New Year's Eve Ghana Style (does not involve goats nor champagne)

Seriously, Ghanaians!?
Noone is throwing a New Year's Eve party? Not even a small one?

”Traditionally” (would be interesting to know when and where this practice comes from), New Year's Eve in Ghana is a day for contemplation, gratitude and prayer – clearly a Christian holiday! Most people dress in white (celebratory clothing) and head for the churches around 8-9 pm. The final hours of the year is spent praying, listening to sermons and singing hymns. Many times, the sermons are held outside the church room, as the crowds cannot fit inside the chapels and churches. The transition to the new year has nothing like the festive ”10-9-8-7…”, rather it is a very serene and gradual change with nothing special to mark midnight. However, around 1 pm, many people start heading home. (And from what I hear, some of these churchgoers then changes into other clothes and head out for a drink, but this is a different story).

So, what is the problem? Well, it is strictly personal, I suppose: I just miss the European way of celebrating New Year's Eve. I miss having to choose between parties. I miss the anticipation for the New Year. I miss planning ahead for a most luxurious evening with shiny and glittering outfits, chilled champagne and beyond good foods. I miss the obligatory chant of ”10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-HAPPY-NEW-YEAR!” I miss kissing friends and family in a delirious state and then topping it off with more bubbly and dancing!

However here in Ghana, it seems no parties are planned for tomorrow night and I am still the only one considering Christmas the main Christian holiday in December.

Pic: Party outside of Ghana.

Christmas Ghana Style (of course it involves goats!)


The holidays have come to all creatures on this earth. How are you celebrating them? This is how some of my fellow bloggers are honoring the holidays.

Nana Kofi was especially happy with his gift this year, Ato KD sent a message to all who is close to his heart and interact with him on his blog, Holli decorated her unorthodox tree, Afrocentric urged us to think twice about what we are celebrating, Maya Maame has been xmas style busy and Yngvild has some authentic snow on offer!

As for me, I am celebrating with my Ghanaian family. Yesterday we had fun at the local beach. Swimming and enjoying some softdrinks and "biskits". Today early in the morning two goats were slaughtered and they are being cooked I write this. Soon, I will be going over to my mother-in-law's for goat light soup, dance and laughter, cousins and uncles, drinks and jokes!

Dear reader, I wish for you a time of year that is not just about filling your belly, but also filling yourself with stories to take you through the next year.

And may I suggest: If you overflow with tales, you might want to start blogging?

Pic: Santa in my friend Vera's house.


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Twi Course in 2010

Here's a message from the Goethe Institute in Accra:

Since the current TWI courses at the Goethe-Institut Accra are highly appreciated we are proud to announce the ongoing of our TWI courses in 2010!!

The Goethe-Institut is offering Twi Classes for Non-Twi speakers (beginners and advanced).

The course focuses on communication - within a short period you will be able to discuss in Twi with your Ghanaian colleagues, neighbours, friends & people in town.

Join us! Are you ready?
Eyε paa! Sε wofro dua pa a, na yεnpia wo.
That’s wonderful! The person with good intentions receives support.
(=If you mange to climb a tree we will push you)

Time & Date

Beginner (very basic knowledge):
Mondays, 5:30 pm – 7 pm
January 4th till March 8th, 2010
Price: 90 GHc

Advanced:
Tuesdays: 5:30 pm – 7 pm
January 16th till March 9th, 2010
Price: 90 GHc

Location
Goethe-Institut Accra, Kakramadu Road, Cantonments (next to NAFTI), Accra.

Registration
Please send the registration form to infospr@accra.goethe.org
Payment should be made before the course starts. Just get in touch with our registration officer.Tel: 021-776764


Since I moved to Ghana, I wanted to learn Twi, see my post here for example. I have been taking the beginner's course this semester and can testify to that these courses are effective. Remember the song?

Enti, seseara meko di bronya!

Oluniyi Ajao's Report from Ghanablogging Session


Here are the excellent notes from the session I led on blogging yesterday, courtesy of Oluniyi David Ajao, one of the most successful bloggers out of Ghana.

Noteworthy is also that 24 people signed up to receive more information about ghanablogging.com after the session. Yihaa!

Also, see the Flickr photostream here (where I borrowed the photo for this post).

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BarCamp Ghana Underway: Blogging Session

I am right now at BarCamp Ghana 09, all details can be found in Oluniyi's blog here or the official BarCamp Ghana site here.

It came to a slow start, but "everybody" is here, many members of ghanablogging.com, lecturers, industry reps, entrepreneurs and cool students - so networking is great!
Importantly, I will be leading a break-out session on blogging in an hour. What I will talk about is

1. Why should you blog?
2. How can we together create Internet content that is relevant for Ghana?
3. How can online activities be taken in to the "real world"? (with the example of ghanablogging.com)

Hope to see you in my session!

BarCamp Ghana '09 is On


So, now it's official: I am making my BarCamp debut early next week! The Ghanaian version of this world wide "unmeeting" is taking place at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in East Legon, Monday the 21st December the whole day. See more information about the event here.

Although the strange name of this happening suggests something as scary as "camp", I am still excited about the free meeting format and three more things.

1. It looks like ghanablogging will be holding a session about forming real life groups from online communities.

2. The organizing group this year are much more locally anchored compared to in 2008 when (it seemed like?) all organizers came from abroad.

3. The founder and president of Ashesi University, Patrick Awuah is giving the keynote address, and he is a very good speaker! As he is also my boss, that part of the BarCamp will be like a regular day at work...:-)

Hope to see some of you there!

Tonight is Eha-Lakasa Poetry Slam 09


I'm terribly excited, a urban and outright cool event like a poetry slam for the first time in Ghana!

