November 2020 African language Wikipedia update

My last look at the state of the African Wikipedias was in March 2019, so the time is nigh to have a long-overdue look at whats changed since. (Thanks to this tweet from today for forcing me to use “nigh” in a sentence. May as well have asked me not to think of blue).

As always, this is only a measurement of the number of articles, and not of their quality. The Afrikaans article, Afrika, is fairly in-depth. The Igbo article, Eluàlà, is not, but both still count as one article. Take a look at this comment on a previous post for more on getting beyond just article count.

This time I’ve also added a metric for number of active editors, which in this case means an editor making five or more edits in the month of October.

African Language Wikipedias

Language Change 2019-04-02 2020-11-26 % + Active editors
Egyptian Arabic +4 20,405 1,170,158 5634.7% 29
Afrikaans 76,965 94,975 23.4% 50
Malagasy -2 91,528 93,416 2.1% 3
Swahili -1 49,555 60,143 21.4% 50
Yoruba -1 31,867 33,196 4.2% 17
Amharic 14,558 14,902 2.4% 5
Northern Sotho 8,018 8,217 2.5% 1
Hausa +2 3,494 6,501 86.1% 16
Shona 4,278 6,390 49.4% 4
Somali -2 5,456 5,888 7.9% 10
Zulu +8 1,067 5,125 380.3% 6
Kabyle 2,986 5,065 69.6% 7
Lingala -2 3,113 3,178 2.1% 3
Igbo +1 1,392 1,968 41.4% 11
Kinyarwanda -2 1,821 1,954 7.3% 10
Wolof +1 1,184 1,628 37.5% 0
Kikuyu -3 1,358 1,366 0.6% 2
Kongo -2 1,193 1,216 1.9% 0
Luganda -1 1,169 1,214 3.8% 2
Xhosa 789 1,062 34.6% 5
Sotho +2 546 794 45.4% 2
Tswana -1 641 712 11.1% 2
Tsonga -1 585 699 19.5% 0
Swati 467 520 11.3% 2
Venda 265 370 39.6% 0
Ndebele (incubator) 11 11 0% NA
Language Change 2019-04-02 2020-11-26 % +

Firstly, what’s up with Egyptian Arabic? No, it’s not a typo. June alone saw over 257,000 new articles created. With 29 active editors, were each of them creating 286 new articles every day, for the entire month?

Well, no. The vast majority of articles were created by bots, and if you look at a random article, the chances are high you’ll come across an obscure sports player containing a very basic outline.

If the Africa article is any indication, there’s not much depth to the content there, an argument some have made against excessive bot activity.

So in spite of the eye-opening figures, I wouldn’t say the project is thriving.

Afrikaans may have lost any chance of ever again having the most articles of any African-language Wikipedia, but the project is in good shape, with 50 active editors in October, and fast approaching 100,000 articles, most showing a pleasing amount of detail.

With so many active editors, there are many worthy of appreciation, but a particular shoutout to User:Oesjaar and User:Aliwal2012, who both have over 1,000 edits for the period, and have been long-standing, quality contributors to the project.

Afrikaans holds onto 2nd place courtesy of passing Malagasy, another project where much of the article creation was by bots, and which has little resembling an active community.

Swahili also had 50 active editors in October, signs of an active community, and strong, organic growth, and, on current trends, will pass Malagasy. However, unlike Afrikaans, most of the prolific editors are not native-speakers, which presents some challenges to the project. User:Riccardo Riccioni stands out with close to 1000 edits in the month.

Yoruba, Amharic and Northern Sotho only showed slow growth, while the only active Northern Sotho editor in the period was prolific contributor User:Aliwal2012, (alone creating 3,723 of the 8,217).

Hausa continues to show signs of life. I pointed out last time that most of the new articles were one-liners about football players (“Kenny Allen (footballer) is an English football player.” being the entirety of one example I looked at last time), so the Hausa Wikipedia is not yet filling a key role in bringing crucial knowledge to Hausa speakers, but still, the activity, and number of contributors, is encouraging.

Shona is perhaps more typical of a small language Wikipedia. Only four active editors, but strong growth overall, and one editor, Thumani Mabwe, responsible for close to 1000 edits in the month.

Zulu takes this further, and is the perfect example of the impact one dedicated editor can have. While there are 6 active editors, the vast majority of activity was over an extended period of time now was by User:3atbulletz.

It was only in 2018, just before Wikimania Cape Town, that Zulu first reached 1,000 articles, so the growth in the Wikipedia representing South Africa’s most widely-spoken first language is exciting to see.

Kabyle similarly has a single editor responsible for most of the new activity, User:Amseqdac:Sami_At_Ferḥat adding short stubs.

Igbo showed a jump in active editors, reaching a high of 11, and is showing steady growth, while Xhosa reached the milestone of 1000 articles around April this year.

Sotho too is showing signs of life. Otherwise, most of the other languages are not showing much life, with Wolof, Kongo, Tsonga and Venda not recording a single active editor in the period.

Overall I’m quite pleased by the activity. It has admittedly been a while since the last update, but there are certainly more signs of stirring than in any of my previous updates.

If you are looking to contribute, it’s as simple as hitting that edit button and boldly going ahead. If you need any help, please reach out to Wikimedia South Africa and we’d be happy to assist.

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Image from Wikimedia Commons


  1. Good news, Thanks for the analysis.
    I suppose it is not practicable to compare Wikipedias by word count, which although not necessarily reliable, would be a stronger indicator of content quality than article count.
    Average word count might also be interesting.

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