Summing up the Blogging Year 2016 – From VR to #GhanaDecides

What a year!

I started a project on virtual reality in the classroom with colleague Kabiru Seidu. I taught Social Theory and Written and Oral Communication.

I had my PhD viva and graduated. Whew!

I brought my readings and my kids to the blog which celebrated 10 years.

I was interviewed on a podcast and featured by Pulse in a video and wrote an article for a major Swiss newspaper (I am Swedish, not Swiss, so this I think is an achievement!)

I traveled to Dakar, Cape Coast, Sweden (twice, writing from an amazing xmas get-together in the cold just now!), Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.

The world experienced Grand Bassam, Trump, Seinabo Sey, and Ghana its election.

Now I need to rest and come back in full force next year! See you in 2017! 

My Election Day: From Basic Level to Analyst

I had an excellent election day, divided in three clear sections. It seems the country also had an excellent election day, with a few exceptions discussed below. 

1. Family time
familyIn the morning, my five year old asked:

– Why am I not going to school today?

I answered:

– Because today is election day.

– What is election? Came the response. A Masters Degree in political science and a PhD in African Studies are not necessarily assets when getting to the basics. I took a deep breath and tried:

– It is when we chose who will decide in the country. We call that person president or prime minister.

– I want to be president! I will decide what to do and then you will decide what we should not do, ok, mama?

Morning proceeded calmly with family time. Our nanny had left the night before to go vote after a short campaign to join her party.

2. Voting

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In the afternoon, we went to my husband’s childhood neighbourhood where he is still registered as a voter. There was no queue, voting was swift and easy in the double voting register at the Chemu school in Community 4, Tema.

Of course, I did not vote as I am not a Ghanaian citizen (yet). It was great to see the positive atmosphere and how elections rather brought people together – at least in this community – than created divisions.

3. BloggingGhana in the Situation Roomelection-obesrver

BloggingGhana’s GhanaDecides project was approached about being part of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) and the National Peace Council’s  observer group. The group convened during the whole election day in a situation room of sorts, but as I needed to be part of family time and voting, I only joined in the afternoon.

team

I was introduced to the team of 30 or so “yellow shirt” observers collating reports from all the regions of Ghana, the 10 “green shirt” observers or analysts – where I had to pinch my arm, because that where I belonged! BloggingGhana/GhanaDecides had its own table filled with bottles, chords, and screens (see photo above). After a while the members of the highest level of the observers – the decision room stopped by after a tour including other situation rooms and the electoral commission.

A major convo was around the Jaman North Constituency now voting tomorrow after the failure of party agents to first agree on the electoral roll and then of the electoral commission to get materials out to the 92 polling stations. Jaman North is located between Ivory Coast to the west, the Bui National Park to the north, and the Tain constituency to the east that voted one day late in 2012 for similar reasons. How many voters are registered in Jaman North? I have not seen any official data yet. Will follow up tomorrow!

Another thing we see as the results trickle in is that the turnout seems low – after some 30 000 votes have been counted, the turnout hoovers around 57-58%. In 2012, the turnout was close to 80%. Following this closely too.

At this moment, most observers have returned home and a few of us are wrapping up the day to the sound of provisional MP results trickling in. 

See you online tomorrow – until then follow GhanaDecides.com and #GhanaDecides on all social media channels – over night run by our diaspora team!

Imagining Africa at the Center: #ASA2016

This week, I am off to the 59th African Association Annual Meeting, this time held in Washington DC with the theme Imagining Africa at the Centre: Bridging Scholarship, Policy, and Representation in African Studies. 

It will be my third African Studies conference this year after DakarFutures2016 and this summer’s GlobalGhana in Cape Coast. I also enjoyed last year’s ASA in San Diego. So, I am looking forward and over the next week I will be taking in as much as I possibly can on academic talks, networking sessions, book exhibits and also Washington DC! I am especially excited to meet up with a special person from DakarFutures working at the renowned Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and a new contact from Wikimedia Foundation. I’ll also visit Ghanaian Designer David Adjaye’s new National Museum of African American History & Culture, also in the Smithsonian Museum Park (photo from NMAAHC below, I believe it is the brown box next to the Washington Monument).

