A Stolen Childhood and a Reclaimed Story: Brigitte Sossou Perenyi

Recently, I was introduced to an elegant looking woman in a coffee shop in Accra. She was well-spoken, chic, and had a good sense of humor, and a hello turned into a 30-minute conversation. Towards the middle of the convo, she told me about having had the opportunity to make a BBC documentary about her life. I was quite impressed talking to a twenty-something with her own documentary and told her I would check it out.

The woman was Brigitte Sossou Perenyi and her story was “My stolen childhood: understanding the trokosi system”. This fantastic documentary chronicles Brigitte’s and thousands of other West African girls’ unfair fate of being human sacrifices. In some cultures in Ghana, Togo, and Benin, a committed sin is believed to cause sickness and death in the family which can only be stopped if a girl is “sacrificed” and made a slave of a shrine.

This documentary is fantastic as it shows how striving for understanding of wrongs made against you can free you, how returning to the scene of the crime and remembering together can let your courage spread to others. Our heroine travels the region and speaks to everyone from an Uber-driver, a group of elders, academics studying the practice at the University of Ghana, her trokosi friend who also managed to get free, her family, and to all of us who want to listen to her story. I spent another half-an-hour with Brigitte and cherished every moment of it.

Thank you Brigitte for reclaiming and sharing your story with so much courage and truth-telling!

Trokosi, or ritual servitude, was made a crime in 1998, but no one has been prosecuted for a practice that is still ongoing and affecting many lives.

Glamorous Launch of An African City [Video from Auntie Oboshie]

On Thursday, I was at the glamorous launch of An African City, Season 2 that I blogged about some two weeks ago. See me flash by a few times in black and white chevron print in this video by Ghanaian fashion promotor Auntie Oboshie.

The launch had everything one could ask for: Fabulous African couture (although I was for once wearing Swedish off the rack H&M), champagne, beautiful people who kissed my cheeks, and was cohosted by inspiring career coaches She.Leads.Africa in Accra’s freshest building the One Airport Square.

What could be more glamorous?

Looking Forward to An African City 2 (coming Jan 24, 2016)

Right now there is a humongous group of people ( 35 300 YouTube subscribers and counting, basically a small city!) just waiting around for January 24th when An African City, the popular web series recorded in Accra, Ghana, is back with season 2! See my first impression of season one here. Bottom line: If you love talkative women, fashion, West Africa, and a little sex…this is for you. 

Here is the trailer of An African City Season 2:

While the girls and the setting remains the same, this season, the series will not be available for free on YouTube, but through a $19.99 subscription, underlining what has said in one of the early episodes…that everything in Ghana is really charged in US dollars!

Ps. If you missed season one, it’s still available on YouTube for free!

Suspended after a Tweet? Nana Aba Anamoah, TV3, and the power of Social Media

Over the last week on Ghana Twitter, we have all forgotten about the corruption in the judiciary and focused our attention on a story involving one of Ghana’s foremost TV-personalities, Nana Aba Anamoah.

What happened was:

  1. An acquaintance sent Anamoah photos of attending a high-level football game in the UK.
  2. Anamoah posted the photos on Twitter, indicating that she had been watching the game live.
  3. The owner of the photos openly questioned Anamoah and accused her of theft.
  4. Ghana Twitter went wild.
  5. A letter from TV3 management, suspended Anamoah from work.

My view on this is that this is a historical moment for social media in Ghana. This sector has been seen as not “real”, something that happens outside of work. Hence most media personalities in Ghana have their own personal accounts, powered by their appearance on a legacy media channel, but run solely by themselves without any support, training, equipment, as well as away from attention from their employers.

Anamoah, I believe, is a case in point. Her Twitter account @thenanaaba has of today a whopping 164,400 followers, to be compared with her employer TV3 news @newsontv3, less than half or 62,900 followers. The official account of TV3 @TV3Ghana has only 10,430 followers. Having over 150,000 followers equals power. That makes Anamoah’s Twitter timeline a window for TV3 to a larger extent than maybe she realized. And as my favourite storybook character, Pippi Longstocking, says: “When you are strong, you have to be nice”. It is not particularly nice to post photos that do not belong to you without acknowledgement. It is not ethical to aim to fool your followers.

Not to worry, the media elite of Ghana is all coming to Anamoah’s rescue. The same people who last week were upset about the “lack of morals in our society” are now saying what Anamoah did “was a joke” and that actions against her are ” not proportional”, “unfair”, or maybe even “sexism” as other (male) TV personalities have said worse things on social media without repercussions.

However, not all TV-personalities read the news on the screen,  perhaps the most prestigious role in media. Not all TV-personalities have an equal number of followers as a small town. People with power have to be held to higher standards, wasn’t that what we all agreed last week?

