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 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?) 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.
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