This wiki has been conceived as a guide to lead you through social media in Africa. The purpose of this guide is to promote an increased understanding of the different types of social media and encourage their use for accessing and sharing knowledge on climate change adaptation in Africa.
The official print version of this guide is available on the AfricaAdapt website (direct link to the PDF version here).

What does it mean to promote African knowledge about climate change adaptation through social media?

Social media are the rage, globally, from the Twitter-supported Arab Spring of 2011 to the American presidential
What happens in the social media world every 60 seconds...

elections and the recent campaign against the war criminal Joseph Kony launched through this video. In March 2012 there were an estimated 850 million Facebook users and 500 million Twitter users. Are social media limited to Facebook and Twitter? What promises do they really hold? What are social media really?

Social media?
Wikipedia the first social encyclopedia, states that social media "includes web-based and mobile technologies used to turn communicationinto interactive dialogue. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content."[1] Social media is media for social interaction as a super-set beyond social communication. Enabled by ubiquitously accessible and scalable communication techniques, social media has substantially changed the way organizations, communities, and individuals communicate".

Social media - sometimes also referred to as web 2.0 or participatory web - seem to combine the following characteristics:
  • They are essentially social - their dynamism and success is based on their capacity to connect people all across the globe, beyond time and space boundaries, through networks of interest - permanent or temporary - to share messages with each other, joint comment, discuss, rate and create content as a whole that goes beyond the sum of individual inputs.
  • Social media empower individuals to develop their own network-based learning environment, to challenge established institutions and power structures and to turn information push (from corporations to customers) into pull (people forcing corporations to change their course and approach).
  • The networks of individuals connected through social media collectively analyse, assess and sometimes vote for content and actions that they come across through crowdsourcing.
  • Social media therefore encourage distributed problem-solving and collective action and indeed have been used by many people and institutions to develop informative or activist campaigns or ad hoc events such as 'flash mobs'.
  • As in physical networks, trust is a crucial mechanism in social media, to develop the social networks of individuals (and individual institutions) and a degree of influence (towards individual or collective action) on others.
  • The strength of social media networks, next to crowdsourcing, is the incredible speed at which they allow to share information and news: when a plane crashes it is usually heard sooner on Twitter than on any large broadcasting television or radio network.
  • They can be infinitely combined and recombined and build upon each other, creating waves of interest and action and endless possibilities of mutually-reinforcing feedback mechanisms.
In this guide, we refer to social media for any online platform that shares these characteristics.

Social media to promote Africa?
All parts of the African continent are stirring up and finding creative ways to use social media to different ends: business, entertainment, civic education and also development work and research for development. However, how much of the social media boom in Africa is
about Africa, for Africa or by the people of Africa? Whose knowledge is at stake? To change what? For whose livelihood? And which Africa? The continent boasts very different realities across its territory and does not form one block. However, for this guide we will consider mainly sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, although the ideas presented in this guide arguably apply for any other part of the world. At any rate, Africa has an unprecedented chance, with social media, to raise its voice and be heard in the global forums, for every issue and every agenda. Including climate change.

Social media to promote African knowledge about climate change adaptation?
Africa has a strong knowledge-sharing culture. However, much of it has traditionally been relying on face-to-face contact. While this is the best way to engage with others, it is also the most costly and limited in terms of the amount of people it helps reach. Traditional media such as television and especially the radio have somewhat bridged the outreach gap, yet they remain limited to national broadcasting networks and languages that prevent mobilisation on the whole continent.

Wide-ranging mobilisation and the combination of expertise and ideas from various sources is precisely needed to deal with complex issues such as climate change and adaptation strategies. Face-to-face and traditional media approaches remain limited to bring together multiple sources of knowledge, expertise and experience.

Social media come in handy at this junction. They allow people across the continent to connect with one another, and the individual empowerment they promote helps Africans unite to find home-grown solutions to their problems.

Much research has been carried out by various experts about climate change in Africa (see the list of initiatives for just a glimpse). In the field, African communities also possess a rich experience and knowledge on adaptation to climate change.

Social media can bring expert and lay, indigenous and foreign, multi-disciplinary knowledge about climate change adaptation together from all corners of Africa, to jointly identify issues, question their assumptions, share information, learn together, carry out joint experiments and reflect together again. Africans are best placed to find ways to deal with their climate change challenges. Social media can accelerate and amplify this spirit of joint initiative rallying individual dedication and experience – if one recognizes their strengths, their limitations, and other opportunities they bring forth.

This is the broad agenda of this guide. We hope it will offer useful insights and ideas.

About this social media guide

This social media guide was compiled, on behalf of the AfricaAdapt initiative by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), by the Addis Ababa-based Knowledge Management and Information Services team of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI): Kara Brown, Liya Dejene, Tsehay Gashaw under the supervision of Ewen Le Borgne and guidance of Peter Ballantyne.
This guide has greatly contributed from inputs of Pete Cranston (independent consultant), Charles Dhewa (International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD), Carl Jackson (Westhill Knowledge Group), Maren Radeny (ILRI) and Marten Schoonman (Dutch Development Organisation SNV).

AfricaAdapt is an independent bilingual network (French/English) which facilitates the flow of climate change adaptation knowledge for sustainable livelihoods between researchers, policy makers, civil society organisations and communities who are vulnerable to climate variability and change across the African continent.

This guide is one of the various resource guides which AfricaAdapt is developing in order to provide a quick overview and access to information on key issues related to climate science, adaptation and knowledge sharing.