The BBC has a long tradition of encouraging readers and listeners of their Africa service to talk about their views of the continent, running features like "Why I Love Africa", where Africans and afrophiles are invited to share their positive visions of the continent. They've recently gone a step farther and are now featuring a rich new section, "African Lives", which lists all their Africa focused content, as well as pointing to a wide variety of online content, including briefings on each country on the continent, an excellent map to teach kids about Africa, a directory of African restaurants in the UK and of Africa-focused radio stations, record stores, etc.
(I couldn't get the BBC's Africa Quiz to work - it crashed after the third question - but if you feel compelled to test your Africa knowledge, allow me to recommend Schoolnet Namibia's Africa Map game, especially on the hardest level...)
But for fans of bridgeblogs, the most interesting section is "My Africa", a collection of "diaries" by BBC correspondents and some of the people they meet along the way. Most have only one or two posts, but end up being rich portraits of individual lives on the continent. Franck Otete's view of medical school in the Democratic Republic of Congo reminds us how important the Internet is becoming to education on the continent, as most of Franck's lessons are delivered via distance learning from France. Ekow Eshun returns to Ghana, the land of his parents, though he's grown up in London and become a succesful art critic - his trip back "home" becomes a complicated set of questions about where he's really from.
But the truth of blogs is that they get better when you have more time - and more posts - to learn about the author. I've recently become a fan of Eseme Udoekong's blog - he's a math teacher and small-scale farmer in Ikpe Udok, Nigeria, who seems to have a gift for teaching and a taste for village politics. I'm also reading Lilian Indombera, a teacher and performer who's been splitting her time between her native Nairobi and Burundian refugee camps in Tanzania. She's got a great eye for some of the more colorful details of Kenya, including the astoundingly decorated matatus (minivans) that serve as public transport for most Kenyans.
And Edward Chiwale gives a perspective I'd never thought much about - the view of life as a beat cop in Mufulira, Zambia on a blog titled "Police Business". His first post is rather memorable - a lesson in how one gets a patient to the hospital when there's no ambulance service:
At about 10 pm, I saw one of the bar men, a stout bulky man, coming towards our office whilst lifting up another man who was injured. He reported on behalf of the injured man. I moved forward towards the front of the front desk, I looked at the injured man, oh! I was shocked when I saw his intestines coming out from his stomach.
I started to issue a medical report; but the man was just at the point of death. There was no vehicle at the office at that time, so I was left with no option but to pick my up AK47 Riffle and stand in the road.
Soon a car came, but, because the night was becoming heavy, the driver refused to stop. I fired into the sky so as to scare him and he stopped. The patient was taken to the hospital where he was attended to and survived.
My friends at AllAfrica and I have been tracking dozens of African blogs on BlogAfrica for the past year... but as an aggregator, we're limited to covering blogs that people are organically creating and registering. BBC is going a step further, looking for people with interesting stories to tell, arming them with digital cameras and encouraging them to get posting. It's an exciting model for expanding blogging from the existing population of wired Africans to people who aren't yet regularly online, but have exciting stories to tell.
Cross-posted at Global Voices, an edited aggregator of "bridgeblogs" from around the world.
I think its a great idea that the BBC sponsers these blogs and I hope it helps get the word out about the horrible crimes and conditions that happen in that country so that people may finally hear it and do something about it.