WordCamp (East) Africa

A very vibrant discussion about a WordCamp Africa is ongoing for quite some time now and some great minds are thinking alike. Shortly after my first attendance of WordCamp Nairobi in November 2018 this idea was already around. Some notes I took in spring 2019 where just shelfed as COVID didn’t give any chance to pursue this idea any further. Being “back to normal” time to find those notes back and update them:

A little bit of history first, to get a wider understanding about WordCamps in general, the african situation and the larger formats WordCamp EU/US/Asia:

WordCamp in general

“WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress, the free and open source personal publishing software that powers over 75 million sites on the web.

WordCamps come in all different flavors, based on the local communities that produce them, but in general, WordCamps include sessions on how to use WordPress more effectively, beginning plugin and theme development, advanced techniques, security, etc. …

WordCamps are attended by people ranging from blogging newbies to professional WordPress developers and consultants, and usually combine scheduled programming with unconference sessions and other activities. …

The first WordCamp was organized in San Francisco by Matt Mullenweg in 2006, and since then local communities around the world have organized hundreds of others.”

(quote from central.wordcamp.org)

Up to now about 1091 WordCamps in 373 cities in 65 countries on 6 continents took place worldwide. All in common to these “normal” one or two day WordCamps is the targeted audience of the local community. Usually the talks are given in native language, in most cases individual talks or slots within the schedule are made up for international participants and held in english. Offering an additional Contributor Day in advance or at the end of a WordCamp is most welcome, but not mandatory.

The history of WordCamps in Africa

On the African continent 41 WordCamps in 14 cities of 8 countries (Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe – in alphabetical order) happened so far (or are scheduled or at least in a reasonable application status):

  • Aug 23 2008, WordCamp Cape Town, South Africa
  • Mar 28 2009, WordCamp Al Dakahlia, Egypt
  • Sep 15 2011, WordCamp Cape Town, South Africa
  • Nov 12 2011, WordCamp Nairobi, Kenya
  • Oct 4 2012, WordCamp Cape Town, South Africa
  • Nov 10 2012, WordCamp Nairobi, Kenya
  • Nov 7 2013, WordCamp Cape Town, South Africa
  • Nov 9 2013, WordCamp Nairobi, Kenya
  • Oct 23 2014, WordCamp Cape Town, South Africa
  • Sep 10 2015, WordCamp Cape Town, South Africa
  • Nov 18 2016, WordCamp Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Dec 1 2016, WordCamp Nairobi, Kenya
  • Dec 10 2016, WordCamp Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Dec 16 2016, WordCamp Cape Town, South Africa
  • Apr 15 2017, WordCamp Douala, Cameroon
  • Oct 27 2017, WordCamp Cape Town, South Africa
  • Nov 4 2017, WordCamp Nairobi, Kenya
  • Nov 4 2017, WordCamp Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Nov 9 2017, WordCamp Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Dez 16 2017, WordCamp Kampala, Uganda
  • Apr 14 2018, WordCamp Buea, Cameroon
  • Mar 10 2018, WordCamp Lagos, Nigeria
  • Aug 4 2018, WordCamp Mombasa, Kenya
  • Oct 25 2018, WordCamp Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Oct 27 2018, WordCamp Kigali, Rwanda
  • Nov 1 2018, WordCamp Cape Town, South Africa
  • Nov 23 2018, WordCamp Kampala, Uganda
  • Nov 23 2018, WordCamp Nairobi, Kenya
  • Nov 23 2018, WordCamp Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Mar 29 2019, WordCamp Entebbe, Uganda
  • May 10 2019, WordCamp Lagos, Nigeria
  • Sep 25 2019, WordCamp Cape Town, South Africa
  • Oct 3 2019, WordCamp Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Nov 2 2019, WordCamp Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Nov 7 2019, WordCamp Mombasa, Kenya
  • Nov 7 2019, WordCamp Nairobi, Kenya
  • Mar 10 2023, WordCamp Entebbe, Uganda
  • Aug 5 2023, WordCamp Kampala, Uganda
  • Aug 16 2023, WordCamp Nairobi, Kenya
  • Sep 4 2023, WordCamp Jinja, Uganda
  • Oct 6 2023, WordCamp Masaka, Uganda
  • tba 2024, WordCamp Cape Town, South Africa

Besides the above mentioned ones, there are applications vetted, that – for what ever reasons – do not end up in a WordCamp. This should be taken as a signal for vital communities on other parts the continent. Figures on central.wordcamp.org show declined or cancelled applications from various cities in countries like Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Coté d’Ivore, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Swasiland, Tanzania, Togo and Zimbabwe from 2015 til today.

