This social media guide aims at promoting African knowledge (in particular about climate change adaptation).
This is the central part of the guide, showcasing key resources for the most important topics around 'promoting African knowledge (about climate change adaptation) through social media.

How to promote African knowledge in practice?

Quick access to key resources

Find a description for each of these resources at the bottom of this page

Whose knowledge about Africa?

In his paper 'Which knowledge, whose reality' (2006), Mike Powell makes a strong claim about the development cooperation tendency of "valuing and favouring systems that are developed in the north, with their models and practices over the local knowledge, concepts, language and understanding of civil society and staff in the south." These claims were true of global development work in 2006. They remain valid of African development in 2012. African knowledge – i.e. generated by Africans or from an African perspective, not an external perspective – is not often taken into account, let alone leading development and research initiatives in or about Africa.

In an interview Professor Kingo Mchombu from the University of Namibia explained why African knowledge might not occupy the central stage in development work: The assumption (is) that (poor Africans) know very little and that is why they are poor, thus the knowledge system of the urban and rural poor is totally ignored when supplying them with external information." He further argues that any initiative pretending to support them should "identify gaps and ways of strengthening the information and knowledge system that poor people already have in place rather than try to replace it with an externally driven system."

Empowering African knowledge

Development work in Africa needs to focus on empowering local actors and ensuring their ownership over development efforts in order to achieve sustainable results. Investments and activities subsequently cannot be disconnected from the realities, expectations, capacities and actions of the people that are intended as the main recipients of development (cooperation), and they have to actively involve, or be led by local actors themselves, through social learning.

What and why social learning in Africa?

Social learning is not new. It is about learning among large groups of people, paying attention to the process of and conditions for learning, through conversations and it implies a change of perspective, discourse or attitude (Reed 2010). In the current age where complexity is recognized, social learning has become an imperative to collectively address challenging issues and ‘wicked problems’.

In Africa, social learning has taken place through long-standing storytelling traditions and is now taking more modern (and work-oriented) forms through radio, the incredible growth of African mobile telephony and the social media revolution, which has amplified social learning through multiplying conversation spaces between ever larger numbers of people.

Barriers and opportunities to sharing (and promoting) African knowledge

Fostering a culture of knowledge sharing implies fighting information hoarding tendencies, realising what a community knows without undervaluing it, retraining external agencies to accept participatory approaches; finding local content; addressing connectivity problems; endorsing existing information and knowledge sharing systems so that they are not imposed by external agencies and perpetuate exclusion of Africans from matters concerning them.

Social media can play a role in this but they are stronger in combination with offline social learning approaches. Promoting African knowledge through social media implies respecting existing African practices and embracing the unknown which is the trademark of social media.

Key resources

An interview with Kingo Mchombu (Dina el Halaby and Kingo Mchombu, Knowledge Management for Development Journal, Vol. 2, Issue 1, May 2006)
This article is quite old but this section of the guide focuses on deeper issues than fast-changing social media. The interview of Professor Kingo Mchombu offers a very sharp picture of the challenges of considering African knowledge and associated social learning practices in development work and research: segregation of African knowledge from decision-making, knowledge sharing challenges, tools and approaches to achieve impact. The African focus, current relevance and great ideas put forward make this interview a key resource.

Learning from, promoting and using participation: The case of international development organizations in Kenya (Stephen Kirimi and Eliud Wakwabubi, PAMFORK Kenya - October 2009)
This working paper from the Information and Knowledge Management Emergent research program examines how international non-governmental organizations learn from promoting participation. Most organizations considered did not address local community learning approaches and very few allowed learning from external sources. Accountability, transparency, power relations, lack of participatory thinking etc. this paper identifies various challenges of social learning in development work and the failure of promoting knowledge from local sources, in this case from Kenya.

Africa Gathering - No one knows African problems like an African." (Collective - 2009 and ongoing [initiative])
Africa Gathering is an African knowledge sharing network which "draws inspiration from the traditional, symbolic African Baobab tree, where people can gather to share knowledge, exchange ideas and learn from each other (...).” Through bringing young African leaders to special events, creating a buzz through social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blog posts) around those events, Africa Gathering convincingly promotes various changes (sustainable development, innovation, freedom of expression etc.) for and by Africans, mixing traditional and modern communication channels.

The social learning revolution (Jane Hart - February 2012)
This last resource is not about African climate change adaptation. However, it makes a very clear, evidence-based and strong case for social learning in the workplace. The author demonstrates that learning happens individually as well as socially and learning is essentially informal. The post highlights how social media revolutionized social learning by encouraging personal development, professional networking, knowledge sharing, collaborative working and productivity/performance improvement – turning organisations into network-like ‘social businesses’.