Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Living Below the Line

A friend of mine from university is a Global Poverty Ambassador. Her and her husband are Living Below the Line to raise awareness for Poverty in our world. Follow their blog here and donate to the cause. I'm sure you'd agree it's a worthy cause. 

Monday, 25 March 2013

Let's Sell Africa to the Real World

Not so long ago I told you I had a post in the works. My essay is done and so I'm free to write. I hope you read the William Wallis article that Emeka Okafor shared. If you did, you may have come across the Chairman of the Nigerian Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi's article about Sino-Africa relations.

What's funny is that on this course I've been speaking about there being a multi-speed Africa. An Africa for the Presidents, and Africa for the "Afropolitans" and an Africa for the everyfolk. Every single one of these sections of society recognise the Chinese presence on the continent. It is very difficult to ignore if I'm honest. But what I feel some people have ignored, is the need to present this new Africa to the world. The real world. When I hear someone talk about working to promote Africa to the world they often mean sharing their country's truth with the rest of the continent and sharing their continent's truth with Europe and North America. Rarely do you hear about a magazine who's main aim is to be stocked on the shelves of Asian newsagents and supermarkets. A magazine thinks they've made it because they've got onto Walmart and WHSmith shelves, but the people really investing in the continent, and the people with the disposable income to invest in the continent are in the other direction.

When I sat in my International Politics class in Singapore, I recall my classmates being fascinated by me for being the first African they had met, I will admit that they were swiftly disappointed when they realised my accent was British and further let down when I explained that I was born and raised in London and had only visited Africa 3 times. I remember telling them, if it made them feel happy I would be their first African friend, but I know that didn't really work for them. When in Singapore I was told not to find and associate myself with an exclusively black group of friends (people in South East Asia are aware of West Africa's rising reputation in the drug trafficking industry) and in Malaysia, from what I remember Africans aren't taken as very special, if I can say it politely.

So Afropolitans across the continent are busy churning out an image of a creative, democratic, bright, colourful, rich Africa so the "world" can stop pitying us, but that is not making it Eastbound, and its only making it Westbound because its an alternative outlook for all those alternative people. China doesn't work in hard-power in Africa. They work in soft-power, they make us love them by building our stadia and our parliaments and our roads. They make us love them by basing CCTV offices in Africa and having African anchors. They make us love them by actively following a rhetoric and making sure it gets to the people - drowning out the doubtful voice of Western media which authorities themselves have called "a challenge". How have we made them love us? Do we work hard to change the profile of the Africa in the years between World Cups (when the world supports us because we are underdogs)? I will be over the moon when I return to Singapore and see ARISE, NAW Magazine et al on the magazine shelves of NTUC and when I see more wealthy black people enjoying holidays in the paradise islands of Thailand and Malaysia instead of them investing in coats and scarves for the icy cold LondonTown and New Jersey.

If we're are going to sell Africa to the world, sell it where it counts, where your footprint will make a real impression. 

Write for me - Paapa (Official Video)

For every African who ever left hoping one day they will return, and who know how hard it is to keep that promise to yourself.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Dear Mr. Achebe

Dear Mr. Achebe,

This is a short letter, I know you are very busy where you are. I just wanted to say thank you. I came to experience your writings quite recently and they spoke to me more than I could imagine. Your work opened a door for me to explore my heritage. Your person makes me proud to be Nigerian, and to be African. Your honesty inspires me to speak.

You are and always will be a legend and an inspiration.

With love and respect,

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Mayor - the role democratisation forgot

I'm slightly avoiding essay writing because it's not really flowing right now. I thought the best way would be just to jump-start my brain with a little post here.

A couple of days ago I read about a supposed 'coup' at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly. Essentially some people are not happy with the Mayor and instead of addressing their concerns, the Mayor's supporters thought it best to try to oust political opponents. Interestingly, the 'crime' was to alert the President - effectively the Mayor's boss - to the poor performance of his employee. No one thought to tell the people of Accra what their grievances were. And yet despite this discreet protest to the Mayor's conduct, officials close to the Mayor thought it best to take such rash decisions which would only end in public humiliation for the AMA and all those involved.

Something the public should have known about, but didn't know about, quickly became something they did know about because some people felt no one should know in the first place. Sounds confusing? Well that's Ghanaian politics for you!

I have one solution. It's a beautiful one. Innovative if I do say so myself! I guarantee you no one could have thought about it, especially not in the democratisation process of the nation. OK, brace yourself... here goes.... DEMOCRATISE THE AMA AND THE MAYORAL POSITION! wow! I just invented the lightbulb! Eureka! I have absolutely blown your mind, haven't I?

No? Well of course I haven't! We often get caught up in the free and fair elections for President and the subsequent hokey-pokeys at the Supreme Court to even consider how we could improve the public sector further. There is always work to be done and democracy in Ghana should not be judge simply by community get-togethers every Dec 7 or Dec 28 in an Olympic year. I'm serious about few things, but for this I've got my serious hat well and truly glued to my head. Non-partisan elections of Mayors based on experience, with appeals to civil society and not tribal or party support, is what Accra, Kumasi and all other serious cities in Ghana need. Why? Because with that will come real protocol for accountability to the people: grounds to vote for no confidence in the Mayor; REAL grounds to vote for no confidence in the Chair of the Assembly; development in the city independent of the political aspirations of the President and his cabinet; faster development in the city with clear resources at one's disposal; and hopefully a shorter #MyOgaAtTheTop ride when disaster strikes. It frees the national government to focus on the rural communities and smaller towns.

The candidates would have to be non-partisan because there's only so long I can take E Dey Be Keke before I'd want board the first Virgin flight outta there. The elections preferably would not be on Dec 7 in an Olympic year. I'm thinking sometime after Republic Day - no reason specifically, it would just be nice. The Mayor's term could then in theory overlap two very different governments and that would push him to fight for the interests of the city because its development would not be so closely associated with that of the national government, he would be accountable for the failure to improve the city and would not think his job is secure so long as he can call the President "Chale!" as is now the case.

There are so many other reasons for switching up the Mayor selection process from the farce that it is now. At the moment Accra's Mayor is living a #MyOgaAtTheTop life, but it is hightime his oga at the top becomes all the people at the bottom. Can we force this change?

Friday, 15 March 2013

My Oga At The Top Mentality - A Plea

"Together; we can practically discourage the“MY OGA AT THE TOP MENTALITY”: approach. Simply by empowering your associates, and or employees to make informed decision in your absentia. You don’t need to live in Lagos full time to understand what the term MY OGA means. Chances are you’ve had an encounter or heard this phrase one way or the other on the streets of Lagos. Phrases like “Let me check with my oga”, “Oga said”, “Oga Talk Sey”. We can’t deny our rich cultural tradition of respect for superiors, or elders, neither can we let this kinds of mindset continue to damp the abilities of folks that need upbeat moral or build interpersonal skill set. The My Oga at the Top Mentality prevented Mr. Obafaiye from making crisp informed decision at a critical time of need.[Read More]

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Really considering Sino-Africa relations.

I'm really happy that Emeka Okafor shared William Wallis' article in the FT it leads very nicely onto the next post I want to write about Africa's relationship with the East. First I must work on a 5000 word essay so in the mean time head to Emeka's Africa Unchained blog, find the link to William Wallis' article and build an opinion.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Where's Joe?

I read this article on Ghanaweb, as I always do. It's about the fact that Ghana wastes 1 billion Ghana cedis each year on ghost workers. Now if you are familiar with Ghanaian movies, you would know that there is a strong belief that the dead can walk among us without us knowing that they are dead. My mum and aunties have often joked about the taxi-man reports of ghosts hitching rides in a certain part of Accra.

If this 1 billion cedis was being spent on ghosts who don't know how to play dead and stay dead I would totally understand, but for some reason, this money is being paid to people who are definitely not coming into work in the morning. Can someone ask, please, why we feel the need to pay people who aren't turning up to work? It is not at all difficult, Joe comes to work everyday for 10 years, one day Joe doesn't come in, his boss doesn't call to find out where he is cos in Ghana people will just assume he's in a casual bout with malaria. Joe is not there for 2, 3, 4 days. The above is assumed because "malaria... mtchewww enye easy". Ghana loves its funerals so no doubt SOMEONE in the office would know that Joe has sadly died and that the appropriate attire is black and brown. Maybe the boss doesn't know. Surely the boss realises (dead or alive) Joe hasn't been in the office for 2 weeks. Does he not send a message to Joe via post, phone or person? Joe's family are too upset, they don't respond, fine. But come on, if after 3/4 weeks you definitely don't know what has happened to Joe, why are you still going to pay him? Has the work been done? Even if it has, has HE done the work? No. Only in Ghana* do people expect (dead or alive) to get paid for work not done. That's probably why so many aspects of the public sector is in chaos.

This yet another form of corruption. Forget complaining about the amount Chris Brown comes to disrespect our common values, forget scrutinising the Black Stars' budget every 2 years, think about how many schools, clinics and roads we might build with the billions of cedis lost in the past decade alone simply because for some reason we still want to pay people who don't show up for work!

*I know it's not only in Ghana, but enjoy that lovely saying that so many Ghanaians use to internalise our failings to epic proportions like the rest of the world is perfect until you get to Ghana.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Happy #IWD 2013!

Last #IWD I had the lovely pleasure of being on an international Google Hangout with some of Africa's leading ladies including Ory Okolloh, part of this hangout out was even aired on Kenyan CitizenTV. That was super cool. 

This year, my IWD is much quieter, one 3-hour lecture I nearly fell asleep in. At the end of the month (29/03/2013) however I will be partaking in an event focused on black women in the UK. Below is the flier, if you are in London, please stop by. If you aren't be you know people who are, please share.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Telling the African Story - Komla Dumor - TEDxEuston

Komla Dumor hasn't yet reached hero status for me yet, but of all the celebs I follow on twitter and facebook he's definitely my favourite. His talk at TEDxEuston just got uploaded a couple of days ago: