Guest Blog Post at ESSA Website

In an ongoing collaboration with Education Subsaharan Africa (ESSA), I was invited to write a blog post for them. I chose to write about the problem of reliable and comparable data on higher education in African countries for ESSA’s “Doing more with Data”-series.

I write:

This year, 9.8 million students in Africa were not able to go to their universities as they used to because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The aggregated estimate (UNESCO) covers the continent as a whole. This data reminds us of a major issue for the African higher education sector – there is not enough detailed, open and recent data to make good policy and research.

While higher education in Africa struggles with resources, relevance and impact it is easy to forget the issue of data for planning. The adage about a group of people describing the different parts of an elephant — and coming back with widely different conclusions about the animal based on describing the trunk or the tail, reminds us of the complex issue at hand.  Policy makers, university administrators and researchers of higher education all need quality and timely data points from all levels of the sector: individual departments, universities, countries, regions and continents.

At the Nordic Africa Institute we have been mapping the discipline of political science on the continent, we realized it was impossible to find comparable data on the number of students by discipline over time. The same was true for data on professors in the discipline.

To align this with the elephant story, without a systematic way of describing the sector, we end up with confusing data. With such difficulties it is hard to conclude on basic trends: if the discipline is growing or declining, and subsequently what links the size of the discipline has to democratization and transparent governance…

Read the whole blog post on ESSA’s Website.

Back to Basics: Blogging as a way of Dealing (with Crisis, with Life!)

WFH desk made from a ironing board
DIY WFH desk, made from an ironing board and a computer stand.

My blog has been quiet for a long time, more or less for a year with a few professional updates. I have gotten a few questions on this, and it is not due to lack of content! Actually more has happened in the last year than in previous years: I changed jobs, moved my family to a new (that’s how it felt, but it is my native) country. On top, I revisited everything I knew about relationships. Despite these upheavals (or maybe because of them?) I was no more sure about how to write on the blog or even what the point of it was. Every now and then, I’d read another blog and remember –  with a deep sigh –  my own was dormant, but still, I would not know how to return.

If last year was humbling and full of change and surprise, the Corona virus and ensuing world crisis add a whole new dimension of uncertainty and dread…but also new experiences and hope.

I cannot promise anything, but I will try to return to the blog. I think I can see now how having a presence online is helpful to my professional pursuits, maybe especially when the world – and with it, my career – is changing. It is a place to write about what I see, read, and do. It is a place to practice my writing – as I would say to my students, you can always get better! Writing about something is also a way to learn. And having a blog is a basic and practical way to approach life and its constant challenges. So, let see how it goes. For starters I updated the look and made it easier to read on your handheld device.

Now, what do you want to read about? Drop me a comment!

My Last Graduation at Ashesi University

Saturday, June 1st, 2019 will be my last graduation as a lecturer at Ashesi University in Berekuso. After the summer, I will explore a new path in my career journey.

I have been an employee at Ashesi University since August 2009, I even experienced the ground-breaking ceremony for the Berekuso campus! I can look back on 10 years of joy, incremental learning and meaningful meetings on two different campuses. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been provided and I have been proud working for the important mission of Ashesi University – to educate a new generation of ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in Africa – if even in a small way in the classroom and in off-campus interactions. See some photos in the gallery below.

Over this past decade, I have written many blog posts about my time with Ashesi University, here are some of them: Teaching a summer course humbly called Thinking Like a Genius! Fall semester 2012 teaching Written and Oral Communication and Text & Meaning, Teaching Social Theory 2012. Career Fair 2013  (with photos). Reading Mahama’s biography for Social Theory class 2013. Doing a “Grown Woman Internship” with Citi FM. About Ashesi students being cool! Passing on the baton of teaching from my mother to my daughter(?). Getting extremely excited about Virtual Reality in the Classroom in 2016 (now Ashesi alumni led company Nubian VR are doing research on how science instruction in Ghanaian high schools can use VR technology). Having a writing team kickoff and welcoming new talents. On my fav assignment personal artefact speeches in 2018. On my sabbatical – time to think, read and write in 2019.

