Thursday, February 26, 2009

One Love

My friend Jalani gives the 12th annual Bob Marley lecture at the University of the West Indies here. Just imagine if Unilag started off an annual Fela Kuti lecture series...

Jalani's lecture begins around 29mins 30 seconds in.


Call for materials on African sexualities

This is a call for materials for a contemporary Reader on African sexualities, which is being developed and edited by Prof. Sylvia Tamale-outgoing Dean of Law at Makerere University and Coordinator of the Law, Gender and Sexuality Research Project at the Faculty of Law.

This seminal work will be a compilation of diverse populist and academic pieces that either engage with or inform sexualities enacted all over the African continent. We are interested in collecting a range of materials including (but not limited to) essays, fiction, poetry, web blogs, art, crafts, photographs, film, documentaries, diaries, music, theoretical discussions, empirical papers, academic publications etc, that address and inform African sexualities.

The editor will obtain copyright permission where necessary. Although the main language of the Reader will be English, relevant materials published in French, Portugese, Spanish, Arabic and any African tongue will be translated for inclusion. This Reader aims to be as inclusive of all of Africa as possible. The deadline for submission is October 30, 2009. All received pieces will be acknowledged.

Please send material to:
Stella Nyanzi,
Research Assistant,
Law, Gender and Sexuality Research Project,
Faculty of Law,
Makerere University,
P. O. Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda.
Cel: +256-775-301-767
Tel: +256-414-543-946
Fax: +256-414-543-110
E-Mail: [email protected]


Call for Papers announcement

Writing Change: Transitions in African History
Postgraduate Conference, 18th- 19th May, 2009

Department of History, University of Sheffield

Confirmed Keynotes:
Professor Megan Vaughan (University of Cambridge)
Professor Andreas Eckert (Humboldt University, Berlin)

Following successful events in 2006, 2007 and 2008, postgraduate members of the
International History Group at the University of Sheffield are holding their
fourth annual conference. Following last year’s overwhelming response, this
year we will be extending our conference over two days.

Postgraduate researchers from across the arts, humanities and social sciences
are invited to submit abstracts for 15-20 minute papers, on any aspect of
colonial and post-colonial African history, which reflect on the problem of
conceptualising and writing about aspects of change in Africa. Papers might
intersect with one or more of the following themes:
• African Nationalisms
• Decolonization and Transitions
• Borders, Boundaries and Partitions
• Belonging, Exile and Identity
• Colonial and Postcolonial States
• Conflict, Resistance and Violence
• Religion and the Supernatural
• The Local and the Global

Abstracts not exceeding 250 words should be submitted to:
[email protected] by Friday 27th March 2009.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Aid can be good...

Africa Manager of One, Edith Jibunoh's response to Dambisa Moyo, in today's Guardian, here.


Nigerian fraudsters hack Jack Straw's email account

The Minister of Justice, Jack Straw, is 419'ed, here. Fortunately for him, it didn't involve his dollar being chopped.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Eko Atlantic City

What was that nursery rhyme about the wise man building his house upon the rock? Not to be outdone, Kaduna State Govt has its own YouTube video about the Millenium City Project, here.


Lassa Fever in FCT?

I received the following email yesterday on an outbreak of Lassa Fever, backing up a story that appeared in This Day last week. Its bizarre that it hasn't been more widely publicised:

The Federal Capital Territory Administration has announced that there is currently an out break of the deadly Lassa Fever within the FCT and neighbouring Nassarrawa state.

The disease has already claimed 8 lives in 3 weeks and over 93 cases have been confirmed. Lassa Fever is a very deadly disease that can spread quickly within a short period of time. It initially has malaria type symptoms and so is easily mistaken for malaria and under treated early. It is, however, very critical to catch it in the very early stages. This is a highly contagious disease that is transmitted traditionally by rat urine/feces contamination of food, drink and household items/goods. It is also transmitted via body fluids and appears to be air borne in the current form in Abuja.

Symptoms include fever, general fatigue and weakness, headache, sore throat, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoe, cough, abdominal pain, and red spots. In advanced/severe cases it may lead to swollen face, bleeding from orifices (eyes, mouth, nose, genitalia),low blood
pressure, etc.

The good news is that the necessary steps to curb the growing epidemic are being taken by the FCT Health & Human Services Secretariat, the Federal Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. So there is no need to panic.

Wash all foods, cook all meats thoroughly, store all drink in sealed containers, keep your house and surroundings as free from anything that will attract and/or harbour rats.

