Back in Ghana or When I Met Kofi Annan

So my Swedish summer is over and I am back in Ghana with all that it entails. So far:

1. A Ghanaian wedding in which a vuvuzela played an important role.

“Do you take this… VUUUU! VUUUU!”

2. Getting the updates on our backyard farm from my husband.

“…And here we have tomatoes, watermelon, two kinds of plantain, cassava, paw-paw and there ginger. Don’t step on the pepper!”

3. A visit to the drivers licensing office, DVLA. I was there for an hour and did of course not get my license. I did however read an article about the corruption at the DVLA while I waited.

4. Returning to work where E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y greeted me whith a heartily:

“Akwaaba! How was your trip?”

5. A function at the University of Ghana where I, to my surprise, got the chance to pitch my research idea to Former Secretary General of UN  Kofi Annan.

“I am interested in why Ghanaian students leave this…” Kofi Annan interrupts me excitedly:


“Yes, exactly, this wonderful country”. When he found out I was married here in Ghana to a Ghanaian he and his Swedish wife Nane Annan smiled and said a warm “congratulations!”

Yes, I am back in Ghana! This wonderful country!

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My Africa: Swedes in Africa

Photo credit: DN/Benedicte Kurzen

Yesterday, as a part of the South Africa World Cup report, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter featured five interviews with Swedes living in Africa under the heading “Mitt Afrika” or “My Africa” after Karen Blixen‘s novel with the same name ( in English it was called “Out of Africa”).

I must say I enjoyed reading the interviews by DN’s Africa correspondant Anna Koblanck, (with people like me!). I especially liked the interview with the newly wed Swedish woman in Soweto, Maria Westlund Malepa.  Still, I found that some clichés were repeated about life in Africa: “I have learned how to wait” “Sure I am scared sometimes.. is it soldiers who had too much to drink and shoot, thieves or a new war happening somewhere?” and “the weather, the people, the colors”. But to be fair, other images were shared as well, such as Botswana/Africa being a good place to raise children and Tanzania a place to further your career.

The cap article stated that there are fewer Swedes in Africa today than earlier due to that aid agencies these days post less Swedes in Africa and make more local hires. But I wonder if this is really making the number of Swedes in Africa smaller? Is there a way to find out?

I think Swedes in Africa are more than ever before. I was recently surprised by how many Swedes actually do live in Ghana for example.  The globalization is opening up for many more opportunities. Also, people in my generation seem to to a larger extent value “experience from abroad”and then particularly from developing countries. I have the feeling we rather seek the opportunity than expect to be heavily compensated if it arises.

The mystique and lure of “My Africa” might be bigger than some think.

Also, I should stop saying I have learned how to wait in Ghana and blame Africa when I am running late to meetings!

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Yours Truly on E-TV

I have been invited to E-TV, Ghana’s newest(?) free-to-show tv-channel, and their morning show!

I’ll be speaking to George, who found me through this blog. Heasked me to prepare for the following topics:

how you first heard about Ghana, a bit about your PHD project, your teaching, why you married a Ghanaian, and your future plans.

Tune in tomorrow Friday around 7.30 am.  Tune in or I’ll tell you in this space how it went!

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On Becoming an Artist

I am happy to announce that yesterday was the first day of my career as a visual artist.

Even though I have been drawing, painting and sculpting since I was a child, cheered on by my parents, and even made paintings for official spaces as a university student in Uppsala, yesterday marked something different.

I was ASKED to partake in an upcoming exhibition curated by famous Ghanaian painter Kofi Setordji at Nubuke Foundation. The exhibit which focus on Ghanaian public space will be called “My space, your space”. Together with my friend, Miss V, I had prepared a concept note which we presented to Kofi. He liked it and invited us to work on the project for the net few weeks.

At this stage, the project is TOP SECRET, but I have the feeling that in the near future it will do very well in a blog format.

Now I’m curious to know, what is your second career?

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Finally: Coz ov Moni Premieres

M3nsa wanlov FOKN BoisOn Saturday May 15th, the time has finally come for this creative, fresh and rocking musical movie, Coz ov Moni, to open to the world! Directed by King Luu and produced by Panji Anoff of Pidgen Music. It is featuring musicians Wanlov – the Kubolor and M3nsa (together they form the FOKN Bois), but also poet Mutumbo and legend Reggie Rockstone as well as other Ghana celebs!

