Nordic Africa Days 2014: My Report

During the weekend 26-27 September, I took part in the Nordic Africa Institute biannual conference Nordic Africa Days. Here is my report!

  1. Hi there! I'm on my way to #nad2014 @NordicAfrica &looking forward to meet tweeps @finnowl @ulrichtadajeu @JamaMusse http://t.co/meVFzTGvKW

    Hi there! I’m on my way to #nad2014 @NordicAfrica &looking forward to meet tweeps @finnowl @ulrichtadajeu @JamaMusse pic.twitter.com/meVFzTGvKW
  2. As I am the food for my small baby, she had to come along. She demanded we started with the Youth and Politics panel…
  3. In Panel 22 on Youth & Politics, Akin Iwilade challenged the notion of “marginalized youth” and who becomes a militant #NAD2014
  4. Next @nannajordt told us about "hustling" for environmental rights in rural Kenya #nad2014 http://t.co/KrjUEtSM3Q

    Next @nannajordt told us about “hustling” for environmental rights in rural Kenya #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/KrjUEtSM3Q
  5. My @Ashesi colleague Joseph Oduro Frimpong presents political cartoons & photoshop pics from Ghana #NAD2014 #Woyome http://t.co/CQMQFmVEZs

    My @Ashesi colleague Joseph Oduro Frimpong presents political cartoons & photoshop pics from Ghana #NAD2014 #Woyomepic.twitter.com/CQMQFmVEZs
  6. Q&A “It is easier critiquing power than formulating an alternative…does that distinction matter?”, asks panel chair Elina Oinas #nad2014
  7. How a two-month old fares at #nad2014? She is now asleep forcing me to stand up/rock gently in the back of the room.. http://t.co/YujTbzVwR1

    How a two-month old fares at #nad2014? She is now asleep forcing me to stand up/rock gently in the back of the room.. pic.twitter.com/YujTbzVwR1
  8. In 1,5h @Mo_IbrahimFdn will talk on “Why governance matters” #NAD2014 If you are not in Uppsala, follow @NordicAfrica or watch it online…
  9. The talk can still be viewed online. I followed it on Twitter from my hotel room while breast feeding!
  10. The first day ended with a lovely conference dinner in one of the old student clubs in Uppsala. Next morning the sun was shining…
  11. Sunny and windy walk to the conference venue (Yellow building in back) #nad2014 http://t.co/kqUOG6KPFc

    Sunny and windy walk to the conference venue (Yellow building in back) #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/kqUOG6KPFc
  12. My first panel is about African Studies in the 21st century: @wikipedia & open access hosted by @ASCLeiden #nad2014 http://t.co/zwdS3wICA5

    My first panel is about African Studies in the 21st century: @Wikipedia & open access hosted by @ASCLeiden #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/zwdS3wICA5
  13. Great tip for researchers to make our research more accessible: write abstracts of all your work and put online! #nad2014 #opendata
  14. Find @ASCLeiden repository with free downloads, among the most popular a book on Boko Haram,  https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/12483 … #nad2014 #openaccess
  15. Find @ASCLeiden repository with free downloads, among the most popular a book on Boko Haram,  https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/12483 … #nad2014 #openaccess
  16. @kajsaha >50,000 publications on Africa, mostly #openaccess from >90 repositories via  http://www.connecting-africa.net 
  17. @kajsaha Africa country portal ASC Leiden (in beta): portal to information resources on >50 African countries  http://countryportal.ascleiden.nl/ 
  18. “As a researcher you have to look at contracts and make sure you have the right to your own work!” – Jos Damen @ASCLeiden #nad14
  19. Information on what resources are available online for free for African researchers via @ASCLeiden  http://www.ilissafrica.de/en/howto/OpenAccessGuide.html …#nad2014
  20. Next came the keynote, I had been looking forward to.
  21. Now the keynote I've been looking forward to: @MJerven "Knowledge and Governance" #nad2014 http://t.co/ve379JXjFu