As soon as you suspect Lassa Fever, or you have persistent fever that does not respond to standard malaria treatment report to the nearest FCT Health Centre.

The FCTA is setting up an emergency quarantine facility. You may reach the FCT Health & Human Service Secretariat at 09-3141098 or 08033138538 (Mr. Moses Okoro).


Monday, February 23, 2009

From the Museum of Islamic Arts, Doha

Apart from the majesty of the building itself (by I.M. Pei), my two favourite exhibits were the room full of astrolabes (see first post of images below) and the plate (image directly below), which is over 1,000 years old. The decentred arabic script has an enchanting rhythm and elegance. When we think of calligraphy, we often think of Japan, forgetting an alternative Qu'ranic lineage.

I have just bought this fab book on the House of Wisdom - if anyone out there is interested in reading up on the Baghdad University and its impact on the West over a thousand years ago.


More pictures from an exhibition


Pictures from an exhibition..


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Staff Benda Bilili - the news from Kinshasa

Listen to Staff Benda Bilili here. The first album is out next month. There's a piece about them in today's Sunday Times here.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Paul Mount RIP

The artist who helped set up the arts school at Yaba Tech has died. You can read his obituary here.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interesting book/thinker on the futility of donor funding..

Dambisa Moyo here (Guardian interview) and here (Amazon link to the book) and here (FT interview).


Toxic waste from the UK dumped in Nigeria

The Independent, Greenpeace and Sky News put a tracking device on a broken TV and followed its progress from Basingstoke to Tilbury docks to Alaba electronics market in Lagos, here.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Speaking in tongues

Nice essay by Zadie Smith in the NY Review of Books here. My mother used to say, "Jeremy, your accent is horrible. Get rid of it." She was right (I had a bit of a West Midlands accent) and I did. Now I suppose I sound a little bit posh, innit.


What happens when the lingerie drops to the floor...

Interesting article measuring the decline in purchasing power of the new middle class in Nigeria in terms of thongs-per-square-foot, here.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Equatorial Guinea attacked by gunmen from the Niger Delta

Breaking news here.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Marlon Jackson slave resort

Michael Jackson's brother Marlon plans to build a multi-billion dollar resort to attract African-Americans in search of their roots, west of Lagos in Badagry, here. There will be a replica slave-ship for tourists to inspect, as well as holographic displays of The Jacksons. Could it get more bizarre than this? Why not go the whole way and have a Disneyworld/Never Ever land next door?


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Vlisco fashion event coming up in Lagos (click to enlarge)

Attendance strictly by invitation.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

4 generations of Weates

An old photo, recently uncovered. Here I am, in my Dad's arms, with his great aunt and his dad.


Miss Virginity Nigeria

Did you see this story? Its hard to imagine any such event reaching a climax, but apparently the second paragraph informs us it did. Dr Ekemode should be congratulated for his steadfast work in confirming all 43 girls as virgins the day before. A is for abstinence!


Jobs at the Population Council


Friday, February 13, 2009

Mobile crowd-sourcing in Kenya



A Tale of Passion

Isabel Allende at TED.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lagos comes to London

Interesting combination of sculpture, sound and painting coming up in London, here.



Keep track of your sex encounters here.


Sex, Love and Survival: Valentine's Day in Nigeria

Interesting DFID-sponsored programme leading to sexual behaviour change in the FCT.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nigerians in China

There's an interesting piece on Nigerian/Africans in China in the current edition of New Yorker magazine here. You can read the abstract here, but you have to buy it or be an online subscriber to read the whole piece.


The Economist conference in Lagos next month


I've just come out of an Oil and Gas conference in London with a lot of experts present. It's not looking good, with a 'supply crunch' in the energy sector coming up - all the finance for big projects (deep-sea offshore, pipelines etc.) has evaporated, so the black stuff will increasingly stay in the ground, leading to an artificial peak-oil that will push prices back up in the medium term (next 5 years). The prospects for some economies is dire, with a few oil countries requiring over US80$ per barrel prices to balance their books. Venezuela needs over US$100 prices. Oh dear.



Interesting experimental film outfit here. Here is some blurb from the blog/site:

"BlackmanVision produces award-winning experimental film projects which fuse fiction and documentary genres. BlackmanVision uses films to remember and re-vision what has been forgotten. We bring to the screen, stories that are still untold and turn the spotlight on people who are often kept in the shadows."


