My Blogging Year 2014

It has been a sad year in many ways. A year of death, disease and loss for me and many others. I have also worked hard on my four careers – social media, research, teaching and family life!

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Sad moments
The year started on a sad note for me, my blog had gone missing. I learned to do more regular backups.

End of the Word?

Then people died. People that were amazing, successful and well-known or I just knew well. Komla Dumor died in January, Shirley Temple (who had a surprising link to Ghana I found out) in February, in April my favourite author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in August Emmanuel Okyere, in November my dear Godmother who had been sick for some time passed away. In December, I lost fellow obruni blogger Mad in Ghana. Ebola hit some countries in West Africa but affected us all.


Blog scoops
Getting to debate on Twitter with a sitting minister of state was amazing, although I was smashed pretty hard over the head by Hanna Tetteh, Ghana’s minister of Foreign Affairs in a debate about the tourism policy. Another citizen journalism highlight was when I broke the news on the hole in the Accra-Tema motorway on my blog.


Plenty Politics
Current debates in Ghana covered on my blog included if a government university should be allowed to charge a toll to enter its campus, the State of the Nation address, race, women in electoral politics, inflation, the world cup, power problems and corruption. Many times we laughed and cried at the same time at our issues…


I worked hard!
My work was covered on my blog as well. For instance, my writing process and a one month stay at the Nordic Africa institute, teaching social theory at Ashesi University College. I wrote an article about Nigerian political protests and tweeted in English from Almedalen in Sweden. I also attended a conference, seminars and a workshop.


BloggingGhana stuff
We had a fast year! We were mentioned in The Guardian, got our own office or hub, organised BlogCamp and BlogAwards…


Personal
I also branched out into Instagram and Pinterest and had the most active year ever on Twitter.
But most importantly, I became the mother of another girl! 


Thank you for reading my blog in 2014! I will be back in 2015 with much more…


See earlier yearly summaries: 2012, 2011

Ghana-Time and Clifford Owusu

The other day I wrote a tweet about how Ghana-time is not always coming late…

I think it has been one of my most retweeted tweets ever. However, not at all as popular as Ghanaian YouTube comedian Clifford Owusu’s latest clip – which has been watched 250 000 times. I can understand why …

 

If you want to know more about Clifford Owusu, OkayAfrica recently did a nice interview with him. He talked about his motivation:

– Honestly, I really do enjoy just making people happy—that’s really it, no other motive. That’s what inspires me. I like to see people smile. Do you know how powerful a person is that can people smile? They can get whatever they want.

Happy holidays!

The Junction Mall in Nungua, Ghana

We have heard about the “mallification” of Ghana! Now the turn to get a big shopping center or a mall has come to the seashore community of Nungua, in between Accra and Tema. In Theory, the Junction Mall looks like this….but what did it look like yesterday? And how was traffic? The food? The service? Here is my review!

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Design from builders RMB.

The space
The space is big 11 500 m2, beautiful, lots of parking and I was happy to see trees planted. The mall is a U shape with double rows of shops and the “middle” only covered with roof. It was nice in the evening, maybe hot daytime? There was also a nice playground for kids.

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The shops
I saw the usual shops we are now used to Mr Price clothing, Shoprite ( food/department store), Telefonica, Nallem clothing, Bata shoes. New additions were South African low cost chain JET, a Techno phones, Lego ( Danish toy for kids), some other clothing shops. Really, only about half the shops have yet opened.

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The traffic
When a mall is named “The Junction Mall”, one has to be worried about traffic! Why is it even allowed to build a mall in a junction. On a Tuesday evening around 6 pm it was fine, however, but there is just one entry/exit point so I worry…

The food court
Not everything is opened yet, but there is a cosy Barcelos (see photo below) and a Chicken inn/Pizza Inn/Icecream Inn. I also saw an Italian pizza place that looked promising! but no stylish restaurant or bar? No cafe? I must say I was a bit disappointed by the eating options!

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The service
It is difficult to know what are permanent issues and what are just we-are-so-new-and-stressed issues, but parking guards made an initial weak (immovable?) impression, and in none of the shops any shop attendant spoke to me. However, at the food court, staff was alert! But then the women’s bathroom had no water nor could I lock the booth…

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To conclude, it is a promising space, much will be determined by who comes to open shop there. The design seems to be climate appropriate and the detail of living trees I know I will appreciate when they will shade my car as I shop!

Read also my review of Marina Mall.

Extra Toothbrushes in Ghana: AIDS, Orphans and My Daughter’s School Uniform

As I came across the Varje Tugga Gor Skillnad (“every Bite Counts”) campaign for dental health education in Ghana, run by a chewing gum brand in Sweden, my mouth opened with surprise at an image of my daughter’s school SOS Tema as the recipient of education and free tooth brushes!