I also wrote an article for Swiss newspaper NZZ about Ashesi’s approach to ethics which was published in English for University World News as well.

For some moving images of me on campus, see this interview from 2016. (Pulse Ghana)

Recently to my joy, two of my students started blogs of their own. Do also read: Theresa on getting a Visa for her study-abroad when the time was running out, and Masateru on helping his family’s cake business in Malawi with the skills he picked up at Ashesi University. Alumni Karyn went to Sweden for a Master’s and won the Global Swede award!

So on Saturday, it will not just be Class of 2019 leaving the Ashesi community – I will be clasping my handkerchief and remembering the good times as well! Thank you to all fantastic individuals: students, colleagues, alumni, parents, support staff, foundation folks, board members, friends, all who have crossed my path at Ashesi since 2009!

KajsaHA.com is Best Expat Blog in Ghana (and my problems with being called “expat”)

iCompareFX.com Expat Blog Awards 2017

I was informed, my blog has received the honor of  “The Best Expat Blog in Ghana 2017”. However, I have a very dual feeling about this – am I even an expat?

First of all, the awards are produced by a company which do comparisons of online money transfer sites. They, of course, run this blog competition to gain exposure in social media to make more money.

However that is not really my main issue with this award, my main problem is the word “expat”, short for “Ex-patriate”, which seems to suggest a patriate or a patriot who has been taken out (ex- in Latin) from his or her habitat or country. Is that really my situation? Am I after 10 years in Ghana not more like a newish, slightly odd, Ghanaian? Even more important, an article by Mawuna Remarque Koutonin that went around on social media a few years back convincingly argued there is a racial aspect to the term – a white foreigner is “an expat” and a non-white is “an immigrant”. The author concludes that the only thing to do to change this is to call white foreigners in Africa “immigrants” too. Although I have called myself an expat before, for instance in this 2008 blog post, this debate really enlightened me.

I completely agree with the analysis on the oft racially biased use of “expat”. Hence, I do not feel comfortable to be identified as an expat – if anything, I am an immigrant!

The description of my (immigrant) blog reads:

Kajsa Hallberg Adu owns and operates the blog, Kajsa HA. Born and raised in Sweden, her international life began when she volunteered at the World Expo 2000 in Germany. She went to the U.S. to study, before returning to Sweden for her Bachelor’s in Political Science. During the course of her Master’s degree, she interned in Paris. She moved to Ghana in 2007. Her blog essentially delves into lifestyle, politics, and social media. However, she shares her musings about other aspects as well.

However, I did enjoy the complete list of  winning blogs, importantly not all written by white foreigners, and might very well start reading some blogs from Argentina, Botswana, and Egypt by some fellow immigrants to widen my horizons and I hope you do too.

The world is after all made better by immigrants – the jury is still out on expats!

 

 

Enter the Media Kit for Bloggers

So I have quietly been working on some interesting blog related projects, I will tell you more soon. I’ll start by outdooring my media kit.

I got the idea from Swedish blogs which often have them and when the Influencers of Sweden wrote about how to make your own, see for instance this post with three examples of media kits in English,  I came up with this doc that you can download from my Contact-page. See a first version below:

The idea is that potential collaborators and media people will be able to get a summary of what the blog is about and how influential it is (measured in followers, visits, etc).

Does my media kit summarise my blog? If you are a blogger, will you make one?

 

My Children on the Blog

So in-between blogging, researching, and teaching, I do have a private life. The main part of that life is my two children. I have mentioned them every now and then here on the blog, like when they were born: Selma in 2011  & Ellen in 2014, and in a post on our racialized lives “You are yellow and I am brown” and in a post on how to carry a baby Ghana style (one of my few videos). 

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However, I would like to write a little more here on the blog about my children, things we do together, and challenges we face as a family. I will do so under the category: Parenting.

