I was ever so pleased to be able to meet up with the Ghanaian blogging group this last Thursday in Accra. Again, many thanks to them for shifting their regular meeting date back a week so that I and others from Maker Faire Africa could attend.
In the week that I was previously bopping around Ghana, I saw a decent swath of the country in Accra, Cape Coast, and Kumasi. Apparently the strongest contingent of bloggers is in Accra, although the Ghanaian diaspora plays a large part in the blogging as well.
The group was started nearly exactly one year ago by Kajsa Hallberg Adu who started out blogging as an expat while living in Ghana and then decided to meet up with other bloggers that she had found. From there the group grew steadily and now covers 61 blogs, which all seem to be aggregated at ghanablogging.com. Despite the potential of “ruining a perfectly good digital friendship” they have about 8-10 people who meet regularly with some checking in at various times and new members showing up often.
While the group on Thursday was quite large (due to many Maker Faire Africa people showing up), I feel that there were a great number of things to take away from it. For starters, one needs to keep in mind that Ghana is a country of about 23 million people. Out of that total, there is this extremely small percentage that are blogging. Why? Is it a lack of interest? Not necessarily. People in Ghana seem as interested in blogging as anyone else that I’ve met. They have the same reasons to blog as anyone else. They want to talk about politics, sports, love, news, etc. Apparently poetry is really coming in to a fashion at the moment in Ghana, so the world may see a good number of poetry blogs coming out of the country than anything else. So, the reasons to blog are there.
The reason starts with money. Blogging is something that is done primarily by those in the upper class sections of societies. It’s not that it’s seen as something erudite, but more the fact that the cost of being online is quite costly. For instance to get a wireless data modem costs about 200 Cedis. The average yearly salary is 600 Cedis (these were figures I heard from those at the meeting.) That 200 doesn’t include the cost of actually being online. So quickly, the costs go up and only those with higher incomes can afford to be online, much less have the time to blog. Time online for many Africans, including those outside Ghana is used more to communicate rather than interact or blog as blogging isn’t necessarily viewed as communication in the way that email or Skype are.
Additionally, those who earn more in Ghana often have schooled outside the country and so were exposed to blogging because of this. Mac Jordan is a prime example of this where, when studying abroad four years ago, he started blogging and has been ever since. Kajsa, who founded the group started blogging as an expat who had obviously already heard about blogging in her native Sweden. Also, a great deal of the Ghanaian bloggers are in the Diaspora where again, they have greater access to learn about blogging.
The group brought up a comparison with Nigeria in terms of blogging. It may seem like an odd comparison given the differences in the two countries (populations, economies, etc) but they are both Anglophone Sub-Saharan countries in West Africa with very reliable internet connections. In the case of the Nigerians, blogging did find its way in to the hands of the general population. Why? Because people enjoyed the great advantage of having an immediacy of information that was simply not available with their traditional media. Ironically enough, I think this is one of the reasons that people in the US started blogging.
From what I’ve witnessed in Ghana, their freedom of the press is excellent and so the constraint that brought about so many Nigerians to blog hasn’t played out in Ghana. Will it? You never know, but given how solid Ghana is overall, it would take something catastrophic for this to happen.
One closing issue was in access to blogging in that, if internet is expensive, would an option like being able to SMS articles be beneficial to them. The response I got was favorable, but not rabid. Obviously, when you have proper broadband speeds as they do in Ghana, tapping in a blog article on T9, two sentences at a time is less than awesome. In fact, Nana tried doing just this with a system for a year and found it frustrating, eventually giving up on it. The ultimate verdict was that yes, it could be useful because people are heavily mobile-fied in Ghana and if they see something that happens, it would be very handy to just text it in right away. Outside of that it wouldn’t be something that any of them would use on a regular basis. Oh, there is one instance I found where it would be very useful, which was for the poetry bloggers who write shorter works that they might be inspired to write when out, in which case SMS access would be very handle.
And that’s the gist of what I got from the meet up. It’s not to say that there isn’t a great deal more to be said about blogging in Ghana and I feel that there will be a good deal more in due course as those in this group are really passionate about blogging and work to bring more in to the fold. I’ll write more about bandwidth in Ghana in a future article.
If you want to know who what Ghanaian bloggers were represented, here is a sample:
Nana Kofi Acquah
Nana Yaw Asiedu
Cornelis Rouloph Otoo
Edward Amartey Tagoe
Emmanuel K. Bensah jr
Kajsa was kind enough to compile the list and write more about the meet up on her blog, here.