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AfricaKnows: An African Photo Project

Where do you go to find quality and *real* African pictures? How about the non-tourist ones, the ones that show everyday Africans, work places, bus stops and the lives of your neighbors?

AfricaKnows - Pictures of Africa

AfricaKnows is a new project by TED Fellows Josh Wanyama and Sheila Ochugboju. Their job: to tell a different story of Africa, through big pictures that let you see directly into the heart of African cities.

Africa Knows is about the challenges, triumphs, dreams and nightmares of being an African in a 21st century city that is straddling several revolutions at the same time; the technological revolution, the agricultural revolution, a democratic resurgence and a post-colonial identity crisis complicated by old ethnic tensions.”

If you like an image that you see, you can buy a print or a card of it.

An Airplane Lands in Eldoret


I talked with Josh and Sheila about the site this last week. Right now they get the majority of images by taking them themselves and from other African photographer friends who have good shots of their locale. One of my first suggestions to them was that it would be wonderful if there was a submission page for others to add images in easily. The curating of what shows up on the site would need to be maintained.

There are two reasons why AfricaKnows is a good site:

So far, the images on the site are pretty good. They’re not all “professional” quality images, but they’re much better than average. A purely open site where anyone could dump images (a la Flickr) wouldn’t work as the noise would quickly outdo the signal, so quality is important.

The reality of the images is the second big reason, it’s why I care to visit and get the feed. If I want to see what the world thinks of Africa I’ll go to a newspaper. If I want to see how Africans view Africa, I’ll go to AfricaKnows.

Traffic at a roundabout in Nairobi


As mentioned earlier, there are others who have good quality shots that would be worth the team looking at. A simple submission form that allowed for me to send in images whenever I took one would be useful – for both me and the editing team.

There’s a real possibility of taking this platform further, making it into a place that is focused on African images and highlights African photographers across the continent. I’d be interested in seeing some images from Teddy Ruge (Uganda) and Nana Kofi Acquah (Ghana) on the site, among others. This could be done by first just allowing them to showcase some of their best images, linking to them and putting contact information on the site (giving them a page).

If others are sending in pictures, then there needs to be a clearly outlined understanding of image rights and ownership.

Lastly, we live in a social web with social lives. There should be the ability to embed the image on another site. Images for this post I had to download (bypassing the javascript security features), and upload into it, which is way to much work for most people. Sharing matters, as it’s how people get found in our digital age. You have to learn to let go – of at least the lower res images. Plus, removing that security will allow more Google image search juice to send more traffic.

Using Web 2.0 Sites to Market Your Company in Africa

I came across a fascinating site today. At Discover Africa, you can search for images with only an African flavor. So, search for “playing soccer” and you’ll get ones that are geo-tagged in Africa or that also have another tag of “africa” on them. To do this, they’ve plugged into one of the poster children of Web 2.0, Flickr, to do it too. Pretty useful.

Discover Africa's Homepage

After a quick email dialogue with the organizers of the site, I came away more impressed They didn’t stop there though, and this is where they move from “pretty useful” to “pretty smart”. They’ve created this service as a way to generate a list of people who are interested in Africa and they are also running a campaign where two winners will win a dream African safari. You can enter the competition by blogging (using a traditional blog, Flickr or YouTube) about your dream trip to Africa in 100+ words with a link to Discover Africa.

“To do this you’re going to have to have a genuine interest in, or love for Africa – we’d like to see that come through in your entry.”

Why I like this

I like what Discover Africa is doing because it’s smart.

  • They have created a valuable African image search tool.
  • They’re using the hosting, computing power of Flickr and all of their huge user base.
  • They’re giving the value first, then asking you to join in and be a part of it.
  • The campaign looks easy and fun, and it has a big prize.
  • If it works, they’ll get a ton of search engine love.

I’m interested in seeing how this campaign goes. Who knows if they’ll actually share the numbers, but I plan to scan the web, in another 2 months, for results on the number of blog posts that have been written to enter this competition.

[Update: the below issue has been taken care of already. That was quick.]

Okay, the one thing I don’t like… When you click on an image to show it (see below), then there’s no way to get from their site to the image on Flickr. If I want to see the licensing usage for that image, I can’t easily find it. All they need to do to make me happy is make the image clickable, or create a link beneath it. Simple, and I’m sure it’ll make a lot of photographers happy too.

Soccer in Africa via DiscoverAfrica.com

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