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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Shirley Temple: Actress and Ambassador in Ghana

Shirley Temple Black Americans have for long understood the potential of a face known from film. Not just President Ronald Regan or Governor Arnold Schwartsenegger  made the transition from white screen to colorful politics, actress Shirley Temple did too.

In 1974 she landed in Ghana as the American ambassador. The country was 18 years out of colonialism, but head-deep into dependency, especially due to the American oil crisis at the time. Temple stayed in Ghana for two years.

When I first heard about this interesting career change and Temple’s time in Ghana, I marveled. I became almost obsessed with finding photos of Temple in Ghana and my eyes widened as I saw her coiffed hair bobbing around in the Ghanaian sun surrounded by traditional leaders and welcoming parades.

 It would be interesting to know more about what her everyday life in Ghana was like, maybe now that she is gone, some writings might appear? Some interviews will be done? but never the less, her life reminds us that no matter where you start in life, you might end up in Ghana, smiling in the sun.

Photo borrowed from The Guardian from a worthwhile biography.

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25 Questions on Entrepreneurship

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 10.55.17 PMMy blogging friend Kobbie has started a project asking people in Ghana tech / entrepreneurial / life questions such as What does the internet mean to you? (Q2),  What’s the biggest thing you struggle with as an entrepreneur? (Q 11) and What does seeing the world mean to you? (Q 15).

You can read my 25 answers here, however here is a preview:

12.  What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done as an entrepreneur?  Bought 200 bananas.”

Edward, Ato and Rodney are other participants.

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Prof. Mkandawire to University of Ghana

Every year in March (this year April for some reason), the University of Ghana gives all its students a lavish gift: The Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lecture Series. A world known scholar will give a lecture, many times on development or similar, and the community comes together and celebrates the best academia has to offer. This year Professor Thandika Mkandawire from the London School of Economics is the speaker.

Mkandewiret_85x119Earlier speakers have been Dr. Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico (2012), Prof. Wole Soyinka (2007) , but I can’t find a proper list of them all…Anyway, Mkandawire is originally from Malawi, but has lived and worked all over the world, notably for the UN (for its Research Institute on Social Development), CODESRIA (organization for African Universities), and at universities in UK, Zimbabwe and even Sweden! I have come across his work on the past and future of universities in Africa, as it is a topic that interests me. So I am looking forward to this lecture series! As this was not enough, I have gotten interesting reactions to that he is lecturing in Ghana: “he is fun/wild/crazy” is often said, so now my hopes are even higher!

The lectures take place in the Great Hall at the very top of the Legon campus this week and are open to the public:

Wed 17th April, 2013 5 PM ‘From “Recovery” to Development”

Thu 18th April, 2013 5 PM “Bringing Social Equality Back in”

Fri 19th, 2013 2.30 PM “The University and “Catching up”

I believe the last leg will be very interesting for my research and think Prof is referring to a World Bank document “Accelerating Catch-Up: Tertiary Education for Growth in Africa” (2009) where Africa’s universities (should) catch up. I am guessing he thinks “catching up” is not the best image for the process that is ongoing on the continent, maybe it suggests Africa should “follow” the West, maybe he thinks the World Bank should not be trusted when it comes to higher education, maybe he thinks Africa’s leaders should aim higher than just catching up…In addition, I hope he says something about “knowledge societies”, the newest buzz word on the block, but the one who listens will find out!

A funny detail is that Mkandawire was also chosen to be the Distinguished Nyerere Lecturer 2013 in Tanzania and seem to combine the two lectures in one trip!

Photo borrowed from LSU


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Blogs I Read: Book Blogs

I love book blogs. For someone who loves reading they are icing on the cake in the best possible way.  They are at times like substitute book clubs, discussing every possible aspect of a piece of literature and at other times, like beautiful notice boards, helping you navigate the depths of information out there.

In Ghana there are two book blogs to “write home” about.

