(White?) African Blogger Conference in a Week

Word on the street, the Khartoum one where I am for the week, is that there is a Digital Citizen Indaba on Blogging conference being held in Grahamstown, South Africa. It is a shock that there should be this kind of meeting without AB&H being told about it. From the list of speakers, listed below, it appears to my untrained and possibly quite mistaken eye that their last names are not very black African; at least they wouldn’t be in East Africa. (Whisper: Will it be a roomful of white folks working for the betterment of the African? Please, I beg you, do not tell massa that I asked cause I know how much he is trying to help me speak and develop into a full, happy human being.)

I feel that I have no choice but to trash it; what is blogging if not a weapon for attacking the virtuous? This admittedly may be difficult because the conference actually seems quite interesting. It appears from the program that the attendees will be treated to dispositions from lawyers versed in internet issues – whatever those are – and that there is even a session to establish ‘an African Citizens Code of Conduct.’ Now that last one I find weird. The power of the internet and blogging is precisely that it is not being planned or coordinated centrally or even subject to a particular point of view. In any case are Africans so misbehaved or even depraved that they are always being subject to codes of behavior? Is the governance agenda and its associated funding buzzwords now to seek us out even in the digital world?

Whenever African is combined with words like empowerment, development, agenda, code, The People, plan, unity, globalization, and a conference is convened, I suspect a hustle. The same kind you would encounter in any brothel bar or illegal drinking den in any city on the continent. You know the guy who sidles next to you, face drawn and haggard with worry, and then says, ‘excuse me please, I came to the city and had all my money stolen. Now I just need help with a little bus fare to return home.’ Or ‘hey, you want good time? I will show you good, clean girls – or boys if you like.’ These hustles precisely match the ones that go something like this: ‘Funding this conference to develop the girlchild’s access to blogging will enable her African voice to be heard in the era of superpower driven globalization.’

As always, the ‘establishment’ in the form of the traditional media and academia, not to mention the political classes, come to the latest advances in expression late and with all manner of grand pronouncements heralding shifting paradigms and revolutionary action. This very worthy meeting to which I would again observe AB&H is not invited seems to fit the scheme exactly. I am sure there will be moans and sighs over the disproportionately low number of bloggers in Africa; and firm declarations to close the ‘digital divide’ and ’empower’ Africans. Out of the conference will come a flood of little proposals to every development agency in the land – ‘help us speak to the world’ will be the theme. There are 20 speakers invited:

Ethan Zuckerman (Global Voices, USA) – Alaa Abd El Fattah (Blogger & Activist, Egypt) – Pieter Verweij (Senior Lecturer, University of Utrecht, Netherlands) – Matthew Buckland (Publisher, Mail & Guardian Online) – Ory Okolloh (Blogger & Activist) – Ashraf Patel (ICT Programme Officer, OSISA) – Zimbabwean Pundit (Political Blogger) – Fackson Banda (SABMiller Chair of Media Democracy, Rhodes) – Emeka Okafor (Blogger & Business Journalist) – Ramon Thomas (Managing Director, NETucation) – Mike Stopforth (Communications Strategist) – Tom Johnson (Institute for Analytic Journalism, USA) – Ray Hartley (Deputy-Editor, Sunday Times) – Juanita Williams (News Editor, IOL) – Chris Roper (Online Editor, 24.com) – Alec Hogg (CEO, Moneyweb) – Ian Gilfillan (IT Author & Blogger) – Andrew Rens (Intellectual Property Legal Expert) – Vincent Maher (Director, New Media Lab, Rhodes) – Andrew Heavens (Photojournalist & Blogger)

You may have noticed that 13 of the 20 do not appear to be bloggers; I hope the speeches are put online so that I can savage or praise them with due consideration.

About bulletsandhoney
I read my first book when I was three, then my second one a few weeks later. It has carried on this way for decades with only temporary distractions of eating, fighting, loving, heartbreak and other such irrelevant biographical details.

30 Responses to (White?) African Blogger Conference in a Week

  1. Anonymous says:

    I guess you’re upset because you didn’t get a free ticket to the conference, sorry for you.

  2. MMK says:

    anonymous – haha. Indeed, the obvious comment comes forth. Thanks for being sorry.

  3. Binyavanga says:

    Hey,I think I read on Ory’s blog that there were scholarships, whic irritates more because why were people not asked. Maybe some would come on their own steam?

  4. The scholarship applications have closed, there were more than 200 applications and the final selections have already been made.