Sunday, February 08, 2009

The New Nigerian

Guest post from Obi Igbokwe:

Fellow Nigerians,

On October 1, 1960, Nigeria became an independent country within the Commonwealth of Nations. This historic event brought hope to millions of Nigerians, who had long suffered under the heavy foot of slavery and colonialism. It was a defining moment in our history as Nigerians freed themselves from the shackles of their colonial masters. But 49 years later, most Nigerians are still not free as the average man on the street is still shackled by the manacles of political ineptitude and the chains of socio-economic failures.

The life of Nigerians is typified by being surrounded by plenty of water but not a drop to drink as many are trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty in the midst of bountiful resources that most countries in the world can only dream of. Nearly fifty years later, the average Nigerian still languishes in his own land and millions have placed self imposed exiles on themselves as they move to other countries to find greener pastures.

We must no longer tolerate the shameful condition that our dear country has been reduced to. This is not the country that Nigerian nationalists, who fought to liberate it from the clutches of British rule, envisioned. They fought tooth and nail to gain our independence and bring together Nigerians of all stripes and from all corners of the country. At the heart of their fight was a desire to build a country where every Nigerian could prosper and not be dominated over by a minority whose only interest was to fleece the country dry.

One of the Nigeria’s greatest sons, Herbert Macaulay wrote that the dimensions of the colonial masters looking after the interests of Nigerians were “algebraically equal to the length, breadth and depth of the white man's pocket." Regrettably, that attitude still applies today but replace the white man with Nigerian politicians.

It is very doubtful that Herbert Macaulay would have foreseen the day that Nigerians would be denied the basic rights of life - education, healthcare, personal security, the right to elect, and not select , their leaders and the pursuit of happiness - by fellow Nigerians. It is obvious to all that our leaders have failed to deliver time and time again on any of these as more than 100 million Nigerians still live in penury.

But we refuse to believe that Nigeria is broken and cannot be fixed. We refuse to believe that this country cannot be one of great and boundless opportunities. We refuse to believe that this cannot be a country where justice is no longer a privilege but is guaranteed to very single Nigerian. We refuse to believe that every Nigerian cannot benefit from the limitless riches the country has to offer.

We must however make that pledge to rebuild this good country, and we must do it together. Like the great John F Kennedy once said, “United, there is little we cannot do in a host of shared accomplishments. Divided, there is little we can do as we dare not meet powerful challenges that will easily split us apart.” This will not be a one man job or a one day job, it is an every man every day job.

This country can achieve the potential it has long promised. And the only way we can do this is by working together, struggling together, fighting injustice together, believing in one another and knowing that one day this country of ours will be free of all the fetters that have held us down.

For the Nigerians who believe that we can be better than we are and are willing to make the sacrifice to improve our country, join us. For those, who are hell bent on destroying the country just to line their pockets, we shall fight you to the very end. We will fight, not with violence but with the might of a united people determined to no longer submit to the excesses of corruption and moral decay that have engulfed our country.

For those who laugh at us and call us dreamers, we say Martin Luther King once had a dream, and that dream is now sitting on the most powerful seat in the world as you read this.

We are well aware that we will face challenges that will task us to the limit, test every ounce of our resolve and scare the life out of us. But we also know that it is normal to be afraid and we shall not give in to fear which paralyses the needed hard work to convert this country’s stagnation into progress.

It would be fatal for us not to recognise the urgency of the moment as the time to fight the injustice and inequality long suffered by our brethren is not tomorrow, next week or even next year. That time is now upon us.

The time has come to do away with all the traditions and customs that debase our women and hinder the growth of our children. And to put to rest all forms of tribalism, nepotism, cronyism and religious intolerance.

The time has come for Nigeria to reclaim the vision of our forefathers when they fought for the independence of the country.

The time has come for urgent reformation of a nation where the phrase “Giant of Africa” is no longer met with laughter and raised eyebrows but one that other nations respectfully bestow on our nation.

The time has come to fulfill the words in our national anthem “Great lofty heights attain, to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.” But if Nigeria is to attain those lofty heights we must fight the battles of eradicating poverty, political and social injustice with the same gusto as those for fought for the independence of our nation. For a society where many are poor and only a few handful benefits off its lands cannot call itself free.

The time has come for Nigeria to take its position amongst the Commonwealth of Nations, not as a failed state struggling to meet the expectations of all around it but standing shoulder to shoulder with the leading nations of the world.

Now is not the time to rest on laurels when millions of Nigerians, and indeed millions of Africans and the rest of the world, are depending on us to deliver on the promises of democracy.

