The South African Wikimedia communities

My South African Wikimedia communities submission has been accepted by the Wikimania 2008 Program Committee, so I’ll be presenting it at the conference in Alexandria later this year.

So how are those communities doing since my last update?

Not particularly well… Progress is slow, and there’s a proposal to close the Xhosa Wikipedia as well as the Xhosa Wiktionary.

Wikipedia – number of articles

Language 1st Oct 10 Nov 9 Dec 1 May
Afrikaans 8374 8608 8731 9679
Zulu 107 109 121 141
Swati 56 66 76 116
Venda 43 80 101 112
Xhosa 66 80 88 100
Tsonga 10 16 37 71
Tswana 40 41 43 66
Sotho 43 44 43 53
Northern Sotho* 0 0 0 230
Ndebele 0 0 0

* – incubator

The Swati and Tsonga projects have got a bit of momentum, and Afrikaans is still progressing slowly, but otherwise there’s not much progress.

The Northern Sotho project is still in the incubator, which is where projects go until they are ready for launch, so officially the total is still zero. Although there’s been substantial work in the incubator, it looks like it’ll be there for a while, as the criteria for reaching full project status is far from being met. The other languages, except for Afrikaans, would probably all still be in the incubator stage were it not for having slipped through historically.

Wiktionary – number of entries

Language 9 Dec 1 May
Afrikaans 9312 11168
Sotho 1381 1383
Tsonga 166 347
Zulu 102 102
Swati 31 41
Xhosa 11 11

Here too, Afrikaans is building steadily, but otherwise everything has almost ground to a halt. I suspect I got the statistics for the Tsonga Wiktionary wrong in December, as the figure was previously a static number which I probably accepted at face value, and I don’t see any recent progress there either.

The proposal to close the Xhosa Wikipedia, from the non-native moderator, sounds a despondent note. He writes: So far the 6 million or so mother tongue speakers have been represented by one, (maybe two) relatively short-lived contributions. All other edits are from non-speakers. I have tried to spark some interest, even wrote to the vice-chancellor of Fort Hare U, a university that is overwhelmingly attended by Xhosa-speakers. His reply was very kind, he assured me he would spread the word, but nothing happened. I think it is better to close this wiki and wait for better times when the desire to have a wiki in their own language awakes amongst the amaXhosa. For the moment I think this desire is non-existent.

It does seem that the most enthusiastic contributors, except for Afrikaans, are non-native speakers. I don’t want to speculate as to the reasons why right now, but I’ll need to investigate more for my presentation.

Related articles



  1. Hi Ian.

    This is Thuvack from ts.wikipedia. I share your frustration with the stagnant nature of African language wikipedias (especially South African). I have been out for some time concentrating on my formal qualification (which I finally got with Unisa in Dec 2011). I am now going to be able to return to editing ts.wikipedia again!!

    I wonder if the Wikipedia Academy for Africa still exists and what gains it has made recently?

    Anyways good to get intouch again.

Comments are closed.