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1. Accra Books and Things – All Ghanaian literary releases, events and personalities get featured on this blog which also covers library issues and other things you did not know you were interested in!

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2. Kinna reads

Kinna reads and writes about her readings. She has also introduced me to high tech reading lists, challenges and a host of international, especially African, book blogs.

I am proud to say that both originators are friends of mine and active members of BloggingGhana. Below I caught them at a book event last year, Kinna to the left, Nina slightly further away from the camera.

Ghana book bloggers Kinna and Nina


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Johanna Koljonen: Nordic Media Personality Blogs in English

As someone living abroad, I of course follow many blogs and tweeps for information on what is going on in my native Sweden. Social media is beyond popular in Sweden with fast and accessible broadband and smartphones in almost every pocket.

Sweden has more than 500 000 twitter users for a population of 9 million people (according to #meg13) and I read once that a third of Swedish women 18-30 have a blog!

Not surprisingly, most tweets, blogposts and articles are posted in Swedish and although I adore my mother tongue, it is disappointing to never get to share my Swedish feeds with my  non-Swedish speaking crowds. Then today, I found Johanna Koljonen’s blog. And it is written in English!

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  Strictly speaking Koljonen is not Swedish, but Swedish-Finnish and from her blog I learned that she lives in Denmark and has a degree from Oxford. So let me not claim her for Sweden, but rather call her “Nordic”.

Still she is a central media personality in Sweden right now and apart from appreciating her style (girl next door meets thoughtfulness) and interests (literature, sex, popular culture), I really do love that I can share her with you!

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Nana Oye Lithur Vetted as Minister

In the news, ministerial vettings are ongoing with interesting turns around the new Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, a lawyer (im)famous for her activism around homosexuality and human rights generally.

During her parliamentary hearing, she had to use some “double speak” to be able to go through and still not alienate her fanbase. My favorite careful wording from the vetting was when she said she has “not said any word that I will promote homosexuality”. Luckily, noone asked her if she will “promote heterosexuality”! See clips from the vetting below, my favorite quote starts at 1.27.

I have met her once, at the Humanist conference late last year, and took this photo of when Nana Oye Lithur told us about a front page of (Ghana’s largest newspaper) the Daily Graphic that was a “worst case scenario” for an activist as it zeroed in on her as a supporter of something that is more than controversial in Ghana. However, as an encouragement for others with views against the norm she concluded “it wasn’t all that bad, no real bad things happened after this” and indeed she was right, it even didn’t stop her from a ministerial position just a few years later!


Although there were people against the nomination and much conspicuous debate, others also supported her and in the end she sailed through the vetting process and has now worked her first day. I am happy for Ghana. Oye Lithur is a clever woman and this is – even if no homosexual promotion will be carried out – a clear break with the homophobic past of Ghanaian political leadership.



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Kofi Annan’s Memoir and Other Biographies

Today, I went to the launch of Kofi Annan’s memoir, “Interventions, A life in war and peace”. I tried to tweet from the event, but had some problems with my network. Hence, I’d like to share my twitter reports here.

Before I do, I must confess I stayed until the end of the program to get my hands on a copy. I love memoirs. It is something special about a “true story”. Especially when told by a successful member of the community. Reading their story is like getting a moment to converse with them. Last it was President Mahama. Today it is Kofi Annan. Who’s next? If you are thinking about doing me the honor, check out this free online creative writing course that discusses, among other things, how to write a memoir.

Did I get the book? No, it quickly sold out. I guess I am not the only one loving memoirs…

Here to my reporting from the evening:









  If you have read all the way here, thanks for your patience! By the way, did I tell you about when I invited Kofi Annan and his Swedish wife Nane to our wedding? No? Well, I guess that is a story for my biography!

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What I learned from the WACSI Social Media Conference

Wednesday and Thursday, West Africa Civil Society Institute, WACSI, had invited me and some of my fellow blogging colleagues to an international conference on the opportunities of social media.