Now is not the time to give in to shouts of “You dey blow too much grammar” or “We do this the Nigerian way” when we should be doing things the right way.

Now is the time to deliver our nation from the slippery slope of violence due to armed robbery, political thuggery, corruption and intolerance to a solid foundation of law and order.

Now is the time to make peace, justice and personal security a reality for all Nigerians.

Now is the time to abolish all forms of human poverty in our country and ensure its people’s economic prosperity.

Now is the time to stand up and fight for all that we believe in, to not only safeguard our future but that of our children, and their children, and their children’s children.

Now is the time to finally recognise that we are all brothers and sisters. It is not wrong that we have different cultures, languages and dialects. Indeed, that diversification should be our strength as we embrace the model of a melting pot of cultures and ideas like other great nations before us have. It is wrong however to allow people use those differences between us to stoke up fear and hatred for their own personal gain. Until we stand up to them, we will never be able to redefine this nation in a way that will inspire other nations of the world.

Fellow Nigerians, the time has come to come together and begin the difficult journey of rebuilding our nation. To this end a plan has been proposed to hopefully spark the beginning of a socioeconomic revolution in Nigeria.

The plan is designed to address the following:

1. Transportation: A more efficient mass transport system allows for the movement of goods and people to all corners of the country. We can achieve this by engaging the private sector to assist in the building and maintenance of road and rail transports networks that reach every major city in the country, airports that facilitate the safe air travel, and the harnessing of the vast waterways we have for the movements of large cargoes to reduce the stress on the roads and railways.

Every Nigerian should be able to travel safely to all corners of country at the choosing of their own time and mode of transport.

2. Communications: Communication systems eliminate the physical distance between any two communities and allow for the speedy exchange of information. In today’s world of increasing globalisation, it is now a requirement for any business to be able to communicate effectively and quickly.

The telecommunications industry in Nigeria has taken off with a bang since the introduction of mobile phone services, but more work still needs to be done. We need to ensure that mobile phone services are within the reach of every Nigerian at affordable prices. We also need to take the Internet into every home, every office and every nook and cranny of the country. The Internet plays a big role in the world today and it is now considered the most efficient and cost effective way of reducing the knowledge and technology gap between developed and developing nations.

3. Energy: Every aspect of the economy is dependent on energy. The vital role it plays in today’s society cannot be understated. The provision of affordable energy and the constant supply of power to light up houses, offices and factories will be essential in getting the Nigerian economy back on track.

Nigeria has vast and under utilised reserves of oil, natural gas and coal. We will need to push through reforms in these industries and stop the outrageously wasteful practice of gas flaring immediately. We should look into building a couple of nuclear power plants for our electricity needs.

We should also be looking at depending less on oil and gas for our energy needs and looking more at renewable energy sources. The potential for solar, wind, geothermal, bio and hydro-energy sources in our country is enormous and is one that we should begin harnessing now, as carbon-based energy sources are not going to be around forever and place an enormous strain on our environment.

4. Healthcare: A healthy workforce is the engine of any economy. Failure to cater for the health needs of the country’s population only leads to a decrease in the production of goods and services as workers take more time off work than they need to.

Focusing on providing affordable primary health care services to every man, woman and child is the only way we will tackle the scourge of HIV, malaria and other infectious diseases that threaten our livelihood. It is only way we would really be able to bring down the alarming rates of maternal and infant mortality.

The building of large hospitals, while noble, is a bit counter productive at this moment as it averts much needed resources away from the building of primary healthcare centres who form the frontline in the battle for keeping our people healthy. We should revive and expand the late Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti’s work in taking primary health care to every nook and cranny of Nigeria and ensuring that every council district in every local government area in every state has at least one primary health care center.

We should also exploit Internet and mobile technologies to build a national e-health network to achieve our objectives and enable the storing of the medical records of Nigerian in electronic format, so that these records are within the reach of registered healthcare providers at every hospital, every ward and every clinic at any time of the day in Nigeria as to ensure continuity of care and reduce deaths due to medical errors.

We must also put drinkable water either through pipes or boreholes within the reach of every single Nigerian child. Nigeria has one of the largest fresh water resources in the world. It is no longer excusable that children should die of diarrheal diseases because we failed to put clean water within walking distance of the child’s mother.

5. Education and Training: An educated workforce is a more efficient workforce. A better educated population also presents multiple opportunities for the economy to diversify beyond its traditional pillars. This was an approach followed by the Asian Tigers, who invested heavily in education to produce a workforce that could provide value-added services as income generators for economies that had little or no natural resources.