Children at SOS Nursery School in Tema, Ghana. Photo credit: Extra
Children at SOS Nursery School in Tema, Ghana. Photo credit: Extra
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My daughter on first day of school. Photo credit: Me

I think what just happened was “them” and “us” melted into one. When aid projects are initiated, an important aspect is to create that difference between “us and “them” so that people will see why giving is necessary. Now when I think of that last month, I went to buy just that school uniform for my daughter, of course I find it difficult to see why those kids need a toothbrush!

Where I was expecting to read about dental health, the campaign states further that:

“Drygt en miljon barn i Ghana har förlorat en eller båda föräldrar, 160 000 av dem på grund av aids. Dessa barn är särskilt utsatta för barnarbete och människohandel, något som utgör allvarliga problem i landet. Majoriteten av människohandeln drabbar fattiga barn från landsbygden.”

(“More than one million children in Ghana have lost one of both parents, 160 000 of them due to AIDS. These children are especially vulnerable for child labor and trafficking, something that constitutes serious problems in the country [Ghana]. The majority of the trafficking concerns poor children from the country side.”) (my translation)

I felt tired that orphans and AIDS was what was on campaign makers minds – was this not about toothbrushes? – and felt their numbers were a bit high. Ghana’s population is 25 million and one million are children without one parent? 160 000 due to AIDS? Anyway, its a good opportunity to learn more about HIV/AIDS in Ghana. The Ghana AIDS Commission reports for 2013:

“The National HIV Prevalence in 2013 is 1.3%

An estimated 224,488 Persons made up of 189,931 adults and 34,557 Children (15%) are living with HIV in Ghana. There were 7,812 new infections, 2,407 in Children 0-14years and 5,405 in adults. There were 10,074 AIDS deaths being 2,248 in Children 0-14 years, and 7,826 adults Estimated Children Orphaned by AIDS is 184,168.”

This suggests, despite the horror hidden in these numbers, that Ghana still reports one of the lowest rates of HIV in Africa. The number 160 000 mentioned above is a total number for all years since AIDS was discovered. Currently, many individuals diagnosed with HIV are also on retroviral medication, which means the virus is slowed down and life expectancy goes up again.  (By chance, a famous HIV ambassador in Ghana this week told media she never even had HIV! But that is a different story…)

This campaign has been a very interesting learning opportunity for me: I have meditated on “us” and “them”, learned about the low HIV rate of Ghana, but I am also saddened my new home country has to be portrayed in this sad light, just for a chewing gum/ toothbrush campaign.

What do you think, is it right to highlight the worst to make people donate?

Read also WHO: 10 facts about HIV and this article explaining why a HIV-infected man was acquitted of charges of unprotected sex – he posed no threat to the women he slept with.

Power Problems now affecting Industry in Ghana

Currently, load shedding in Ghana due to short supply of electricity is seriously straining the country: house holds now have full power only 1 day out of 3 and since last week, industries are also affected.

This means life in Ghana is now either very uncomfortable or very expensive. Where I live, one day the power goes off all day 6am-6pm, next day all evening 6pm-midnight or later. Only on the third day we have power. We are fortunate to have a generator, but it is old and consumes much diesel so we try to not use it more than a few hours at a time.

This is of course affecting productivity. No power during the day means no washing of clothes, no emails, no power for the fridge which means no shopping on those days.

No power during the night means tossing and turning in the heat and not getting a good night’s sleep for the next day ahead.

Especially serious is it that industries now also have to share power. This will likely lead to lay-offs and reduced production, investors might look elsewhere and improvements cannot be done as basic terms of business no longer apply.

Then seeing this TV-ad from the election 2012 where the ruling party NDC makes promises to extend electricity to more households and create a steady supply for lie to improve is simply just painful.

See Lauryn Hill in Accra for GHS 10 ($3)

Screenshot 2014-12-10 16.35.23Best news todayis that the BBnZ Afro Beat Festival  (link to their FB page, their website has no info on festival) invites the general public to a music festival where US singer Lauryn Hill closes the show. 

Lauryn Hill was THE star when I was growing up and I once was in the same small college town (Athens, Georgia, US) as where she did  a secret impromptu show all while I was drinking cheap drinks as some sad place next door!

Now I have a second chance at seeing Ms Hill in concert. The cost? only 10 GHS ($3)! VIP for all three days is 150 GHS or $50!

These days few things are cheap in Ghana, so this made me surprised!

Find more events on ArtsGhana.

Artwork is a special tour poster I borrowed from @MsLaurynHill on Twitter.

Social Media and Business in Ghana

Some of our Ashesi students are doing a project for which they asked me of my opinions on Social Media (SM) and business in Ghana. I thought my answers might be of interest to others as well, so here they are!

1.      In your opinion, how have social media affected businesses in Ghana?

At this point, not so much. Some have SM helplines (like Vodafone), but others like ECG are not on SM. When you leave a gap, fake accounts are rife.