Present were among others Nigerian online campaigners like Enough Is Enough, Ivorian sister organization to BloggingGhana, CIVBLOG, Buddy Media/Marketing Cloud a Ghanaian (branch of a?) company managing social media and especially Facebook pages around the world and Source Fabric, an interesting social media software organization, as well. Some prominent Tweeps like @spectraspeaks (Nigeria/US), @ZawadiN (Kenya), @mashanubian (Gambia/Senegal) @MacJordaN were also attending and of course GhanaDecides.

Out of the two days of conferencing, I could only attend one due to other obligations, but still walked away with plenty of inspiration and a few insights that I would like to share with you:

  1. The simplest way of starting a movement and getting people to connect is starting a hashtag – some relevant examples: for African feminists, #Afrifem, possibly #Afriblog for African bloggers and for Tema folk wanting to promote our city in the center of the world #Tema00. This method requires zero overhead, no funding and can have great impact.
  2. Crowd funding is the future. With webapplications connected to local banks, people can make donations using the Internet directly to organizations. EIENigeria uses 234give for instance and encourage people to pledge to contribute monthly to their activities.
  3. We are not alone. Sometimes, Ghana feels like an island, but with Internet (and a IRL conference once in a while), clearly it is not. Great things are happening in our neighbor countries – and in Ghana! –  and we just need to learn from eachother, adapt solutions to our environment and the inspire them right back! I have a feeling that especially EIE Nigeria and CIVBLOG will be great partners for BloggingGhana!

Thanks to the organizers for putting this fruitful meeting together. Next time, Adventurers in the Diaspora and Accra Dot Alt  should also be invited – Ghanaian social movements using social media!


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The Power of We: Three Examples from Ghana

 Blog Action Day 2012,  or #BAD12 for short, is a day where bloggers all over the world together write on one topic. Over the last years, I have participated on themes such as “poverty” and “climate change”. This year a slightly more poetic theme has been chosen: “the power of we”. I thought of providing examples of this “power of we” from three organizations I am involved with here in Ghana. The way I see it, the power of we is about both building a community internally and working for a greater good, together. There are definite overlaps in all three examples:

1. Ashesi University College

Pillars: Leadership, Scholarship, Citizenship.

Mission: to educate a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa; to cultivate within our students the critical thinking skills, the concern for others and the courage it will take to transform a continent.

The power of we at Ashesi: Except for stating in our mission statement we are interested in fostering concern for others and change in our community, we locally on campus cultivate an “Ashesi community” by

  • having campus wide events where everybody from the security man to the students and lecturers to the President Patrick Awuah are expected to attend,
  • having a shared emailing list,
  • celebrating eachother’s success and also
  • including graduates or workers who leave as part of the community.

Personally, I value this community as a treasured part of my remuneration for the work I do and try to give back by inviting the community to events I organize like  and helping to build capacity, especially in social media.

Learn more about Ashesi or read my other posts on Ashesi University College.

2. BloggingGhana

Pillars: Friendship and Technology

Mission and Objectives: to bring the Ghanaian blog community together in real life!

  1.  Serving as a forum for bloggers in Ghana to network and exchange ideas
  2. Building capacity among bloggers in Ghana
  3. Accessing new audiences for our blogs through a mutual website (aggregator) and other activities
  4. Promoting citizen journalism in Ghana
  5. Educating the general public in Ghana on the opportunities of social media

The power of we in BloggingGhana: For this organization, the power of we became glaringly apparent when we last year decided to upgrade ourselves from a group of friends who had met every month since 2008 to discuss society and social media to a registered non-profit organization.  We were hesitant of taking that step, I guess worried that it would take the fun out of the group. Eventually we dared to take the step!  Registering as an official entity has allowed us to partner with other organizations and look for funding, and only 1,5 years after receiving our documents, we have come a long way in promoting and improving social media use in Ghana. And we are still having fun!

Join BloggingGhana or read about our projects, BlogCamp and GhanaDecides.