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture Architectural Photrography
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture 

At the ASA2016 meeting, I will for sure be spotted when presenting a paper on higher education together with colleagues from the Ghana Studies Association and when I chair a so called Africa NOW! session on the ongoing election season in Ghana. Details below!

Panel: Debating the Quality and Relevance of (Higher) Education in Ghana

Fri 2 Dec, VIII-D-1  4pm.

My Work: Data for and from the Higher Education Sector in Ghana

In an era of knowledge economies and sustainable development, the importance of higher education has reemerged (Mkandawire, 2015; Teferra, 2014). However, current data on higher education institutions (HEI) in Africa is not easily available in terms of basic descriptive data on institutions, research output, faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

This paper is a first report from a case study to understand data collection in and analysis of the higher education sector in Ghana, a country that has a mix of public and private higher education. The methodology is literature review and interviews with key stakeholders to clarify the role in collecting and managing HE data by international university associations, GOG/ministry of education, state institutions, quality assurance bodies, and  – on a local level – universities.

Data and analyses hold promise for nurturing this important sector, especially since the sector is growing quickly and is centrally placed politically. Two factors that also mean data ages quickly. For instance, the rise of private higher education since the 1990s provides an almost unmapped terrain in terms of data. With a decolonial approach, I argue that data on HEI must be open and free, but also made a government priority to solve the sustainability issues of collecting data and crafting relevant indicators for strategic and sustainable development of the higher education sector on the continent.

 

Africa NOW! Democratic Gains from Election Season 2016 in Ghana

Panel Introduction and Open Discussion Sat 3 Dec, 9-10 am in meeting room “Maryland A”. 

Ghana is seen as a beacon of hope for the democratization process on the continent and has managed to consolidate its democracy further with each election since 1992. There has been peaceful handing over of power in 2000 and 2008, a contested election in 2012 which was settled peacefully in the supreme court. This year, several new developments including reforms, which have led to that only seven parties are contesting the presidential seat have taken place, Ghana also has a new Electoral Commissioner, Charlotte Osei, replacing Kwadwo Afari-Djan who served as the Chair of the Electoral Commission 1993 to 2015.

The surrounding world has also changed since the last elections, notably with terrorism threats closer to home with the attack on Cote D’Ivoire’s Grand Bassam, in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon. Further, oil and commodity prices are at an all time low. Many countries in Africa are experiencing power shortages and Ghana in no exception. The US elections have also been extensively discussed in Ghana to the point of almost overshadowing a local debate.

Further, an important role in the relative democratic success in Ghana is played by media and civil society monitoring the electoral process. Many laudable initiatives providing platforms for education and debate have been implemented. This year, the threat of limiting the freedom of speech by for instance monitoring online conversations and shutting social media down during the elections which is has been discussed under the so called “spy bill” and by the Inspector General of the Police Service, have added another important issue to address by the civil society.

With this background, this panel will discuss what can be expected from the general elections on December 7, 2016, especially in terms of democratic gains or losses.

Panelists: Dr. Kajsa Hallberg Adu, Ashesi University (convener), Dr. Jeffrey Paller, University of San Fransisco, Prof. Gretchen Bauer, University of Delaware, and you!

Graduation and my CV of Failures

screenshot-2016-11-19-17-45-15doctorkOn Friday, I got my poofy hat which signifies that after five years of study, I have been awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in African Studies. You have heard a lot about that already (and if you haven’t, its all here on the blog under the category PhD).

However, what you have not heard about is all the failures that led up to my PhD graduation. Here I am inspired by Princeton Professor Johannes Haushofer’s CV of Failures (PDF) (in turn inspired by Melanie Stephan’s article in Nature), who both argue that keeping and sharing a CV of failures can inspire others to be reminded that you have to just try again.

When starting to think about it, I see CV’s of failure everywhere. In my favourite Netflix Show, Chef’s Table the amazing chefs that cook the best food in the world all had to overcome obstacles and fail repeatedly.

