New Issue of Dust Magazine

I hope you have come across the new issue of Ghana’s best free magazine, Dust. “It’s everywhere” is their clever slogan (but now I can’t find it on the mag – did I dream it?) and it is true as you can pick it up in different places, but also read it online: Dust December Issue 2010.

The magazine is the brainchild of my friend Chrystal and a bunch of Ghanabloggers are involved: Kobby Graham as editor, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah as a returning contributor and Esi Cleland as this issue’s featured blogger!

Read it to get a glimpse of the cool, cultural, urban Ghana that also exists along the more traditional images of my home country.

…And in Ivory Coast – Election Mayhem?

Outtara

Just reading this report from MyJoyOnline on how Ivory Coast is now closed for traveling and to foreign news agencies and the sore loser in the election, incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo is pulling strings to get back the power of the country, just awarded to the opposition leader Alassane Outtara. The report suggests:

The head of the independent electoral commission (IEC) , Youssouf Bakayoko, said Mr Ouattara had won 54% of the vote, compared to 46% for Mr Gbagbo.

He was speaking under armed guard at a hotel, rather than from the commission’s headquarters.

This interesting timeline of Ivory Coast by BBC reminds us of Ivory Coast’s volatile past and that Outtara was the presidential candidate who was accused of not being a national Ivorian (but rather from Burkina Faso) back in 1999. Violence seems to be lingering in the air, and attacks on party offices have already been reported.

Fellow Ghana blogger Osabutey suggests Gbabgo should be stopped before he burns down the country, but who would stop him?

Pic borrowed from BBC/AFP.

Internet Problems

H i dear reader,

I am thinking of you, but have been unable to communicate with you due to some serious Internet problems at home (nonexisting since about a week) and at work (slow, slow, slooow). I have so much to tell you, but alas, the final exam season is upon us at work, so even if technology would support me, my time table at the moment would allow only for very short posts.

I’ll be back in this space in a week or two.

End of 2010 – Already?

Flipping through my calendar (a Filofax my friends always tease me about because it is big, heavy and not modern at all) my eyes fix on today’s date: 23 November 2010. I shake my head. Really, November? November as in the end of the year?

Life in Ghana without seasons – or ok, with very different and more subtle seasons – always confuses me about the time of year. This morning for example, I stepped out in our garden in flip-flops and a waxprint cloth around me. The sun shone with hot rays on my face, just like the sun in an early July morning in Sweden. But /snap/ it is November.  And that means another year has soon passed again.

Can you believe it is the end of 2010, a year I feel has just begun?

Are you ready for 2011?

Emilie Reports from A Ghanaian Village

Emilie, Kuapa Kokoo worker Frank and cocoa beans.

My good friend and former class mate  Emilie Persson, fairtrade activist and Ghana-lover, is currently living in a cocoa producing village in Ghana and writing reports for Divine Chololate’s blog. (I hope you have tasted Divine’s fairtrade chocolate made from Ghanaian cocoa?)

In Emilie’s first post she writes:

I will try to capture some of the everyday activities from one of the many villages where the Kuapa Kokoo farmers live and where farmer grow the cocoa for the company they co-own – Divine.

As a masters-graduate in global studies, from the University of Gothenburg in western Sweden, I’ve been given an exciting opportunity to spend two months in the Ghanaian countryside, more exactly Assin Akonfudi in the central region. Having a passionate interest for development and agriculture and with several years of experience advocating Fairtrade in Sweden, it’s great to be able to get a more in-depth insight into the lives of the farmers behind Divine.  I hope it will be as interesting for you too!

Weekly, she will be writing  updates and posting her wonderful pictures. So check back in!

Today is also Emilie’s birthday. Happy birthday, dear friend, hope you’ll have an excellent day in the cocoa village!

Swedish Trade Minister in Ghana

Currently the Swedish Trade Minister Eva Bjorling is in Ghana.