    This event was announced to the media and to several bloggers who linked to it. If you search for it on Google you will find 280 links to the web site. It was also sent out in the Poynter E-Media Tidbits list.

    Obviously we could not invite each person in Africa individually, and we hope that it will be successful enough for more applications next year.

    In general I think this blog post is unacceptably racist and misinformed but I have published my perspective on my own blog.

  5. MMK says:

    Scholarships. The assumption as ever is that Africans are broke, always in need of a (white?)helping hand. I am quite sure that the conference was advertised but as someone who spends hours online, I am puzzled that I did not run into it until yesterday. I hope that the sessions will be taped so that we can see who indeed is an African citizen, blogger, moblogger, vlogger, podcaster, hactivist and new media journalist.

  6. MMK says:

    Here is the link to a fuller explanation of why AB&H is now a racist blog that lacks credibility. The very credibility that can be enjoyed by joining the African citizens Code of Conduct.


    To the program of events: http://dci.ru.ac.za/documents/Draft_Programme2.pdf

  7. Sammie says:

    LOL at “The Hustle” that is the African situation. Africa sounds so hopeless a place to live in!
    I believe it’s a much better place than say Europe!
    I was reading somewhere that the American Dream is over, and seeing how self-respecting Africans are demeaning themselves in the name of asylum in Europe, i see where all this (mis)information is coming from.

    The hustle is further propagated by the brain-drain, where our brilliant minds are given scholarships, and attain green cards, citizenship and stuff, only to be dumped back here when wasted. Look at our current political class. Akina Musyoka, raila, Kibs, The whole lot of them; products of the hustle, turned activists.

    Pole for the long comment.

  8. bankelele says:

    Ory posted it at her site about a month ago with the scholarship mention. Am happy to have been invited.

  9. Rista says:

    Binyavanga and MMK, you are clearly looking in all the wrong places 🙂 [good looking out bankele]
    The ‘scholarships’ are always a good idea, but they should be renamed to read something innocuous like ‘conference/travel support’.

    Vincent, laudable work. Thanks for lending a helping hand to blogging in africa. It’s quite clear your efforts are still not reaching a (significant?) portion of your target audience… might want to rethink the strategy.
    That said, I wonder how many bonafide black south african bloggers will be at this conference.
    I am of the old school in believing that the word ‘racist’ cannot be used to describe an african, so i’d recommend you take a different tack when blogging in the ‘african’ space.

  10. Rista, you may be right regarding our efforts though right now we’re focussing on Southern Africa.

    I can’t agree with you on your other point about Africans being exempt from racism, I have seen a lot of racism between all different races in my life, including Africans. Obviously you’re entitled to your opinion, as am I, and I respect that.

  11. Zephyr says:

    Ai mmk, even I, who is a relative bloggo-virgo heard about it.
    Sometimes, it is good to first, swallow the sour grapes. then blog. I’ll provide the whisky to down them :-). Of course assuming that you can do grapes with whisky.

  12. Alex Maughan says:

    After reading your post mmk, I initially got angry. But now, having spoken about it with the people that happen to be in the room with me…

    wait, before continuing, let’s count the races in this room for your sake, since you are so obsessed with skin colour: 1 “Indian”, 2 “blacks”, and 1 “white” – or is he more of a grey colour due his very dark body hair? – all are Africans by the way)

    ..anyway, like I was saying, after discussing your rationale – if that’s what one can generously call your racism (and yes, rista, black people can be racist too… do the moral maths yourself, cos I don’t feel like wasting my time on your ignorant and short-sighted claim) – I now find it quite humorous, as do the others in the room.

    Your claims viz. the scholarships are especially funny.

    So now, having had a good laugh with all in the room, I am purged of my anger and no longer feel the need to break down the logic of your argument (which would have been done easily with the use of your own ideological premises, as I wouldn’t dare impose a “white” form of deduction on your subjectivity).

    Thank you for reminding me that even if people like you revel in subjecting everything to a white-on-black form of racism, there are many others (such as those in the room with me) that have more sense.

    So in the end, I have said nothing really, other than expressing my thanks, and, I suppose, that is enough. There is so much wrong with your argument, that I’ll end up wasting my time deconstructing it, and will enivitably waste your time too (since you will never be able to truly consider my overall objection until you remove that anger-filled race card that obscures your critical thought).

    Other than that, congratulations on a greatly informative blog (oh wait, what did we all learn from this again?… shucks, my red-neck, honke-rambling brain just aint wat’d used to be.