The very different format WordCamp Europe/US and Asia

Presently in Asia, Europe and US one larger WordCamp each is held annually, besides the “normal” local WordCamps in various cities on the continents. Until COVID the WordCamp US location was fixed for 2 consecutive years, whereas the WordCamp Europe location changes annually. Asia was supposed to happend in 2020 first, but got postponed due to COVID to 2023, next is announced for 2024. Most common is that the new host city is announced at the closing remarks of the actual WordCamp EU, respectivly at the last of two consecutive WordCamp US in one city. Application process starts 6 – 8 months in advance of the upcoming announcement.

WordCamp US (WCUS)

  • Dec 4-8 2015 Philadelphia, PA
  • Dec 2-4 2016 Philadelphia, PA
  • Dec 1-3 2017 Nashville, TN
  • Dec 7-9 2018 Nashville, TN
  • Nov 1-3 2019 St. Louis, MO
  • Oct 27-25 2020 Online due to COVID (St. Louis, MO)
  • Oct 1 2021 Online due to COVID
  • Sep 9-11 2022 San Diego, CA
  • Aug 24-26 2023 National Harbour, MA
  • tba 2024

WordCamp Europe (WCEU)

  • Oct 5-7 2013 Leiden, The Netherlands
  • Sep 27-29 2014 Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Jun 26-28 2015 Sevilla, Spain
  • Jun 24-26 2016 Vienna, Austria
  • Jun 15-17 2017 Paris, France
  • Jun 14-16 2018 Belgrade, Serbia
  • Jun 20-22 2019 Berlin, Germany
  • Jun 4-6 2020 online due to COVID (Porto, Portugal)
  • Jun 7-9 2021 online due to COVID (Porto, Portugal)
  • Jun 2-4 2022 Porto, Portugal
  • Jun 8-10 2023 Athens, Greece
  • Jun 13-15 2024 Torino, Italy

WordCamp Asia (WCAsia)

  • 2020 cancelled due to COVID (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • 2021 cancelled due to COVID (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • 2022 no application due to COVID
  • Feb 17-19 2023 Bangkok, Thailand
  • Mar 7–9 2024 Taipei, Taiwan

Some things to note: the first “large scale” WordCamps took off in Europe with WordCamp Europe in Leiden 2013. Though the WordCamp Europe is abbrivated “WCEU” it’s not limited to locations or participants within the European Union. From the beginning the whole world was both invited and attended to WordCamp Europe. As mentioned above, the linkage between the various local communities happend mostly along the native language and was mainly driven by individual participation. The idea of having a WordCamp Europe was:

…This is a chance for the European WordPress community to gather together …to geek-out, share experiences, do business, and most of all, talk WordPress. It’s an opportunity to welcome WordPress community members from all over the globe to our continent to experience the diversity and culture that makes us so unique …

quote from 2013.europe.wordcamp.org/about

WordCamp Europes conference language is english with no exception.

The first WordCamp US was both based on the success of WordCamp Europe as a format as well as being a successor of the WordCamp(s) San Fransico. Being the first ever San Fransico was for years something like the “unofficial” WordCamp US with more that 1500 attendees and the most awaited annually “State of the Word” from WordPress Founder Matt Mullenweg. To give San Fransico the chance to focus on a local event as well and taking the organziation of an event of that scale to a bigger team the WordCamp US was created. With WCUS chimeing in in 2015 the schedule for WCEU shifted from fall to early summer, where as WCUS are scheduled for early winter season.

Both WCUS and WCEU feature a large organziation team (50+ for WCUS, 75+ for WCEU) with several teams to be led. The orga team works under the same rules and regulations as any other WordCamp orga team. The only support an organizer of a WordCamp might receive is from his employer if he’s willing to donate the workforce to the WordCamp. Besides this, there is no financial backing. As all other WordCamps under the patronage of the WordPress Foundation the event is organized on a non-profit base. Entry fees should be as low as possible and must not exceed $ 25 per day and person or the equivalent in local currency/buying power. Expenses have to covered mainly by sponsoring money.

Thoughts on WordCamp Africa

Based on the idea of ” … a chance for the African WordPress community to gather together …” a WordCamp Africa would be most desirable. An interconnection between the vital and evolving tech scenes of South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Nigera (the countries with the highest level of experience with at least 3 WordCamps organized) and other countries could be the kickstarter for the rest of the continent. The result could be a plus in local meetups, the empowerment for existing meetups to successfully apply for WordCamps and on the long run a growth of the worldwide community.

