My Election Day: From Basic Level to Analyst

I had an excellent election day, divided in three clear sections. It seems the country also had an excellent election day, with a few exceptions discussed below. 

1. Family time
familyIn the morning, my five year old asked:

– Why am I not going to school today?

I answered:

– Because today is election day.

– What is election? Came the response. A Masters Degree in political science and a PhD in African Studies are not necessarily assets when getting to the basics. I took a deep breath and tried:

– It is when we chose who will decide in the country. We call that person president or prime minister.

– I want to be president! I will decide what to do and then you will decide what we should not do, ok, mama?

Morning proceeded calmly with family time. Our nanny had left the night before to go vote after a short campaign to join her party.

2. Voting

img_1112
In the afternoon, we went to my husband’s childhood neighbourhood where he is still registered as a voter. There was no queue, voting was swift and easy in the double voting register at the Chemu school in Community 4, Tema.

Of course, I did not vote as I am not a Ghanaian citizen (yet). It was great to see the positive atmosphere and how elections rather brought people together – at least in this community – than created divisions.

3. BloggingGhana in the Situation Roomelection-obesrver

BloggingGhana’s GhanaDecides project was approached about being part of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) and the National Peace Council’s  observer group. The group convened during the whole election day in a situation room of sorts, but as I needed to be part of family time and voting, I only joined in the afternoon.

team

I was introduced to the team of 30 or so “yellow shirt” observers collating reports from all the regions of Ghana, the 10 “green shirt” observers or analysts – where I had to pinch my arm, because that where I belonged! BloggingGhana/GhanaDecides had its own table filled with bottles, chords, and screens (see photo above). After a while the members of the highest level of the observers – the decision room stopped by after a tour including other situation rooms and the electoral commission.

A major convo was around the Jaman North Constituency now voting tomorrow after the failure of party agents to first agree on the electoral roll and then of the electoral commission to get materials out to the 92 polling stations. Jaman North is located between Ivory Coast to the west, the Bui National Park to the north, and the Tain constituency to the east that voted one day late in 2012 for similar reasons. How many voters are registered in Jaman North? I have not seen any official data yet. Will follow up tomorrow!

Another thing we see as the results trickle in is that the turnout seems low – after some 30 000 votes have been counted, the turnout hoovers around 57-58%. In 2012, the turnout was close to 80%. Following this closely too.

At this moment, most observers have returned home and a few of us are wrapping up the day to the sound of provisional MP results trickling in. 

See you online tomorrow – until then follow GhanaDecides.com and #GhanaDecides on all social media channels – over night run by our diaspora team!

Imagining Africa at the Center: #ASA2016

This week, I am off to the 59th African Association Annual Meeting, this time held in Washington DC with the theme Imagining Africa at the Centre: Bridging Scholarship, Policy, and Representation in African Studies. 

It will be my third African Studies conference this year after DakarFutures2016 and this summer’s GlobalGhana in Cape Coast. I also enjoyed last year’s ASA in San Diego. So, I am looking forward and over the next week I will be taking in as much as I possibly can on academic talks, networking sessions, book exhibits and also Washington DC! I am especially excited to meet up with a special person from DakarFutures working at the renowned Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and a new contact from Wikimedia Foundation. I’ll also visit Ghanaian Designer David Adjaye’s new National Museum of African American History & Culture, also in the Smithsonian Museum Park (photo from NMAAHC below, I believe it is the brown box next to the Washington Monument).

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture Architectural Photrography
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture 

At the ASA2016 meeting, I will for sure be spotted when presenting a paper on higher education together with colleagues from the Ghana Studies Association and when I chair a so called Africa NOW! session on the ongoing election season in Ghana. Details below!

Panel: Debating the Quality and Relevance of (Higher) Education in Ghana

Fri 2 Dec, VIII-D-1  4pm.

My Work: Data for and from the Higher Education Sector in Ghana

In an era of knowledge economies and sustainable development, the importance of higher education has reemerged (Mkandawire, 2015; Teferra, 2014). However, current data on higher education institutions (HEI) in Africa is not easily available in terms of basic descriptive data on institutions, research output, faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

This paper is a first report from a case study to understand data collection in and analysis of the higher education sector in Ghana, a country that has a mix of public and private higher education. The methodology is literature review and interviews with key stakeholders to clarify the role in collecting and managing HE data by international university associations, GOG/ministry of education, state institutions, quality assurance bodies, and  – on a local level – universities.

