It has been a year since I launched Ongolo.com on 1 April 2020. This little blog has demonstrated that it is no April Fools’ Day joke by hitting a milestone that 80-99% of all blogs fail to meet: surviving year one. Ongolo.com was created to educate and excite Africans and non-Africans about Africa. The ultimate goal is to change the narrative about Africa, which is unfairly portrayed by mainstream media as a problem.

There is a lot more to Africa than corruption, crime, disease and poverty

I am optimistic about the future for Ongolo.com even though the task at hand may seem as overwhelming as a lone excavator trying to free one of the largest container vessels in the world, from the muddy waters of the Suez Canal.

In the beginning

How it started…

How Ongolo.com has avoided getting stuck in the mud

Staying the course

Ever Given will forever be remembered as the 400m long container vessel that launched a thousand memes after turning sideways and blocking the Suez Canal for five days on 23 March 2021. An investigation is underway to establish whether the strong wind and dust storm were to blame for the disruption to a vital shipping route that accounts for 12% of global trade.

Like the Ever Given, Ongolo.com has faced many headwinds that threatened to blow it off course. I have made a lifelong commitment to stand up for Africa but sometimes struggle to stay positive when faced with a constant stream of political leadership failures. I do not write about African politics because it is a distraction from the other things that Africa is doing right which are more deserving of my attention.

These moments of wavering belief are overcome by remembering my ‘why’. Just like the that lone excavator, my philosophy in life is to show up, on a good or bad day, and get on with the job at hand. In the end, the Suez Canal excavator dug out all the sand around the bulbous bow which was a crucial first step in setting the Ever Given free.

Ongolo mug

Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with an Ongolo designed mug

Patience

In a classic example of the idiom haste makes waste, it has been reported that the Ever Given was sailing at 13.5 knots or nearly double the Suez Canal speed limit of 7.6 knots prior to the incident. Furthermore, other vessels either decided to wait for the dessert storm to pass or crossed the canal with the help of tugboats which steer large vessels at low speeds through narrow spaces.

Like the Ever Given, I was also impatient for success and made many mistakes in the first six months. Even though I hit 1k page views in the first month, I made some costly mistakes to try to drive up traffic to the blog including changing the website layout twice in five months, incurring costs of $4k. After being underwhelmed by the last web designing company in the US, I decided it was time to DIY and work on the site myself.

Another mistake made was changing the focus from writing blog posts in the first month to making YouTube videos for the next three months. The traffic to my blog dried up like low tide in the Suez Canal and those hundreds of viewers on Facebook had no reason to visit Ongolo.com. It has taken many months to recover. The irony is that my social media tribe, the ones who actually read the blog posts, are on LinkedIn.

Ongolo YouTube channel

I am rethinking the strategy of the YouTube channel as viewers are overwhelmed with too much choice and Zoom fatigue

I am fortunate to have a full-time job that eases the pressure to make Ongolo.com a commercial success. Many bloggers start with the intention of making money, but few actually do. I have made $0.02 in ad revenue this year. Yep. All of two cents. Blogging is something that is best done out of love because the financial rewards are a long time coming or never to be seen.

Linking arms with others

The excavator may have freed the Ever Given’s bow, but it was the combined effort of tugboats, heavy-duty dredgers and high tide that ultimately freed the container vessel. The tugboats helped to push and pull the vessel from opposite directions; the heavy-duty dredgers, including one of the largest and most powerful in the world, removed the underwater sand and sediments; and the full moon brought more water into the canal.

The lesson for Ongolo.com is that the fight to change the narrative about Africa is not a solo effort and it is important to collaborate with others working towards the same goal. People are increasingly reaching out on LinkedIn and Twitter for opportunities to link arms. I published my first guest contribution in March 2021 and welcome submissions from others.

Celebrate every success
A Ruinart-worthy celebration

A Ruinart-worthy celebration

Perhaps the best moment in the Suez Canal saga came on Day 4 when workers managed to shift the vessel by just 30m and burst into celebration, honking their horns as though Egypt had won the World Cup. The celebrations may have been premature, I can relate to those who had worked tirelessly to free the Ever Given and were happy to see some results.

That was a lesson in humility. When you’re a blogger, it’s easy to be discouraged by a small number of views or likes for blog posts. Again, it’s important to reflect on the ultimate goal. When I get feedback from some of my subscribers that they are learning so much about Africa, I know these baby steps I am taking are on the right path for success. That gives me the motivation to continue, one subscriber at a time.

Thank you for your loyalty

As a token of my appreciation for your support, I am offering a 10% discount on all Ongolo.com merchandise for the entire month of April.

April discount

April discount on all Ongolo.com merch

The Ongolo.com merchandise includes t-shirts and/or mugs under four collections:

  • Safari t-shirts featuring the Big Five animals
  • Proudly African t-shirts and mugs
  • No Wahala t-shirts and mugs
  • Africa Day (25 May) t-shirts and mugs

Please don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter by visiting Ongolo.com.

Thank you | Zikomo

Proudly African model

Namuyawa Kanyanga modelling the Ongolo.com signature t-shirt

© 2021 Muloongo Muchelemba. All Rights Reserved

 

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