Sunday Reads from Nigeria to Nobel Prize, #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

  1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s feminist manifesto, this time on how to raise a feminist daughter. All of it was on point, personally, I especially found the hair section (10) useful having two daughters who get to hear their hair is “katcha-katcha” if not braided.
  2. Turkey Blocks Google Drive Drop Box, One drive and GitHub to stop email leaks. An example of governments blocking Internet sites in a trial of getting hold on control. (but it doesn’t work).
  3. Virtual Reality in Africa. Former Ashesi student Jonathan Dotse of Nubian VR quoted.
  4. Did you know Bill Gates is also a blogger? Here is his latest (fab) post on what political leadership can do to accelerate innovation. (Spoiler alert: Energy is his top issue)

This Swedish article I wish was available in English for all (ok, more folks) to read:

5. Quite varying reactions to the choice of Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

This week I watched this video, because, well it was everywhere:


 

6. I also calmed myself down with the following Nigerian reactions on social media, presented by one of Nigeria’s biggest bloggers Linda Ikeji. 

 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. 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. 

Nigeria’s Non-Violent Protest Movements Deserve More Attention!

An article I have written about political movements in Ghana’s neighboring country of Nigeria was recently published on the CIHA blog( Critical Investigations in Humanitarianisms in Africa).

I wrote:

“In a country where citizens are on their own for organizing almost every aspect of life, be it electricity, health, schooling or security – all this in stark contrast to the affluence the oil industry brings to a select few – there is much to protest about. In Africa’s most populous nation and, since recently, biggest economy, there is diversity in protests as well. While extremist Boko Haram is receiving increased attention in the media worldwide for its horrid and violent actions, nonviolent movements Change Movement Nigeria and Enough is Enough Nigeria work mostly under the international news radar”.

Read the whole article here: Nigeria’s Non-Violent Protest Movements Gathering Momentum.

Democracy in Africa – In Brief (and in Jest)

Got this funny computer language explanation of the democratic developments in Africa via Accra Books and Things (in an email!) who got it through the very useful, and in this instance entertaining, H-AFRICA H-NET emailing list (H stands for humanities) who in turn credited Derrick Chekwe.

Anyway, here it is:

DEMOCRACY IN AFRICA Program installation:
EGYPT:  100% Complete…

LYBIA: Downloading…

ALGERIA: Downloading…

IVORY COAST:  60% [Alert: Virus-Gbagbo detected_Trojan Horse-Ouattarra in Quarantine]

CONGO: Connection lost since 1997

NIGERIA: Starting Connection

ZIMBABWE: 404 Error – Server not found

International Women’s Day: Why Are Mothers Still Dying?

Birth in Lagos from Alice Proujansky on Vimeo.

Today is March 8th, international women’s day. It is a day to rejoice for the amazing advances women as a group has made over the last 100 years, but also to focus on important issues of tomorrow.

My husband always says that equal pay must be the starting point for any viable change towards equality for women. But after seeing Alice Proujansky’s scary and beautiful birth clinic pictures from around the world (see slideshow above from Nigeria, where 1 in 13 women die during pregnancy or in childbirth), listening to Christy Turlington/EveryMotherCounts on Aljaazerah this morning (sign her petition!) and since last year pondering on the success of Ghana’s free health care policy for mothers, I still wonder if global maternity health is not the most important issue for the women of tomorrow.

According to Turlington:

“an additional investment of $1.3 billion per year would save the lives of an estimated 250,000 women and babies per year.”

Then why are mothers still dying to give birth to human kind?

Do You Believe in Witchcraft?

If you do and you live in Ghana, you are not alone.

According to a recent survey carried out by Gallup, three out of four (or 77%) of Ghanaians believe in Witchcraft.

Only Ivory Coast (with a staggering 95% ) and Senegal (with four out of five) have larger shares of the population suggested to be witchcraft believers. Mali, Cameroon and the DR Congo has around the same levels as Ghana. The average for Sub-Saharan Africa is around 55%. Surprisingly, to me at least, Nigeria came out under average with less than half a population believing in witches. Rwanda and Uganda being the only countries in the sample in which less than 20% answered yes to the question: Do you personally believe in witchcraft?

I just threw myself over this survey. The aspect of witchcraft is a very intriguing one for a westerner moving to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Intrestingly, the Ghanaian witch does not have a pointed black hat and a cat that talks, nor does she need a broom to fly and need not wait until Halloween before she comes out. No, the Ghanaian witch lives close to you and me and can cause harm to anyone she – or he – wants to hurt. Diseases, deaths and ill fates are often blamed on a malicious witch.