The minister has been visiting a Swedish-Ghanaian theater project, had meetings with Ericsson in Ghana and met with Ghana’s Trade Minister Hanna Tetteh. According to Peace FM, Bjorling said that

“trade relations between the two countries had steadily increased over the years, indicating increased interest among Swedish companies to strengthen business relations with Ghana.”

I believe that the last time Sweden sent a minister to Ghana was in 2006 (captured on the popular Swedish TV program Diplomaterna). Earlier this year, the Swedish Ambassador to West Africa promised increased investments in Ghana from Swedish companies. And now this visit, so maybe ties between Ghana and Sweden are actually being strengthened.

I feel it is hopeful that the relationship between my two countries, Sweden and Ghana, is based on trade rather than aid.

Some Swedish companies in Ghana are Sandvik, AtlasCopco, MTG/ViaSat and Ericsson.

Accra – A Boring City?

When I first moved to Accra, I found the city boring, dusty and event-less.

Three years on and counting, I am not sure if it is the city that has changed or my network that has grown. Maybe both?

Yesterday, I knew of five interesting events happening simultaneously:

the Ghanablogging November Meet-Up I arranged at cozy Cafe Dez Amis (former Afrikiko), a discussion evening with entertainment for diasporan Ghanaians and others at Golden Tulip Hotel. There was also a fund-raiser coctail at Bella Roma Restaurant in Osu, a first meeting for the new expat network InterNations at Rhapsody’s and the High Vibes music festival also opened… (click on link to see program for the following week!)

I smiled to myself as I hurriedly left the first event for the second, smiling because I felt like this was the first time I was actually missing out on something in Accra…

I only resent that events often are announced short in advance (some less than 48 hours !)  and that there is no information central for finding out about “all” events (if there is, please let me know!). I believe that makes Accra rather boring for a newcomer.

What do you say, is Accra boring?

A Day at the Car Shop

This morning, I rushed out early to just fix “the alignment” of the car, something that is needed often here because of all the potholes which makes the steering wheel…dis-aligned, I guess.

However, it turned out to not be alignment, balancing or any wheel related issue that made my steer shake when braking, but the BRAKES! Yikes!

So, I decided brakes are important and called in a replacement for my 11 am class. I think I said:

“I might not be in at all”, suggesting not until 12.30.

Haha, big understatement!

After visiting with two vulcanizers, two car shops, meeting a chief and his cool American car, getting to know everybody on the wooden bench where I waited (including a poetic but jobless mechanic, a muslim mechanic buying prayer CDs from bearded guy, a few other customers – mostly men and a talkative supervisor) , pacing up and down, eating a FanIce, asking a few (ok, many) times how much longer it would be, drinking two bottles of water and discovering there was no washroom, after using all my Twi vocab,

“Enye easy koraaa!”

Finally, I was calling to cancel my afternoon appointments and buying some biskit to eat, trying to think about the anthropological importance of  “my corner” to cheer myself up.  I was out by quarter to 4.

Just in time for afternoon traffic.

But at least with good breaks.

Learning A Language with the Help of Your Spouse

I am not sure if this is relationship or a language breakthrough, but here it is:

My significant other has not been of much help in my quest for learning to speak Akan or Twi, Ghana’s biggest local language (much like my non-exsistant contribution to his Swedish, to be fair). He speaks a dialect of Twi, Fanti, that is beautiful and eloquent.

Anyways, since I started to get serious about my language studies, I regularly ask him all sorts of questions.

What is “this” called?
How you say “x” or “y”?
Why did you say “a” instead of “b”?
Is “c” the same thing as “d” or rather like “e”?

I understand all of these endless questions are annoying, but thought he’d happily collaborate as it was in fact his mother tongue I was hellbent on learning. But instead I was met with:

Please, not now, I am tired…
Uh, I dunno?
Ahhh, it is just so!
I don’t remember.