While some might feel one should not “expose” children online, I see my online life as a part of my life and it feels strange to “hide” them away from my blog. Also as my children grow and frankly become more fun to hang out with, I think I have more to say about them, their activities, and about life with children more generally. I am mindful of that they are their own people who should get to tell their own story, but until they start their own blogs (oh, what a dizzying thought!), I think I can say quite a bit more without compromising their integrity.

If you have ideas on topics you’d like to read relating to life with children, do leave a comment!

Mobex16 and some thoughts on how event organisers in Ghana can better engage with social media influencers

On Tuesday, I went to the tech fair Mobex16 in the Accra International Conference Center. I had only planned to swiftly stop by, but ended up staying all morning. Networking was great!

However, this blogpost is on some other observations I made in relation to Mobex16. I came with my phone, ready to tweet, and laughingly told a friend that I have been here for 8 min and already posted 3 tweets. I was on fire!

I tweeted about the registration and started taking photos for Instagram. I am a promoter of all things Ghana, especially tech stuff, and I was happy to share the experience with my now 9000+ followers on Twitter and 600+ followers on Instagram.

At this stage, I needed to charge my computer (as I really had plans of working out of an office) and with heavy tweeting during the opening and the president’s speech, my phone as well. Now there were no electrical sockets in the seminar room. I looked around and asked an usher. I tweeted about that.

After realising that no woman was to appear on the stage for the first two programs on the agenda or the entirety of my morning visit – the info I took from a information that was passed out to visitors, I tweeted about that.

Revisiting my Twitter timeline, I was likely inspired by Omojuwa (recently named Africa’s best Twitter profile) and his tweet on female leadership:

After I had left the seminar hall in search for power, I browsed the exhibit. Noticing that many Mobex16 stands did not really have a plan to engage with social media influencers, I talked to some exhibitors and tweeted about that.

You get my drift, I was engaging with the program, capturing both highlights and lowlights.  Tweeting and Instagramming. Now some did not like that:

…and my personal favorite:

I get it, I have been an event organiser and its not necessarily fun to hear about someone’s negative experience when you have been working 24/7 to even make the thing happen, but I do listen and think to myself “how can I improve?” I also try to be mindful of that whoever takes the time to write to complain, cares a whole lot more than the people that just “come to eat”. (Caveat: I am not sure what the relationship between the people behind the sour tweets above is to the event discussed).

A few months back, Poetra Asantewa  in an AccraWeDey-podcast said some very useful things about critique and how there is little room for it in the Ghanaian creative space. We just need to change that, so in the name of constructive critique, I’ll list some ideas for even better social media engagement for Ghanaian events below.

Tips for event organisers how to better engage with social media influencers:

  • Communicate a (usable, not too long, not too generic) hashtag and remind people in every room, space and on everything printed.
  • Create a physical space for social media influencers with sockets (most importantly, but perhaps also), coffee, desks with chairs and additional info on your program.
  • Think through what is in it for the (professional) social media influencer, can you pay for live-tweeting & blogging, or provide lunch, pay T&T, organise gifts from sponsors? Every post about your event is potentially valuable to you, how can you make the relationship with influencers sustainable?
  • Retweet/ share their praise. People on their way to the venue will want to see photos and reviews from the venue.
  • Corteusly respond to any critique as fast as possible. (Yes, that includes saying thank you to someone who is finding fault with your event!)

Something like this:

What would you add to the list?

KajsaHA on AccraWeDey Podcast

A few weeks back, podcast AccraWeDey – Ghana’s only culture an entertainment podcast – was invited to speak at a BloggingGhana meeting. Out of that event, a friendship has developed between BloggingGhana and AccraWeDey that on Sunday resulted in me being invited to be the special guest in the podcast!