To reconnect with my first statement about this making social media history, a number of important questions must be raised, maybe especially in relation to media houses in Ghana. Will you now create social media policies for your employees, “the guardians of your brand” to borrow from the letter? Will you now recognise that social media is a job? Will you educate your employees on social media ethics?  Will you engage with your programs’ social media involvement instead of leaving it for individual personalities to pursue? Will you act ethically in all your communication?

For the rest of us: do we post photos that is not ours without acknowledgement? Do we discuss issues responsibly? To we only retweet things we have fact checked?

Note: Anamoah has publicly apologised for her actions. 

Update: Marketing professional Nana Yaw Kesse wrote a post on what TV3 should have done and after this morning’s focus on the issue on Ghana’s principal radio shows, I have to give him right. I also learned the statement was read on the TV3 news and filed under “news” on the TV3 website, which seems incredulous as that makes TV3 the first (in news!) to actually make this item news! (When they should be more interested in us all forgetting about it.)

African Online TV-Series: The Samaritans, An African City and more

With the advancement of broadband on the continent, we are now witnessing a cultural explosion when it comes to online video. On my list to watch (if dumsor will not take my Internet and computer battery away) are the following:

1. The Samaritans (Aid for Aid)

I am excited about this series as it targets an important sector in Africa that potentially is also a very funny sector – the ingenious  non-governmental sector full of strategy plans and targets that confuse all of us… Their website promises:

“The Samaritans is a new comedy TV series from Kenya, about an NGO (Non-Governmental organization), that does nothing.”

See the trailer here:


2. An African City

Out of Ghana, I am proud to say, the series An African City has caused ripple effects online with its 15 minute episodes, but I am still outside of the hype (16 000 people have watched the first episode) as I have sadly not had the time to watch it yet. It seems to be Sex And The City like with a short blurb from the FB page of the series suggesting it is about:

“Five beautiful, successful African females return to their home continent and confide in one another about love and life in ‘An African City’!


On a website called Reel African one can also see on demand already popular TV-series like Adam’s Apples and many more.  Where the first series discussed above has chased a pay-to-view system, An African City is pre-financed and free for the viewer and available on YouTube. Maybe when I have watched the first few episodes, I can find out from the creators how the two cost-recovery models are working.  I am however sure, the online medium will create new opportunities for the creative economy.

These are in conclusion very interesting times for online creativity on the continent. I wonder what is next for African Online TV!

If you know of more African online shows, please send your tips my way!

CNN and the Ghanaian Government: Interview with President Mahama and Media Ethics

Today I get the prompt to “upload my question to the CNN interview with president Mahama”. I think to myself, CNN…Ghanaian government. Was there not a thing there? Going through my emails, in a discussion thread on the perils of “too positive” media coverage, I find a link to this blog post by a BloggingGhana colleague, Roxanne L Scott from the end of May 2013.

In summary, Roxanne writes that the Ghanaian government payed 1,5 million USD to CNN in 2012 for positive coverage under the “CNN Eye on Ghana Project”. The project was centered around tourism and investment and produced stories such as “Welcome to Ghana: Historic castles, exotic wildlife and a golden coast”. (Scroll down and the slideshow title reads: “Ghana: the jewel of West Africa”) This project is no secret, it is covered in official documents!

In the same documents, we can read about the plans for 2013: “the Ministry [of tourism] will augment its Marketing Ghana Programme through intensive use of the international media. Funding will be mobilized in pursuit of the CNN Eye on Ghana project…”

(Docs below I have borrowed from Roxanne)

Roxanne writes:

“I’d love some clarification for how this $1.5 Million goes in reference to CNN.

If it is in fact payment, its unethical.

I recently learned at an arts and culture journalism workshop in Ghana it’s quite the norm for media houses to charge artists and organizations for coverage according to time. For example one can call a radio station in Ghana and get the price for a featured interview. Event planners also charge journalists to “cover” their event. Political parties engage in this as well. After press conferences, political parties pay journalists for coverage.

I thought it was a journalists job to look for the news. A journalists creates the content. If you’re being paid by an organization to cover the news, or if you’re charging for individuals/organizations to feature their content, thats more public relations (PR) and its unethical. You really shouldn’t call yourself a journalist.”

The media ethics debate in Ghana has a long way to go. However, it is not just in Ghana the lines between journalism and PR is blurred, as Roxanne rightly points out. The president’s CNN interview is scheduled for some time in October. Meanwhile, it looks like the CNN Eye on Ghana program alive and well and possibly “augmented” for this year. Does that CNN Eye on Ghana Project involve a primetime presidential interview? Later today over at CNN the window for uploading your video questions for president Mahama closes. CNN iReport, urges:

“Send us your questions for the president in a video (15 seconds or less, please) and they could be asked on CNN!”

