Mandela in Memoriam or How Should We Remember Him?

In 2005, I went to South Africa for a three week visit. It was amazing. I remember beautiful vistas of mountains and penguins, Freshly ground’s hit, pinstriped crowds on busy Jo’Burg streets, sweaty DJ sets at “Mama Africa Club” in Cape Town, ANC songs sung in a minivan somewhere on the Eastern Cape, touring the Apartheid museum with chills down my spine and braii moments with plenty of meat and laughter.

I also remember getting a text message from the first of my close friends to have a baby. “Boy has arrived! Mother and child are both healthy!” In my joy, I was looking for something to buy and soon found the perfect gift. A onesie with pink stripes and a stylized photo of Mandela. It was gift wrapped and delivered to the newborn child.

In the weeks since Nelson “Madiba” Mandela’s passing the discussion on how to remember Mandela. As a young lawyer? A son of a traditional leader? A terrorist? A prisoner? A father and husband? A world leader? A pacifist? A nice guy? The best guy ever?

mandela onesie

That I think of “Madiba” as a icon on a kid’s outfit, I find both horrible and hopeful. Horrible as it reduces a revolutionary to a commercial item, but also hopeful as his leadership – immortalised by a calm smile on an ageing face – in a small way will be remembered by the next generation across the globe. 

Photo borrowed from The Tuesday Photo.

Give Blood, Save a Life!

“I feel especially passionate about the need for each and every one of us to give blood. Mothers who suffer complications from delivery often need blood. It is not good enough to say that I will give blood when a relative or friend needs it. We should all give blood regularly to save a life.”

Earlier this year, I gave blood for the first time. It was very easy and much quicker than I had anticipated. Now Ghana’s blood banks are again running dry – and that at the season when most is needed. So please, if you are healthy, do what you can.

Sat 30th Nov or Fri 6 Dec is your chance to give blood, more details here.

The intense bit. That wasn't even very intense.
The intense bit. That wasn’t even very intense.

Sweden’s Colonial Past

In a very interesting piece for Africa Is A Country Blog (the one “that’s not about famine, Bono, or Barack Obama”), Swedish journalist Johan Palme points out that there seems to be a strong recent interest in the Colonial past of Sweden. Because despite what our history classes told us, of course there was.

He talks to historian David Nilsson who says:

“It is true that Swedish interests in Africa were only marginal at the time, and Sweden remained a minor player. But qualitatively I see no distinct line between Sweden and other countries,” he says. “Sweden went to Berlin as a peer among nations, accepted and condoned the proceedings. It was a political justification of a social process that had already begun as Swedish officers and missionaries were already taking part in the colonization of Africa.”

I remember my first visit  to the Ghanaian tourism site, the Cape Coast castle, where slaves were kept in waiting for transport overseas and being horrified when told that Swedes first established a trade point here. “First the Swedes, then the Danes, Portuguese and Brits…”, the guide went on with a monotone voice. I was confused, but my mouth was already talking:

– But the Swedes were never involved in slave trade, right?

The guide glanced over at me and did not have to respond. I got it. The feeling was chilling.

Palme debates why this colonial discussion is now appearing on several fronts  and concludes interestingly that the apparent newfound guilt is maybe merely a fashion and nothing deeper like wanting to understand our history fully:

“Rather than radically re-engineering its [Sweden’s] relationships internationally, perhaps it [looking into the colonial past] is a mere cosmetic paint to appear good again, good by today’s standards.”

A good, and chilling, read!

Research Update – Winning Choices or Hacks for PhD Productivity

Research collage

As readers of this blog knows well, I am a PhD candidate with the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana currently doing my data collection for my dissertation. My research moves very slowly, but this semester, I can see I have gotten over the “what is it really that I am doing?”-stage and entered “this is what I am doing!”-stage of my research degree. The feeling is swell. Some of the winning choices I have made this year includes:

  1. taken help from research assistants Ibrahim and Esther (and maybe Seth). They need to learn about the research process, I need admin help. They could use some extra cash, I could use some more hours in my week. Win-win.
  2. spent many more hours in the UG Balme Library as graduate students now have a lovely Research Commons there. The space is just so beautiful, I am collecting for a photo post on the sublime building that is Balme library.
  3. transferred my research library onto Zotero (finally! it took me three full days and it is not 100% yet, but just going through my readings was useful!)
  4. thinking about my research every day. In the car, the first 30 minutes in my office in the morning or after dinner. Solutions only come after much thinking.
  5. grabbed every opportunity to publish or present. I decided to do this as the main purpose of doing a PhD is to learn the craft of research, however when feeling slightly overwhelmed with just your regular work – extra stuff seems…crazy! But it is not, in new constellations, be it with conference participants, abstract reviewers or a taxi driver, I have learned more about the craft.