    Now the keynote I’ve been looking forward to: @MJerven “Knowledge and Governance” #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/ve379JXjFu
  22. Outline of the speech 1. Validity, 2. Reliability 3.Governance 4. Conclusion. I'm such a nerd to be excited! #nad2014 http://t.co/EtJFATFHmL

    Outline of the speech 1. Validity, 2. Reliability 3.Governance 4. Conclusion. I’m such a nerd to be excited! #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/EtJFATFHmL
  23. “Scholars are mistaken when they trust @worldbankdata, but not, say, Sudanese state data. It’s the same!” – @MJerven #nad2014
  24. “There is an unhealthy academic divide: accepting GDP data at face value vs. dismissing the measurement” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  25. To illustrate 'poor numbers' @MJerven uses Ghana's entrance into middle incomes status on Nov 5th, 2010. #nad2014 http://t.co/Y7R41tMaRZ

    To illustrate ‘poor numbers’ @MJerven uses Ghana’s entrance into middle incomes status on Nov 5th, 2010. #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/Y7R41tMaRZ
  26. On governance: “in order to have evidence based policies you need…some type of evidence” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  27. Next @MJerven critiques the #MDGs as they take away from national data collection resources. #nad2014
  28. “It’s not so much about tempering with statistics, but more ignorance of the importance of statistics” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  29. Then an interesting debate started on Twitter.
  30. @kajsaha how come it doesn’t feel like we’re a middle income country? Or it’s not about feelings eh? #Ghana 🙂 @MJerven
  31. @nas009 @kajsaha @MJerven I guess it’s about paper feeling. Good in books, worst in reality.
  32. @kajsaha @nas009 @MJerven @BloggingGhana #Ghana is not poor neither is it a middle income country!
  33. @kajsaha @kofiemeritus @nas009 @MJerven @BloggingGhana Its not. The poorest is one who can’t afford to laugh. Take a good look at Ghana.haha
  34. Back to the keynote.
  35. “Presidents are elected based on delivering jobs, but there is no data on the labor market!” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  36. Wrapping up with constructive ideas 1. Data can come with warnings if based on guesses @MJerven #nad2014
  37. 2. Development agencies coordinating not just goals, but data collection as well #nad2014
  38. 3. Incentives and human resources in statistical offices #nad2014
  39. Multitasking mother and researcher @kajsaha frequently tweeting from the Key Note Speech #nad2014. @NordicAfrica http://t.co/FH7TuVeg1F

    Multitasking mother and researcher @kajsaha frequently tweeting from the Key Note Speech #nad2014@NordicAfrica pic.twitter.com/FH7TuVeg1F
  40. Final panel was my own. My topic was “Have you ever seen a plane seat before?” Migration narratives among university students in Ghana.
  41. ooohhh Godd luck! RT @kajsaha: Wish me luck! Panel chair introducing me! #nad2014 http://t.co/klV7yrWRTU

    ooohhh Godd luck! RT @kajsaha: Wish me luck! Panel chair introducing me! #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/klV7yrWRTU
  42. In my panel Tekalign Ayalew talks about Ethiop-Eritrean Migrants to Sweden. #nad2014 http://t.co/fEolENrWn9

    In my panel Tekalign Ayalew talks about Ethiop-Eritrean Migrants to Sweden. #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/fEolENrWn9
  43. Last panelist at #nad2014 is Viveca Motsieloa who is presenting a self-reflective paper on being mixed-race in Ghana. http://t.co/mLYetMOPu5

    Last panelist at #nad2014 is Viveca Motsieloa who is presenting a self-reflective paper on being mixed-race in Ghana. pic.twitter.com/mLYetMOPu5
  44. Then the conference was officially over! Hope to come back in 2016!
  45. Chairs are stacked, whiteboards are cleaned & people in prints are discussing where to have drinks. #nad2014 is over! Thanks @NordicAfrica !
  46. This drink is for @ulrichtadajeu! Next time you'll join us in the flesh! http://t.co/RhHPSNrwa7

    This drink is for @ulrichtadajeu! Next time you’ll join us in the flesh! pic.twitter.com/RhHPSNrwa7
  47. A cool think was the Camerooninan student that was following the conference on Twitter. He got this (photo of a) beer from me for dedication to academia!