It takes off tonight Wednesday 16th of December 2009 at Alliance Francaise (close to 37 tro-tro station) at 8.30 PM. This is what the poets themselves say about the event.
EHA-LAKASA is the name, POETRY is the movement, SLAM is the battle. “EHA-LAKASA POETRY SLAM 09” is a unique initiative intended to redefine the poetry landscape in Ghana as a medium of communication and exchange of ideas. EHA-LAKASA is a straight talk, street philosophy, poetry and music expressed by the arts. This is the first undisputed lyric-smith battle to storm our nation's capital; it will be a night of fire works with lyrical vibration. 15 Eha-lakasa poets will enter the ring but only 5 will survive and 1 should stay alive.

So, of course I am looking forward to the competition part which gives this program its special edge, but I am betting the best performance of the evening will be by my talented friend Sir Black. Stay tune for YouTube updates!

Pic: Sir Black, credits to Foundation for Contemporary Art Ghana.

A Degree in Digital Anthropology, Anyone?

UNSPECIFIED - OCTOBER 10:  In this photo illus...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Some exciting news was reported by the Culture Matters blog today here and it is just typical. Only four and a half years too late the graduate degree of my dreams come into being.

Just taste the exotic words D-I-G-I-T-A-L A-N-T-H-R-O-P-O-L-O-G-Y ! Then imagine yourself reading exciting blogs and analyzing Facebook for a living.
Here's some information from the lovely institution University College London (UCL) putting forth this "so 2010!" program:
The new MSc in Digital Anthropology–begun in the Autumn of 2009–is well positioned for becoming a world leader in the training of researchers in the social and cultural dimensions of information technologies and digital media.

Digital technologies have become ubiquitous. From Facebook, Youtube and Flickr to PowerPoint, Google Earth and Second Life. Museum displays migrate to the internet, family communication in the Diaspora is dominated by new media, artists work with digital films and images. Anthropology and ethnographic research is fundamental to understanding the local consequences of these innovations, and to create theories that help us acknowledge, understand and engage with them. Today's students need to become proficient with digital technologies as research and communication tools. Through combining technical skills with appreciation of social effects, students will be trained for further research and involvement in this emergent world.
More can be found on the UCL Anthropology website here.

Too late for me, but maybe just in time for you?


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Ghanaian Blogger at COP15

I can proudly announce that our own Ghanablogging member MacJordan landed in Denmark on Sunday to cover the United Nations Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen (COP 15). See his account of his first day at here.

The climate meeting which has been going on for a week and culminates on Friday has already been given a lot of attention in media. We have heard about African countries wanted to be compensated financially, the west roaring back that it was just the corrupt African leaders that wanted cash, then came a leak in some countries pre-writings and then EU announced money will be given...Earlier today, I even heard accounts of "chaos" in the corridors in Copenhagen and arrests of hundreds of protesters...more drama than the average afternoon soap-opera?

Who in the world can we trust to give us the truth?

I know I will turn to my man MacJordan for updates. He will be reporting on his blog and on Global Voices.

Pic: Climate changes will very likely affect the West African shorelines.

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Nobel Prize in Ghana

Front side of an award medal in physiology or ...Image via Wikipedia

The 10th December every year is the day when the Nobel Prize is awarded. In my native Sweden, this is a festive day - "everybody" talks about the prize and follow the gala on TV. The medias are full of information about the laureates, their ground-breaking research - but also about the guests and their fashion, the Nobel menu and flower arrangements and the world class entertainment program. Also, students in Stockholm prepare, as they have a crucial role in the evening gala following the award ceremony.

I am proud to say the Nobel Prize was founded by a Swedish businessman, Alfred Nobel, and has become one of the most well known and respected academic prizes in the world. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, the other five (Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Economics) in Stockholm as Norway and Sweden were in a union at the time of the establishment of the prize. Although it is a Swedish/Norwegian prize, prominent researchers and personalities all over the world are awarded every year. A prominent example is Kofi Annan who shared the Nobel Peace Price in 2001. Other African and diasporan laureates can be found here.

The full list of this year's laureates - among them Barack Obama (Peace Prize) and Ellinor Ostrom (Economics) can be found here. The touching lecture by this year's Literature laureate Herta Muller about the symbolic meaning of handkerchiefs and other things can be read here.

Jusr now, I will cook something very nice and complicated for myself - maybe even open a small bottle of bubbly I have on cooling and enjoy the festivities from behind my computer screen. Geographically far away from the Blue Hall, but in my imagination right, right there.

Skål!

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Holiday Season in Ghana or Afehyia Pa

As the Christmas spirit this year is all around, see for instance in the Ghanaian blogosphere Maya Maame telling us about how the elections stole the season last year here, Holli discovering some unorthodox decorations here and Esi working on her Ghanaian wish list here, I thought I'd add to the festivities with a song.

Originally, it was sung at the Goethe Institute Christmas party last week. "Afehyia Pa!" in the chorus means something like "May a Good Year Come to Meet Us!" And hrm, yes, that is yours true blogger second from left.

Gallup World Poll Supports My Migration Research

Right now I am extremely excited as comparative evidence supporting my research is available from Gallup.

What I am interested in is why so many of the Ghanaian university students seems to want to leave the shores of Ghana.

What sets my research apart from a lot of other migration research is that I do not study the people who actually migrated, the returnees or the remittances/funds migrants send to their counties of origin. Instead I, along with other researchers such as Jorgen Carling who has written about Cape Verde, am interested in the migration aspiration or potential migration as Gallup names it in recent articles stemming from the Gallup World Poll. Looking at what people think could be looking at the causes for future movements as actions, especially those which requires planning and funding, are preceded by thoughts.

Gallup goes as far as calculating the impact on the population if people who were interested in migrating actually did (or could). Even though I think this particular calculation is suggestive rather than academically helpful as it adds flows together robbing them of their unique causes, it shows some interesting trends. Gallup's Potential Net Migration Index (PNMI) shows that Ghana would loose and gain inhabitants resulting in a drop of 45% of its population! This while neighboring Cote d'Ivoire and Benin would drawback only 20% and 10% respectively. Why these differences?

Also, this newly presented data suggests - just like I have suggested in my research - that richer individuals are more likely to want to migrate compared to poorer individuals. This seems to be true for all income level countries, contrary to the common belief that people would like to migrate for pressing economic reasons. Similarly, evidence from China suggests that the higher your education, the higher your desire to migrate is. I have the hunch the same is true for Ghana.