2.      Do businesses use of social media to market their products in Ghana?

Some do,  a recent campaign by Nescafe was very popular. Many businesses however lose out as they do not know their target groups are online!
My guess is that only 5% of Ghana companies are on social media. My student Anna Amegatcher last year did a thesis to investigate media companies’ use of SM that showed that even media companies underutilise SM.

3.      What are the factors that regulate businesses usage of social media in Ghana?

High cost of access to Internet, frequent power cuts, know-how in social media, lack of benchmarking internationally …and maybe also sense of adventure?

4.      In your opinion, is there a need for improvement on the current usage of social media in Ghana?

Well, I think Internet costs need to come down and powers supply me constant, then I think it will happen by itself.

5.      Apart from advertisements, in what other ways do businesses use social media in Ghana?

Ads are not a good way of using SM, the point is it is a two-way communication, a conversation (not a megaphone or billboard). Successful campaigns ask the target group to post photos using a specific hashtag, organise competitions, ask questions, invite ideas for new designs  etc.

6.  Are there disadvantages of using social media for businesses? If yes, which are these disadvantages?

If you SM managers mess up, your company looks bad. For instance Vodafone answered me publicly on Twitter in a very rude way, that was not good for the Vodafone brand.

7.       Which social media platform, if any has been credited with greatest promotion of businesses in Ghana?

I think FB and What’s App have both been important. Businesses that want to look good should be on Twitter and Google+ as well.
8.  What is the relation between the cost of internet in the past and the present?
It isn’t! Prices have increased over the last years, maybe the only country in the world where technology advances do not lead to lower costs!

9.  In your own opinion, what is the future of social media and it’s relation to businesses I Ghana?

It will for sure grow. This is the future. I see all companies joining FB and Google+ and Twitter. Maybe Instagram (growing fast in Ghana) and YouTube as well. Many more will do customer service online and hire SM managers, likely who will report to executives in the company as SM is an important window to customers.

Do you agree with me or are there other things to be said about social media and business in Ghana?

Mmofra Place – A Children’s Park in Dzorwulu, Accra

Today, I was invited to the opening of exhibit Our Climate: Think. Act. Change! Organized by Mmofra Foundation in their huge park-to-be in Dzorwulu ( Next to Marvels) and curated by Foundation For Contemporary Art.

I was happy to see such a promising space, lovely trees, a stage and space! I couldn’t even see the end of the park! There was a beautiful breeze as we sat under trees and listened to the speeches of the opening: Minister of Lands gave a personal rendition of his written speech, Architect Ralph Sutherland sat down and gave a heartfelt and touching talk as well as partners like the German Embassy and British High Commission and WASCAL.

I was also sad to think of how rare such an initiative is in Ghana. We build on all plots, chop down trees and lose out on greenery, breeze and relaxation!

The exhibit was varied and fun. I especially liked the “simple” things like the herb garden, the chair under greens and sculptures made from scrap. And the green bird mascot!

I hope many can visit Mmofra Place and be inspired to do something similar close to where they live – plant a tree, clean up a patch and be creative!

Here are some photos to inspire. Find more on Mmofra Foundation’s Facebook Page.

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Corruption in Ghana: What to do? (Occupy Ghana)

This week, I have been ranting on social media about corruption and how sick I am of it.

In my head, it has sounded much like this recollection of Prof. Adei’s recent and furious speech to the Audit Service : “Impunity…abuse of public office…fiasco…norm rather than exception”. However, the important thing is not what has happened (guineafowls, GYEEDA, SUBAH, cocaine, Woyome, CHRAJ-hotel and WorldCup comes to mind immediately) but what needs to be done.

1920352_704094466328010_6514441539004930424_nAbout a year ago, I sat next to Prof. Adei at the canteen at Ashesi where he taught leadership that semester. The conversation was good, his analysis clear, but what stood out was the positive energy: it doesn’t have to be like this, it can be different. A group called Occupy Ghana (currently 25 000 likes on Facebook) has taken this to heart and have through protests, petitions and lectures started challenging the status-quo.

Or as Prof. Adei said it with his clear analysis and positive outlook earlier this month:

“Civil society must continue to speak up and pressure the state to change the situation completely, so that a new culture of responsibility and accountability will replace the current terrible state of affairs.”

Only if we who differ with the indeed “terrible state of affairs” come together there will be a change. That is why I am openly supporting Occupy Ghana by wearing red today. Are you?

For Fellow Lovers of Wax Print: KajsaHA on Pinterest

I adore Ghanaian clothes, modern Africa style, and have collected my fav models and brands on Pinterest* (Board: Modern Africa), follow me there if you also love colors, sharp cuts and wax print!

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Except for clothes, I also pin playgroundsgarden ideas and food porn!

*Pinterest is a superb tol for visual folks who like to look at inspirational photos and how-to-articles before embarking on a new project (new haircut, planting an avocado, baking a chocolate cake, getting married). I use Pinterest instead of buying expensive magazines!