogs in the hope of finding any information but this never yields fruitful.

This could partly explain why even the authenticity on government figures of growth is contentious, but even then who is there to argue against what is says. No one has credible information. If Uganda had as many bloggers providing rich, well researched and insightful stories on Uganda, maybe our story would be told by us.

p1

Yes social media has the power to bring down a president or send a tweep that has never been to China. But are these the stories that define Uganda, maybe ?

 

Meetups: the social media day Kampala 2016 experience

Meetups are defined as a networking or meeting of people in a local community with shared interests.  Launched  by Mashable Social Media Day in 2010 as a way to recognize and celebrate social media’s impact on global communication, the 3rd edition of  the Kampala community comprising of users, content creators and “brand pushers”, met on 24th June 2016. Organized along the theme of “the rise of the Influencer.,” the panel comprised of notable bloggers and digital marketing practitioners.

Being my first Social Media Day meetup, I enthusiastically looked forward to attending the event and gauging the minds, ideas and drive of the “social media junkies” community as it was termed. I made some observations about my experiences, which I can only best illustrate in a bulleted format.

According to advertisement, the event was to begin at 5pm. It only begun at approximately 6:20. Let’s leave it at that.

The moderator was humorous, eloquent and quite knowledgeable of the event and the discussion topic. However, his humor exceeded the boundaries of engaging the audience and “killed” the seriousness of the event. In spite of his good moderation of the event, he did not provide the audience adequate opportunity to ask questions. Instead, he relied on personal friends as sources of questions.  This could maybe have been corrected had the event started according to the stipulated time.

usethis2

The social media community in Kampala is a network and not a community than it should be. This means the growth of the event is restricted to inner circle “word of mouth” awareness that limits a broader pool of knowledge and legitimacy as other social media day communities boast of. The negative impact of such a structure means that meetups become more of a social event to meet colleagues and “Twitter friends” rather than an atmosphere of  concept engagement, thought provoking and idea nurturing.

The invited panel this year either didn’t do their homework or overestimated their online presence and impact. As mentioned earlier, the greater part of the main speakers were bloggers and digital marketing practitioners lest be called experts. They spoke from a pedestal of being a trend setter or market changer which is not the case. All their views and responses were textbook, which were not wrong. The failure was to baptize themselves as social media influencers in Uganda. To begin with, these panelists are most active on Twitter which means they are not influencers as they may think.

usethis4

 

This is why.
Social media platform usage statistics place Facebook as the most used at 94.63% with Twitter at 3.98%. So if they are influencers, why are they not very active on Facebook which boasts of the largest social media community ?
infograph

Infograph representing largest social media audiences in Uganda

SOURCE: StatCounter

Follow link to access statistics
Yet again, according to social media usage statistics, the biggest influencers are the main brand names in Uganda which include media houses such as The Daily Monitor and telecommunication firms such as MTN. The most “followed” social media non-coporate individual is local and international comedian Ann Kansiime with an over 1 million member audience. This means if there is any influencer likely to cause a shift even if minor in Uganda’s social media community it is this young lady.Maybe not, but the figures speak volumes.

inforgraph2
Graphical illustration representing most followed social media Facebook pages in Uganda

Follow link to access statistics
Moving on to Twitter, the story is almost the same, big corporate names and political leaders dominate the largest audience with the likes of media houses. Some social media users such as Andrew Mwenda and Allan Allan Kasujja who maybe unknowingly share their views on this platform, have shaped the political mindsets of many Ugandans to a point that they stand out as reliable political pundits in current affairs and “foreseers” of the political outlook of the country. Are these not the influencers. One may argue that Uganda being one of the youngest countries is “driven” by the youth. However, this is not the case. Because of lack of authentic, creative and relevant user generated content, social media which is meant to be free from the corporate entities has been hijacked in Uganda by the very organizations that influence trends as seen in the figures below.

inforgraph3

Graphical illustration representing most followed Twitter accounts in Uganda

Figures aside, the social media “landscape” in Uganda is still young to be nurturing influencers. Rather, as is the case in of greater Africa, these platforms have largely been helpful as a efficient awareness tools whether through being use to call attention to a social, political , domestic or lifestyle campaign.

So maybe influencing for now should be redefined as awareness. Until we can develop the likes of Zimbabwean Strive Masiyawa through his “A taste of the Strive brand” , South African Garrett Cliff,  Angelique Kidjo impacting through Everyday Africa, Tony Elumelu’s Africapitalism, Paul Kagame’s most engaging president on Twitter,Jason Njoku of iROKO.tv .

Then we need to redefined what we are influencing.

Getting money off your knowledge is not bad, many Ugandans sing of how they did not “study for nothing”. However, if you seek to be a real influencer, it is more about the name you build through sharing knowledge with your follower base and seeing how it changes their lives.