  13. Binyavanga says:

    Oh very juicy! Are fists flying? Some honke-rambling! Anger-filled race-cards! Good lord, must log on later. Nothing like a good ole conference to set thigs alight. Ah!!

    I have really missed South Africa…oh the rolling minefields!

  14. Nic says:

    I think that the comments above all illustrate the need for what is being argued against in this post: a code of conduct. For if there was a code of cunduct this post would be well without its boundaries and be disregarded as a worth while post/blog.

    As for the fact that “africans” cannot be labelled racist, that is the most absurd thing i have ever heard. Many years of political studies has proven to me that although my skin colour may not be black I am still an African.

    Well said Alex.

    Furthermore, if this is the case and a multitude or colours are labelled “African” by the informed, then why should there not be white/egyptian/coloured/green/purple/yellow speakers at the conference? If they are all African then who are you to predefine what is and is not African?

  15. coldtusker says:

    binyavanga – Same old, same old… as in Changez… I think you are just adding fuel to the fire & having fun!

    mmk – I wasn’t invited either but then I didn’t look out for it! It is a enormous web out there!

    Wacha this “racial” angle… Mark Shuttleworth (born in SA, so what if he is white, SA damu) is arguably one of the richest guys in Africa with real (yaani, NOT stolen/embezzled) money! I bet there are thousands of “black” Africans who were just as knowledgable as MS but toiling in the “West” rather than taking the entrepreneurial road!

    Tafuta na utapata (Seek & ye shall find)…

    I was blown away by the Indian IT industry. They are willing to hire US employees so they can “learn” from them! No flase pride, the Indian BPO campuses are similar to the USA. No squalor here! Idea exchange pow-wows!

    Africa (White, Black, Mwarabu) better get their act in order… We are the last on any list of being IT savvy (expect Polynesia & Micronesia) thus let’s keep the African spirit going!

    Tata Tea bought Tetleys (UK), Infosys & WIPRO have picked up a number of US firms. Hong Kong, Korean & Taiwanese firms are world-class with LG, Samsung, Hyundai becoming household names!
    The Asians have becoming globetrotters in 50 years while Africa…wapi?

    I could say the Egyptians but hey they look more “white” than “black”??? That doesn’t fit your “view”, does it?

    BTW, I really enjoy your takes on your travels!

  16. MMK says:

    Dear Alex Maughan, Vincent Maher and Nic. Welcome to AB&H. Never doubt the old adage that says living long enough allows one to see the impossible become real. For instance, the surreal sense I have of being called racist by white people in South Africa for asking whether a conference that announces itself as African is in fact disproportionately white. Racism used to be King Leopold’s administration killing 10 million Congolese, or 12 million slaves being carted off to the Americas or even apartheid. Now, so benign is it that it has become the act of hurting the feelings of white people by asking whether this conference is basically a bunch of them mouthing off with a few black tokens strewn here and there. The post for your information was actually meant very tongue-in-cheek; an intention that the fury of your response has now changed to an actual desire to probe further into the little talk shop that you are going to hold in a week’s time.

    Let us not suppose for even an instant that the label African is so problem-free that all one has to do is invoke it to be clothed in the armor of victimhood which Mr. Maughan and Mr. Maher wear so comfortably. Seeing that those to be empowered by the conference can be Nic’s ‘white/egyptian/coloured/green/purple/yellow’ African gladdens the heart. Where was I all those years when being called an African in South Africa and in Kenya was an insult to anyone without a dark brown skin – was actually being legally consigned to poverty and exclusion? Happily though, the troubles are over. Nirvana is here and all you have to do to join this racial paradise of harmony and fairness is pronounce yourself African. Especially when the whip and the fangs of the dog are safely locked away in history’s vault.

    Let me ask the question in simpler and even more racialist language: How many black Africans are represented in your panels in percentage terms? You seemed to be quite willing to supply a painstaking enough count of even those participants who are a ‘grey colour due his very dark body hair.’ Surely then it would not be too difficult for you to just tell me how many black panelists you have compared with the white/gray ones. Your spirited response to a post on my blog suggests that I have touched a raw nerve. And it must be one that is very often fingered in South Africa where racial positions and language are upended so that black folks are demanding access to influence and opportunity on the basis of race and ability to address decades of apartheid racism. I hate racial labeling myself but I do not kid myself that this is a dead and buried matter, that somehow South Africa and Africa have moved on from white privilege clothing itself in the virtue of helping the ‘darkies’ and speaking in their stead. In conference after Africanist conference, the black Africans from the continent are too often consigned to the sidelines. To be spoken for as they give good service as native or local informants to the important (white) thinkers who are made ‘African’ by the sheer love they lavish on the Dark Continent.