Finally, it feels like a tap on the shoulder to read that Gallup's Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton (read his whole article here) with all the information he has access to calls migration, my field of interest, "the great global dream" and predicts that
The evolution of 'the great global dream' is going to be the material of a million Ph.D. dissertations.
I know he is at least right about one such dissertation!

Pic: Dolled up African ladies thinking about migrating?

13 Things Not to Miss When in Ghana

An acquaintance who is going to Ghana for the first time in December writes to me:
What should I not miss when in Ghana?
And even though I wrote about Ghana Highlights not long ago, I can't help but to craft a list as an answer to her very open question. Here are the 13 things you must not miss when in Ghana.

1. Fufu- Ghana's national dish of a spicy soup with fish and meat and a delicious gooey ball of fufu.
2. A funeral (!)
3. A cold Star at sunset.
4. Omo tuo with Groundnut soup - Northern Ghana's national dish.
5. Ripe mango and sweet green "Fanti" pineapple.
6. High life music (some of the big hotels in Accra have live bands) and contemporary music ( such as the one performed at Bless the Mic on Thursday's at Cinderella's in Accra)
7. Cape Coast or Elmina castles for an insight into West Africa's history.
8. Kakum rainforest, see WikiTravel page here
9. Grilled tilapia - this ginger and chili infused sweet water fish smells so good my vegetarian friend recently crossed sides...
10. Blue Skies ginger and pinapple smoothie
11. Buying colorful wax print or tie-n-dye cloth and getting clothes sown for you.
12. Chasing crabs on the beach. Mission impossible?
13. Braiding your hair. The best souvenir!

As I live to eat, this list is in hindsight a bit biased towards food and drink (1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10 and possibly also 12). Which Ghana musts have I forgotten?

Pic: Bon appetit!

Ghanaian Entrepreneurship: Maksi Clothing Starts with a Boom!

Today, I am proud of fellow blogger Nana Darkoa who, together with her sister Abena, has creted a clothing line: Maksi. Right now the she is featured on Tv3 saying
"fashion is part of life"
and
"tonight, amazing models will be walking a catwalk specially built over a swimming pool."

Indeed, 7PM tonight a fashion show is taking off at the classy African Regent Hotel. I've seen a sneak peak of some of the clothes on Facebook and they look young and fun with a local flare.

I think this initiative is part of something bigger, something inherently Ghanaian - entrepreneurship. Most Ghanaians I know (!) has a company on the side of their regular job. Many of them dream about one day doing it full time, but understand you have to start small. Many of them are excellent sales people who cater to the needs of their country. It is very inspiring and exciting!

Maksi Clothing might be an especially professional venture with a big launch with hired models, good photography and copy writing, but it is definitely part of a much wider trend of Ghanaian entrepreneurship.

Adidas Apologizes: Kente Is Our Inspiration


Do you remember the Adidas shoe which was marketed as "Kenta" style misrepresenting the West African Kente cloth that I wrote on here?

Fellow blogger Kwabena/GhanaHype today posted the reply he got from Adidas when complaining of their ignorance. The core of the message is
We regrettably made an error in the copywriting process when describing this shoe.
Read it in full here.

In the pic: A Kente weaver shows how to make Kente.

University Strike in Ghana?


Read my report at University World News on the current situation here.

To be continued.

Ashesi Awarded Again! Microsoft Alumni Foundation 2009 Integral Fellow


It seems Ashesi Founder Patrick Awuah is on a winning streak - This week, he was honored with the 2009 Integral Fellow Award by his former employer, Microsoft. See press release here and finalist video above.

The mission of the award is
to catalyze the collective power of the Microsoft alumni and leverage our resources on innovative, scalable, transformative solutions to our world’s challenges. Integral Fellows serve as that catalyst, sharing their stories of struggle, success, and inspiration.

Even though I am not particularly a fan of Microsoft, I must say it really impresses me to hear about them having an "alumni" foundation. It is something very modern about a company suggesting that employees will at some point "graduate", not quit (or stay the rest of their working lives). So far, none of my former workplaces have considered me an alum - but I guess they should. I still care about what is going on where I have spent thousands of productive hours and I owe much of my success to what I have learned with them - and I guess it reflects well on them too when I do well elsewhere.

Is this the new work market we see unfolding?

Strike in Public Universities in Ghana

Today came with the news of that Ghana's two major universities, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and University of Ghana (UG) are closed due to strikes among the teachers. This immediately affects the mid-semester exams at these institutions and reportedly libraries also closed and students could be seen "roaming about in search of a place for research", according to Joy FM.

When we discussed the situation at my workplace today, opinions varied from that teachers should continue to provide a service for paying students - to that government has had time to do the correct payments and should not be worrying already low payed lecturers with delays. I know for sure this is affecting a lot of people (including myself who is waiting to hear from UG about my PhD application) who re just trying to get an education.

I've heard friends talk about the university teacher strike in 1995 which lasted a whole year. Lets hope this will be solved quicker!

Pic: Graduating students at University of Ghana

Review of Film About Blogging : Julie & Julia

Just saw the first major motion picture to be based on a blog, Julie & Julia.

It was interesting to see a film (loosely) based on a blog, but I must say my friends and I much preferred the story about the eccentric cookbook writer Julia Child, whimsically performed by Maryl Streep, compared to the bland "heroine" Julie the Blogger. Ultimately, a blog should provide you with stories you otherwise do not get access to, but this blog seemed to be a rather predictable story on how to become a famous blogger.

Still, the film was an entertaining Nora Ephron construction complete with lovable supporting characters (the Julix husbands), lovely Parisian bistrot milieus and loads of butter-drenched food to love.

Enjoy the official trailer here. Bon Appetit!

Ghana Highlights

Had some friends staying over and spending a lovely day with me. They had just arrived from the cold north and were extremely content with the weather, the food, the lodging - well, everything!

