Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ghana's Kotoka International Airport Gets A Facelift - But Corruption, Bribery Prevail

Kotoka International Airport, Ghana’s only international airport, is getting a facelift and it’s beginning to show. From the new “visa on arrival” desk to the expanded arrivals immigration hall and luggage pickup carousels, the much-needed renovation project, which apparently started in 2014, is helping ease some of the congestion travelers experience through the port of entry. As they say however, beauty is only skin-deep. What about the other, more arduous surgery? The one that expunges memories of power plays and solicitation by airport officials and staff, saves the country millions of dollars, and securely establishes Ghana as the gateway to West Africa it claims to be? When does that work begin?

Stepping off the plane around 8:30pm on June 16, 2016, I was tired, but happy to be home. After days of dreary and cold weather in Germany, I didn’t mind that I had walked right into a travel guide or blog post: the balmy, hot Ghanaian air rushing to envelope itself around me while the unmistakable hint of salt danced about. As myself and the other passengers were transported by bus from the aircraft to the arrivals door, I caught a glimpse of bright lights in the distance: the very lights guiding workers through the night as they worked on constructing the new airport terminal. Terminal 3.
Only moments earlier, a KLM crew member had announced over loudspeaker, “Photos and videos on the airport premises are prohibited”. This is a first, I thought to myself, before shrugging it off. Maybe they want to keep things under wraps until the official unveiling, I reckoned - to offer a pleasant surprise to those who have yet to see the renovations.

Having already filled my arrival form, it took me five minutes to get through passport control and make my way over to the carousel. It would take another 30 minutes before my suitcase came into view. While waiting, I checked the Uber app periodically to see whether there were any cars in the vicinity. I finally found one as I placed my luggage on the airport stroller and headed towards the exit: it was five minutes away. After putting in my request, I continued towards towards customs control, bracing myself for the usual questions: “What did you bring me?” “Where and why did you travel?” “What’s in your bag?” Nothing. Not a single question. Well, that’s different, I thought to myself. Different, but welcome. After 14 hours of total travel time on subway, train and airplane, I was tired and looking forward to taking a shower and going straight to bed. The clock said 9pm, but my body knew better: it was 11pm. Jet lag had me running two hours ahead of time.

“Madam, taxi?” “Let me help you. Where are you going?”
I declined the offers from the blue-clad airport taxi drivers and called Eric, the Uber driver who told me he was nearby and would arrive soon. Since I was already outside, I asked him to meet me at the taxi stop opposite the arrivals hall. A few minutes later, he called to inquire about my exact location; I told him to look out for a woman in a black top and jeans with a purple suitcase. Soon enough, a car with the number plate details listed on the Uber app came into view. I waved at Eric and he slowed down. He barely came to a stop before a man in uniform appeared – out of nowhere - with a yellow clamp, which he quickly fastened to the rear tyre of Eric’s car.
Clamp on Eric's car
“Excuse me, what’s going on?” I asked the officer.

He ignored me, turning his attention to Eric who had gotten out and was walking over. I watched as Eric explained how he had literally just arrived at the airport and that he had come over because I called and asked him to.

“You’re not supposed to park here,” the officer cut in.
“Since when?” I interjected. “I’ve traveled many times this year and nobody ever told me not to get picked up here. I usually get a taxi here. When did that change? Was it announced? And if that’s the case, what about all these other cars dropping off and picking up passengers along the curb?”
I gestured to a taxi and parked private cars in the distance. He ignored me a  again, Eric tells me to wait and walks off to talk to the officer. By this time, I was frustrated because I knew what was about to happen: the driver would offer to pay a small amount to the officer in exchange for removing the clamp. I wanted no part of it, and although I wasn't within earshot, knowing what was about to happen was enough to make me feel complicit. Corruption, the very thing wrecking our society to shreds had reared his ugly head at the airport, welcoming travelers to its bastion of power: Accra city, the capital of our so-called democracy par excellence.

While I have been propositioned numerous times to pay a bribe, I have only ever paid it once, albeit somewhat unknowingly. It was my first and last time, and coincidentally, at this same Kotoka International Airport. The main difference between the 2005 incident and what happened that June 2016 night was the fact that the first was inside the departure terminal while the other was outside with the so-called parking attendants and traffic control officers.

