Years ago, while working in Uganda on an emergency relief program, Adama Sanneh had an epiphany.
“I had this strange feeling,” he says. “I think I questioned myself whether I was on the wrong side of history.”
Born and raised in Milan to a Catholic Italian mother and a Muslim Senegalese-Gambian father, Sanneh had always reveled in diversity, adventure and knowledge. But while working in East Africa a realization dawned on him: his knowledge of Africa, like so many people’s, barely scratched the surface of the continent’s reality.
He realized that information about Africa’s diverse languages, colorful cultures, lively politics and over one billion citizens was scarce. What’s more, much of the information that was available came from a Western gaze through the prisms of foreign journalism, academia and entertainment. So Sanneh set out to transform Africans from “passive knowledge consumers to active knowledge producers.”
Their primary tool? Wikipedia, the world’s most widely used reference compendium, and one of the few spaces where Africans can directly write and edit the story of their own continent. Wikipedia’s English website attracts an average of around seven billion page views monthly, making it one of the most visited websites in the world.
And yet, it suffers from a paucity of information about Africa. There’s more information about the country of France than the entire continent of Africa on Wikipedia, says Sanneh. So, since 2018, the WikiAfrica Education initiative has been working to change that by enlisting and organizing a new generation of Africa-based Wikipedia editors. Funded by the Moleskine Foundation, of which Sanneh is cofounder and CEO, the WikiAfrica Education initiative is a boldly creative attempt to decentralize Wikipedia — and, in turn, knowledge of Africa — through contributions from those who know the place best.
*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.