Recently, however, a few words have been remembered, an explication of a strange grammar rule has slipped out and the odd Akan proverb has been interspersed in conversation.

And tonight something happened that makes me believe this is a steady development, possibly leading towards me having an in-house tutor. I called my spouse on the phone, and as so many times before, addressed him in Twi.

-Mepa wochew, medu fie.

Only this time, he replied in the same language.

-Yoo. Mereba sisiara.

Ghana International Book Fair with Tranan

Today, I am going to the 9th Ghana International Book Fair, taking place at the Trade Fair in Accra.

There I’ll be meeting up with Sara and Styrbjörn from Swedish publisher Tranan which publishes African writers in Swedish. I will also meet their counterpart in Ghana, Akos from Sub-Saharan Publishers and hopefully also have some time to browse around and buy some books. Maybe even run in to my colleague Accra Books and Things!

This weekend, the Book Fair in collaboration with Tranan will hold some interesting workshops, one on Creative writing that I plan to attend.

I feel so lucky to know these interesting people and to be able to experience Ghana’s own book fair, because what is better than books?

Self Branding for Bloggers

Today, I had an interesting lunch with a branding specialist who introduced me to the concept of “self branding”.

My new friend the branding specialist suggested that branding is much, much more than marketing, larger than presentation, it involves everything you do and how you do it – that has to do with goals and purpose as well. She stressed the importance of adapting your own brand communication to your environment. Branding yourself in Ghana, maybe even in certain circles of Accra, is different from doing it in South Africa or Sweden. I was intrigued and to understand this idea of self branding better, I did some research and this is what I found…

Lea Ancantara is someone who has made a career out of what she calls “The Art of Self Branding” and her website which has all kinds of resources (PowerPoints, lectures on sound files, book tips, articles etc). It all  starts with a mini summary of her understanding of the concept:

Who are you? Who cares?

In a longer article, Lea Ancantara further suggests you should do some research into how you are perceived, who your “market” consists of (in blogging we call them “readers”), but also think about where you came from, what your “story” is and to try to be consistent. In the end, Lea returns to the initial question, adding a few more which should be answered quickly by your branding effort:

Who am I? What am I? Where am I? Who are you? How’d I get here?

The always interesting Fast Company suggests in an article on Self Branding by Tom Peters that the web with its personal websites is a part of it:

how do you know which sites are worth visiting, which sites to bookmark, which sites are worth going to more than once? The answer: branding. The sites you go back to are the sites you trust. They’re the sites where the brand name tells you that the visit will be worth your time — again and again. The brand is a promise of the value you’ll receive.

And here I started to get really interested, how do I create a blog brand that makes people come back? And how is that branding?

Here are my thoughts…and I have tried without knowing it was called self-branding. For instance, I was thinking long and hard about what picture to use in my heading, what colors,  what slogan to use (“Lecturer, Freelance Writer and Blogger in Ghana” is the current version), to be consistent in tone and content, what topics to write on (still too many?), what categories to use… Lately, I have noticed (the readership of) my blog is not really growing, maybe because I have been to busy to do more than post. I rarely market my blog these days. Or is it because of conflicting branding messages?

Anyways, life has more to it than blogging. There is also the real world…

Tom Peters/Fast Company and Lea Ancantara/The Art of Self Branding both talk about how self branding, as opposed to business branding have no limits. Yes, you can use a blog, But that is just one example. Fast company presents another idea to do projects just to show new people who you are and what you can do and I must say I just love this attitude of working to network:

Sign up for an extra project inside your organization, just to introduce yourself to new colleagues and showcase your skills — or work on new ones. Or, if you can carve out the time, take on a freelance project that gets you in touch with a totally novel group of people.

Writing in local newspapers and volunteering to speak at conferences are other “visibility” tips.

Now over to you, dear reader.

Self branding, is it something you think about? How do you feel about being a brand? If you are a blogger, do you have a “blogging brand”?

Pic borrowed from this blog.