What good choices have you made in your career this year?

 

 

Customer Service in Ghana and Your Role: The Case of Vodafone Ghana

I have been offline at home for two weeks and after multiple interactions with my broadband distributor, Vodafone Ghana, I feel compelled to write about my experiences. This is not a new topic for me, or for many other bloggers (last year, for instance I wrote about the upside to Ghanaian Customer Service) but I wanted to show some examples of how you can use social media for improving on customer service and faster reaching your goal.

1. Take it to social media.

The official routes of complaint (going to the office to report the issue and calling Customer Care) had little effect, so after a week my husband told me, why don’t you Tweet this? Within hours we had a response. The accounts I used were @vodafoneghana & @askvodafonegh On Facebook, I got friends to share their experiences. Yesterday, I live tweeted my call to customer service. I am now blogging about it. Hopefully, someone who is on charge of customer care at Vodafone will see this. The chance is bigger than if I just moan at home.

2. Always record the name of the customer service attendant you are in contact with.

Thus far, we have made around 12 contacts with Vodafone (plus friends at Vodafone seeing online complaints and stepping in). For the record it is good to know who promised what. I realise customer service people in Ghana are very reluctant to give out last names or direct numbers (maybe for good reasons), but insist on a first name.

3. Be persistent and claim your rights.

I believe that a pricy service must have excellent customer service. For 180 GHC ($90) per month, I expect my broadband to work every day. Two weeks interruption for what ever reason is unacceptable. I have not hesitated to remind customer service personel what I am paying for their service and what effects it not working has on my work.

4. Talk to friends

When I discuss my problem with friends on and offline it seems many have had similar experiences. It has encouraged me and I have also gotten hints on what to do. Some of my friends even work at Vodafone and have taken steps of me – talk about committed employees! (or very good friends…or both).

5. Educate the company

On Tuesday after 13 days without my broadband, I was offered a backup system. Although a dongle is not the same as unlimited broadband, I think this was a nice gesture. However, the information was we had to drive to the Accra office to pick it up during office hours. Travelling to a different town to belatedly get some help and also sacrificing work (the round trip is about 3 hours) is unreasonable. And so I told the company. Their attitude changed and yesterday they instead asked for my address.

Last month, the Third Customer Service Week was held in Ghana. Companies like Nest of Ideas do Customer Service Training. There is also a Gimpa Course in Customer Service Management. Clearly companies in Ghana are in a learning stage when it comes to customer service and I am hopeful.

However, I think customers have an important role to play. We need to use social media to highlight what is not working, be persistant and educate the companies on what we expect. I understand telecommunications companies in Ghana have many challenges and I appreciate their efforts at delivering customer service, for instance I think the Vodafone Twitter account @askvodafonegh is commendable. Through out the two weeks I have been in touch with Vodafone I have seen customer service systems change before my eyes!

What do you think, is customer service in Ghana improving?

 

 

 

Mango Tree Trumphs Broad Band!

A tree fell on our phone line nine days ago and it has still not been rectified (hrm, Vodafone) – normally I blog from home, but now that is impossible. And I wanted to tell you all about the solar eclipse, my Google styled office and the #PayPal4Ghana campaign.

I hope to be back here soon! 

My Impressions from African Studies Conference, Oct 24-26, ICAS13

Oh, there is so much to say after a three day conference. But a picture says more than 1000 words, right?

Between the president’s lovely speech, the youngest participant, the great conference bags/cloth, the fashions show(!) there were the academic highlights of discussions on panel papers, insightful key note speeches and meetings of fellow colleagues – it is hard to chose just one impression to highlight!