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I spoke and laughed with Pokuaa and Joey and towards the end Nii (who had trouble finding a taxi on a quiet Sunday night) about blogging, kelewele, colonization and many other things. I also got super inspired to start my own podcast…
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The description of Season 2 Episode 7 goes:

Screenshot 2016-02-27 00.14.51

Why the episode is called “Are You Sure?” Well, if you listen, you will know!

>>> You can download or stream the episode here.

10 Years of Blogging, This Is What I Know for Sure…

Screenshot 2016-02-16 10.36.34Ten years ago, someone turned down an internship in an organization based in Paris,
 and I got a phone call: “Do you want to go live in Paris for five months? Position starts in two weeks!” In 2006, this set a few different balls rolling: I had to ask permission to leave my job, wave my boyfriend goodbye, book a trip to Paris with an open return, buy a beret, but maybe most importantly to me – it gave me a reason to start the blog I had been thinking about for some time, because now I had a subject matter worthy of some writing (and me getting out of my head): La vie en France or Life in France!

After ten years of blogging, and 870 something blog posts to my name, I know for sure, to paraphrase Oprah, that

…blogging is not a substitute for diary writing, although the years of keeping a diary prepared me well to “think by writing”. I in fact go back and forth on having a “paper diary” on the side.

Screenshot 2016-02-16 10.36.27…blogging is much more than writing, it is a lifestyle in which you take note of details and think when facing hardship: “this would make a great blogpost” (last time it happened was yesterday when I was shopping for a bra in Accra, but that’s a different story!)

…blogging is on the verge of becoming a livelihood for many in Ghana and I hope the organization I started in 2011 with a friend, BloggingGhana, can help many more live off of their content production and blogs.

…blogging is different from all other writing in that it is directly relational and – if you are lucky  –   leads to deep and meaningful connection with others.

Screenshot 2016-02-16 10.36.18But I also know, ten years down the line, I know that I want to do something more with this blog. I want to publish blog texts elsewhere, I want to branch out into other mediums, I want to be bigger and at the same time a bit more focused. Does it sound contradictory? I guess it is!

The good news is, I can develop my thoughts in a few blogposts to come! 

 

 

My Blogging Year 2015

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Summary of my blogging year:

My blogging year started out with a  resolution: to finish my Phd. How that went, you can see in the blog a created solely for my doctorate: Student Migration Aspirations. In February, dumsor got worse, the following month, I thought about the tech community in Ghana and started a nice convo about what is wrong with it. In April, I shared the top 7 tips on how to sleep during light off, in May I went to BlogCamp, Ghana Blogging and Social Media Awards and the #DumsorMustStop vigil, in June I didn’t write one single post (but thousands of words on my dissertation, in July, I submitted it!). August was spent in Sweden on vacations. In September, I was back with a life-(and blog-)crisis! In October, I decided to write more personal stuff here. Thanks for the positive feedback, especially to the first post on how much one should have in common with a spouse. The world changed with refugees flowing into Europe and Zone9 bloggers being freed in Ethiopia. Towards the end of the year, I introduced the Sunday Reads and increased my posts on politics and personal issues.

While the year started slow, I must say with dumsor and research slowing me down, I am happy the way I managed to find my passion for blogging again.

Did you read these three highlights?

1. Most read post:

The Power of Social Media – the case of Nana Aba Anamoah of TV 3

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.”

 

2. Most underestimated post:

Freedom is corruption?

“How does one cope on a personal level with all of this?

I have to say: I don’t know. I think do not cope very well! I get so angry and disturbed I cannot focus on much else on many days. I tweet, blog, and rant. I make plans to leave, I take deep breaths, and I laugh about it all. I try to balance the impressions.”

 

3. Most fun post:

Top 10 #NDCarols

“This Xmas season, Ghanaians have again used humor to deal with life situations. Under the hashtag #NDCcarols where NDC of course stands for the ruling party National Democratic Congress, Ghanaians have written their own renditions of famous christmas carols.”

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Happy new year all readers, please continue to follow me in this space – and if you want a reminder when a new post is out –  follow me on Facebook or Networked Blogs in 2016!