I still remember the shame I felt after I paid that bribe in 2015. It was my first time traveling outside Ghana alone. I was on my way to college, both excited and scared. While waiting in line to check-in, an airport staff informed me that one of my bags was over the 23kg weight limit.

“But that’s not possible,” I responded. “I weighed both my bags at home before leaving and it was under the limit.”
The officer had simply replied that it was the airport’s weighing scale that counted. My mother suggested I remove some of my things for her to take home, which I did, somewhat reluctantly. We weighed the bag again. Lo and behold, the weight was still the same.

“Sister, your bag is overweight,” the officer said again with a straight face.
I just looked at him, confused. I needed to check-in soon or else I would miss my flight. “What’s the problem here?” a voice behind me said. Turning I saw another person in uniform. “He’s saying my bag is overweight even though it was under the weight limit when I checked it at home,” I responded.

“But this one is easy oh. We use the airport’s weighing scale so that’s what is official. If you go to the counter you will pay like $100 because it is overweight. When is your flight? Don’t you have to check-in soon? Let me help you. Do you have X cedis?”
Looking at my watch, I nodded absentmindedly, then reached into my bag for my purse. Give it to me, he said. I hand it over. He walked over to the weight checker and whispered something to him. A few minutes later, I was waved through to the line. “Have a safe flight madam,” the weight checker said, a cheeky smile on his face. It was then that I realized I had just paid a bribe.

At the check-in counter the agent asked me to put my suitcase on the carousel. Immediately a red light lit up with the numbers 19kg. I would find out later that the airport weighing machines are sometimes tampered with to add extra weight.
I not only felt cheated, I felt like a cheat. Since then, I vowed never to pay a bribe. And yet here I was again 11 years later, possibly an unwilling accomplice in a bribery scheme at the same darned airport.
My reverie was broken when I heard some shouting. One of the airport control officers had flung open the door of a car that had apparently stopped in the “no parking zone” and the car was speeding away. He hit the back of the car and the open door almost crashed into the Uber driver’s vehicle. Eric shouted in frustration: “You see what you are doing? Are you trying to dent my car?” I walk over to the duo who had been joined by two other officers. Another officer would do similar a few moments later, almost hitting a woman crossing the street.

“Excuse me, what’s your name, officer?”
“My name?” he responds.
“Yes, your name. I like to know who I’m speaking with.”
“Oh, his name is Joseph Owusu,” one of the other officers chimes in. “And mine is Doctor. K. Oduro.” His colleagues burst into laughter shouting “Doctor, doctor!”
The copy of the invoice.
Ignoring them, I addressed Owusu, and asked again what the situation was. He responded that we have to pay a fine of 100GHS (approx. $25). When I asked why, he pointed to some signs. Until then, I hadn’t seen them. As it turns out, there was a truck of sorts on the pavement with personnel wearing similar uniforms. Unless you were in the middle of the road, you couldn't see the signs. I explained to the officer that I’m a frequent traveler and this was the first time I was hearing of this policy (or even seeing the signs, quite honestly). I inquired again when the policy was implemented. He ignored my question, walked over to the front of the car, issued a ticket and placed a paper on the bonnet.

Annoyed, I followed it up with a string of other questions: Did you announce the new policy? Do people know about it? How come there is no signage that says there is a penalty for parking here? How come these cars have been parked here for over 30 minutes now and many others have just come and gone with no word from you? I saw one of your men chasing down a car with a clamp in hand. Chasing down a car - is that how you handle the situation? What exactly is your system here? I don’t have 100GHS on me - and how do I know that the 100GHS you mention is the official fee? Do you have any documentation to support this?

Another, younger, official chimes in: “Herh sister. You have to pay the fine. If you don’t pay it we will bring a tow truck and you will pay another fine – a much bigger one.”
“I don’t have a problem paying a fine if it is legit,” I retorted. “But I am really curious because this is the first I am hearing of this policy and I would like to be better informed so I avoid any future fines.”
Eric, the driver has been silent this whole while, visibly shaken. Turning to him, I asked him if he had a direct number for Uber, which he unfortunately didn't. He decided to call another driver who might. We waited. The young officer shouted again, telling Eric to move his feet away from the car tyre, because "it's an offense" and he would be "fined again".