3. Nubuke Foundation

Pillars: Record, Preserve, Promote

The power of we in Nubuke Foundation:  This art foundation located in Accra does excellent programs and bring together people from the whole artistic spectrum in Ghana. They have the NuFriend program for people who want to promote and help the organization, but that was never enough for me. I have been volunteer since the first time I set fot on their premises, and not just me, the place has many volunteers and almost every month a new face can be seen helping out! Why is this? I believe the directors of Nubuke, the Ghanian artist Kofi Setordji and the art collector and curator Odile Tevie are excellent leaders who really see the people around them and recognize how we can help. Still today when I have less time to volunteer (the few hours a month have gone down next to 0 since I had my child), they always greet me with a smile, tease me about   something and call to check in. They know, I am a volunteer for life and treat me as such!

Visit Nubuke Foundation or read my earlier posts here.

 Conclusion: Two levels of the Power of We

So all these three Ghanian groups have a strong culture where individuals feeling a part of the family is key to the success of the organization. But even more important is that they all have missions that guide us to do something bigger, something better, something  that resonates with the longing for the “we” in the human individual. Or as Margaret Mead puts it in one of my favorite quotes ever:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Read fellow Ghanaians who have written on the Power of We here: Maya’s Earth (our co-founder also wrote on BloggingGhana!), African Feminist Forum, Ghana Humanists and Obed Sarpong.

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What We can Learn from Sister Deborah’s “Uncle Obama” Video

Over the last week or so, the music video of “Uncle Obama” with Sister Deborah has been moving round the social media sites like wildfire here in Ghana. Already from the title of the song, we can hear that it’s beckons attention and after just a few seconds of watching, we realize what kind of attention that is…( if you haven’t seen it,  and hence do not know what I am getting at, the next line goes “I like the size of your banana”…).

Everybody has an opinion about this song, some say it is cheeky or catchy, others say  it is controversial or that Sister Deborah should act instead of sing! I have also heard comments along the line of that artists with resources should have a message instead of just joking around.

Regardless of what you think of the song, I believe there are several things we can learn from this video.

  1.  It does not matter if the content is silly, if the video is of high quality, people will watch. Today the video has more than 235 000 views on YouTube!
  2.  We all love cameos. In this video, Wanlov, M3nsa and Mutombo (and some employees of a well known multinational, I have heard thru the grapevine) add to the flair.
  3.  If you are a skilled social media user, you can create a hype in days.

All of this could come together to create and promote many more Ghanaian music videos that actually gets watched world wide with very little effort. Another example of the same “silly song” phenomenon is the Korean Gagnam Style music video that I also cannot get out of my head… Again a premium production of a very silly song… The other day, a friend was saying how the local Ghanaian Azonto craze never really caught on in other parts of the world,but what if someone would do a high quality video, throw in some cameos and start hitting the social media sites. I have seen on Twitter that all messages mentioning the “Uncle Obama” song are retweeted or responded to, for instance. That goes a long way for creating a hype.

Finally, we can learn that people like silly dances they can copy, but maybe Sister Deborah went just too far there. I am yet to see someone copying her “size of your banana”-move. Or have I just been spending  too much time in the office?


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My Fall 2012 at Ashesi: Teaching Communication

This fall, I am teaching two classes, Written and Oral Communication and Text and Meaning. Both classes are part of Ashesi University College’s liberal arts core and both are offered to our first year students.

I really enjoy teaching these communications classes and have together with my colleagues Kobby and Frimpong created two intense syllabi full of writing assignments, readings and speeches/presentations. We are for instance reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s shortstory A Private Experience, doing a speech in the Ghana Decides Tag series style to be presented in video format and doing free-writing almost every class! We will also go for study visits, have guest-speakers and write a final paper!

My students are all really cool, lively and talented and have already amazed and inspired me, I also work with a fun and helpful team – hence I am looking forward to an intense semester of communication!

Collage made with Pixlr.

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