 

 

I’m Back! With a Life Crisis, Post-PhD Blues, and Blog Fatigue

Vacation is over. Work has begun. I am back.

However, the sweet hopefulness of new beginnings that surround each start of a new school year has this year eloped me. Sadly, instead of feeling triumphant and light about my submission of my manuscript, I now feel rather lost and blue.

I don’t know what goal to aim for.

I don’t know where to go from here.

I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life!

Is this the post-PhD blues people talk about? Or a full-blown life crisis?

I don’t even know what to blog about. Ghanaian politics seem more opaque than ever. Should I be more of a lifestyle blogger, perhaps? Showing you my (perfect) kids, my (well intended) DIY-projects, and my (always failed) herb garden? Or more like my fav academic blogger Chris Blattman, wittily summarising the interesting research debates I engage in, mixed with lists of links to great reads? Should I join other bloggers and start a podcast and simply talk to you, dear reader?

Well, for now I am lost. Or as it is put as the textbook chapter I happen to teach next week, I am “learning to wallow in complexity”. If someone out there has an opinion on what I should do with my life (or blog!), I’d love your input.

Customer Service in Ghana and Your Role: The Case of Vodafone Ghana

I have been offline at home for two weeks and after multiple interactions with my broadband distributor, Vodafone Ghana, I feel compelled to write about my experiences. This is not a new topic for me, or for many other bloggers (last year, for instance I wrote about the upside to Ghanaian Customer Service) but I wanted to show some examples of how you can use social media for improving on customer service and faster reaching your goal.

1. Take it to social media.

The official routes of complaint (going to the office to report the issue and calling Customer Care) had little effect, so after a week my husband told me, why don’t you Tweet this? Within hours we had a response. The accounts I used were @vodafoneghana & @askvodafonegh On Facebook, I got friends to share their experiences. Yesterday, I live tweeted my call to customer service. I am now blogging about it. Hopefully, someone who is on charge of customer care at Vodafone will see this. The chance is bigger than if I just moan at home.

2. Always record the name of the customer service attendant you are in contact with.

Thus far, we have made around 12 contacts with Vodafone (plus friends at Vodafone seeing online complaints and stepping in). For the record it is good to know who promised what. I realise customer service people in Ghana are very reluctant to give out last names or direct numbers (maybe for good reasons), but insist on a first name.

3. Be persistent and claim your rights.

I believe that a pricy service must have excellent customer service. For 180 GHC ($90) per month, I expect my broadband to work every day. Two weeks interruption for what ever reason is unacceptable. I have not hesitated to remind customer service personel what I am paying for their service and what effects it not working has on my work.

4. Talk to friends

When I discuss my problem with friends on and offline it seems many have had similar experiences. It has encouraged me and I have also gotten hints on what to do. Some of my friends even work at Vodafone and have taken steps of me – talk about committed employees! (or very good friends…or both).

5. Educate the company

On Tuesday after 13 days without my broadband, I was offered a backup system. Although a dongle is not the same as unlimited broadband, I think this was a nice gesture. However, the information was we had to drive to the Accra office to pick it up during office hours. Travelling to a different town to belatedly get some help and also sacrificing work (the round trip is about 3 hours) is unreasonable. And so I told the company. Their attitude changed and yesterday they instead asked for my address.

Last month, the Third Customer Service Week was held in Ghana. Companies like Nest of Ideas do Customer Service Training. There is also a Gimpa Course in Customer Service Management. Clearly companies in Ghana are in a learning stage when it comes to customer service and I am hopeful.

However, I think customers have an important role to play. We need to use social media to highlight what is not working, be persistant and educate the companies on what we expect. I understand telecommunications companies in Ghana have many challenges and I appreciate their efforts at delivering customer service, for instance I think the Vodafone Twitter account @askvodafonegh is commendable. Through out the two weeks I have been in touch with Vodafone I have seen customer service systems change before my eyes!

What do you think, is customer service in Ghana improving?