This is the plot:

On a normal morning in Gbese, Accra. The FOKN Bois wake up and plan to go clubbing with some lady friends after chasing an evasive debtor for their money. Their free-spirited and seemingly conceited attitude makes them a few enemies as the day progresses. How will this day end for the FOKN Bois? Do they deserve what awaits them at the end of it all? Come find out!

Do you remember the funky Coz ov Moni trailer I posted some time ago? For the premiere, think that x 20!

DATE: Saturday, May 15th

VENUE: National Theatre

TIME: 6.30pm & 8.30pm  (Two screenings)


This is going to be so great! Why? Coz of Moni! See you there!

Read more about the premiere at Ameyaw Debrah, Museke, African Hip Hop , Ghana Celebrities and fellow blogger MacJordan. Also read the lovely interviews in Dust Magazine with Kubolor and M3nsa.

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Aid the West: Design for the First World

white african I thought I’d promote this lovely competition, Design for the First World – in short, Dx1W, because it is witty, spot on and relevant. By addressing First World problems and speaking to professionals in developing countries, it is directly opposite to so much else I see. The more traditional approach, like the 10 ideas for Africa I wrote about the other week is so much more common.

So this is exciting! I know I’d spend too much time explaining it, so let me just give you the information in original:

“Dx1W has proclaimed 2010 International Year of the First World in Need, and has defined four main areas to address:
– Food Production and Eating Disorders,
– Aging Population and Low Birth rate,
– Immigration and Integration to Society,
– Sustainability and Overconsumption.

Furthermore, one of the major aims of the Year will be to demonstrate the beneficial effects of cultural diversity. We want to recognize the importance of transfers and exchanges between cultures through implicit or explicit dialogue that underlines how cultures and civilizations are interlinked and contribute to the progress of humankind.”

Yes, Food and eating…They have a point here. Population has been deemed the next big crisis for Europe, so good problem to attack. Immigration and integration issues gain attention by the day, but maybe my favorite is the issue of sustainability. If everybody shopped like the West, we’d need more earths!

Ok, some good topics and progress of humankind. Sounds good! Then the organizers of Dx1W go on on a little rant on “solutions” from the west which I think is well deserved, although I feel “pay back” might be taking it one step too far – aid or solutions most often has a good intention behind it (?). Similarily, I think this competition should be done with a helpful attitude and not as a frantic “pay back” attack.

“Our fellows in the first world often come to visit and give us their well intentioned but often very problematic “solutions”. We thought, why don’t we pay back? Dx1W is a competition for designers, artists, scientists, makers and thinkers in developing countries to provide solutions for First World problems.

Deadline May 30st, 2010 11:59 p.m. EST”

All this is just the beginning. For more inspiration, read the Dx1W Blog.

What do you think? Is this just the first initiative, of many to come, to help the First World? A silly prank? An idea that has your full support?

Pic borrowed from Swedish fashion company H&M’s spring collection 2009. Where they had borrowed their inspiration from was not too clear.

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World Bank Does Good: Opens Free Data Website

On April the 20th 2010, the World Bank announced they would be making their statistics on development available on the Internet, free of charge. Before you needed to pay to have access to these data sets or buy a CD-ROM. At the same time a new website was opened to easily disseminate the information – (see pic).

The Swedish organization Gapminder has been working for some time now with making it happen and. In 2006, was lucky to work with one of their board members, Gun-Britt Andersson and was by her introduced to Gapminder’s mission of “unveiling the beauty of statistics for a facts based world view”. Since then, I have seen Director of Gapminder Hans Rosling’s TED speeches many times and played around with the data on their website.

Now even more data is available. Gapminder commented on the World Bank releasing some of its development data on its website calling it a “bold and long awaited step”.

Free statistics, what does it mean?

Well, to start out with, information is now available all over the world. All decision makers can now afford to inform themselves. Researchers and students can find more data to test theses and critique current data collection, indicators and methods. Developers can play around with the data and make it even more accessible. An app-competition is to be organized soon.

Read Owen’s blog and Privat Sector Development Blog for more info on its uses.