It was a wonderful conference and I hope I made some lasting connections! 

You can follow the Institute of African Studies on Facebook and Twitter as well as on YouTube (where some of the key speeches will end up soon!)

IMG_0012 IMG_0013 IMG_0010 IMG_0001 IMG_0002 IMG_0003 IMG_0004 IMG_0005 IMG_0006 IMG_0007 IMG_0008 IMG_0011

Ghana’s President in Sweden, Sweden’s Minister of Trade in Ghana

Right now, Ghana’s president John Dramani Mahama is in Sthockholm cohosting the GAVI alliance meeting for immunization and next week the Swedish Minister for Trade, Annie Lööf, will be coming to Ghana.

John Dramani Mahama

In the photo, minister Lööf and president Mahama. Photo borrowed from the Swedish government website/ Martina Huber.

The president is in Stockholm to campaign for vaccines for all children. Ghana is an “Immunization Champion” and have a strong track-record on immunizations. From the website of GAVI:

“As an innovative global health partner, GAVI is committed to promoting the health of children through immunisation and this must be commended”, President Mahama stated in a meeting with Ms. Evans.

He further observed that, “GAVI deserves the support of all leaders desirous of building healthier communities. I pledge my unflinching support as an Immunisation Champion to enable GAVI achieve its noble objectives.”

The Swedish minister comes to Ghana with a trade delegation including Ericsson, ABB, Atlas Copco, Sandvik och Eltel, continuing on the visit three years ago with the then Minister of Trade Ewa Bjorling. The minister is also following up on her favorite issues: innovation and womens’ leadership. She will visit a local innovation hub, Meltwater, and talk to Ghana’s minister of foreign affairs, Hanna Tetteh about women in politics, according to her schedule (only in Swedish).

Granted, these two news items are suitable for a Swedish/Ghanaian blog. But this time, there are more connections! Last week, I saw Mahama at the ICAS13 conference , my daughter got immunized and next week I have been invited to meet with Annie Lööf ! Report to follow.

International Conference on African Studies #ICAS13 at Legon, Ghana

You have the mic.This week, my department, the Institute of African Studies at University of Ghana is organizing a major conference on the theme: “Revisiting the first international congress of Africanists in a globalised world”. The three day conference is apart of the institute’s 50th anniversary celebration and also links to the 1963 convention for Africanists opened by Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah. This conference will be opened by the current president, John Dramani Mahama!

Key note speakers are Kenyan professor and writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, professor Fatou Sow, specialist in gender studies and Dr. Carlos Lopez from the UN Economic Commission for Africa. Almost all the big names in the world of African Studies seem to be in the program, framed by exhibits, cultural performances and receptions.

I will be involved in two capacities – as a PhD candidate of the institute obviously I have to present a paper. Mine is a slight deviation from my PhD research project – concerned with migration aspirations among university students in Ghana –  instead this paper is on the future of graduate school in Africa. My presentation time is just after the conference opening on Thursday afternoon (Session A, Panel 3, Computer room of the INstitute at 12.20-2.00 PM to be exact). In addition to being a presenter, I have volunteered to handle social media for the conference. So you can follow the institute account for proceedings on Facebook and Twitter or follow the hashtag #ICAS13.

I will be posting here on my blog during the conference as well.

So let’s wish  all international participants welcome and while we are at it, please wish me luck!

Photo from an earlier post on AiD.