Their fresh and foreign outlook made me see that some things that have become ordinary to me, actually are quite extraordinary. Of course, as their one-day host I also tried to show Ghana from her best side. And what a day I had! Here are today's highlights.

5. Cruising in my car seeing the vivacious street life pass by.
4. Swimming in a nearby hotel pool (I could really do this every day, if I only weren't so "morning challenged").
3. Visiting with my Ghanaian family, they are wonderful and fun!
2. Fruit for breakfast: Pineapple, papaya and perfectly ripen mango.
1. Talking about Ghanaian culture - names, funerals, political history, everyday life. All so rich!

As I watched them get into a taxi towards the beach, I somehow knew I had been able to give them a taste of the traditional Ghanaian welcoming - Akwaaba!

Ashesi Founder Recieves Prize

Woke up this morning to some very fine news. My employer received the John P. McNulty Prize of USD 100,000 with this wonderful motivation:
"In Patrick Awuah we have found not only immense personal leadership in founding Ashesi, one of the African continent's first liberal arts universities, but in the school's commitment to ethics and civics as a central part of education, he has guaranteed future generations of leaders for Ghana, Africa and the world."

Read the whole press release here.

I am proud to go to work today!

Patrick Awuah and I at a conference in August 2008.

Step Forward

Today, I have been invited to give a seminar on my proposal at University of Ghana. I have prepared a simple outline of the most important stuff: working hypothesis, theoretical backdrop and methodology and will in between argue for the relevance of this study.

Wish me luck!

Pic: Science in Ghana in the 1960s as presented by Prof Abena Osseo-Asare.

Adidas Hidden African Inspiration: The "Kenta" Shoe

Yesterday,Kwabena, a fellow blogger alerted us Ghanablogging members of that Adidas is using Ghanaian Kente cloth on a shoe calling it Kenta and acting as they invented it.

Kente is Ghana's (and Togo's) pride, being delicately woven in narrow strips by skilled craftsmen - almost always men. Kente is then sewn and worn at very festive occasions such as weddings or just a few strips over the shoulder as a sign of beauty and wealth.

An interesting debate weather or not one can say Adidas "stole" has arisen on ghanablogging's mailing list (hopefully soon the other side of the debate can be read here and here). I'm all for intellectual property rights, but can a country or an ethnic group have the right to a weaving technique? Have we even tried to patent it? Sure, it would have been nice had Adidas recognized their (potentially huge) market in Ghana and West Africa and called Kente by its real name...but it is a crime not to do so?

As has rightly been pointed out, African Americans, Caribbeans and also other ethnic groups in Ghana have also claimed kente as of late and I don't hear them saying it is Ghanaian/Togolese.

Actually, these days a lot of the Kente for British and American markets is made by Asians, see this book Money has No Smell by Paul Stoller for more info on this interesting transnational phenomenon.

So rather than forming a blog-war against Adidas, should we instead sue China?

Let me also offer a bonus conspiracy theory: Adidas call it "Kenta" to avoid any legal issues with people claiming "Kente". Aha!

In the Pic the famous Kenta shoe. Photo credit to Adidas.

Ghana Guide on the Web

The Bradt Travel Guide to Ghana (most recent edition is 2007) by Philip Briggs is now available on the web with Google books! See link here.

This guide is positively personable, amazingly accurate and dot on detailed (including great maps of places before Google Maps even existed!). I recommend it to anyone coming this way!

In the pic: Me and my husband being tourists in our country, I think around xmas 2007.

International Conference on African Culture and Development (ICACD)

In two weeks, Accra hosts an interesting conference, 2nd International Conference on African Culture and Development, ICACD. The program can be found here.

The secretariat of the newly founded organization is placed in Ghana's commercial hub, Kumasi and it was also there the first conference was held in 2008. A participant, Erica Borgstrom, published her reflections after that first meeting here. She writes:
The conference illustrated precisely how complex the idea of ‘Africa’ is whilst physically demonstrating how competing agendas affect this notion. The premise of ICACD is to be an ‘African Cultural advocate’ to influence policy, placing culture on the broader African development agenda. For its inaugural meeting, ICACD attracted an array of individuals with varying backgrounds and aspirations. Their differing agendas soon became apparent in presentations and discussions. Primarily, this resulted in the (often confusing) multiple and differing use of the word ‘culture’, consequently affecting their attitudes towards an implementation of ‘culture’ in ‘development’.

Africa is not one! Why an initiative like this will not start with the scope of West-Africa - or even Ghana - is beyond me. Because, just like for the AU, geographically broad initiatives that recognize no difference in agendas or set any rules for membership, become toothless.

The second item brought up in the quote above, I also found very interesting since I personally recognize this problem of defining 'culture'. Being interested in the arts in Ghana, I have been confronted with this often conflicting of interpretations to 'culture' - two brought out by Borgstrom are 1) the touristic and sometimes stereotypical "traditional" culture including dancing and drumming and 2) the culture linked to how we choose to live our lives. And then I'd like to add the 3) culture involving all artistic expression, focusing on contemporary expressions, that Borgstrom does not discuss.

However, the issue is critical - what kind of development do we get if culture (whatever the definition might be) is not included? Also, I'm guessing the other executives (I'm the treasurer) of Accra Cultural and Arts Network (AccraCAN) will be there. So, I might steal time away from my regular job to go see if discussions have progressed since last year.

Pic: people and sculptures of people at a vernissage in August at the University of Ghana. Sculptures by the Ghanaian artist Kofi Setordji.

Morning News Routine

How are you, dear reader?

I hope you are well, maybe you have finished your morning coffee or tea and are now looking forward to the two productive hours of the day - those before lunch.

I on the other hand am still sitting at home and doing my daily online media routine (Joy FM, DN, maybe Aftonbladet, The Big Picture - loved the picures from Indian festival Diwali- etc) and will only soon let the Kwame Nkrumah motorway take me to work.

A lot is going my way these days. I feel like a juggler who gets more and more balls thrown at her - but still manages to keep all balls in the air. Fun work (with flexible hours allowing me to keep many of my routines), interesting side projects and fun people with whom to spend my spare time. Let's hope it continues that way.