We will have to increase the budgetary allocation to education, and indeed healthcare as well, as both sectors are critical to our success as a nation. The provision of compulsory quality primary and secondary school education with a strong focus on the sciences and mathematics to ALL children is a matter of urgency if we are to take our true position amongst the league of leading nations.

We will also need to increase funding to our universities, which were neglected over the years, and task them to get more involved in research. We must also endeavour to build community colleges in every local government area whereby vocational and technical skills training could be provided for school leavers before they enter the workforce.

We must design and deliver a series of informal programmes that educate our people on religious and tribal tolerance, civil rights and civic duties, and a host of educational initiatives aimed at ridding our society of the social injustices that are carried out under the auspices of culture and tradition.

6. Agriculture & Natural Resources: With the global food prices on the rise and Nigeria being a net importer of food, the country will be better served by reviving its agriculture sector, which was also Nigeria’s chief export earner before the discovery of oil.

Nigeria, once an exporter of food crops, now has to import food to meet local demand. It is unacceptable, as a nation that fails that to feed its population is preparing the ground for civil unrest which can tear our society apart.

We will need to reform the agricultural industry as the availability of cheaper foods will also lead to an increase in the quality of life for Nigerians as more people will be able to afford to put more food on the table for their families.

Agriculture is the biggest sector of the economy but yet past leaders have spent all their attention on the oil sector, to the detriment of developing an industrialised agro-based economy.

7. Environment: Damage to the environment has long term implications to the Nigerian economy as it can lead to a deterioration of health of the general population, a depletion of natural resources and an increased cost of doing business. It is much cheaper to put in preventive measures to protect the environment than to clean it up down the line. Protecting the environment is no longer a social issue but an economic one, and one that the Nigerian government will need to embrace fully.

We must put an immediately end to the sloppy practices of oil companies and their local accomplices, who in order to save a buck, are wrecking the environment of the Niger Delta, while recording multi-billion dollar profits at the end of the financial year.

8. Finance & Housing: Developing a strong financial sector which stimulates growth in the private sector through the availability of credit would be a priority, more so given the current global financial crisis.

While it might not possible to provide cheap housing for all Nigerians, we must develop a mortgage system that puts owning a home within the reach of most Nigerians.

We must also strengthen our tax system, as it would provide the necessary funding needed to improve education, healthcare, the enforcement of law and order, and other public services.

9. Enterprise & Innovation: Promoting micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) can lead to a reduction in poverty and unemployment, and lead to wealth creation for the owners of the businesses. All these have a direct effect on the economy, and it also useful in reducing the wealth gap between the haves and have-nots.

10. Legal & Security: The enforcement of contracts and adherence to the rule of law not only provides a suitable environment for doing business locally and fighting corruption, it can also lead to increased confidence amongst investors looking to plough their money into the Nigerian economy.

Increased internal security fosters external foreign investment and adds to the quality of life of the country’s citizens. Tackling the crisis in the Niger Delta region and the wave of violent crime across the country will go a long way in improving the quality of life for all Nigerians.

We will also need to strengthen our judiciary system and the police, which have been systematically weakened over the years so as not to challenge the nefarious activities of wayward politicians and military rulers. We must push through legal reforms to change acts and decrees (such as the Land Use Act) that have long put ordinary citizens at a disadvantage and introduce new laws (Child Labour Act, Spousal Abuse Act) that protect the most vulnerable in our society.

11. Trade: Improved trading opportunities in Nigeria’s non-oil sectors can be a major foreign currency earner for the country. Nigeria has a number of mineral and natural resources that have yet to be exploited due to the government’s focus on petroleum.

Also the country is blessed with cheap labour but high energy cost and poor infrastructure have discouraged the growth of a manufacturing base in the country. If an enabling environment where the overhead costs of operation can be brought down to within reason, along with the enforcement of laws in the country, protection of investors, and education reforms, Nigeria can develop a manufacturing base that can rival those in South East Asia.

12. Tourism: Tourism is a good foreign currency earner for any country as every tourist dollar spent has a multiplier effect on the local economy. Improving internal security and transportation and developing a strong financial system can aid efforts in improving the tourism sector in Nigeria.

The country has lots to offer from the diverse ethnic makeup of the country to different climatic conditions (hot humid weather in Lagos, cool temperate weather in Jos) and geographical features (Mangrove swamps in the south, arid savannah in the north). There is something for everybody.