Ghana Beats Egypt 6-1: The Twitter Story

I rarely watch soccer games on TV as in Ghana you can hear the scoreline anyways. After three YAAAYYs and one AWWW, I decided to follow the game online. This is what happened:
  1. 53′ (4 – 1) Asamoah GYAN (GHA) scores #GhanavsEgypt
  2. This one was heard as a long cheer, but soon came the next goal and online, people started to ask for a sixth goal!
  3. So Ghana has spelt Egypt. Now we should spell Brazil. So we make it 6: 1.
  4. Which also came! Now my timeline just EXPLODED. Here are some highlights!
  5. Ewurade Yedaase…next stop..*leavesmyhouse* oya to my travel agent to book my flight to #Brazil2014..
  6. Kwesi Appiah is the man of the entire World Cup Qualifiers.
  7. Kwesi Appiah deserves all the credit for this splendid performance
  8. Then there was some discussion about the “incentive” for a winning match that the president had increased for Black Stars players.
  9. #BlackStars be patriotic and lose today!! Ghana needs your $15,000… #GHANAFIRST#GoGuinessGoGH
  10. The $15,000 tweet —-> “@JDMahama: Best wishes to the #BlackStars. Make #Ghana proud.”
  11. President Mahama even felt the need to explain…
  12. @DONSHATAGURU The bonus is paid by the sponsors of the national team.
  13. Other interesting views were the situation in Egypt influencing their game...
  14. If its anything to go by, the score line against #Egypt reflects current state of affairs in that country by the Nile. They are in crisis.
  15. Ghanaian women now dey make football match analysis #timechanges mmre dane ampa.
    • This was a historic game, also on Twitter!
  16. GOD BLESS OUR HOMELAND #GHANA!!!! WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS!! #BLACKSTARS WE LOVE YOUUUU!! #GHANA 6 – #EGYPT 1. #WC2014twitter.com/LadySena/status…
  17. When #Ghana is trending, that when you know there are Ghanaians all over the world right now just having a good ass time.

Ghana Beats Egypt 6-1: The Twitter Story

I rarely watch soccer games on TV as in Ghana you can hear the scoreline anyways. After three YAAAYYs and one AWWW, I decided to follow the game online. This is what happened!

  1. 53′ (4 – 1) Asamoah GYAN (GHA) scores #GhanavsEgypt
  2. This one was heard as a long cheer, but soon came the next goal and online, people started to ask for a sixth goal!
  3. So Ghana has spelt Egypt. Now we should spell Brazil. So we make it 6: 1.
  4. Which also came! Now my timeline just EXPLODED. Here are some highlights!
  5. #GoBlackStars 6-1? #GhanaVsEgypt #nobagawaya #nogidigidi #forsheygeyreasons #GhanaWins #Brazil here we come #Soccer

    #GoBlackStars 6-1? #GhanaVsEgypt #nobagawaya #nogidigidi #forsheygeyreasons #GhanaWins #Brazil here we come #Soccer
  6. Dees eez unbereevables!!!
  7. Ewurade Yedaase…next stop..*leavesmyhouse* oya to my travel agent to book my flight to #Brazil2014..
  8. Proud of my country #BrazilHereWeCome #GhanaVsEgypt #WorldCup

    Proud of my country #BrazilHereWeCome #GhanaVsEgypt #WorldCup
  9. Ghana coach received some vim:
  10. Kwesi Appiah is the man of the entire World Cup Qualifiers.
  11. Kwesi Appiah deserves all the credit for this splendid performance
  12. Then there was some discussion about the “incentive” for a winning match that the president had increased for Black Stars players.
  13. #BlackStars be patriotic and lose today!! Ghana needs your $15,000…#GHANAFIRST #GoGuinessGoGH
  14. The $15,000 tweet —-> “@JDMahama: Best wishes to the #BlackStars. Make #Ghana proud.”
  15. President Mahama felt the need to explain…
  16. @DONSHATAGURU The bonus is paid by the sponsors of the national team.
  17. Other interesting views were the situation in Egypt influencing their game
  18. If its anything to go by, the score line against #Egypt reflects current state of affairs in that country by the Nile. They are in crisis.
  19. …and Ghanaian women involved in the analysis. On Twitter they were definitely commenting!
  20. Ghanaian women now dey make football match analysis #timechangesmmre dane ampa.
  21. This was a historic game, also on Twitter!
  22. GOD BLESS OUR HOMELAND #GHANA!!!! WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS!! #BLACKSTARS WE LOVE YOUUUU!! #GHANA 6 - #EGYPT 1. #WC2014 http://twitter.com/LadySena/status/390174626279481344/photo/1

    GOD BLESS OUR HOMELAND #GHANA!!!! WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS!! #BLACKSTARS WE LOVE YOUUUU!! #GHANA 6 – #EGYPT 1. #WC2014pic.twitter.com/iwhPpThRA5ySena/status/390174626279481344/photo/1
  23. When #Ghana is trending, that when you know there are Ghanaians all over the world right now just having a good ass time.