I only wish I had more time for my blog. That is for you, dear reader!

Picture of a the sky in Tema on a day that is going to be good.

How To Start A Blog in 5 Steps

This is the tip I gave to a good friend when she asked me how to get started with blogging:
  1. Think about what you want to say and formulate it in one sentence, maybe something like "A Colombian's Thoughts about Sweden, Relationships and Jewellery",
  2. Choose a simple name for your blog (preferably easy to say and spell)
  3. sign up with a blogging platform, for instance here.
  4. When you blog do it regularly, once every two weeks, once a week, every day, doesn't matter, but keep the pace.
  5. And you must send me the URL when you are up and running! :-)
More tips on blogging can be found on fellow Ghanablogging member Oluniyi's blog, here.

In the pic the blogger mentioned above and another pro-blogger, White African from the meeting described here.

Rebranding Nigeria and Brand Ghana: A Good Idea?


As I was driving home, I came across an interesting program on BBC, Rebranding Nigeria (I'm trying to embed the program above so you can listen). The program was essentially a discussion about the initiative to rethink Nigeria in positive terms. In the journalist Henry Bonsu's own words:

Can the home of 419 internet scams, corruption and voodoo ever transmit a positive image?

Is rebranding Nigeria futile and meaningless? Even possible? Or the light beginning for a country that has just (10 years this year) resurfaced from military rule? The only way forward? You can join a similar discussion on Global Voices Online here.

What to me is the most interesting thing with this debate is that the image of Africa is finally debated, critiqued and possibly recreated - by Africans - in a more representative way. Because really, it doesn't make any sense to say 160 million people are all fraudsters.

But also, after reading about my Nigerian sister Adadze's experiences (I'm thinking of Mama Christina and Police Brutality) in her blog Two Tears in a Bucket the other day, I'm thinking our neighbor Nigeria and its people needs a change.

Of course we are slightly, slightly behind in Ghana, but we are actually also looking into branding ourselves better. Just last month, we had Simon Anhult, (selfproclaimed?) nation branding guru, come talk and then set up our own Brand Ghana office, see this article.

To be continued...

CinemAfrica: African Film in Sweden

Tomorrow, CinemAfrica opens this year's African film festival in Stockholm, Ubuntu! According to the program 14 films will be shown. None of them are unfortunately from Ghana, but one from Senegal (Mother) and one about Liberia's President (Iron Ladies of Liberia). See the trailer on YouTube here.

Tickets for the festival can be bought at BioRio.

Interestingly, the Urban Africa Movement that I blogged about here is showcasing some of its photos during the festival.

Oh, I love all of this. I think I have to arrange a similar event in Tema.

No Ibrahim Prize for Kufuor

It was just announced (see for instance BBC here) that Sudanese business mogul Mo Ibrahim will not be awarding any former African leader his The Ibrahim Prize this year. The prize is the largest monetary prize in the world with its 5 million USD over 10 years and 200 000 annually for the rest of the recipient's life. The idea with the prize is to create debate around governance and provide positive incentives for democratic and transparent leadership in Africa.

Ghana's ex-president John Kufuor was one of the favorites for the prize along with South Africa's ex-leader Thabo Mbeki. Earlier this year, when Kufuor stepped down after eight years of rule, he was much applauded. Currently, he works with the UN-WFP. However, his name has also been mentioned in the questionable deal in which Ghana Telecom was sold, including the cable that connects Ghana to the rest of the world, to Vodafone Netherlands. I have blogged about Kufuor here, here and yesterday here.

The founder of the prize, a business man profiting on the telecom business in Africa, says in an interesting interview - to be found in whole here - about his success:

"I'm the same person. I still drive the same type of car. I live in the same house. Most of the money I made has gone back to Africa, or is going back to Africa. I decided the money will go into something really effective and worthwhile. That's what I hope our foundation will do."

Interestingly, the only way forward for Africa's leaders is suggested to be the opposite: large sums of wealth.

Still, I am sure the desicion to not award the prize ("no specific reason" was given according to BBC) will give cause for debate on good governance in Africa. Which ultimaltely, in my humble opinion, is the most important goal with the prize.

Well done, Mo Ibrahim!

Developing Blogging - Leaving Blogger for Wordpress

Let me share some Sunday thoughts about developing my blog. My ideas so far are:
I want to
  • graduate from the idea of only writing positive things about Ghana into telling my personal stories, related to Ghana or not, being uplifting or not.
  • be able to express myself better though the design of my blog, so leaving blogger and moving to wordpress.org is an option.
  • refresh the look of my blog to inspire myself (and possibly others as well).
  • show my readers I am serious about blogging.
  • add new categories of content.
  • change its name and URL into something simpler (I tried on the new name "Urban Africa" some time ago here, but wasn't satisfied with it).
...and soon I'll tell you more.

What do you think? Does the name of a blog matter? How it looks? How its posts are categorized? What topics it presents? What URL it has?

Pic: Climbing higher.

Blog Action Day: Climate Change

What is blog action day?

Blog action day or BAD09 as some blog nerds call it is a day for bloggers all around the world to join forces around one important topic. Last year, the topic was poverty and I participated then too. The result of that can be seen here.

What is this year's topic?

It is Climate Change. I guess with the UN Climate Conference coming up in Copenhagen in December, its a fairly current topic. And there is a lot to say. Check out BAD09's inspiration page that has gathered some very interesting information about climate change, for instance.

Speaking of the urgency of the topic....Last time I went to my native Sweden, I was surprised how the word klimatsmart (translates into climate savvy or environmentally concious or something like that) was everywhere: A train journey was maybe not cheap, but klimatsmart. One brand of milk was more klimatsmart than another. My friend had gotten a colorful brochure in the mail asking her if she was klimatsmart (she wondered here how klimatsmart that brochure really was...). My cousin's new blog even had klimatsmart in the title!

What can be said about climate change in Ghana?