Our plan was designed to achieve the following:

• Increased Efficiency in the Economy: Improvements in the transport, communications and the energy sector will bring about a reduction in the cost of production and distribution of goods and services. This will invariably lead to putting goods and services within the reach of more Nigerians.

• Better Quality of Life: Improvements in education, healthcare, agriculture and housing sectors will bring about an improvement in the quality of life of Nigerians. Also taking active measures to protect the environment, not only improves the quality of living in the country, it also prevents huge avoidable costs in cleaning the environment later in the future. Lastly improvements in security will make the people feel safe.

• Fight Poverty: Promoting and supporting enterprise, along with improvements in the financial sector and legal framework will foster the growth of micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) which have been shown to fight poverty, increase wealth creation and reduce unemployment.

• Increased Investments: Improvements in the infrastructure, along with those in finance, security, enforcement of laws and education should bring about an increase in both local and foreign investments. The presence of the right infrastructure makes it cheaper to produce goods and services, the enforcement of laws makes it easier to conduct business, and an improved educational system produces quality candidates from which companies can select their staff from.

• Increased Foreign Earnings: Improved trade and tourism will bring about an increase in much needed foreign earnings.

• Diversification: Opening up other sectors of the economy brings out diversification, making the country less reliant on a traditional base e.g. agriculture and oil. This is particularly significant for rural communities.

• A More Open Society: By creating a more open society via our education programs, we can put an end all forms of discriminations that hold our people back from being the best they can be. We can finally begin to see an end to barbaric practices such female genital mutilation. But most of all, an end to tribal politics. We should be able to elect our leaders based on their intelligence, character and integrity, and not because he or she is from a particular part of the country.

Indeed there is a lot of hard work to be done to rekindle that beacon of hope that Nigerians once felt when we gained our independence. And work hard we must, for this is no longer just the North’s country, or the South’s country, neither is it the East’s country nor the West’s country. This is our country. This is our Nigeria.

Yours sincerely,

Alliance for a New and Better Nigeria

Obi Igbokwe


Friday, February 06, 2009

Just weeks after the Grand Catharsis..

Looking back, it seems to me that the Obama election/inauguration combined elements from recent UK experience, specifically the tears-a-thon of the Diana funeral and also the Blair election triumph, both in 1997.

I remember feeling at odds with almost everyone the day of the Diana burial. I decided to make a trip to the laundrette (landromat for American readers). I spent the afternoon dry-eyed, in the company of a hairy man full of conspiracy theories. Better that than glued to the box synthesising emotions out of the air.

The idea that every now and again, a society takes the closest thing at hand to collectively emote its repulsion for the old was demonstrated a few months earlier that year, with 'new' Labour and Tony Blair coming to power. People of the centre and the left (the majority of the population) allowed emotions buried in millions of stomachs to rise to the throat and out of the mouth with a roar: at last they (the Tories) were gone! Who in the UK can forget Blair's walk to the South Bank, to the tune of Things Can Only Get Better?

In the same way, Obama enabled Amerians (and everyone elsewhere) to celebrate the end of Bush. The idea of a new dawn is buried deep in the modern pysche in Europe and America: the renewal ritual. CNN's post-inauguration The Daily Show was a brilliant augury for a recalibrated reality: Jon Stewart talking through snippets of Obama and Bush patched together, with both men uttering precisely the same platitudes about freedom and the American people etc. There was something uncanny about the repetition of the same phrases (so much for the whizz-kid speechwriter).

Could we have known the honeymoon would be over so quickly, with the very first package the new guys tried to push through Capitol Hill? All we have heard in the past few days is the cacaphony of thirty thousand Beltway lobbyists getting in on the Stimulus train, as Dashcle walks away from the station. For a brilliant Op-Ed on the Moment of Disappointment, click here.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Forwarded email (good conference opportunity!)

Call for applications

African Programme on Rethinking Development Economics

3 - 17 September 2009
Durban, South Africa

Supported by
the Department of Trade and Industry of South Africa (the dti)
and the French Development Agency (AFD
with French Institute of South Africa (IFAS)

We are pleased to announce that the 2009 African Programme on Rethinking Development Economics (APORDE) will be held in Durban (South Africa) from the 3rd to the 17th of September. Building on the success of the first two editions of APORDE, in 2007 and 2008, we are seeking applications from talented African, Asian and Latin American economists, policy makers and civil society activists who, if selected, will be fully funded.

We encourage everyone with an interest in development to read and distribute this call. We also encourage those who feel they meet the criteria specified below to apply: APORDE is a fully-funded programme, so money should not be an issue when considering whether to apply.