Guest Post: When Will Ghana’s Middle Class Demonstrate?

Following the low turnout of a recent demonstration in Accra, I have invited writer Kweku Ortsin to share his views in a guest post.

It’s pretty obvious that by now political appointees in the ruling government and their families would be drinking champagne and laughing their lungs out over the failed attempt by the Truth and Accountability Forum (TAF) to mass up protest on the streets against the recent tariff increments. Some media reports suggest that while the police marshalled 250 personnel in an anticipation of a huge turnout, just about 25 people showed up for the demonstration. This is obviously laughable given what the “numbers game” mean for demonstrations in this country. But I was not surprised at the abysmal turn of events.

Let me share my personal experience with demonstrations in this country. Some years ago, I joined a demonstration organized by a political pressure group. There was a massive turn up of demonstrators running into thousands. It was very peaceful and it ended with a rally where speaker after speaker lambasted the then incumbent government. The crowd cheered and cheered with loud chants and applauds!After the rally however, something very interesting happened. On my way out of the grounds, I saw a group of people quarrelling and heckling each other. I was curious so I got closer. Then I heard one elderly woman complain bitterly in one of our local languages. I’ll paraphrase what she said:

“This demonstration is just a waste of my time. Since morning I’ve been walking and walking without even pure water. Where is the Koko they promised? Where is the Kenkey they promised? And now they want us to go home without any transportation money? This will never happen! That is why I don’t like this people. As for the other party (name of political party withheld) they pay us very well. Next time this people call me again I won’t come!”

I was shocked. It was at that point that it occurred to me that probably most of the demonstrators were all hired. Later on, I questioned one of the organizers whom I happened to know and he did not mince his words:

“My brother, demonstrations and rallies are very expensive to organize in this country. Whether you are in power or in opposition, if you don’t pay you won’t get the crowd!”

Since then I have been quite skeptical about mass demonstrations in this country. Let me cite another example to illustrate my skepticism. Soon after the declaration of the 2012 election results, some people gathered at Obra Spot, near the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, with the intention of re-enacting an Egyptian-styled Tahirir Square in Ghana. But, as most of us would recall, the protest did not last beyond three days.

Well, according to some of the protesters, they backed off when it became obvious to them that their party was not going to provide them with, “at least breakfast and supper.” They said they did not understand why they should sit in protest on empty stomach while their party bigwigs enjoyed with their families. So they dispersed not because they were unconvinced that their candidate had won, but because no one was ready to support them with “chop money”.

I have therefore no doubt in mind that the TAF demonstration failed because they probably did not have money to rent a crowd. It is sad but that is the harsh reality in our country. Our people have become so impoverished that they now have to be paid before they can realize the effects of poverty in their lives.

This is where I put the blame at the doorsteps of our middle class. It is obvious that they are the only people who can speak up or register their protests without looking forward to Koko or Kenkey or transportation money. But unfortunately, most of them are either overly partisan or they simply don’t care. That is the bane of this country! As a matter of fact, until the day our middle class rises up and demand good governance we shall continue to grope in underdevelopment.

This is a Guest Post. Kweku Ortsin is a Ghanaian writer who’s website currently is under construction, will post link here when it is up!

This Year’s Best Political News in Ghana: NDC to Change Primaries System

I just stumbled across the best news in politics for Ghana for the whole year – the leading party NDC is scrapping their electoral college for parliamentary primaries allowing all their membership to vote directly.

This just might have wonderful implications:

  • Primaries are gates for political aspirants and direct voting makes more sense – if many folks like you, you win.
  • Electoral colleges have earlier meant those who can pay off the relatively small number of people in the college wins, not the more popular.
  • When good leaders who are not rich (or make corrupt promises to the electoral colleges) cannot win, it creates political apathy – now there is a chance for the leaders Ghana needs! 
  • Hopefully this will also lead to that main contending party NPP and other parties also review their primaries systems, making these effects even more profound.

On Facebook under a link to this news, selected comments were “who cares” and “NPP and NDC are all corrupt”, but also “this is the way” and “I am strongly behind you”. I say it is the best political news this whole year.

What are your views?