>Funeral Culture in Ghana

> This years BBC World Service radio play competition had one Ghanaian in the top. Benjamin Kent wrote the play “Funeral Bells” which evolves around the oh-so-common Ghanaian funeral. Loads of people, food and drinks, but often you don’t even know the deceased…

Listen to the play here.

In the pic, my mother-in-law and me at a funeral for someone I’d never met, in a village in Central region, Ghana .

>Ghana Elections Update

>So, now the elections are off to a second round, taking place on December 28th and with results probably not until just before next year starts, as Maya predicts.

When the total results were in, the “high turnout” (that I wrote about here) was also adjusted, into something much lower than last time. The Economist also questioned the high turnout from last presidential elections citing a bloated voters registry to cause the extraorinary turnout. They concluded wryly:

This time fewer votes were cast by the under-age, the multiply-registered and the dead.

This first round of elections where the opposition party NDC overtook a number of parliament seats from the ruling NPP, but left NPP on top -if just slightly – in the presidential elections, shows that people in Ghana do consider split ballots. Also, the campaign funds that probably were several times greater for the incumbents, much caused by their strong support by the middle class and Ghanaian Diaspora overseas, does not seem to have had any greater impact.

The elections were deemed free and fair by international observers and from my point of view, everybody has remained very calm, even when the two leading parties only were divided by little over 1%.

Maybe it is too soon to draw big conclusions on the quality of Ghana’s democracy, but it surely looks promising.

>High Turnout in Ghana Elections

> Still there is no proclaimed winner of Sunday’s elections here in Ghana. According to Al Jazeera the incumbent NPP holds a slight lead, but according to local radio channel Joy FM the race is still a complete tie, with more than half of the constituencies counted.

However, judging from international press it is clear is that the turnout was high, but no estimates have been given here either. According to the African Elections database the turnout was 60 % for the 2000 presidential elections and a impressing 85 % last time around in 2004. Can this year’s turnout really exceed that?

In the pic a friend with a purple pinkie indicating that he had voted.

>A Close Call

>Election results from yesterdays elections start trickling in. We are many who think there will be a second round of elections since a full majority or 50% of the votes are needed to win the presidential seat.

It seems elections went fine, my parents in law didnt even have to queu, but could move ahead straight to the polls because of their (high) age. My friend who voted in the afternoon also came out in 5 minutes with a purple stained pinkie.

Now we just have to wait and see.

>Cinema Celebrations

> This weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the newly opened Silverbird Cinemas in Accra. I am not the biggest fan of watching films in company of strangers, so bloggers Abena, Maya and Que beat me to it. However, not even having the option to go, makes the cinema love grow…For the longest time – probably since early 1990s when TV-sets and videotapes came to Ghana in bulk – Ghana’s capital Accra has been without a cinema. Ok, there are the dubious “video houses” where you rent a film that comes with a private room for you and your company. The one I went to last year had a sofa bed with a rubber cover, hm, wonder what goes on in there…

However, that is now in the past and Accra has now its own five screen cinema, located in the Accra Mall, a shopping complex put together by Broll Management of South Africa, according to afridigital.net. There is popcorn scent all around, red cosy chairs, people to sell tickets (GHC 10 each) and others to rip them apart and say, “welcome, there is free seating”. There is Bond and College-films, Indian Golmaal and the occasional comedy.

So now, when the sun is just too much, there is an opportunity to go into the dark, heavily air-conditioned cinema hall and be swept away. My tip is, bring a blanket and someone you can wrap your arm around. It was really very cold in there.

Pic borrowed from Abena.

>Tribal Vote in Ghana?

> This is the Electoral Map of the 2004 elections, blue for NPP, green for NDC. As you can see distinct areas of the country support different parties, eg. the central part of Ghana was predominately NPP and the north and the east mostly voted for NDC. As it happens, these geographical areas broadly converts into ethnic groups or tribes.

This year there has been a concern that the ethnic vote will create violence and confusion and this possibility has been met with not less than three campaigns: (1), (2), (3), to stem eventual violence. However, when I have talked to people, this is not a big concern. Some say, former presidents have been from different tribes; Ashanti, Ewe, and the main contestants this time around are from yet other tribes; Akyem and Fanti, so we have nothing to worry about. Others talk about an Electoral commission that is competent and independent, so who can then meddle with election results?