However, by the same token, entry into this high-level programme will be very competitive and only 26 applicants will be selected.

APORDE is a joint initiative of the Department of Trade and Industry, the French Development Agency and the French Institute of South Africa. Alice Amsden (MIT), Michel Aglietta (Institut Universitaire de France), Ha-Joon Chang (University of Cambridge) and Ben Fine (SOAS)
are among the lecturers who will teach on the programme. Nicolas Pons-Vignon (IFAS) is the APORDE Course director and Thandi Phele (The Dti) is the Deputy Course director.

For more information, visit

APORDE is being conducted in a climate when there is much greater contestation of ideas around the possible options for economic development and industrialisation than in many decades. An initiative like APORDE can make a very important contribution in offering us new insights and reflections on the critical questions of building a developmental state and mounting a serious industrial policy.

Dr. Rob Davies, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry


While there has been an increased questioning of the neoliberal domination in policy making, the supply of critical and constructive responses remains poor. The situations in most developing countries are particularly preoccupying, since governments and civil societies are weakly equipped to respond critically to external initiatives aimed at their development and to generate endogenous strategies. Due to, among other things, resource constraints, researchers and students from developing countries tend to rely on a small number of standard textbooks and the publications from the multilateral financial institutions, which severely restricts their exposure to alternative approaches. Sub-Saharan Africa is probably most affected by the poor
availability of cutting-edge research and teaching in non-orthodox economics. The influence of neoclassical economics in the continent has precluded the exploration of more proactive state involvement to support economic development and reduce poverty. The tide is, however, gradually turning: the need for "more" (rather than merely "better", which in neoliberal terms has proved to mean "less") state intervention in economic affairs is increasingly recognised.

Crucially, economic take-off appears bound to remain a pipedream if it is premised on unabated liberalisation rather than developmental trade and industrial policies. The latter would represent a qualitative leap in the nature of state intervention, which is currently typically limited to "creating favourable conditions".

The shortcomings of "populist", or neopopulist, alternatives to the neoliberal orthodoxy will also be discussed. These alternatives, which tend to focus on specific issues, for instance the environment or "extreme poverty", have caught the public's attention and contributed to the ongoing reformulation of the mainstream development discourse.

One of the most striking examples of the (sometimes combined) failure of both neoliberal and neopopulist theories is land reform, which will be discussed in APORDE.

APORDE will allow talented academics, policy makers and civil society representatives from Africa (and, to a lesser extent, from Asia and Latin America) to gain access to alternatives to mainstream thinking on development issues and to be equipped in a way that will foster original thinking. Participants will receive intensive high-level training, interact with some of the best development economists in the world and with other participants. All costs incurred by participants– travel, accommodation, conference fees and per diem – will be

The seminar will be held in Durban from the 3rd to the 17th of September 2009. The venue will be confirmed at a later stage.

APORDE will cover essential topics in development economics, presenting views that are critical of the mainstream. Topics will include industrial policy, poverty, financial crises and violent conflict and development. Lectures will equip participants with key information pertaining to both mainstream and non-mainstream approaches. Day lectures will last for three and a half hours, while a number of shorter lectures will also be organised. Several workshops will be held around overarching themes.

It is necessary that participants demonstrate first-class intellectual capacity and (at least some) prior knowledge in economics, as well as proficiency in English. However, the objective of APORDE is to draw participants from a broad range of backgrounds; persons who have demonstrated exceptional capacity in their professional lives are invited to apply.

The main body of participants will be drawn from Africa, but we welcome applications from Asians and Latin Americans who have research or work experience related to Africa.

Prospective applicants should send
a Curriculum Vitae;
an official transcript (showing courses taken and grades obtained);
2 (two) letters of reference, where possible 1 academic referee and 1 professional, which should be sent directly to [email protected] or faxed to +27 11 836 5850;
an essay of no more than 1500 words stating how they would benefit from APORDE. For those whose main medium of instruction or work is not English, some proof of English proficiency will be necessary. Results of standard English proficiency tests (e.g. TOEFL or IELTS) will be preferable, but other proof may also be accepted (e.g. a sample of written work in English.

Applications, accompanied by a covering letter indicating the applicant's full contact details (including the e-mail address and telephone numbers), should be sent to [email protected] to the attention of Nicolas Pons–Vignon. The application should actually reach Nicolas Pons-Vignon by Sunday 15 March 2009 at midnight at the latest. Incomplete or late applications will not be considered.