When I recently read comedian Amy Schumer’s book with the hilarious title: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, she devotes a chapter to “how to become a comedian” and it reads similar to an academic CV of failures. She did smaller gigs, sometimes so small that she had to find the audience herself on the street first, for 10 years before her break-though.

My favourite poet Wislawa Szymborska, also has some critical words on all the things a conventional CV hides (rediscovered courtesy of QZ): Preparing a Curriculum Vitae. She says:

“Write as though you have never talked with yourself.”

So, yes on Friday I wore a poofy hat and made it look simple. It wasn’t. So I will now talk to myself and to you and say: Here is my (likely incomplete) CV of Failures or Curriculum Mortem. Hopefully, it can inspire you to both keeping track of your own failures as well as when you fall, dusting yourself off and jumping in again.

 

CV OF FAILURES

Degree programs I did not get into

2010 PhD Economic Geography, Lund University

2009 PhD African Studies, University of Ghana (I was told my application was lost. I resubmitted the next year).

2007 PhD Political Science, Uppsala University

2003 Politices Magister, Uppsala University (I ended up getting the degree never the less but having to reapply every semester).

2002 BA, Stockholm School of Economics

Jobs I interviewed for but did not get…(Most of job applications got no response. However two jobs come to mind where I got to the interview stage, did fine – or at least that’s what I thought- , but still did not get the job).

Bank Switch Ghana, 2008.

Swedish National Audit Office, 2007.

Academic positions and fellowships I did not get

2013 Global South Workshop – a perfect workshop that would have given me a network and valuable input at the exact right time in my PhD.

2013 REMESO Workshop – A specialist workshop in my specialist field of migration aspirations organized in my home country of Sweden.

2013 Nordic Africa Institute PhD visiting scholarship (but despite not getting the money, I was invited for a one-month stay which I funded myself)

 

Awards and scholarships I did not get (or sometimes it does not help to apply again)

2013 Fredrika Bremer Förbundets Stipendiestiftelse

2012 Gemzeus Stiftelse

2011 Fredrika Bremer Förbundets Stipendiestiftelse

2011 Gemzeus Stiftelse

Research funding I did not get (most research funding I was not eligible for as belonging to the unusual group of Swedes in Ghana, hence I only applied to this one and did not get it).

2011 Codesria Small Grant

Conferences I was rejected to

ASA 2015 for the panel  “Migration and Belonging in Ghana and Abroad.” (was later accepted for a general panel)

ECAS 2015 for the panel the panel “Epistemology of research on migration : the contribution of African studies” and “International migration and organised forms of collective resistance to barriers for entry and stay: perspective from Africa”. Yup, I applied to two and got none.

Migration Research Center at Koç University (MiReKoc), Istanbul, 2014

ECAS 2011

 

But hey, I jumped in again. That is what brought me to the poofy hat!

doctor-jump

 

The Role of Social Media in Ghana’s 2016 Elections

On Thursday, I was a guest on the radio program Interrogating Africa discussing what the role of social media is in Ghana’s upcoming elections.

Interrogating Africa is an initiative by the Institute of African Studies and broadcast on University of Ghana’s Radio Universe 105.7 FM every Thursday 2-3PM. I was interviewed by my former class mate in the PhD program, Dr. Edem Adottey.

We talked about what social media is ( a revolution), how Ghanaians debate and engage online, how many Ghanaians have access to the Internet (about one third), Post-Truth Politics and false news, what the Kalyppo Challenge really was all about (that’s another post!), and how social media will impact on elections (more research is needed!).

You can see the interview here:

Guest on State of Affairs about Election2016

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with-nanaaba

On Wednesday morning we all woke up to a new world, a world where Donal Trump is the president elect of the US. It was perhaps not a shock to me in the same way brexit hit, I think I even had a hunch as I chose to not check my phone, not turn on the radio until I had dropped my daughter off at school. When I finally turned on the radio in my car, I heard a familiar, but yet different voice. It sounded like a calm and kind Trump. Then it hit me, the only way he would sound like that is if…if…I pulled the car to the side of the road and just stared ahead.

That sweet spoken president elect is not the candidate we have gotten to know in the last year or who shouted “You’re fired!” on his TV-shows.