Even so, the majoritarian, winner-takes-all political system Ghana shares with USA has the disadvantage of leaving minorities unrepresented. Maybe Ghana, as a country with many ethnic groups would be better served with a multiparty, consensual political system? Read Eric Kwesi Bottah’s insightful article for more arguments for a multiparty system in Ghana.

On Sunday the Ghanaian general elections are on, and the question is how Ghanaians will vote this time?

Map from excellent elections’ site thinkghana.com/elections/

>The Academic Future of Africa

> I have spent a few days at The University Leaders’ Forum 08, organized by Partnership for Higher Education in Africa (PHEA) in collaboration with University of Ghana. It was a conference around the topic of the New Generation of Academics.

Because of the emergence of a global knowledge society, enrollment rates world wide are increasing, in Africa even more so, putting pressure on the aging group of university lecturers and highlighting the need for new blood. At the same time, young well educated people move abroad in search of better opportunities, hence increasing the pressure on those remaining.

Even if the enrollment rates are increasing, its not enough. Many drop out, many more do not have access to tertiary education and finally very few become university lecturers in Africa. The consequences are two; there will not be enough teachers to educate the new generation, even at lower levels. Additionally, with a low output of tertiary graduates, Africa will be left behind in the knowledge economy.

My research looking at why Ghanaian students migrate (or don’t) was a perfect fit for the conference. I was the most junior participant and enjoyed the discussions and academic input. It was highly rewarding to meet with Vice-Chancellors from the whole continent, researchers whose works I’ve read and foreign founders who work relentlessly to change the academic environment in Africa, but will the change come from them?

The map from Worldmapper.org shows the territory size by world wide proportion of people enrolled in tertiary education, who live there. Thanks to the VC of University of Western Cape, Brian O’Connell for pointing me to this effective visualizing aid.

>Ghanaian Food Surprise

> I woke up on Monday to find a kiosk outside our wall, just next to the carport. A blue stall, common for selling Ghanaian fast foods had just appeared over night. Instantly, I felt a bit pissed off: this unauthorized tiny building had been erected right in my reverse turn radius, making getting out in the morning with my car much more difficult.

-Good morning! You must try my waakye!

The lady preparing and selling the fast food looks at me with a bright smile offering me some Ghanaian brown rice cooked with beans, waakye. I smile back. Maybe it is not all that bad having fast food available 10 meters from my front door.

Recipy for waakye here.

In the pic, people in line at another food stand.

>View out of Ghana: Fotball

> Ghana is the golden country of football. On every small patch of land there is a game coming on in the early mornings and weekends. The European leagues and African derby’s are followed closely on TV. African Cup of Nations hosted by Ghana earlier this year let to even more fotball fever. Fotball is fun. Fotball is entertainment. Fotball is also a possible way out of poverty.

He is a compact, well-built 22 year old I met in front of the Danish embassy earlier this year. Since a young age, growing up in poor circumstances, this young man just knew he was going to be a professional footballer. He was good, he trained a lot and really enjoyed his play. However, his father would not hear of it, but instead wanted his son to work long hours to make money for the family. He moved away from home in his early teens, forced to support himself to be able to continue developing as a footballer.

His talent shone through and soon a prominent Ghanaian football club signed him on for their junior team. They made sure he was put though football academy to further develop his skills with the leather ball. Then last summer, a Swedish coach came to Ghana to look for young talents. His eye fell on my friend and in September he was flown to Sweden to do try outs. Back in Ghana, he was approached by an agent and currently also teams in other parts of the world is showing an interest for the young footballer, a striker who can shoot with either foot. Now he is up in the air, will any of these teams sign him on?

Smiling, he tells me this story over a chilled bottle of Soda water in a nice bar in central Accra. I laugh admiringly and can’t help but ask, but how could you possibly know you would make it?

His eyes grow dark, his jaw tightens.
-I just knew it, I know I am good.

The Ghanaian Dream has been lived by my friend Daniel. His amazing story has all the ingredients of a good tale, except for that the happy ending is – how can I put it – pending.

In the pic, Daniel is showing me pictures and newspaper clippings from his fotball career so far.

>Ghana, Corruption and the Afrobarometer

> I got my hands on a recent Afrobarometer report gracefully put together by Ghanaian think-tank Center for Democratic Development (CDD). The report prepared in June, assesses the Ghanaian’s assessment of the current NPP government. A face-to-face survey was carried out in March this year with 1200 respondents and was the forth round of surveys carried out in Ghana by Afrobarometer.

