Interview for Social Media Week Lagos

Screenshot 2015-01-27 11.31.23Today I am interviewed for Social Media Week Lagos on how BloggingGhana started , what has happened since and my view on social media in Ghana. 

Q: Against other major countries like South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya where a majority of its youth are using digital and social media to grow, strengthen their businesses, and to move the country forward. Where does Ghana square up? 

A: Yeah, the same thing is happening in Ghana. I think the development is best described as revolutionary; now you can run a successful business from home powered by Instagram, through applications such as Google Maps you can find things you could not find before, by using Facebook and Twitter young people in Ghana are increasing their political engagement. Maybe a difference to the African countries you mentioned, Ghana is much smaller. It has several advantages, one is the tech scene is like a family. We all know each other.

I am happy to see that social media communities are really taking root on the continent, there is a SMW for Copenhagen, London and LA and many other places as well, and in Ghana, we have our BlogCamp that launched last week Friday.

See all of my answers here.



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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…

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
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Ashesi’s Cool Students

ubuntuThis time of year, millions of students across the globe start their academic year, so also on a hill in the small town of Berkuso in  Ghana for students of Ashesi University College. As I teach mostly freshmen, I think of their journey – even during parental leave days filled with baby wipes, small socks and feedings.

At this point I read Akotowaa’s funny blogpost about Ashesi coolness. She writes:

In my head, there’s like, this group of the ‘cool Ghanaians’ […] Should I start calling out names? Deborah Frempong, Paapa, Michael Annor, Jessica Boifio, Lauretta (the coolest ballet teacher in the world), Kobla (the creator of Oware 3D) etc… The list goes on. But what most – though certainly not all – of the names I have in mind have in common is Ashesi.

First theory: when you get accepted into Ashesi, they perform numerous strange juju rituals over your documents and then let you join the cult, making you automatically cool.

Second theory: the GMI (I just made that up. It stands for Ghana Military Intelligence) comes to Ashesi to ‘talk’ to all the new recruits, and deliver the top secrets of the keys to success as a Ghanaian and swear them to secrecy.

Third theory: The teachers and the way they teach the students are cool.

Of course, this is the least exciting of all the theories, but whatever. Apparently, people like to be ‘realistic’ or something weird like that. Erm…

To this least exciting theory that the writer later zooms in on, I would like to add three things:
  1. Yep, teachers at Ashesi are cool. To the list of (very cool) lecturers such as Dela Kumahor, Kobina Graham and Ayorkor Korsah, I want to add virtually all other faculty. Their varying backgrounds, spark in eye and motivations make them amazing! In addition, I’d say all staff too are cool. (To get to know us better, check out staff and Arts and Sciences, Business and Computing faculty on the Ashesi Website).
  2. Yep, the way we teach at Ashesi is different, we follow the liberal arts method – you learn a lot about many things, about the world around you, about different ways of thinking (statistics, history of ideas, programming, leadership…), about problem solving, about working together, about questioning what is. You learn for life, not for the exam (hopefully).
  3. Finally, the cool Ghanaians mentioned in the list – many of who I am proud to say have been my students – are indeed cool, but not because of interaction with cool faculty and staff at Ashesi, nor because of the Liberal Arts the have imbibed, but because they have been encouraged over four years to grow THEMSELVES.  To be who they really are. To not be afraid of their ideas. To take themselves seriously and as much as possible do the best they can for a brighter future. And that is powerful. And quite cool.
Around this time, more than 100 freshmen are trying to find their way around the green Ashesi campus, get to know their classmates and check out kilos of books from the library.  (I am at home, comforting a baby and picking  up Lego from the floor). It might not seem so, but for these students, these are the first steps to coolness and an exciting journey into themselves.
Ps. Akotowaa, I was impressed by your on point observations after just one week on campus. I am guessing you might apply to join Ashesi full time? And also you are a swell blogger, why not join BloggingGhana?
Photo from a summer course I taught at Ashesi last year.
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Remembering Emmanuel Yaw Amofa Okyere

I was just reached by the horrible news that developer, social entrepreneur and friend Emmanuel Yaw Amofa Okyere had passed away.