By a string of coincidences, I ended my Wednesday on live-TV on the popular politics show “State of Affairs” on GhOne discussing Trumps historical win with Nana Aba Anamoah and Prof. Baffuor Agyeman-Duah, founder of CDD, formerly a governance advisor with UN and now with the John A. Kufuor Foundation.

So what did I say?

I believe I said I was disappointed the American people did not make history when they had a chance of a woman leading the US, although Clinton was of course not just a woman, but also definitely the establishment personified. I said I was very worried about outcomes of Trumps presidency.

When we talked about effects for Africa, we discussed trade and aid, I looked at the budget of the USAID in Ghana ($162,8M in 2015) and opened for that for instance malaria prevention would take a big hit if their funding was cut. On trade, I was inspired by Jerome of CediTalk’s analysis.

However, my co-panelist Prof. Agyeman-Duah was more positive and said he does not think Trump can tear up already signed agreements on trade. After that I got a good punch line, one that a tweep caught:

Sunday Reads Nov 6, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

  1. This interesting article by Salim Virani on usability of websites in Africa:If Africa is leading mobile web usage, why are so many African websites non-mobile? A discussion started by me(!) on Twitter when University of Ghana told me the online registration for graduation could not be done on a phone or device.
  2. An article about the lack of African research by Celia Nyamweru on the interesting portal African Arguments.
  3. Writing a Paper (PDF) by George M Whitesides was required reading for the online Author AID course I am taking this fall.
  4. Citi FM’s coverage on the deplorable situation on mental health in Ghana.

This Swedish article I wish was available in English for all (ok, more folks) to read:

5. This Interview in Resume with Carl Waldekrantz, TicTail founder.

This week I watched no video, because of the craziness that is my life! But I am reading Amy Shumer’s book with the hilarious title The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

Tell me below what you are reading!

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

My Best Activity with Children: PLAY DOUGH

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Weekend is coming up and what should you do with your kids? Forget about giving your children an electronic device for some peace and quiet, an iPad has nothing on homemade play dough! Play dough is also cheaper than almost any other activity and allows for developing sensory intelligence and creativity!

I make the dough anew maybe once a month and keep in in a plastic bag in-between uses. (You can also dry the play dough art your children create on low heat in the oven, but humidity in Ghana means the dried dough does not stay dry…)

Recipe:

2 parts* flour

1 part table salt

1 part water

a dash of oil (to not make the salt dry out the hands needing the dough, i prefer coconut oil)

food colouring (optional)                                       * cup, decilitre, etc                                             

 

I give my children household items like forks, spoons, cookie cutters, rollers, plastic containers etc. to use to shape the dough. A metal garlic press is the best tool for creating snakes/flowing hair. A knife can cut shapes. A tooth pick makes eyes. My children, just like myself back in the day, can entertain themselves with this recurring “game” for hours.

Enjoy the weekend with your family!

 

Why I loved Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

file-2016-10-31-23-38-32I should have posted this as a SundayRead, because it was my weekend read and I really, really enjoyed it. I have been reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

I have heard it being referred to as  “an ambitious debut” probably because it tries to chronicle the slave trade and its aftermath through one family in one book. That has many dangers to it:  can become heavy with historical references, empty on a personal level when bigger narratives are the aim, or just a novel that should have been a textbook. This is none of that.

I cried, I laughed, I lived through the many many personalities you meet in this book (the book opens with a family tree, love books that start with visual schema!) My favourite characters were beautiful Effia and her queer son Quey, Ness Stockham and her tragic fate (climbing down that tree!), and Willie Black and her father H. But I feel like I got close to all of the characters – I wonder, how did Gyasi accomplish that?

While the book balances on an educational tight rope, it skillfully blends themes such as identity, evil, the origin of the word “obruni” for white person, American slavery history such as Jim Crow, the historical advent of mass religion, happiness, the list can go on. Maybe in a few places it feels like contemporary debates are “placed” in the story, or discussed with a contemporary lense: homosexuality, interracial relationships, how to apportion blame in Ghana for the slave trade, however it is those same “educational” debates that makes the novel so relevant and make me consider this book as a text for a class I teach at Ashesi.

