Pieces of the African Puzzle

By Tom Castor | November 7, 2022 |

AFRICA Part Three

No. It does not compare with those of David Livingston or Lott Carey, but a journey to Africa is still no small undertaking. What complicated this trip was not the multiple flights, visas, immunizations, and passages through customs/immigration. The knotty parts of this trip were the questions.

My friend Nebié Badiou is one of the keys to the project we are in the middle of. Nebié is the President of the Baptist Association in Burkina Faso. He is also the country leader for CRU and coordinator of the work of StoryRunners there. And he is a leader and influencer in the more extensive evangelical network in West Africa. We planned this trip to Burkina Faso to fit into his travel schedule. He would return to Ouagadougou from Uganda the day before I arrived. He would leave for Kenya the morning after I was to go. We had only five full days to find the answers we needed to move the project forward.

The idea to use the site in this way first came from Nebié. After working through an early version of the site in English, he would repeatedly say, “We need this website here.” That was almost four years ago. Various things caused unanticipated delays. Political unrest in Burkina Faso. A worldwide pandemic. Changes in the evangelical landscape in West Africa. But we continued to make progress. All of the adjustments have made the English site better. But all of the adjustments were made, anticipating translation into French.

The West Africa project is composed of multiple pieces. Translating the A Simple Word website into a West African-friendly French. Cloning the site. Training people in Francophone West Africa to use the site. Coaching volunteers to follow up all inquiries, and optimize the site as a discipleship tool.

The first issue is always the accuracy and clarity of the English website. Invariably, the most statistically significant variable for any translation’s accuracy and usability is the source material’s quality (transparency). That is why we have recruited people for the past two years to field-test the website. We have had people from Canada, the US, and Australia use the site, take the courses, and provide critique and feedback. We have taken that feedback and made adjustments. That has required significant rewriting and redesign to make the site more user-friendly.

This project is by far the largest single project we have undertaken. The website contains over 850,000 words of content. I went to Africa to find assurances that if we make the investment (the first quote we received to translate the site was over $65,000 USD), we can be reasonably confident that the result will benefit the church in Burkina Faso and Francophone West Africa for years to come.

Here are some of the questions I went to Africa to find answers for:

Is there translation expertise available in Burkina Faso? Do the translators understand the result we are trying to achieve? How do we best accomplish that result with the Burkinabe audience? Are these translators not only competent but available? How do we ensure that the translators will give this project immediate attention, given the distractions that competent translators are prone to experience? Is there technology and expertise available in the country to manage and maintain the website? Can we ensure that the website is secure? Can we find graphic designers to adjust the site’s look to better target the Burkinabe audience? Is there sufficient enthusiasm for the project to ensure an adequate supply of volunteers to follow up on the contacts the website will generate? Are such volunteers willing and available to be trained? If so, who will develop the training content? How will the content be delivered? Can we build a culture among the users to ensure the project’s long-term sustainability?

Those are only some of puzzle pieces the trip across the Atlantic intended to find and assemble. Future posts will tell you how we did.

Tom Castor

Thomas Castor, founder of Clear and Simple Media Group, is a seasoned writer and communicator who has been delivering content with clarity and simplicity for 30 years.