    Thanks by the way Mr. Maughan for your kind compliment on my blog at the end of your angry comment. I felt sorry that you would so brutally flay yourself by writing of yourself as having a ‘red-neck, honke-rambling brain…’ This kind of masochism is really sad to see especially when it is a transparent attempt to simultaneously make you appear to be a victim and to enable you to hold onto that delicious frisson of racial pain. I doubt that you are a red-neck; at least not in the way you seem to understand this phrase which I hate. I associate nowadays not with the white violence during the reconstruction period in the American South but rather with a contemporary liberal America that has cast poor white people beyond the pale. Heaping on them all the evils of racism both present and past while they bask in the glow of good deeds – especially in Africa – untouched by the very real racism that is alive to this day.

  17. MMK says:

    coldtusker – have one on me please; I am craving a cold Tusker badly. This is not about invitations anywhere but rather about the anger and defensiveness of people who claim to be about opening up spaces on this continent. The power of blogging is precisely about being able to ask questions as an individual. Especially when I notice a concerted attempt to codify the African blogosphere and make it part of a tired, exhausted white liberal civil society with a few ‘native’ voices to spice it up.

  18. coldtusker says:

    mmk – Tusker…


    Initially brewed by a couple of white brodas in Kenya… I think one of them got gored thus “Tusker” the name was born…

    It was primarily Kenyan owned for many years until KBL ran into financial trouble. Guinness came in as a white knight & bought a huge stake by pumping in some Sterling…

    Regardless of Guinness’ control, Tusker is as Kenyan as it gets!

    So I use Tusker as my mascot (Of course, I love the rich taste!)…

    It represents all in all, the best of Kenya which does not necessarily mean “black” or “african” or “white” or… just great taste & quality.

    Oh, they beat the crap out of the S.Africans (fronted by njenga karume who made his money off a KBL distributorship)!

    I’ll take a Tusker over castle or miller or bud any day!

  19. Binyavanga says:

    Let’s get to a juicer subject. Rhodes University….been a while since I sampled that particular brand of nonsense.

    “We didn’t knoooow..we never kneeeew. If only we kneeeeeeeew what the Afrikaners were doooing. Our heads were in the sand, positioned nobly in with good intentions.”

    Travelling down the Eastern Cape in the 90s, I ended up having more respect for the redneck towns of the border, where black people were clearly tagged and demarcated – but at least recognised as even a threat a viable possibility, the boycotting people. Those silly “they they” attitudes of that leedle town called Grahamstown – where the township was the flithiest I had ever seen, the poorest and the most invisible. And the town: church-spiring and boater wielding, kind to blacks – a kind of island of civility that can only come from real violence – for it lives as if there is no threat, in a country still gaseous with possibilities and the whole messy angry “really so racist” country called South Africa was not in Rhodes, (RHODES) but out there but Rhodies (shall we call them) bravely read Cryyyyyyyy – The Beloved, Beeeeloved. Country.

    Then a friend telling me how her wide eyed and liberal friends at Rhodes used to thank the “Aunties” at the end of term by having them stand in a chorus and sing for the Undergrads. Some of these women were grandmothers.

    When she complained she was told, “Ohhhh they really love doing this!”

    I have often wondered how that little town which by sheer force of will decided to be Cambridge at Cape for over a hundred head-in-sand years, suddenly discovered over the final minutes of the Rugby World Cup that it was African, and African was a wonderful rainbow with free and easy membership.

    Oops. Not sure. Have I broken the code of conduct? Is the code of conduct actually going to specify who can use the term African; and demarcate where it is right and where it is wrongly applied?

    Oh Dear MMK…bad blogger.

    Bad Bad blogger. You have broken the code!

  20. Ntwiga says:

    Interesting post that has generated a ton of comments. While I agree somewhat witht he content of the post, I cannot subscribe to the way in which it was presented – but again, thats just me.

    Some thoughts;
    1. Being white and being African are not mutually exclusive so that part of the argument may be facetious.

    2. Arguing that this post is racist smacks of “but I have lots of black friends, how can I be racist”ism.

    There are so many ways of looking at this that it would be insulting to try and pretend to cover them all in a comment.

    It is however possible to do a quanlitative analysis: I count 6 out of 19 as being black. Does that mean that this counts as another Live 8 type event?