Data and analyses hold promise for nurturing this important sector, especially since the sector is growing quickly and is centrally placed politically. Two factors that also mean data ages quickly. For instance, the rise of private higher education since the 1990s provides an almost unmapped terrain in terms of data. With a decolonial approach, I argue that data on HEI must be open and free, but also made a government priority to solve the sustainability issues of collecting data and crafting relevant indicators for strategic and sustainable development of the higher education sector on the continent.

 

Africa NOW! Democratic Gains from Election Season 2016 in Ghana

Panel Introduction and Open Discussion Sat 3 Dec, 9-10 am in meeting room “Maryland A”. 

Ghana is seen as a beacon of hope for the democratization process on the continent and has managed to consolidate its democracy further with each election since 1992. There has been peaceful handing over of power in 2000 and 2008, a contested election in 2012 which was settled peacefully in the supreme court. This year, several new developments including reforms, which have led to that only seven parties are contesting the presidential seat have taken place, Ghana also has a new Electoral Commissioner, Charlotte Osei, replacing Kwadwo Afari-Djan who served as the Chair of the Electoral Commission 1993 to 2015.

The surrounding world has also changed since the last elections, notably with terrorism threats closer to home with the attack on Cote D’Ivoire’s Grand Bassam, in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon. Further, oil and commodity prices are at an all time low. Many countries in Africa are experiencing power shortages and Ghana in no exception. The US elections have also been extensively discussed in Ghana to the point of almost overshadowing a local debate.

Further, an important role in the relative democratic success in Ghana is played by media and civil society monitoring the electoral process. Many laudable initiatives providing platforms for education and debate have been implemented. This year, the threat of limiting the freedom of speech by for instance monitoring online conversations and shutting social media down during the elections which is has been discussed under the so called “spy bill” and by the Inspector General of the Police Service, have added another important issue to address by the civil society.

With this background, this panel will discuss what can be expected from the general elections on December 7, 2016, especially in terms of democratic gains or losses.

Panelists: Dr. Kajsa Hallberg Adu, Ashesi University (convener), Dr. Jeffrey Paller, University of San Fransisco, Prof. Gretchen Bauer, University of Delaware, and you!

Problem Fatigue: Korle Bu, NIA, and Weija Dam

Often, the news cycle in Ghana excites me and seemingly puts pressure on people in charge. So far so good. However, at times, the news feel like projectiles that blow up too close to comfort and just keep coming BOOM BOOM BOOM without breathing space to the point of me and other people going “what is happening to us?”, “WHY?” or similar while throwing our hands in the air. 

This week, and its only Tuesday!, for instance we heard about:

All these problems are major, critical, and totally unacceptable. They all are not new, but historical problems that have not been adequately addressed. On radio this morning, the Korle Bu Hospital CEO Dr. Buckle said the surgery ward issue dates back to 2014  and the article on the identification card suggests the exercise begun in 2003, albeit is still not completed!

All these problems have multiple people (departments! ministries! experts!) working on them, seemingly not making much progress – or what do I know- but at least not solving issues!  For instance the identification card was here highlighted in a forum organised by a media house and the World Bank – why not championed by the parliament or the authority created for identification, I do not understand. It seems the problems are too big to get solved by public servants or politicians? Or they lack the skill, funds, or political will?

If so, solutions to problems are likely linked to more citizen engagement. But how do we get there? How do we make sure we channel rage, direct energy, and funnel ideas for solutions –  and not for apathy?

Sunday Reads 6 December

sundayreads

  1. The most in-depth analysis of the Pistorious case I have read by Jacqueline Rose, and I think I have read almost everything on the case. Its a very long article, winding through among other sub-topics a psychological analysis of Pistorius and a biography of his first judge, but the gist of it is: “The killing of Reeva Steenkamp was either a sex crime or a race crime.”
  2. Another article from BBC on returnees to Ghana (I mentioned one recently on my colleague Kobby). I learned a lot, also about the people in the article I know. Why the young and talented are returning to Ghana by Yepoka Yeebo.
  3. A summary from Forbes what is at stake in the 2016 elections: Ghana’s prosperity hinges on next year’s election by Daniel Runde. An interesting point was how the timing of the Ghanaian election – one day ahead of American elections – might affect it.
  4. Nicolas Henin: The man who was held captive by Isis for 10 months says how they can be defeated
    by Adam Withnall. This summary here is that the refugees fleeing was a blow to IS, but bombing IS is not a solution.

Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman, I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. I hope to make Sunday Reads a weekly feature to be shared here and on Twitter!