This being an election year, which I have posted on earlier here, the reading is quite interesting. Basically, large majorities approve of president Kufuor’s performance and the NPP’s policies, especially related to healthcare and education. The trust ratings for the current president are high (88% answered just a little/somewhat/a lot to if they trust the prez) has significantly increased since 2002 (64%) and 2005 (75%).

Surprisingly with this background, a large majority or 70% of Ghanaians also perceive there is corruption in the presidency (the figure above has from my understanding derived from again adding up the answers just a little/somewhat/a lot). Back in 2005, little over half or 56% of the Ghanians perceived corruption in the presidency suggesting a considerable change in people’s view about what goes on in the castle.

I am glad to come across such a important and interesting report underpinned by current and sufficient data, however I find this results very puzzling. Do these results mean Ghanaians trust politicians they believe to be corrupt?

The report can be found here.

Pic: A painting of some murky, corrupt men? Or is it enraged citizens? Or a politician accompanied by her life guards? I recently fell in love with this artwork in an exhibit, unfortunately without recording the artist.

>Learn Twi Today!

> Since I came to Ghana, I have been trying to learn the language most often spoken around me, Twi. It is an Akan language spoken as a first language by about 40% of the Ghanaians and as a secondary language my many more.

Ever since I was given a pajama with the mysterious world fleur on it, learning a language is something that has been intriguing to me. My mother told me the word meant “flower” in French, which was somewhat confirmed by a white flower blossoming below the puzzling word. When i said “fleuuur”, I was speaking French! That thought always made me smile.

Language opens doors and can make you become a part of something new, which I touched on earlier here. A newly discovered fellow “obruni” (foreigner) Maame J, descibes her and her half-Ghanaian son’s journey to learn Twi here. It is highly interesting reading for me, and what hits me it how difficult it is to find the tools for learning, so I’d thought I’d describe my process of learning Twi here on my blog.

1, I learned numbers and the Ghanaian weekday-names (find out your name here). A good investment.

2, During my first visit to Ghana, I picked up common phrases like
(Thank you) Me da wo ase (Reply) – Me nda wo ase
(Greeting) – Agoo (reply) Amee
(Wishing someone happy holidays) Afe hya pa (reply) – Afe nkommo tu ye
(How are you?)Ete sen? (reply) – Eye (NOTE spelling is indicative)
It was really difficult just to remember the simplest of phrases.

3, I bought a book in preparation for my move to Ghana, “Let’s Learn Twi: Ma Yensua Twi”. It was ok, for a schooled person it is always good to get the spelling and “look” of foreign words. However, some phrases were a bit old-fashioned. For example few Twi speaking people today say Mema wo akye (I give you daylight), but rather uses the English “Good morning”.

4, I lived with my mother in law for three months and really got the melody of the beautiful language, she speaks the Fanti dialect, as well as all possible greetings (nkyea) under my skin. This is probably the best way to learn a language.

5, Bought Florence Abena Dolphyne’s text book, “A Comprehensive Course in Twi (Asante) for the Non-Twi Learner” a smallish red text book from the University of Ghana bookstore for GHC 4 (same in USD) which is a very useful manual for learning the language. It also has extremely useful phrases like Me ye osuani (I’m a student).

6, Lately, I have been lazy and just lived in the language. Interestingly, it seems like I cant help but learning just from existing in a Ghanaian context. I speak to guards, professors, relatives and coworkers and listen (ok, eavesdrop) a lot too.

7, The future hopefully holds a course of some kind. Maybe at the University of Ghana or some other institution. I need to get into the next gear.

The best resource for learning a language is probably a life partner speaking that language. However, my husband has not been very helpful after step one, but that proves that even without that type of support it is possible to learn a language. Apart from books there are resources on the web such as the Twi-English Dictionary (seems to focus on biblical phrases). Kotey’s dictionary can also in part be accessed online. Google Twi Kasa, I have written about here. Wikipedia in Twi can be found here. A video on kids learning Twi here. I have also come across a Twi Pimsleur audio course on the net, as well as the US Foreign Service course has anyone tried them?

Most interestingly I found this 43things-list of 27 people who want to learn Twi. Well, 28 with me!

In the pic, a beautiful silent sculpture I came across in North Legon last week.

>Swedish Moment

> Just imagine my surprise as I drive to work and see a buss with a typically Swedish name printed accross it – Haglunds buss. Still with the Swedish phone number on it, this bus today serves the citizens of Accra rather than of Ljusdal, not far from where my father was born. It is just amazing how globalized trading is.

I have written earlier about European newspapers ending up in Ghana here.

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