Please note that individual acknowledgement of applications will be sent by e-mail only. Candidates will be notified by e-mail of the outcome of their applications by the end of April 2009.


RIP John Martyn

One of my all-time favourite musicians, John Martyn, died last week. Here he is with Danny Thompson. Put on your headphones, close your eyes, and listen to the soul...


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Call for Papers announcement

Click to enlarge.


Imagine This - shortlisted..

Sade Adenira’s book Imagine This - which will be published later this year in Africa by Cassava Republic - has been shortlisted for the World Book Day campaign, Books to Talk About.

By voting to have her get to this stage, your votes have given a remarkable book a wider audience.

With your vote, Imagine This could win the coveted prize of being the 2009, Book to Talk About. The votes have been reset to zero; previous votes are not counted.

So once again folks, please consider voting for Imagine This by following the link above. With your vote anything is possible..


Ton Kan reads from Nights of the Creaking Bed..



Cool blog/site featuring young, upcoming Naijas doing their do - here.


Monday, February 02, 2009

TED Fellow programme

TED announces its Fellows Programme, here.


Moses Jones

For the cold and Janded: interesting three-parter starts tonight on BBC 2, here.

Thanks Ade for the link.


Like A Virgin… Lucy Azubuike & Zanele Muholi at CCA

The Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos is pleased to present the works of Nigerian artist Lucy Azubuike and South African photographer, Zanele Muholi in the exhibition "Like A Virgin…" . The works highlights women's experiences, identities, their bodies and sexuality, in a manner yet to be explored in contemporary Nigerian art.

Since 1999, Azubuike has created a large, ongoing body of work of her menstruation cycle. These simple images of menstrual blood serve as a diary, a book of visual narratives containing insights into personal reflections and experiences such as love, hope, disappointment and friendship.

In another series, Azubuike focuses on photographing trees. She moves from the autobiographical and the personal to the public and focuses on the way in which culture, tradition and religion, the embodiments of patriarchal society impact negatively on women.

These manifest as outdated, oppressive and discriminatory acts such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), widowhood rites, girl/child marriages. Azubuike says "women enforce it on their own women, they think it is culture, they accept it even though they don't like it."

Zanele Muholi's conceptual strategies are similar to Azubuike, however the physicality of the black female body is brought to the fore in her work. Indignant about being spoken for, about the portrayal of and attitude towards black lesbians, especially in the townships, over the past four years her work has set out to document the lives of 'her' people and 'her' community.

The ensuing result are images as intimate as they are confrontational, provocative and transgressive. Muholi shows us the multidimensional aspects of black lesbian life and how they negotiate their private lives and the public space. In public the most virulent being the violence perpetrated again their person, one in which the rape of black lesbians by black men is seen as a curative process.

This rape, this violence, this attempt to spill blood is metaphorically captured in the body of work "Period". Using the symbolic power of menstrual blood, she highlights not only a process of violence and pain but also of renewal and rebirth. Muholi remains defiant, asserting that "stereotypes about the sexuality of black women need to be challenged by African women themselves. My photographs provide the radical aesthetic for women to speak."

The idea of "Like A Virgin…" came before the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos became a reality in 2007. It was the appropriate catalyst in a context in which few, if any platforms exist for artistic practice that strays from the conventional and the conservative. This is such a project, not because it presents groundbreaking or cutting edge art, as artists have dealt with the issues of womanhood, the body and sexuality and made provocative works for over thirty years. However, within the embryonic Nigerian art context scene, it is precisely that – groundbreaking and provocative. In an intransigent patriarchal society in which sexism is prevalent and in which homophobia is legalised, few if any artists have presented complex, provocative works on the body and sexuality the way Azubuike and Muholi are doing. Two young African women working on the continent, pushing boundaries, confronting taboos and challenging stereotypes, in essence expressing themselves and their lives in a way few of their predecessors have done before.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with texts by Bisi Silva and Christine Eyene.

Like A Virgin… is supported by the Prince Claus Fund and the Commonwealth Foundation

29th January – 14th March 2009

Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos
9 McEwen Street, Sabo, Lagos


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance

A statistician's paradise, here.


I love Maureen Dowd

As I am sure many of you do. Her writing is a case study in concision and acerbic wit and the best reason to go to the New York Time's online regularly. Click here to read her latest slice of indignance.

What Dowd does for US politics, Jay Rayner does for food in London. Click here for a classic Rayner restaurant review and enjoy the eloquent bitchiness of it all.


Nigerian Haute Couture


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