Actually, what strikes me is how not current the topic is in Ghana. The website (organization?) tcktcktck.org is counting down to the UN meeting and tellingly has no story from Ghana on their cool Climate Orb application. Really, when was the last time you heard someone discuss climate change around here?

The rest of the world seems worried about climate change/higher temperatures. One of the effects that have been discussed lately is how this can increase the spread of malaria to Western Europe, South America and even Russia.

But in Ghana we don't worry too much about that. Malaria is already one of Ghana's biggest problems to date.


But do we really need to talk about climate change in Ghana? Shouldn't we rather DO something?

A way to globally reduce the carbon dioxide emissions is to make sure we travel with public transport rather than individually in our own cars. Today, many Ghanaians travel in packed trotros, shared taxis or "Kufuor busses" and hence do not emit too much CO2. Can we say the same about the North/West? But as Ghanaians grow richer - our goal is to become a middle income country as soon as possible - more Ghanaians can also afford their own cars.

In my opinion the problem in the discussion about climate change is that while developed countries are struggling to be sustainable, developing countries are already klimatsmarta, but not by choice. Rather the "environmental consciousness" or sustainable living is caused by last year's topic; poverty.

Climate change issues in the end boils down to politics and income distribution. Will my 4 year old relative in the photo above drive her own car when she has grown up? Is it really fair to try to stop her?

What do you think?

Jazz Festival in Accra

Starting today and running until Saturday, Alliance Francaise organizes a Jazz festival in Accra. Every night at 8.30 pm there will be concerts with different jazz musicians. Seeing the program, I do not know what to make of it as all names, thus far, are new to me; Babu Group(Tue), Chico Freeman(Wed), Ka-Tam Trio (Thu), André Jaume (Fri)...

But I'll gamble by letting my schedule decide and go as many nights I can.

Pic from an earlier event at AF in Accra.

How Big Is Africa?

A silly question prompted a fellow blogger, Texas in Africa, to post this pic, developed by Boston University.

Of course Africa is a sizable continent and not a country (there is even merchandise to prove it here), but how often do we really ponder the size of this great continent?

I knew from before the relative size of Sweden and Ghana (Sweden is almost twice as large with less than half the population), but it never hit me that Africa as a whole is so vast that Europe, US (including Alaska) and China could fit inside.

I must say this overlay of maps intrigues me.

What are your thoughts when you see it?

Chimamanda Adichie: The Problem of A Single Story



A storyteller has as a job to tell stories that are engaging and important. Chimamanda Adichie's account of how single stories have inflicted on her life - and on the African countries we love, is both engaging and important. The single (negative) image of "Africa" that I have been trying to complement in 200+ blog posts here on Rain In Africa, she covers in under 20 minutes.

And luckily, it has been recorded as a TED speech that I can recommend to all of you. For you who are temporarily busy, her powerful conclusion can suffice for now - but when you have time, do listen to her in full.
When we reject the single story, we regain paradise.
Chimamanda Adichie most known works are: Half Of A Yellow Sun (I can't believe I haven't blogged about this book - I adored it) and Purple Hibiscus.

New Poetry Blog: Soursweet Ghana

Last week, I got a chance to do to an impromptu presentation on blogging to a room filled with young women. I wrote on it here.

Tonight, I got an email from Lizzy, a woman who was there and inspired by the talk started her own blog!

She has chosen to present her beautiful poetry combined with stylish photos (her own?) to illustrate the feel. I like the the poems because they discuss common literary themes like the village and the rose, but in a way that carefully avoids clichés. Here's a passage that I enjoyed particularly:
The sun was to be married
Her groom was the moon
Though they met often they never got married
For their meeting brought darkness
The name of the blog is also intriguing: "Soursweet Ghana". Find it here.

I'm so happy I could inspire to this!

Pic from the above-mentioned Women and ICT event.

Ghana Recommendations: Tampico Island

I thought I'd recommend some Ghanaian favorites to you, my dear readers, over the next few weekends, starting with a drink.

Have you tried the new Tampico?

Tampico is a super sweet "juice drink" made in Ghana (but part of an American originated multinational company). Most probably it has more color and sugar in it than any fruit, but in this new version with the tantalizing name "Island", Tampico has really reinvented itself and gone from chemical sweetened mix to...Island drink!

The rich flavored yellow drink poured over a glass full of ice cubes - to dilute the sugar somewhat - surely makes a Sunday sweeter.

Pic: They should have let me do the marketing in Ghana...Photo from my backyard.

Sibling Blogs

My siblings Freja and Aron have finally

1. moved abroad and
2. started to blog

What took you so long?

I think your blogs are the funniest around (unfortunately only in Swedish with few additions in German (Freja) and French (Aron)). Could it be because we grew up together?

Or because one of you is a stand-up comedian/culture producer/actor and one a professional juggler/male nanny?

In the pic: Aron and Freja during a happy moment 2007.

Ghana, Women and ICT

Today, I attended an interesting meeting at the AITI-KACE in Accra on Women and ICT in Ghana.

In a country where general access to computers and Internet is low, women tend to be underrepresented in ICT professions (except when it comes to data entry). However in Nigeria, AITI-KACE's Director General Dorothy Gordon informed us, many ICT classes are totally made up of women and many women in our neighboring country have their own IT companies. Some have even set up IT companies in Ghana!

How can Ghanaian women catch up?

The young educated women in the crowd shared with us that they mostly use computers, many had them in their homes, for checking email and social networking, like facebook.

I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to on the spot present Ghanablogging.com, the aggregator - or list - of Ghanaian blogs I started with a friend back in 2008. I also mentioned two Ghanaian blogs that could serve as inspiration for women who were interested in creating content on the web, rather than just consuming it:
Esi's blog Wo Se Ekyir and
Nana Darkoa and Co's blog Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women.

The response was great, people wanted to know more about Ghanablogging.com and how to start their own blog, so now I am invited to AITI-KACE's Inspiration days 7-8 Oct to talk more about blogging.

Anyone out there who wants to join me in spreading the gospel of blogging?