I am guessing the most critical voices  (if they even can be captured in less than 15 sec!) – “What is the relationship between CNN and the Ghanian government?” and “Can we trust this interview to be objective on the basis that the Ghanaian government is paying CNN for coverage?” will likely not be featured…

My colleague Roxanne ended her blogpost in May with a plea to CNN for some clarification. She never heard back. I hope this time CNN will answer.

Please share this blogpost with your networks if you also want to know more from CNN on their relationship with the Ghanaian government.

My Blogging Year 2012

In September, my blog was hacked into and all my pics disappeared. Still today, all photos before September 8th, 2012 are missing. That is painful! But there were good times as well. Here is my Blogging Year 2012:

January

We had the first meeting of the year with BloggingGhana, I tried to launch the hashtag #GHhousing (and failed terribly) and BBC inaugurated their new debate program in Accra.

February

I found myself in the middle of a breastfeeding debate, and prepared for a presentation of my research so wrote about it and on using Google forms for research.

March

In this month, I went back to work at Ashesi University after my parental leave. Also the GhanaDecides initiative was launched together with our first campaign, iRegistered!

April

I started a series, Blogs I Read. First out was Holli’s new blog. I took my family to the Chale Wote festival organized by the AccraDotAlt crew and reported about our family addition: poultry!

May

In May, BloggingGhana held our first major event: BlogCamp. I wrote about it before it happened, then a report and then a post with pictures. And then I couldn’t help but compare it to a Swedish blog event! I also discussed the galloping inflation Ghana was experiencing.

June

A plane crash in Ghana was reported in social media before in traditional media channels – this was a tipping point for social media in Ghana! I had my first guest post and met with other people who were covering the elections online. Thanks to Google Ghana for hosting us!

July and August

I needed passport photos to travel and then I was off for vacations!

September

I came back from my vacation, revamped my blog, only to see it hacked as discussed above. I also launched a new career as a TV host!

October

With my new career, my blog readership increased big-time from around 50 on a good day to 1500! I was also chosen as the Blogger of the Week (BOW) by BloggingGhana and posted photos from my first TV interviews with Abu Sakara, Papa Kwesi Ndoum and others. This was a splendid month for my career, but luckily I also had time for some family fufu and for Sister Deborah’s hit video “Uncle Obama“.

November

The Melcom Disaster happened, killing 14, again a news that was carried by social media in Ghana. I also went to a social media and a humanist conference, both in Accra. At work, I was interviewing politicans and doing research…or rather watching the Azonto.

December

The last month of the year was dominated by the Ghanaian elections. I am proud to say that both online and on the TV-screen, I had taken part of informing the citizens of Ghana about their choices. Then the results were declared on Facebook (my post on it was read by 3000 in the first 24 hours) and soon after the opposition vowed to challenge them! On Friday, the opposition filed their complaint against the EC and the president-elect.

In conclusion, it has been a very eventful year, both for me personally and for Ghana. Specifically,  I think this is a year where social media in Ghana has really taken off and more and more people turn to the Internet for their news and communication needs. Next year, BloggingGhana will meet on how to sustain the debate we created with GhanaDecides, I will meet with TV3 to see how I can be involved in future political programming. I will of course teach, have some other projects on my mind and hope to collect data for my thesis. Recently, I met someone who presented herself as an “Academic Entrepreneur” and I humbly aspire to be just that in the next year!

Thanks for reading my blog and happy new year!

For more of this, here is My Blogging Year 2011.

Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom of PPP on Frontline

Tonight, Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom is on Frontline. I am happily typing this from home, not at all worked up about the upcoming show as it was taped already on Tuesday morning.

I think it was a good discussion, but time just went too fast. So many more questions to ask a man who wants to lead this country. Well, a few answers were given, others were avoided however I appreciated his initiative on transparency issues, now we just have to see if the other parties will take up the challenge Dr. Nduom threw to them:

will they be declaring their assets and campaign funding before Election Day?

It is a good question to ask.

Swedish Media Personalities Visit Ghana: Gina Dirawi and Kodjo Akolor

A friend just sent me a tip about this 30 minute travel program featuring two Swedish media personalities. It aired on Swedish TV earlier tonight. In the program, Swedish Ghanaian radio profile/comedian* Kodjo Akolor visits Ghana together with his best friend Gina Dirawi, known from Sweden’s first web-TV-series*.

See the trailer below which leads you to the full program if you click on it.

I actually heard through the Swedish Ghanaian grapewine that Kodjo and Gina were here in June to record the program, but had kind of forgotten about it. I love seing Swedish productions from Ghana, last time it was Felix Herngren and my friend Magnus, because they often capture something about Ghana that I also see.

I have a hard time putting my finger on exactly what it is, but it is something like the yellow light before the sun sets, the brightly painted houses and the quirky details of Ghanaian everyday life.

(* as I have not lived in my native Sweden since they became celebrities, do not quote me on if this is how they are actually known).