Connecting across borders: Chadian bloggers at the #237BloggerSummit

The Cameroon Bloggers Summit, also known as #237BloggerSummit, is the major annual event for bloggers in Cameroon, and was recently held from 26 to 30 June at the French Institute in Cameroon. This fourth edition was a special one, with a series of activities spread over five days. Screenings of the tribute film and documentary, workshops on cultural and culinary blogging, a masterclass on podcasting, a fact-checking workshop, and finally the Blog Awards ceremony marked the summit.

The event was also marked by the presence of guests from elsewhere. These included the RFI media workshop team, the journalist and author of the podcast “Une Afropéenne en pays sawa”, and a delegation from the Chad Bloggers Association. The relationship between Chadian and Cameroonian bloggers goes beyond the border between the two countries. It has spanned time and left a significant mark on their pathways.

French Institute Cameroun, in Yaounde. © Mahmoud Sabir

The objectives of the Chadian presence

In this article, I’m going to focus on the participation of bloggers from Chad, which I am part of. But first of all, what are the objectives of the Chadian delegation’s presence at the summit? What do they think of the summit? What is their view of the blogging landscape in Cameroon?

By taking part in this summit, the Chadian delegation wanted to expand its address book, forge solid links, learn from and be inspired by the Cameroonian experience in order to make better progress. Firstly, developing our network means establishing close and valuable professional relationships for future collaboration. Secondly, by learning from Cameroon’s experience and expertise, we aim to strengthen the position of the Chad bloggers’ association and develop its long-term growth and success.

A look back at the fourth edition of the summit

Personally, this was my second appearance at the summit. Moreover, this time I was wearing a special hat, that of vice-president of the Chad Bloggers Association, while at the same time being head of the Chad delegation. Because of this, I was able to observe the summit from start to finish. Now let’s look back at previous editions.

In the past, the summit usually lasted three days, but this year things went on for a total of five days. The theme is just as compelling: freedom of expression and the impact of bloggers on cultural policies and communications.

Over the course of the five days, the summit was marked by a number of activities, most notably the podcast masterclass and the Blog Awards ceremony. Following the masterclass on podcasting and its number of participants, I realised that this audio format is very popular. And several podcasting micro ideas were born straight away.

There was also a screening of the first film on blogging in Cameroon, directed by blogger Rihanna Mars. It features bloggers talking about their journeys and the impact of blogging on their lives. There were some very poignant and inspiring testimonials that moved me. René Nkowa, for example, testified that in the early 2010s, bloggers were seen as people who spent their time criticising the established order in society.

The blogging landscape in Cameroon

Unlike in Chad, where blogging is struggling to find its place, the Cameroonian blogosphere is now clearly positioned in Cameroon’s digital ecosystem. And it occupies an important place in civil society. The Cameroon Bloggers Association now works with brands such as the Cameroonian drinks company Nestlé, the TV channel TV5 Monde, and international partners such as the French Institute in Cameroon, the French Embassy, UNESCO, UNICEF and the European Union, and in return receives support in achieving their objectives.

However, when it comes to the partnerships between bloggers and companies, mentioned above in the examples, I wonder whether there might not be an influence on the freedom of expression of Cameroonian bloggers first and foremost. As a famous African saying goes: “The hand that gives is above the hand that receives.” And the theme of this fourth edition of the summit puts freedom of expression at the heart of its concerns.

Finally, apart from the intensive activities over the five days, the Blog Awards was the most remarkable and moving moment of the summit. Several nominated bloggers received special awards for their blog posts. I could see the emotion in their sparkling eyes.

But what if, in the near future, this summit went even further by bringing together bloggers from the sub-region?

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