We’re excited to welcome our newest Wikimedia Chapter: Wikimedia South Africa (WMZA). This news is particularly exciting as WMZA is the first Wikimedia chapter on the African continent.

As the 31st global chapter, WMZA has been in the making since August 2010, initiated by a small meeting in Johannesburg of highly motivated international and local volunteers. The team was assisted by Dr Tobias Schonwetter, a legal academic who works at the University of Cape Town and is very involved in access to knowledge issues in Africa.  Critical input from Wikipedians across the globe also helped the team put together the bylaws for the local Chapter in what was a highly collaborative effort. As an officially recognized Wikipedia chapter, the organizing teams’ next step will be to become a legally recognized nonprofit in South Africa.

With 11 languages spoken in South Africa and 1500 spoken across the continent, the work of the chapters and volunteers will focus on promoting awareness of Wikimedia projects and extend free-knowledge contributions from the region in African languages as well as in English, Portuguese and French.

Although WMZA will be the first organized chapter representing the Wikimedia movement, a lot of good work in support of the mission has already been completed by highly dedicated volunteers living in other parts of Africa.  Currently, Wikimedians in Kenya are actively working alongside the Ministry of Education to combat the digital divide in Kenya by installing offline versions of Wikipedia (a subset of articles specifically targeted for schools) in schools without Internet access.  In addition to installation, they are providing training to teachers on how best to use the tool.  Going forward, the documentation and content created by this group of volunteers will be tremendously useful for others.

We look forward to supporting the work of all of our volunteers in Africa and wish them the best as they continue the ubuntu spirit of community and sharing across the continent.

Moka Pantages, Global Development