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I remember the first time we met. He came to a BloggingGhana meeting, I believe at Starbites in East Legon, and I noticed him as a new face right away. A head taller than everybody else with a wide smile on a handsome face, he stood out. He listened in to the likely long meeting and towards the end made some remarks on how he could help our organisation. I can’t remember exactly what he offered, but I remember it was generous and involved personal involvement on his side. I also remember his infectious smile later when we said goodbye. After this, we would meet regularly at iSpace, BlogCamps, Data BootCamp and other tech events. He would often be called “Chief” by his colleagues and friends.

Emmanuel Okyere and Nehemiah Attigah’s Odekro initiative was one I very much respected and was inspired by. Their latest project was a simple way for people to find voting registration centres – GotToVote.

As a digital citizen, upon hearing the news I went to his Facebook wall and to his Twitter page. His final tweet was almost spooky, as he promised a friend to teach him chess this weekend, but also testament to his helpful ways.

I can’t believe this kind and exceptional man is gone. Although Emmanuel’s passing is a huge blow to the tech and civic engagement community, I fear he will leave an even greater void privately. My thoughts go out to his wife and daughter, colleagues and friends.

Photo borrowed from Sunlight Foundation.

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World Cup Discussions in Social Media in Ghana: Black Stars and Mahama

While games are ongoing in Brazil and the very popular Ghanaian team, the Black Stars, are still in the game playing Portugal later today…they seem to lose the news cycle game every day to the Ghanaian president, John Dramani Mahama.

Black Narrator

The top issues have been so far:

1. Electricity and the World Cup.

What happened: For some time now, Ghana’s power supply has been erratic. Since mid-May, the country has experienced scheduled breaks in supply. Just before the world cup, the government came out to say electricity supply will be enough for all during the World Cup.

Public verdict: I haven’t seen one single positive comment to this intervention. Although Ghanaians LOVE soccer, it seems the public opinion would prefer electricity during working hours to be able to be productive…

2. Can you insult your president?

What happened:  Before the Germany game, the president Tweeted that he had talked to the players and encouraged them that they could take on the German team. The issue quickly became politicized and many wrote angry comments to the post.

Public verdict: Here my social media friends seemed to be split between those who thought the president have more important things to do than talk strategy with fotball players and those who found the intervention worthwhile. Many however stressed that a president is president for the nation and should not be insulted.

3. Appearance fee sent by plane.

What happened: The Black Stars had been promised an appearance fee that did not come and the team expressed disappointment. Next we knew, a plane left Ghana with the appearance fee of USD 75000 for each player – (“incredibly”, says the Guardian) in cash.

Public verdict: Questions galore! Why should the team hold a poor country to ransom? How could the government prioritize this, when key functions in the country are down? (fuel crisis and owing money to school feeding programs, health professionals etc.) Why was the money sent in a plane with cash and not wired into accounts? Many were also embarrassed to see international media discuss the issue.

It seems politics and fotball intersect once again! To discuss these issues and others surrounding the World Cup, BloggingGhana’s project InformGhana will be running a Twitter discussion today between 1-3 PM Ghana time. 

 Follow @informGhana on Twitter and chip in with the hashtag #Sports4Dev



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My Writing Process

Yesterday, I was happy, humbled and surprised to find that Anna Leonhard/Room To Grow had featured me in her post on her own writing process. This is what she wrote about me:

Screenshot 2014-06-11 09.44.25I was immediately inspired to write about my writing and pass on the torch to others. The format is four questions and features of three other writers, who then are encouraged to do the same. Here we go!

What am I working on?

My writing has always been manyfold, since I learned how to write – I keep some kind of private diary (currently through the app Gratitude Diary), I write for the world on, I write for school – just now on a one-month-research-stay at the Nordic Africa Institute on my dissertation on migration aspirations among Ghanaian University Students, I write in my work, most recently comments on 110 final papers. I always have a creative writing project going as well, but currently it is not my focus.

