Last weekend in Abidjan, at the 4M conference about internet usage in sub-Saharan Africa, one thing was made clear: Ivory Coast's blogosphere is alive. And at this fifth edition of the new media and journalism colloquium organized by Canal France International (CFI), RNW got to meet the people behind the URLs of the country's leading bloggers.
Abidjan - A platform to express oneself, expressing subjectivity, breaking from politically swayed editorial standards, transcending unjust and unjustified censorship and reaching a greater audience. These are among the top-cited reasons Ivorian bloggers give for doing what they do.
As RNW learned at 4M, the boom of the Ivorian blogosphere has two cyber pioneers to thank, in particular. Both bloggers have thousands of regular followers.
Israël Yoroba, also known as Yoro, is a 30 year old who loves to rant. His blog offers constructive criticism and analyses of various topics dealing with the Ivory Coast. Besides the reading material, there are also audio reports.
Théophile Kouamouo is a colourful journalist who focuses on political issues with a pan-African flavour. And while his blog often discusses international politics and economics, the Ivorian crisis (with France seen as being at the crux of it) remains a hot topic.
In fact, blogging was relatively unknown in Ivory Coast until Kouamouo started a training project to teach the trade to journalists, students and those simply passionate about writing. His initiative was a success. And new bloggers were born.
Determined to take blogging to new heights - or rather, new clicks - this generation of bloggers is characterized by a less formal, smooth style. More and more, the writers are moving away from general discussions to create thematic blogs that address specific issues.
Often present in these blogs is a touch of humour. Or in the case of Roland Armel N'deploman, better known as Polman, there's a lot of humour. On the blog Caric-Actu, the newspaper cartoonist addresses political issues and current events with his posts upon posts of comics and occasional commentary.
Satire is also the modus operandi for Fleure Ndoua. This young linguist uses Fleure's World as a platform to discuss current affairs in Nouchi, the Ivorian urban dialect spoken outside academic circles.
Blogger Antoine Mian is dedicated to understanding the challenges in the Ivorian education system. Tic Education Forum is his place to write about the issues students face, be they in primary school, secondary school or university.
The blog of Bacely YoroBi, who just turned 20, essentially addresses the revolution in technology and new media. Yorobi is clearly engaged in a struggle to bridge the country's digital divide, something he attributes to a discrepancy between the minimum working wage and the monthly cost of an internet subscription.
Strength in unity
The high cost of internet connectivity has in fact led many bloggers in the Ivory Coast to become less active online or to simply give up blogging. According to Yorobi: "The regular Ivorian citizen who earns, on, average 40,000 CFA francs (61 euros) cannot afford an internet connection when the subscription cost is 20,000 CFA francs (30 euros)."
As well-known online community manager Donatien Kangah points out, almost all bloggers face the challenge of making their contents profitable. "When we find a viable and sustainable economic model for blogs, as we have for websites, there will be a real boom," says Kangah.
Meanwhile, some Ivorian bloggers are uniting forces. Along with web designers and other internet enthusiasts, they have formed associations, such as Akendewa, through which they can share their knowledge and experience. They also regularly meet up at various events, like the recent 4M colloquium, though that often means having to be pulled away from their screens.