We're making the web more African one language at a time...

Case Studies

Diji: Mobile learning solutions for African language speakers


Of the 1.3 billion people on the African continent only 0.5% speak English as their mother tongue. But there is a severe lack of online educational content in African languages.  We interviewed 8,500 African language speakers, 94.5% of whom told us they wanted to learn in their mother tongue, and what they wanted to learn.


Everyone learns better in their mother tongue. We developed Diji, an e-learning platform specifically designed for African language speakers. Through short, skills-based courses, Diji empowers people to learn in their languages, on their phones and in their time. 

Diji courses are: 

  • Fit for purpose: Easy to complete, relevant to local needs, focused on basic skills development.
  • Inexpensive and accessible through multiple channels including apps that people already have on their phones. 


Working with turn.io we launched Diji with a WhatsApp chatbot that delivered an introductory course on digital literacy in the Zulu language. During a three-month trial we welcomed over 1,100 learners a month.

A further three-month trial in the Xhosa (South Africa), Yoruba (Nigeria) and Swahili (East Africa) languages welcomed 4,532 learners who accessed the course materials 16,481 times. These trials were carried out with no marketing budgeting. 

We are now expanding to include other African languages and regions and deliver courses on basic financial literacy, growing your own food, basic web publishing and how to start, run and market a small business.

iAfrika: an African knowledge platform in African languages


There are over 2000 languages on the African continent that contain a wealth of cultural, historical and indigenous knowledge that is not represented on the web.


iAfrika is a mobile website of African cultures, customs, histories and knowledge, in African languages. The iAfrika model empowers Africans to record and share their histories, cultures and customs, online and in their mother tongue languages. Topics range from clan histories, proverbs, customs and recipes to the traditional use of plants.  


iAfrika is currently available in southern African languages, Zulu, with pilot Xhosa, Tswana and Sepedi versions. In 2023, 1, 718, 438 users accessed our resources 5, 832, 203 times. We are expanding to other African languages and regions including Nigeria and East Africa.

FHYA: Building an archive for the past before European colonialism


Research and enquiry into the southern African past before European colonialism is hampered by the inaccessibility of archival materials. These materials are often unrecognised, misplaced, misidentified, and undated, making it challenging for people to access and use them. The colonial framing of these materials further complicates their use.


In order to explore and trial solutions to these problems, we collaborated with the NRF Chair in Archive and Public Culture at the University of Cape Town to set up the Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA).

Working with local and international partners (including Cambridge University and the Austrian Academy of Sciences), the FHYA brings together materials relevant to the southern African past before European colonialism. Some of these come from institutions while others circulate in family and community life. 

Materials include early traveller and recorded oral accounts of local people, archaeological, ethnographic and art collections, sound recordings, private research collections, novels and praise poetry and research papers. Importantly, to add a diversity of perspective and to counter colonial knowledge and framing, the FHYA includes texts of early African intellectuals, writing in their mother tongue languages.  

The FHYA records as much as possible about how the materials were framed and shaped over time, adding contextualising information. In particular, the FHYA aims to release materials from colonial framing. It then makes them accessible online and enables others to contribute to the project.


The FHYA currently has two experimental digital archives online. The 500 Year Archive uses a customised version of open-source archival software, AtoM (Access to Memory). To overcome some of the in-built limitations of AtoM, the FHYA used open-source software, Simple DL, to develop a second archival platform,  EMANDULO. EMANDULO was launched on an experimental basis in 2021 and is currently undergoing testing, review and improvement.

Ulwazi Programme: a digital library of indigenous content for local government


The eThekwini Libraries and Heritage Department in the City of Durban wanted to attract new, tech-savvy audiences to their libraries. Through extensive research and community engagement it discovered that there was a critical shortage of locally-relevant information available in indigenous languages, which was essential for attracting these new users.


The Ulwazi Programme is a local language, local content project that empowers trained contributors to record and share aspects of local history and culture in Zulu with equivalent articles in English. 

With funding from the Goethe Institut, the Ulwazi Programme ran a schools’ programme to teach digital literacy and research skills and to develop students’ interest in local culture and heritage.


At its peak, each month the Ulwazi Programme welcomed over 70, 000 visitors who accessed its pages over 250, 000 times.