Major differences Africa to EU/US

  • Visa applicaton processes are occasionally still necessary for traveling between different african countries. Though things evolve the inhibition threshold is higher than between EU and Non-EU countries and an issue that doesn’t apply for US travellers within the states at all.
  • distances are much wider. Often overlooked, but Casablanca to Johannesburg is a travel distance of more than 10.000 km and a 12 – 13 hrs flight, where as San Diego to Boston or Lisboa to Moscow is less than half of that.
  • not only due to distance but also due to infrastructure the transportation is much more expensive. Whereas train and bus opportunities even for international travels exist in EU/US those are rarer and due to the distances not always a matter of choice. Flights therefore – which in addition are at least relatively and sometimes even absolutely more expensive in Africa – are mandatory. Cheap flights within the EU could be booked for as less as 29 € whereas even short distances like Kigali to Nairobi will cost about 200 $.
  • adding accommodation for 2 to 4 nights it’s clear to see, that a conference based on volunteer activity being an organizer, speaker, attendee is barely feasible for anyone not being backed by a company, NGO or university.
  • WordPress Foundation rules do not allow any financial benefit for organiser, speaker, volunteers or attendees involved. A backing for travel and accommodation expenses can’t be done under the umbrella of the WordPress Foundation. Despite this there are ongoing initiatives to overcome this situation by finding sponsors within the WordPress ecosystem to keep up diversity: Suggestion of the Waapu program and the therein quoted 5 for the future acknoledgment. Discussion on this had just started before COVID and needs to revived and deepend.


To tackle the challenges a first approach could be to cover not the complete African continent but the East African region. A WordCamp East Africa (WCEA) involving Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Kenya could be a first step. Four of the five mentioned countries already host at least one WordPress meetup group (Tanzania: 2, Rwanda: 1, Uganda: 6, Kenya: 4) or have already hosted at least one local WordCamp. The organisation team should include people from all mentioned countries to form a vital WordCamp East Africa organization team and maybe even backed by international organizers bringing in experience from a WCEU/WCUS/WCAsia.

The event could cover a two days conference. At it’s best it would also offer the space for barcamp tracks and workshops. A Contributor Day could as well be attached. The event should aim for 400 – 600 attendees. Though mainly target to the East African WordPress community everyone else from within or outside the continent of course is always welcome and would enhance the experience for any participant.

The larger approach for not only one country (which would be possible with the new regulations about country naming e.g. WordCamp Kenya) but an entire region should also attract international sponsors, esp. to explore possibilities to hire qualified staff from the East African community.

The idea should first be discussed with the above mentioned local meetup groups and former WordCamp organizers to get an agreement for an application. In advance of a formal application some more discussions should take place with the global WordCamp community team and the WordPress Foundation to explore alternative forms of funding. According to this a first WCEA in 2024 seems to be very realistic. Nevertheless preliminary tasks like identifying suitable venues, caterers that could be involved, identification of possible sponsors, etc. could and should be done in advance. Depending on the availability of the indentified venue(s) an agreement amongst the EA communities should be found not to set up other WordCamps which could cannibalise this bigger event.

To raise the possibility of the event taking place the following should be aimed for:

  • The price for the ticket should not exceed 3.000 KES, every Shilling less is better
  • find a for-free or sponsored venue
  • getting part of the WordCamp Incubator programm (if it’s still alive) to achieve a higher level of global sponsorship from the WordCamp Foundation and preserve raised sponsor money for different approaches to ensure diversity and inclusiveness. The Incubator program should open the possibility to have experimental setting for approaches for diversity funding.
  • cheap accommodation offers from locals – an AirBnB provided by local community members can be a better choice than a fancy hotel, not only in terms of costs but as well to strenghten the community idea
  • achieve a special discount / travel rate with airline(s) covering the mentioned countries
  • attract people to attend by drawing attention to some of the worldwide main contributors within the WordPress ecosystem to be part of the event. As the “big game” for hunters and spotters is also referenced as the “big 5” the suggestion is to get (at least) 5 of the major names of the WordPress ecosystem to the speakers list, which definitely should include Matt Mullenweg. As a second benefit most of those major contributors are backed by companies like Automattic, Inpsyde, etc. which should preserve sponsor money for backing local speakers (see below)
  • by reaching out to a.m. number of attendees it should attract sponsors also from outside the East African WordPress ecosystem. This should include but not be limited to hosting companies, telecom services, marketing agencies and consultancies. Thus drawing enough money in to fuel the event.
  • backing of organizers (esp. remote ones signing in), speakers and volunteer expenses by sponsors. Beside the local industry players esp. financing NGOs like WorldBank, AfDB and others should be involved.

Based on the 2 days + 1 concept, the event would be perfect if the bottom line of individual expenses for taking part could be found at 150 – 200 $ including ticket, travel and accommodation costs as well as the full board during the event. Though these remaining costs could still mean a “once in a life-time” experience for some of the attendees.

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