Photo by Team Black Image, CC BY-SA 4.0.

For the past three months, Wikimedians on the African continent have been working to address the lack of volunteer developers in the Wikimedia movement from Africa.

The Africa Wikimedia Developers (AWMD) project held its first event in Accra, Ghana in June which encouraged many people to ask questions and learn about the Wikimedia developer community. In the following months, we have been able to meet our first target of recruiting and training five new contributors in different countries in the region who worked on 22 new patches—codes that fix bugs within Mediawiki—and merged 16 others.

As the new movement strategy builds, one of its initial themes struck us: recognizing inclusive communities to attain a true global movement. The motivation for this project has stemmed from Wikimania 2016, in Esino Lario when Quim Gil, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Senior Manager of the technical collaboration team discussed the idea with two Wikimedians from Ghana, Felix Nartey and Raphael Berchie. Gil encouraged them to come up with a program that recruited Ghanaian developers for the Wikimedia movement.

Both Nartey and Berchie were not developers, however, and so they waited for a prime opportunity to kick-start the project. In January 2017, participants of the Wiki Indaba meetup reopened the discussion and Derick Alangi, a software engineer who was the first African to participate in Google Summer of Code, volunteered to support the project.

The project was launched on 23 June 2017, with its first activity in Ghana. The activity included a two-day hands-on training to give the developers an overview of the developer ecosystem in the Wikimedia Movement. We’ve selected Ghana to be our venue because our major partner/sponsor is Open Foundation West Africa, headquartered in Ghana to help monitor the progress and record new developments from the project.

Within days of rolling out the campaign, over a hundred people signed up to our mailing list. The event popularity has motivated at least three active contributors from two other countries in the West African sub-region. After two months of providing day-to-day support to the participants, we can say that the project has more than met its initial target of recruiting five new active developers and several others who contribute frequently.

The project currently has active developers from three countries in West Africa: Ghana, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire. When the project was launched in Ghana, we created a Phabricator workboard to track all of the project’s issues.

The Foundation’s developer relations team and the movement volunteer developers helped curate easy tickets on the work board so that new recruits would have a set of tasks they could contribute to. We keep a close eye on their patches from submission until they are successfully merged, trying to ensure they learn the software development process of the movement and point them to the right direction in case they get stuck and have questions.

We used our IRC channel (#wiki-dev-africa), to communicate with the developers, provide support and monitor the progress of new developers. To also whip up some excitement, we celebrate monthly lead developers on our leaderboard and statistics about their work are revealed to motivate other contributors.

We have learned that in spite of all the success, we are motivated to engage more students in the future. We’ve found that students are more passionate about learning new things and are committed to projects that result into an immediate impact, where as people in the working class are concerned about contributing to such projects at their leisure hours.

The essence of this new community of developers is to create a hub to connect all developers across the African continent and to contribute our quota to solving technical requests from the continent and the wider Wikimedia community. The community will also engage members and students into participating in several international events or competitions such as Google Summer of Code, Wikimedia Hackathon, etc.

Our future plan is to extend our work to other countries on the continent and fully integrate our activities with the Wikimedia affiliates in the respective countries we visit. Our next events are targeted at Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, where we have received strong requests for similar trainings. Even the project expands beyond these countries, the team will ensure continued collaboration with the movement affiliates to ensure smooth transitions and continued support from within their countries.

Please join us in congratulating our top performing contributors for the past 3 months:

You may want to sign up to our mailing list for regular updates and support from the community. Find out more information about our monthly top performers by subscribing to our leaderboard and learn ways to contribute through our workboard.

Map showing distribution of active developers by countries on the continent. Map by Felix Nartey, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Felix Nartey, Project Manager, AWMD and Cofounder, Open Foundation West Africa.
Derick Alangi, Technical Lead and Trainer, AWMD and Cofounder, Wikimedia Tool Developers User Group

Although Felix Nartey is a Wikimedia Foundation contractor, he wrote this blog post in a separate capacity.