We can tell it was a labor of love because the language is sweet, decorated with gems such as “She dipped her to a into water so cool she could taste it “ (p.196), “hell was a place of remembering , each beautiful moment passed through the mind’s eye until it fell to the ground like a rotten mango, perfectly useless, uselessly perfect” (p.28) or “He had never seen a woman move that slowly. It was like she had to wade though deep and mucky waters to get to him” (p.250). And the sex scenes!

The book accomplishes what many political debates, pertinent protests, and academic works have not: to show that we are all one family, one that is hurting, and desperately needs to step into the cold water, share the
burden, and just come back home. 

Kwame Anthony Appiah gives the 2016 BBC #ReithLecture

This year´s BBC Reith Lecture is given by philosophy professor Kwame Anthony Appiah. As you can possibly tell from his name, he hails from Ghana and is his lecture series he heavily draws from this – something for all of us who love Ghana to feel proud of and learn from.

Two lectures have already been aired (I wholeheartedly recommend listening to the podcasts). The first two of the total of four lectures cover Creed and Country. The last is to talk about Culture. The third lecture was recorded in Accra some two weeks ago and I was there! It was a Saturday and I happily tweeted:

The lecture with the tittle Mistaken Identities: Colour used the amazing true story of William Anthony Amo, a Ghanaian boy who became professor of philosophy in Germany in 1738, as its red thread (I also mention him in my dissertation!) and discussed race with nuance and insight. He spoke about the “racial fixation” and reminded us there is no such thing as race, really.

Afterward, there was an opportunity to ask questions and I was thinking of something my daughter had told me…when the host of the evening asked women present to add their voices to all the men asking questions, my hand went up.

Afterward when the Ashesi staffulty present took a photo with Prof. Appiah we were reminded that he also sits on the board of the university!

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If you want to find out if my question made it to the final cut of the 2016 Reith Lectures with Kwame Anthony Appiah, tune into BBC Worldservice, Channel 4 or the podcast today!

A DayatDVLA: Update (spoiler: my license is ready!)

file-2016-09-30-13-22-54The other day, I was back at DVLA.

Here is an update:

  1. I now have my license! The DVLA head actually called me to say it was ready. How do I understand this – personal service instead of public improvements?
  2. I was told my articles were seen by the DVLA boss(!) and after reading them online he called the Tema office (!!) asking “What is happening?” (one of my articles were mysteriously reposted on GhanaWeb, see here).
  3. My earlier visits had equipped the Tema office with some gravitas, for instance Mr. Osei-Bio reported he had taken to opportunity when the DVLA head called to ask my question “why are licenses not printed here?”
  4. The information sound message was now back.
  5. I was told about general renovation and new signboard planned. I am to follow up.
  6. Still no prices posted on walls. I sent a WhatsApp about this to Mr Osei-Bio.

In conclusion, I think I will continue to follow Tema DVLA. I would love to hear of anyone else “adopts” a state agency, makes friends, and follow their updates to better service.

Sunday Reads from Nigeria to Nobel Prize, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

  1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s feminist manifesto, this time on how to raise a feminist daughter. All of it was on point, personally, I especially found the hair section (10) useful having two daughters who get to hear their hair is “katcha-katcha” if not braided.
  2. Turkey Blocks Google Drive Drop Box, One drive and GitHub to stop email leaks. An example of governments blocking Internet sites in a trial of getting hold on control. (but it doesn’t work).
  3. Virtual Reality in Africa. Former Ashesi student Jonathan Dotse of Nubian VR quoted.
  4. Did you know Bill Gates is also a blogger? Here is his latest (fab) post on what political leadership can do to accelerate innovation. (Spoiler alert: Energy is his top issue)

This Swedish article I wish was available in English for all (ok, more folks) to read:

5. Quite varying reactions to the choice of Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

This week I watched this video, because, well it was everywhere:


 

6. I also calmed myself down with the following Nigerian reactions on social media, presented by one of Nigeria’s biggest bloggers Linda Ikeji. 

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis.