Happy Brithday Africa on the Blog
This month marks five years of our existence as a platform and what a journey it has been.
Five years ago this month, I was due to speak at a conference organized by Libyan students in the UK at the School of Oriental and African Studies. My topic was African women in the Diaspora.
As part of my preparations, I sought the views of other African women. It was whilst I was speaking to these women that I got the idea of creating a space for Africans in the diaspora to express themselves.
As I reflect on the past 5 years, I must admit I was un sure as to how such a space would work, whether it was needed or the purpose it would serve. There were other considerations too, such as my limited knowledge with respect to technology, blogging as well as my ability to negotiate the plethora of social media platforms.
I was a contributor at Birds on The blog, so I reached out to my good friend and blogging guru Sarah Arrow and told her her about my idea. Sarah was very encouraging and immediately saw the merits of such a platform. She started working on setting up the platform and I set about recruiting potential contributors.
One of the things we agreed on early on, was not to be prescriptive. As a consequence, we have covered a range of subjects including politics, feminism, female genital mutilation, food, international development, economics, travel, homosexuality in Africa, fashion etc. This has meant that we have been able to draw in a range of views and that has in turn provided rich content for our readers.
This is a selection of popular posts amongst our readers and some of my favourites too
Campaigns about genital mutilation often over look the suffering of young boys in Africa. In Dying of shame Andrea, discusses the experiences of young Xhosa boys and what can happen when things go wrong.
In The Cut , Chiira Maina wrote about the cutting of girls in Kenya because their culture demands it. A point picked by up Zoe in broken lives, broken minds. Through these posts, the impact of African cultural practices on the most vulnerable in our communities is put in the spot light.
In Ghana’s Dubious decolonization distinction, Sitinga sets the record straight on Africa’s independence. This post was eye opening and I learned a lot about the history of Africa. The post, has so far it has been read by 27, 000 people. Sitinga raised an important issue that is to do with how Africa’s history gets distorted by experts, journalists through language and narrative. This is an example of why platforms such as Africa on the blog are needed.
In Bringing down Africa Big Wigs, Sitinga questioned why judges in African courts continue to wear traditional robes and wigs left behind by colonialists. She argued that in a country like Malawi, this dress code was expensive and impractical in the hot African sun.
In support of Polygamy by Christopher, got us girls hot and bothered. The Kenyan government had just a law legalising polygamy and we all weighed in our views. The topic was picked up by Vera in Polygamy and Kenya’s marriage bill
Feminism is a topic that gets us excited over and over, there is for instance Freda’s response to a blog at MsAfropolitan. I will not attempt to explain this as you must read it and be the judge of Freda’s take on what she calls the feminist rhetoric of the African Diaspora Bourgeoisie.
In, You can’t Sit with us; Black Women and feminism, Iman explored the relationship between feminism and African women. She asked whether this was a concept African women could buy into.
Africa’s politics is complicated at the best of times but we don’t shy away from it. Take for instance Nqaba’s take Mugabe’s Humpty dumpty moment, I can’t imagine what it must be like for those whose job it is to make Mugabe look good. Is that even possible
The attempted selling off of a School play ground at Nairobi School got Bilqees bothered and she called on the Kenyan government to have due regard for the value of education to Kenyan children.
Jimmy Kainja our man in Malawi has let us in on Malawi’s politics over the years and in Why Joyce Banda lost the elections, Jimmy argued that Banda relied on the good will of people and such took them for granted. As a result this cost her the election.
In #GhanaDecides Edward Amartey-Tagoe our man in Ghana, explored the role of Social Media in elections on the continent and provided a running commentary of what was happening on the ground in Accra. I found his reporting especially useful as it provided detail that was not available from mainstream media.
By now, most would have heard about the plight of Africans that risk it all in their effort to get to Europe. I have questioned why so many Africans have to die and what the African Union is doing about it
As the continent grapples with increased terrorism, Andrew argued that this growth is driven by local groups.
Under this category, we have explored African Diaspora’s contribution to Africa’s development as well as race relations in the USA. In How Long Oh Lord, Darren argued that African descended bodies in the USA are under attack. C. Matthew explored cultural appropriation in Rachel Dolezal’s “Black Face.
Under this category we have questioned the role of Non-government organizations in Africa’s development, and in particular whose interests they serve. This topic generated further discussion drawing in industry experts.
Ossob Mohamud took on those Voluntourists who have nothing to contribute to Africa’s development, but travel to Africa for a feel good factor. This topi generated heated debates over at The Guardian here and here.
If you are Twitter and have an interest in development, you may have seen a recent exchange on the topic of the appropriateness of photos in development. We were trail blazers on this matter when We explored Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher ‘s photos of the Dink. Amongst other things, we wondered whether the Dinka share in the proceeds from the sell of the photos. The discussion continue amongst Guardian readers
In Food Security and Bio fuels, Eliza asked whether it was fair for folks on the continent go hungry in order that those in west can drive clean cars
In the ridicule of See Saw economies, Gloria wondered why we don’t draw on African culture to grow the country’s economies.
With respect to the continent’s development, often a time successful Africans or those Africans that contribute to the continent’s development through business or philanthropists never get a mention in mainstream media. In a New Wave of Entrepreneurs Kabukabu introduced us to various innovations by Africans
African hair and in particular African women’s hair causes innumerable discussions in the main media, places of work, social gatherings etc., that include the practicalities of managing African Hair, the Politics of African Hair and the pressure all this generates of African women.
Some African women have even gone as far as stating that they have been passed over at job interviews because of their hair. If you don’t believe me, check out BBC Africa’s series on this topic using hashtag #HairTalks
As if we don’t have enough to contend with, there is a type of discrimination known simply as. Colourism. As Stella explains, this is based on skin tone or how black one is an issue Bilqees picks up in Shadeism. Bilqees traces the origins of this type of discrimination to Africa’s colonial past.
Our most popular post has come from Iman and it has been read 46, 000 times. In the Truth About Somali Pirates, Iman provides an alternative narrative about piracy at the Horn of Africa.
Along the way our efforts have been noticed and that has led to collaboration with mainstream media. We are for instance members of the Guardian Africa Network and Africa- Monitor at the Christian Science Monitor
Africa – EU relations
We are blogging partners of the Think Tank European Centre for Development Management. Through this partnership, we have contributed to the discourse about the Africa-EU relationship
A personal note
As stated at the beginning of this review, I had no idea how this platform would evolve and I would be lying if I said it has been easy thus far. The feedback from the contributors here and what they get out of being part of this platform has kept me going.
Most recently, a young Uganda woman contacted me. She is in her final year of a Master’s degree at the London School of Economics. She asked to speak with me about Africa on the Blog as part of her research for her dissertation. The Dissertation will explore the role of Mass Media in Development and she will argue that platforms such Africa on the blog are an important part of the development discourse.
I never imagined that we would contribute to other’s learning in this way and for this I am extremely proud. I am grateful to Babs Saul and Sarah Arrow who provide hosting, technical support as well as a sounding board. Special thanks too, to my co- editor Edward for his support.
Finally, this platform works because of its fabulous and dedicated contributors. I would like to urge to add your voice to Africa’s narrative by signing up to become a contributor. It is easy to join us simply fill in the contact us page