Faced with this statistical opportunity,  what did I do?

I first checked out the country page for Ghana. It was easy to overview, but unfortunately the additional indicators took a while to load. Still most recent information on GDP, GNI, Poverty, Literacy, Debt, Education, Infrastructure and Unemployment lay in front of me in seconds.

Second, I looked at topics. I was looking for migration, but as I couldn’t find it, I chose Education as I also have a research interest in Higher Education. As the page loaded, my first feeling was confusion. How can total enrollment be 106% for primary school?

After thinking about it for a while and realizing primary enrollment has dramatically increased over the last years , I can only think of one explanation. Is it because now also older students get a chance to catch up?

What else did I find?

For higher education I found two interesting indicators – enrollment on tertiary level and public expenditure on tertiary students per student as percentage of GDP per capita. For the first one, Ghana has 6,2% of an age group that officially corresponds to tertiary level enrolled in tertiary education. Sweden has 74,5%. Public expenditure on education, especially higher education is an interesting number, so why not give it to us in a more comparable format?The data can with a click be seen as a map instead of a table. The sets can also be saved or shared.

All in all, I recommend visiting this website. The data being released is long overdue – imagine the “open market” supporters clinging on to their own data! Actually, this information raises more questions than it answers which is a pretty awesome outcome.

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Volcanic Ash Cloud Consequences in Ghana

Iceland volcano Ghana airplane

On BBC we could hear how the Kenyan flower industry was suffering from the recent Icelandic volcano outbreak leaving an ashcloud over Europe which hinders aviation. So what are the consequences in Ghana?

When searching for information it first it seemed like 22 Americans stranded was the main effect, but as I have myself heard of three people being caught up in this mess (one in London going to Ghana, one in Ghana going to Sweden and one from Ghana going to Oslo but getting caught at his overlay destination…) I figured this could not be all. Also, just like Kenya, Ghana is an exporter of fresh items like pineapple, papaya, mango, chillies and heavily intertwined with Europe for other business too.

After continuing my search, I found a good article from The Ghanaian Times in which Aviance, a Ghanaian company air-freighting fruits and other goods from Ghana to the UK and Europe estimated loosing USD 10 million daily. The same article stated that KLM, Afriquiah and Ghana International Airlines had all canceled their flights, but (this was on Thursday) AlItalia and Lufthansa were still operating.

According to the same article,

Clearing and exporting agents of the Ghanaian exporters handling the exports, declined to talk to the Times, saying they had not been authorized to do so.

I really do not understand why they could not comment on the effects, however, this might explain why so little has been heard about the consequences of the volcanic ash cloud in Ghana.

For the environment, it might be a good thing though, see above visualization from Information is Beautiful comparing the emissions from the volcano and the planes…

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TEDx Snapshots

Here are my snapshot impressions of this weekend’s TEDxYouthInspire:

Youth / Inspiring Messages / “The value of other”/ AISEC / Shy? / Yawa Hansen-Quao / Warchild / Social Media / Ory Okulloh / Curious Minds

…and a big thanks to Ghanablogging members MacJordan and Gameli for organizing such an event and making us proud!

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Aim for the Stars: Ghana Planetarium

Up until about two months ago, I had no clue Accra had its own planetarium. Not knowing what to expect, I went for an event and came out amazed and much wiser…

The program started with a video and some talk about the Ghana Science Project/ Ghana Planetarium by Dr. Jacob Ashong, the initiator of the project, and as the evening drew closer we entered the planetarium dome for some cool presentations almost lying down in the chairs provided. When they do shows for kids, they are invited to lie on the floor which I’d love to have done!

We were also told about the free software Stellarium that shows you a map of the sky from wherever you live including the position of planets, star clusters, and movement over time. Later, I downloaded it and absolutely LOVE IT!

After that we went outside, now it was almost dark. We watched the International Space Station (ISS to all astronomy lovers) fly by and took a closer look at the moon with all its craters.

Now you also have the chance! Here’s a message from the Ghana Planetarium.

April 2010 is “Global Astronomy Month”, and there will be events at the Ghana Planetarium every Saturday throughout the month.  Each event will have a theme, depending on what can (hopefully!) be seen in the night sky around that time.

SATURDAY 10TH APRIL – Mars, our sister planet

SATURDAY 17TH APRIL – Saturn, “Lord of the Rings”


Events will start at 5pm, and will feature a Night Sky presentation, presentation or film show on that week’s theme, Planetarium show and telescope viewing (weather permitting).

Charge for each event:

Adult – GHc 5

Student – GHc 3

Child – GHc 2

Here are some related links,  Global Astronomy Month around the world, the  Ghana Astronomy and Observation Association (GAOA) and finally for more info on the Ghana Planetarium also read this article by one of the organizers, Sarah Abotsi-Masters.

Pic borrowed from the following Flickr set. UPDATE: Having temporary problems with uploading pictures.

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High Life in Stockholm

The other day on Facebook, I was surprised to see a friend in Sweden sign up to go listen to High Life, Ghana’s famous dance music, in Stockholm, Sweden. High LIfe is desribed by MTV’s Iggy blog as a:

“synthesis of European disco with Carribbean sounds and the influx of Reggae, Highlife is defined as uptempo, funky dance music that relies on synths for the melody. Vocals — often quickly-spoken lyrics that fell somewhere between rap and singing — have a whooshy, lo-fi feel to them.”

Further, the blog suggests,

“Ghanaian Highlife has been influencing every band of the moment — from Animal Collective to Pharell to crate-digging bands like Javelin that actually sample the stuff.”

Apparently, Ghanaian rhythms like High Life, and more recent Hip Life are really making way on Swedish dance floors. The event my friend signed up for, Klubb High Life, is described on the blog Swedish Palms. Under the heading “she be sweet like banana, she from Ghana”, DJ Cedi and Citizen Kofi (sic!) talk about their recent trip to Ghana. UPDATE: They have their own blog here.

“- Vi gjorde som Obama, vi drog till Ghana. Och det var verkligen sweet like banana, säger DJ Cedi.

DJ Cedi & Citizen Kofi är just nu i färd med att boka upp en klubbturné i Sverige och spela in debutmixtapet Gold Coast Rising – fullt med “top choice hits” från Accras dansgolv och freestyles och shoutouts från några av Ghanas största artister.”

“- We did like Obama, we went to Ghana. And it was really sweet like banana, says DJ Cedi.

DJ Cedi and Citizen Kofi (aka Märta Myrstener och John Airaksinen) are right now planning a club tour in Sweden and recording a debut mix tape called “Gold Coast Rising” – full of “top choice hits” from the dance floors of Accra and freestyles and shout outs from some of Ghana’s biggest artists.”

(My translaton)

It sounds great! Sometimes I wish homegrown music was described as confidently in Ghana, and in relation to nation branding, tourism, culture…Still, if you are in Stockholm, go shake your ass to some Ghanaian music at Strand 22-03 tonight!

And maybe some Ghanaian musicians will read this and think,

“First Sweden, then the world?”

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Only in Ghana – Twitter in Ghana

I signed up to Twitter some time ago and am still struggling with using it.

First it is the practical stuff. At times, I can upgrade my Twitter status or tweet from my phone – but many times this does not work.

Also, Twitter rarely works at home (Vodafone Broadband). Is it a firewall maybe?

But it has not really mattered, because I just could not see the use for Twitter. It is mostly a lot of noisy small talk.  The only (useful) application I have thought of is that I’d love to get (and contribute to)  updates about traffic for instance on the Tema-Accra motorway. I even invented a hashtag or searchable keyword for writing about traffic in Ghana  #TraGha – but how do one make a hashtag be used?

And OK, OK, Twitter is fun to use at events, with event specific hashtags but then phone updates have to work! (see above discussion).

So currently, I have given up on serious usage and as Twitter today is working from home/through a wordpress application, I found this up-and-coming funny hashtag: “#onlyinGhana”. Here are some of my favorites:

#onlyinGhana a Burger is regarded as ‘high class food’.

Theres a shop at the mall called WHITEley’s that sells only african stuff. #onlyinghana.

some cedi notes look like dey have fell in the gutter #onlyinghana

#onlyinghana where #facebook gurls paint their walls wid azar paint just to clean ya #wallpost

#onlyinghana does the whole parliament go to welcome Obama at the airport

What “only in Ghana” sentence would you add?

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