In the pic some of the participants at the meeting and Dorothy Gordon, Director for the AITI-KACE.

Forward Ever, Backwards Never

Exhausted by the Nkrumah celebrations, I return to the blog with some less than monolithic notes about my daily life, hope thats ok...

Thursday and Friday are my days for research (Mon-Wed I teach and prepare for class or grade stuff) but so far very little research has been done since University of Ghana has not yet gotten back to me on my PhD application. I note my own naiveté in this post from 2007, when I thought the application process would be swift. Ha.

Here is the full story (well, minus all the trips I've taken to "check on my application"): I submitted in March. The university then extended the application period with a month. Sigh. Then the Graduate School went on vacation, then they had to check if my application was complete (it was), then it was sent to the department I wish to study at - Institute of African Studies. The semester started. Then their board met to discuss the graduate proposals, I believe that was on the 2nd of September, so now I don't know what they are waiting for.

I intend to go there today to find out and push my fate. Forward ever, backwards never.

Then I'm having lunch with a very interesting friend and maybe a meeting with Gordon of Aedhotep Developments that I wrote on here.

Later in the afternoon, 3-5 PM there is a meeting on Women and ICT at Kofi Annan Center for Excellence (AITI-KACE). Lets see if I make it there, it does sound interesting.

In the pic, me at University of Ghana in March of last year after starting my application by beginning on my proposal...

Kwame Nkrumah: Known by Many Names

This collection of Nkrumah's (positive) nicknames is being showed at Nubuke Foundation, more details on the exhibit here.

The Messiah
The Saviour
Fountain of Honour
Teacher
Redeemer
Leader
The Infallible
The Ideological Mentor
Show Boy (Which Maya Maame blogged on here)
Osagyefo (Redeemer in Twi)
Asomdwehene (King of Peace)
Oyeadieeyie (Repairman, someone who puts things right)
Kasapreko (Someone who speaks her/his mind)
Blogger AntiRhythm adds two historically interesting names to the list. His christian name "Francis" - and the confused misspelled name that FBI used in their file "Ukrumah", read the stories here and here.

Time Magazine, in August 1962, added "Africa's biggest ego" to the list.

Kwame Nkrumah: The City of Tema (Part 2)

Landmarks in concrete.

The Cocoa Silos

The Kwame Nkrumah Motorway

One of these monolithic structures were never used. The other is the backbone of the Greater Accra economy.

I amuse myself with thinking about if the two had been used - and developed - since the 1960s.

What do you think, does it matter?

Kwame Nkrumah: The City of Tema (Part 1)

Over this week, we have a Kwame Nkrumah theme at Ghanablogging.

I thought I'd write about an important aspect of Nkrumah's legacy. The industrial harbor town of Tema. My new hometown. (I know its beside the point, but also there is almost nothing about Tema, GH, online!)

Let's start my exposé on Tema with Nkrumah's own words. We go back to February 10th, 1962 and the Official Opening of the Tema Harbor. Kwame Nkrumah walks up to a podium and gives his speech.
"By taking advantage of the river systems of West Africa, it should be possible - again, by concerted action - to connect the hinterland, far outside the boarders of Ghana, with this great port of Tema. Thus, in this harbour of Tema, we see a unifying force and an essential requirement in the progress towards African Unity"
Hence, Tema was just one part of the grandiose plan of Africa rising. Tema should be a harbor not just for Ghana, but for Africa. Still today, Burkina Faso, Mali and other landlocked countries are highly dependent on the Tema harbor. What whould they be today without this sea port?

Nkrumah continued his speech with comparing the existing Takoradi harbor "designed by the colonialists to facilitate the exportation of the wealth of the country" to this new sea port. He said:
"Tema is the sign post of the future. It represents the purposeful beginning of the industrialisation of Ghana. It is the signal for industrial expansion, a challenge to our industry and intelligence and a hope for the future."
Tema and its connection to a bright Pan-African future will be my starting point for future deliberations on Tema.

Pic: My first view of the Tema harbor, Xmas 2004.

Kwame Nkrumah: Events in Commemoration

There have been complaints about that Ghana has not managed to plan the centennial of Kwame Nkrumah's birth very successfully. See for instance popular journalist Ato Kwamina Dadzie discuss it here.

It might be true, but let me in the interest in what actually has been planned not go into it further, but instead kick off the KWAME NKRUMAH WEEK with the following Nkrumah celebratory events.

1. Sunday 13th September (today!), Nubuke Foundation opens its photo exhibit of Kwmae Nkrumah's life. In addition to the enlarged photos, a document called a "lexicon" will be presented chronicling Nkrumah's life and deeds. Time: 3.30PM. The exhibit can be viewed until 10th of October. (see picture)

2. Monday-Tuesday 14-15th September, The Dubois Center in collaboration with some other groups organize a symposium. Monday it will be situated at University of Ghana, Tuesday at the center in Labone, Accra. Time: 9AM-5 PM both days.

3. Thursday-Sunday 17-20 September, festivities in Nkrumah's hometown Nkroful organized by the Kwame Nkrumah Centenary Planning Committee announced on Peace FM and referred here.

Hope to see you at some of these events!

Next week: Blogs on Kwame Nkrumah

All of next week, a group of Ghanaian bloggers including myself has decided to dedicate to Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah.

The week leads up to Nkrumah's 100th Birthday, celebrated on the 21st of September.

As Kwame Nkrumah had enormous impact on Ghana and all of Africa, I hope you will read some of the other Ghanaian blogs this upcoming week. They can be found on or Ghanablogging aggregator here.

Pic: One of the most used photos of Nkrumah, tinted purple by me. Who was the photographer?

Shirley Frimpong-Manso's New Movie

For you who, like me, LOVED The Perfect Picture (I posted on it here ) - I have some good news.

According to the blogger Ameyaw Debrah, Writer/producer/director Frimpong-Manso's new film will be called A Sting in A Tale and can best be defined as an "adventure comedy". And it's coming in November!

What ever it is, I'll go see it.