Research Thoughts

…are the thoughts I am having right now as I am a guest researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute this month. Much goes along the lines of:

  • How do I operationalize my messy theory section into something that can be tested?
  • When do I find the time to re-read a methodology book like VanderStoep and Johnson 2009?
  • Should I move Chapter 4 to just after the introduction?
  • Do I need to redo my focus group coding in Dedoose?
  • What is a (free) alternative for SPSS? (PSPP it turns out. Tried SOFA too and loved the interface, but cannot do regressions with it?)
  • Where did my morning go?
  • What exactly should I put across during my research seminar on June 25th?

In between thinking such thoughts I drink much coffee, wander in the Botanical garden outside my window and talk about the same stuff over long lunches and dinners with friends.

Yes, life could definitely be worse.

One Month At the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden

Today was my first day as a guest researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden. I have been given the opportunity to stay for a month and will be spending the time writing on and thinking about my dissertation.

My first day was great and hoping to get a lot done!

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In the first photo the NAI Director and administrator with my PhD colleagues in the park just outside our building, the second photo an interior snap shot from the lunch room!

PhD Update: Seminar Season

Supposedly, I am in my last year of my PhD-studies. That means trying to write up, conclude and present, present, present!

It is scary and taxing to display your work, try to explain three years of thinking and researching, including mistakes and weaknesses, but I feel it is absolutely necessary.

I have already had some aha-moments when rushedly going over my work again to prepare. As my brother aptly put it, it is like cleaning your house before the guests are coming.

Suddenly, it all comes together.

Conference Coming Up: Nordic Africa Days 2010

I am happy to announce I have an academic conference to attend!

As I am well familiar with the Uppsala bound Nordic Africa Institute ( at a point in time they were even my physical neighbors!) I was well informed about the yearly Nordic Africa Days, this year taking place in Turku, Finland. The Nordic Africa Days is a annual conference each year taking place in a Nordic country. For these conferences, young scholars and PhD candidates are especially encouraged to partake, so I was keeping an eye open… When I realized the theme for the conference was Time Space Africa: Reconnecting the Continent, and participants were to focus on “the changing conditions, positions and possibilities of the continent” I knew I had to submit  an abstract. I wrote one based on my research so far and it was accepted with a panel called “Mobility and relocation as strategies of youthful resistance”. I am to present my paper (which will be a reworked version of my PhD proposal with maybe a little empiry from a focus group I’d like to follow up on)  and actively take part of discussions within my panel.

I have been to conferences before (even crashed a few), but not as an active participant, presenting a paper of my own. I am excited about the opportunity and look forward to critique and input from other participants to make my research more profound.

Out of the key speakers I am especially looking forward to Professor Mahmood Mamdani‘s speech. Ugandan by birth, he is currently the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government in the Department of Anthropology and Political Science and the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and an academic writer I admire and often quote.

I also saw that Professor Paul Nugent will be a speaker. That could be interesting since he launched the web publication Critical African Studies last year (do read the pdf paper that defends the concept of Critical African Studies ) and was more than critical when he wrote this on conferences:

Let us be honest. Most modern academics are caught on a treadmill that prevents them
from thinking in a sustained way about what they are doing. Typically, a researcher presents a
paper at a conference at which (s)he is given all of ten minutes to outline the findings. A cursory
discussion then follows, and minds then turn to converting the paper into a publication before it is overtaken by other commitments. By their very nature, conference papers are often half-cooked, but the pressure to produce finished results means that while they might receive some light seasoning, they are often sent off with minimal changes.

I hope that Nugent’s presence will have an effect on this conference making the results more sustainable.

So, end of September I am off. Wish me luck!