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Director's Discourse for July 2013


Looking Back as Our Anniversary Approaches

Africa UP Close came online in September 2012.  As I stated then, it was an attempt to not just follow news and analysis of events and trends in Africa, but to do so through an Africa "voice." It called heavily on the Wilson Center's Southern Voices Network, other friends and contacts from around the continent, and expatriates working on the ground in key sectors in Africa.  I wrote in my first posting back then that "This blog hopes to capture the innovation, creativity, problem solving, and experience that is inherent in the people of Africa. Whether it is thoughtful analysis of policy issues, on-the-spot reporting of current developments, sharing of fact-based, empirical research and findings on global problems, field experience and lessons learned in conflict and post-conflict settings, or just 'slice of life' reflections of Africa, we will try to cover it all."

As we approach our first year anniversary, I thought it important to take stock of how we have fared in meeting these objectives.  For our faithful followers, I am sure you noted the rich and varied reporting and analysis over the last month surrounding the trip of President Obama to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania; and how it may, or may not, effect U.S. policy initiatives in the future. I was particularly moved by Tom Mboya's analysis of what it meant for Kenya-U.S. relations when Obama did not select that country to visit on his tour. At the same time, as we covered breaking news, we have continued to look at critical, long-term issues such as the ongoing Somali transition, the state of the African 'Renaissance,' long-term solutions for chronic food crises, governance choices in South Sudan, energy and food security, the state of play in northern Mali, and many more. From this list, you can see the relevance and immediacy of the issues being addressed, and almost all of them from an African viewpoint.

Another relatively new trend in our coverage is the addition to our "In Translation" segment of languages other than English and French, incorporating now Portuguese, Chinese and Spanish. For those of us who don't read or speak those languages, these translations are especially valuable in following Africa's global outreach. The way the media and civil society react in places like Brazil, China, Portugal and elsewhere to their government's official policies is quite revealing as a gauge of global attitudes and perspective towards Africa.

Ah, you say, all of this is well and good, but what if nobody is reading these analytical pieces?  Where is the impact then? In response, let me cite for you our most recent metrics that we track via Google Analytics:

From June 22, 2013 through July 24, 2013, Africa UP Close had 6,145 page views and 3,975 unique page views. The latter stat is the most telling, as it relates to one visit per source, as opposed to the first statistic in which people may make multiple hits.

The top five pages over this last month, beyond the homepage, were:

  1. Obama in Africa: Part I received 348 page views and 275 unique page views
  2. Obama in Africa Part II received 292 page views and 231 unique page views
  3. A New Dawn for Somalia? received 215 page views and 182 unique page views, and was only online for 4 days at the time of the analysis
  4. Kenya-US Relations: The Diplomatic 'Cold Front' received 132 page views and 111 unique page views
  5. The Reins of Insecurity in Nigeria's Quiet War: Something Sour in Borno State received 131 page views and 88 unique page views and was posted only ten days ago

Also of significance to us is the extent of the global outreach of the blog.  In the past month alone, individuals from 108 countries clicked on Africa UP Close.  Of those, the U.S. had the highest level of readership at 1,396 visits, the UK had 124 visits, South Africa had 114 visits, and Kenya had 99 visits.

Of interest to you IT wonks out there is the fact that the main technology device used to view the blog is overwhelmingly a desktop computer at 2,062 visits; followed by mobile devices (mainly iphones) at 328 visits; and tablets (mainly iPads) at 112 visits.  Twitter is the number one referral site for people to go to the blog with 40 percent of all traffic. Another 28 percent comes from Facebook. Google search is still the number one direct traffic source for the blog.

This goes to show that the blog is and will continue to expand in readership and popularity. We are pleased, of course, but the real excitement lies in the content and its source: Africans and the diaspora speaking about Africa.


This was written by Steve McDonald, Director of the Africa Program and Project on Building Leadership and State Capacity, and Alyson Lyons, Program Associate with the Leadership Project

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Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and US-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial US-Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in US-Africa relations.    Read more