Also, I wonder who would know how much her previous film made at the box office in Ghana and around the globe?

Ps. There is no decent picture of this superwoman online, please NKA, do something!

No Rain in Africa? Few Reports on Flooding in West Africa

One might almost think that there is no Rain in Africa, judging from the extremely sparse Ghanaian journalistic reporting about the flooding that has misplaced 600 000 people in Northern Ghana and other West African countries. According to some reports 25 Ghanaians have already died in the floods.

While BBC had this flooding among its top news yesterday, see for instance here, the issue was glaringly absent from the Daily Graphic front page, the most read newspaperin Ghana on the same day.

On popular news site Ghanaweb, I find only this article on the floods, source CNN (!)

Also reliable radio channel Joy FM, do not place any significance on the flooding in the country. The same CNN article (!!) is what they have listed under Africa/International on their webpage here.

One would think since Ghanaians are dying and we live relatively close to the scene, Ghanaian journalists would be the first to report on this horrible situation to the surrounding world. But sadly, the situation has not improved at all since I blogged about the flooding in 2007 here . What I said then was
people write me about the floods in Ghana - note the irony of that I write a comment on it on my blog “Rain in Africa”. Anyways apparently these floods make it to the news in Sweden, Spain and the US.

Is this news not relevant to Ghana? Do we not care?

Map borrowed from BBC.co.uk/Africa

Website on Ghanaian Food

Through Gayle Pescud's post on Global Voices on Ghanaian cuisine "You Are Invited", I stumbled across Betumi, an extremely well-researched website on Ghanaian foods, created by obruni cum expert Fran Osseo-Asare.

Osseo-Asare writes on many (all?) different aspects of Ghanaian foods - the culture surrounding it, how to make fufu, grilled tilapia and Fante kenkey, as well as the ceremonial uses of Oto etc. The website is complemented by a couple of books (which I have not seen in Ghana) and importantly also features a blog! Latest updated on Thursday on the Ghanaian breakfast served to the Obamas in Ghana on their visit in July.

Osseo-Asare beautifully summarizes the Ghanaian kitchen like this:
I think of Ghanaian cuisine as a kind of culinary jazz. The pepper, tomatoes, and onions, and possibly the oil, form the rhythm section. The stew is one musical form, like blues, the soup and one-pot dishes are others. Like a successful improvisation, the additional ingredients vegetables, seeds and nuts, meat and fish harmonize and combine into vibrant, mellow creations. While Ghanaian cuisine is very forgiving and flexible, there are certain "chords" or combinations that go together, and others that do not. Part of mastering the cuisine requires learning these chords and developing the sense of what goes with what: gari or fried ripe plantain or tatale (ripe plantain pancakes) with red bean stew; kenkey with fried fish and a hot pepper sauce like shito; banku with okra stew; chicken with groundnut soup; soup with fufu; palaver sauce with boiled green plantain or yams or rice.
Read my other posts on Ghanaian foods aka culinary jazz here.

Pic: Jazz in Accra in July 2009.

Ashesi Campus Groundbreaking in Berekuso

On Saturday, I was fortunate to experience the groundbreaking - or sod-cutting - of the new Ashesi University Campus in Berekuso, up in the Akuapim Hills in Ghana. This beautiful hill lies about an hour drive north of Accra and was breezy and green on this joyous day.

The university which is currently housed in a residential area in down-town Accra, hopes on this campus extend its student population from 400 to 600 and of course provide a less distracting and more beautiful environment.

The ceremony came off to a bit of a late start, but that was lucky since the townfolk of Berekuso had to climb the steep hill by foot and arrived just in time for the chiefs' arrival. I can safely say all of Berekuso town were there, small and big, clad in gold, colorful cloths or in school uniform.

The whole experience was wonderful, but I think the most touching part of the day was when the chief explained how welcome the university was by telling us that a residential developer had inquired about purchasing that very hill for a project.
- But we would rather have an educational institution here in Berekuso.

Or maybe the most emotional part was when we cheered for Patric Awuah, the founder of the University during the presentation of dignitaries. And then his mother was introduced and the crowd went from loud cheer to complete euphoria!(Gotta love the Ghanaian mother-centered culture!)

Other articles on this event were written by Friends of Ashesi/Todd Warren, Peace FM, and the official version here.

New Job, New Week

Last week, was my first at my new job.

As always when you start something afresh there is loads of information, faces and guidelines to take in
"you must create a new password", "Hi, don't you remember me?", "you should park here" etc ad infinitum.
In this case there is also a class of 47 students as I will be teaching Expository Writing for freshmen, or first year students.

Already all this steady stream of new has provided me with the best quality sleep for a long, long time. And already I love my new job!

Pic: White board answers for "how do you become a better writer?" It says Reading, Interview, Listening, Vocabulary, Critical Thinking, Dictionary, Write more, Talking more.

More Broadband in Ghana

Chinese company Huawei are to ensure broadband infrastructure in all of our green country within two years. The initiative falls under the government's ICT Backbone Development Programme. Bloggers, lets keep an eye on this!

I read it here.

What a thing!

I present without much further ado: translate.google.com.

As of now, Swedish articles I've written (and written about) will be possible to read in English, see for instance the UPDATE at on the Adopted article some days ago!

Confused Blogging

Dear Reader,
I'm back to my first blog name "Rain in Africa" again.

Why?
Well, maybe the new name was implemented in a rush. Yeah, without me thinking about consequences of a name change, how it has to be discussed with you. But also its meaning...A new name has to be really good and self explanatory. I guess what I really wanted to do was to finding a name that captures the essence of my blog, something that says "I write about Ghana" (because really, I don't write much about Africa), then buy a domain so that you will have something like iwriteaboutghana.com - simple and nice.

I have also been contemplating leaving blogger for the more advanced wordpress (org more likely than com), now that I spend so much time blogging and talking about blogging.

So, I am just temporarily going back to "Rain in Africa", soon I will migrate to something all again different. But the content will be, more or less, the same.

Any questions?

Suggestions also much welcomed, of course.
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