In Ghana, the absolutely worst thing you can call anyone is “a witch” (well, apart from stupid, but that is a different blog post). Read this post by Nana Kofi Acquah on a street quarrel. I have also heard people talk about meeting witches, witches casting curses and occasionally lifting them, see for instance this recent account by fellow blogger AntiRhythm on a curse over a lost mobile phone.

Also, the newspapers report regularly about witches flying here and there. Last time I remember reading about witches in the news it was a witch from the Volta region who had mysteriously found himself landing on a house roof in Ashaiman, close to Tema where I live. A few years ago, reports on a witch conference taking place in Kumasi, Ghana spurred on newspaper Daily Guide to suggest the following:

The numerous road accidents, boat disasters, floods in the north, gas explosions in Kumasi and collapse of buildings that the country has witnessed in recent months may not be for nothing.

A global meeting of witches, currently underway in Ghana, is targeting thousands of lives through fatal road and other accidents.

So the accidents on our roads and floods in the north are due do a 2007 conference of witches? Let me tell you that these have not really subsided after the conference was over and done with…

On a more serious note, in Ghana there are sadly a need (?) for enclosed areas for witches or “witch camps”, predominately for women who have been named witches by their community. For more info on this, read this account about life in Gambaga Witch Camp or this insightful and frightening article about What Makes a Woman a Witch? by writer Yaba Badoe.  Recently the plight of those women have been recognized, for instance by SOSYWEN and Stop Witch Trials.

The GALLUP survey also suggest that witchcraft believers live worse lives than those who do not believe. Of course, that seems plausible but possibly with a spurious or false relationship, with education for instance being the real explanatory factor. But when I look at the presented numbers, I wouldn’t say that there is really much of a difference in percieved living standards between witchcraft believers and non-believers.

Those who believe in witchcraft rate their lives at a 4.3 on average, while those who do not believe or don’t have an opinion rate their lives higher on the scale, at 4.8 on average.

Is it very marginal, or am I not getting it right?

Anyway, this survey gives me scientific proof of something I already knew: that  most people in Ghana do believe in witches.

So, do you? And why?

Have You Heard of Nigeria’s Oil Leakages?

Veronique de Viguerie / Getty Images

While the eyes of the world are fixed on the BP oil leakage in the Gulf of Mexico outside of Louisiana, US, another much less publicized leak has been ongoing for decades in the oil rich Niger delta in Nigeria, reports the Guardian (and today Swedish newspaper DN).

The Guardian article states:

In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico…With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations. Locals blame the oil that pollutes their land and can scarcely believe the contrast with the steps taken by BP and the US government to try to stop the Gulf oil leak and to protect the Louisiana shoreline from pollution.

What can Ghana and our emerging oil industry learn from this mess?

Pic borrowed from Veronique de Viguerie / Getty Images at Pikele.

>Swedish Coach to Super Eagles

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What is with me? I am really no sports fan and now a second post on sports already this week?

Anyways, Swedish coach Lars Lagerbäck has signed with the Nigerian national team the Super Eagles (or Super Chickens as they were called after being defeated by Ghanaian national team Black Stars in the African cup recently). Hopefully, Lagerbäck will make the team come together to perform better in the World Cup in South Africa in June.

This will be interesting to follow.

Pic borrowed here.

>Rebranding Nigeria and Brand Ghana: A Good Idea?

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As I was driving home, I came across an interesting program on BBC, Rebranding Nigeria (I’m trying to embed the program above so you can listen). The program was essentially a discussion about the initiative to rethink Nigeria in positive terms. In the journalist Henry Bonsu’s own words:

Can the home of 419 internet scams, corruption and voodoo ever transmit a positive image?

Is rebranding Nigeria futile and meaningless? Even possible? Or the light beginning for a country that has just (10 years this year) resurfaced from military rule? The only way forward? You can join a similar discussion on Global Voices Online here.

What to me is the most interesting thing with this debate is that the image of Africa is finally debated, critiqued and possibly recreated – by Africans – in a more representative way. Because really, it doesn’t make any sense to say 160 million people are all fraudsters.

But also, after reading about my Nigerian sister Adadze’s experiences (I’m thinking of Mama Christina and Police Brutality) in her blog Two Tears in a Bucket the other day, I’m thinking our neighbor Nigeria and its people needs a change.

Of course we are slightly, slightly behind in Ghana, but we are actually also looking into branding ourselves better. Just last month, we had Simon Anhult, (selfproclaimed?) nation branding guru, come talk and then set up our own Brand Ghana office, see this article.

To be continued…