 How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Does it? I do not think I aim to be different from anybody else, however I feel my blog covers a lacunae in the blogosphere by topic as very few blogs (although now in their 100s ) are written out of Ghana and the Ghanaian experience.

Why do I write what I do?

I live by writing! One of the most uncomfortable things for me is being somewhere without a notebook. As soon as I learned how to write, I have been a prolific producer of texts. I can’t help it.

How does my writing process work?

I live to write, which means all the things I do can end up on a screen or paper. This becomes a lifestyle and documenting that lifestyle is my writing process. I write during the day, a little bit in the evening and I dream of my writing projects and take notes for them 24/7.

For work/studies I do a lot of rewrites (but almost never for the blog) and for some odd reason keep all my drafts. I also keep a dedicated file called “killed darlings” for all projects as I loathe deleting anything I have written. Moving it to a “killed darlings” file seems easier to me.

I am passing #MyWritingProcess on to three creative writers in Ghana, all working on book projects at the moment – I want to know how to write a book!

Fiona Leonard


Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah

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Upcoming BloggingGhana Events!

BloggingGhana feb 2014BloggingGhana had a wonderful meeting in February (see photo above) and when looking forward, many exciting things are happening: BlogCamp is around the corner, we are getting ready to move into our new Social Media Hub (see the film here!) and soon new executives (maybe you?) will steer the ship!

Here is a list of important dates:
Sunday 23, 3-6 PM March meet up – our first meeting in the new hub! (From now on we will meet there unless otherwise indicated!)
Saturday 5, 3-6 PM, Pre-BlogCamp Event with guests
Sunday 6, Midnight, Deadline for Executive nominations (form to follow) and proposals.
Saturday, 12 All Day BlogCamp and the Social Media Awards!
Sunday 11, 4-6 PM, Annual General Meeting (AGM). Come and vote! FOR PAYING MEMBERS ONLY, pay by April 12th to participate! Membership details here.
Please RSVP to events and find more details on BloggingGhana’s FB page!
This post can also be found on BloggingGhana’s blog.


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Victoria Okoye on Accra in the Guardian: BloggingGhana Mentioned!

BloggingGhana was last week featured in the Guardian by their Blogger of the Week, our own Victoria Okoye/ African Urbanism.

“There’s BloggingGhana, an organised group of bloggers hitting on everything from everyday issues to politics, art, fashion to leading initiatives for greater transparency in elections, government and social action.”

Screenshot 2014-03-12 12.23.13Read Victoria’s whole article here.

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YesiYesi, Falling Cedi and Laughter: Ghanaians and their Political Humor

Screenshot 2014-02-18 10.29.06Probably I should not put this in a blogpost, but rather write an abstract together for an academic paper with my inspiring colleague who writes about Ghanaian politics in just this way.

Anyways, I am thrilled that YesiYesi now provides almost daily, online satire with “the onion”-like twists of Ghanaian daily news. It is the first time someone (who?) has put together online versions of the very typical Ghanaian, political humour online in such a consistent manner. In a blog! (Please join BloggingGhana!) In the last few days we have read about …Justin Bieber moving to Ghana, Ghanaian women refusing Valentine’s gifts if the Cedi can stabilise, Ghanaians soon being able to go to UK without a Visa, and my favorite, KNUST charging  toll for walking on the pavement, the rate based on your foot wear…chale wote was cheapest…haha, I have to laugh just by thinking about it!

Finally, Ghana has its own news satire, and, YesiYesi, it is on point!


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BloggingGhana in 2014: #MoreStories

This year, my organisation BloggingGhana is taking a giant leap forward by getting our own physical space: Ghana’s first social media hub. But we need help to create opportunities for #morestories to be told. Over the next month and a few more days, we are trying to crowd-source USD 10 000 for our new office. You can be a part of our success!

See our video (featuring my colleague Edward and myself!)

Donate on Indiegogo!


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