    Ethan Zuckerman

    Alaa Abd El Fattah

    Pieter Verweij – here & here

    Ory Okolloh

    “Ashraf Patel” nothing here really – but there are lots of Africans named Patel so I make that three

    Fackson Banda

    5 Emaka Okafor, just ignore the basketball player.

    6 Ramon Thomas

    Mike Stopforth

    Tom Johnson – Nothing definite comes up

    Ray Hartley

    Juanita Williams – Nothing definite comes up

    Chris Roper

    Alex Hogg

    Ian Gilfillan

    Andrew Rens

    Vincent Maher or here

    Andrew Heavens ((l to r) Andrew Heavens, Ethan Zuckerman, Rebecca MacKinnon) from here.

  21. As I said in the comments here, this conference is the first of it’s kind, it is going to be a lot of fun and it will be a step in the right direction for blogging on this continent.

    I was born in Africa, lived here all my life and consider myself an African. I hate the colonial enterprises, the World Bank and whoever else has damaged this continent and I was not old enough to vote during apartheid. If anyone has a problem with that, tough.

    Every year people travel down to Highway Africa to learn from people who have a certain type of media production experience and exchange their own experiences. It is a confluence and it works, so maybe you had better experience it before you shout from the sidelines that it’s a white thing. I certainly don’t think of a conference organised by black Africans as a black thing, so maybe that says something.

    What I am tired of is being categoried along with the Eurpoean butchers and oppressors, if you met me you would know that I don’t fit into that category.

  22. sokari says:

    BH is right in his assessment that this conference is white and not even African white for that matter and is an “attempt to codify the African blog space and make it part of a kind of NGO-ish, funded civil society space with established mores. In other words, the attempt to bring it in line.” – well said and anon- yes not particularly original in your thoughts. well we know two Africans, ory and bankelele who are the rest?
    This fits in well with why I left GV last June – too many big white mothers and fathers – same old same old

  23. sokari says:

    BTW – zimpundit isnt attending after all for his/her own personal safety – understandable.

  24. alexcia says:

    I am with AB&H on this.

    I believe her/his line arguments would be valid even if this conference was taking place in Nairobi’s “westlands” neigbourhood (to non-kenyans, that would be the rich side of kenya’s capital city)and all the participant were black/brown skinned.

    See, the word “African” has special significance beyond skin color and place of birth, that is why some white people not born on the continent can claim to be “african” and be accepted as such.

    For example, in my book, in the same way that an “american” or “british” or “french” must be fluent in the langauage, so an real african must speak an african language.

    To be able to use the “african” [jocker] card, the venture must be to promote african culture and traditions—not the contrary.

    S.africans must be quickly coming to the realization that the kenyan is a different kind of african (unbwogable), but do i say that is why we have a senator in the US.

    @ Coldtusker,
    Tusker is Kenyan, not african.

  25. Anonymous says:

    mmk – what is the point of ranting about the conference? Instead of labelling it as ‘white’, ‘non-African’, ‘not in a black mans interest’ conference – create your own black African conference! the Black Africans Blog conference (with or without scholarships to attend).

  26. Anonymous says:

    Alexcia, “…the kenyan is a different kind of african (unbwogable), but do i say that is why we have a senator in the US…” That comment is sooooo Kenyan, you make me proud to be Kenyan, and you have made my day!

  27. coldtusker says:

    Alexcia – Um, well, I have never implied Tusker is not Kenyan… On the other hand I have been affirmative about Tusker being Kenyan!

    BUT, do I ask, aren’t Kenyans, Africans?

    My point was Tusker is an excellent example of a combination of various “influences”… to produce one of Kenya’s finest brands! Not “Black” or “White” but “Yellow, Golden & Brown”… yaani the rangi of this smooth luscious nectar…

    BTW, Tusker is also brewed in Tanzania, (possibly) Uganda & Mauritius! Tusker’s footprint has been expanding across Africa & is also available in the UK & USA.

    G2G, my Tusker baridi is waiting!

  28. richblogger says:

    I dont even know that this conference existed , why dont they let us know i’m african.My blog has a great buzz around the blogoshpere ,and many africans might be intrested in it.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I am appalled and embarrassed that a Kenyan could be so racist. Just proves that tribalism will never die in Kenya. If you’re a white African or a black European – why should you not be allowed to speak? Think you must be the well balanced type of a guy – CHIP on each shoulder!!
    Get over it man – stop looking at the colour of people’s skin and get a life! How will our great country ever evlove if you can’t see past skin colours and tribes?!

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