Until this moment I hadn’t thought about recording the episode. The sheer arrogance of the officer compelled me to do so. I took out my phone, opened Snap Chat and begun recording. Over this time period, over six cars (taxis especially) parked in the supposed no-parking zone with no questions asked. In one instance, an officer walked over to the car and came back tucking something into the pocket of his shirt. Remember the two cars which were parked for over 30 minutes? Their owners returned, an officer walked over to them, and within a minute or so they sped off. I didn’t see the officers writing them an invoice.

“Did you see that Eric? They are taking bribes,” I said. Hearing that, the younger officer walked up to me, his finger in my face, “You think you can come from wherever you came from and just try to change things? Respect yourself.”
“Don’t put your finger in my face. And as far as I can see, I’m not the one in uniform. You’re the one acting unprofessionally." By this time I was very annoyed, not so much at the so-called fine, but rather at the clear bias, bribery and corruption.  The officer walked off, still muttering.
“That’s what they have been doing, these officers,” a young man who had been in the vicinity the entire time said. “They are just taking advantage of people. It’s not nice.”
The Ticket "copy" we were given
I looked at the time on my phone. It was past 10pm. I’d been out of the airport for at least 45 minutes. Eric found the number he was looking for but after a few tries and no pickup it was clear we had a decision to make. We each had 50GHS, so decided to find the officer and pay the fine. “Make sure you get a receipt,” I told Eric as he walked off. Soon enough there was another commotion. I walked over, only to find out that the invoice they left on the car was a copy, not the original.

“Where is the original,” we asked Officer James Adjetey (based on his name on his uniform).

“It’s torn,” he responded. “We didn’t want to give you the torn one so we gave you the copy.”

We asked for a new invoice, but he told us he couldn't write another. How convenient.
After some back and forth, Eric decided to take the original, torn version and inquired about where we could make the payment. The officer motioned into the distance and Eric asked him to remove the clamp and get into the car so we drive over.

“No, we can’t do that,” he said. Eric and I look at each other confused.
“You can take a taxi and go over there to pay and you will get a receipt – or you can pay to us here and we will remove the clamp and you go. That's easier,” the officer added.
I stopped Eric as he was about to give the officer the money. “Do you have a receipt?” I asked the officer. He responded in the negative. “Who will pay for the taxi ride to the office?” He told us we wouldn't have to pay. In the end, Eric went with him to the office, paid the fine, and got a receipt, while I watched the car and my luggage. Eric would later confirm that the taxi driver had not been paid. I guess that explains why some taxi offenders were left to go scott free.
All that said, I can’t say I’m too surprised by the incident. There was a similar incident last year at the Abidjan airport, also late at night or in wee hours of the morning, targeting travelers who are clearly tired. Then, as now, the officers were evasive in answering questions, so I asked for a supervisor and told him he could send the invoice to my employer since I was on official business. In this case, it was clear all four or so Kotoka International Airport officials were complicit and backing one another up. I wouldn’t even be surprised if those at the ‘office’ were accomplices too.

I’d told the officers I would be writing about their so-called “new policy”, so here we are. I had hoped to get some insights from the airport officials directly, but my leads so far have led me nowhere. I did however speak to blogger and satirist Efo Dela who worked with one of the companies based in the airport for four years. He not only confirmed my suspicions about the conveniently parked truck being a distraction and ploy to get you in "their trap", but also admitted there's no real fine system.  In his words:

Now, you might be wondering why we just didn’t pay the fine immediately. It’s simple: there were too many unknowns, too much inconsistency. From the selective choice of ‘offenders’, to the fact that none of the officers seemed to know about the so-called new policy, to the fact that they had a vehicle conveniently blocking the signage, to their unprofessional and erratic approach which put public safety in anger, to the torn invoice and their reluctance to let us go to the office to make an official payment for a receipt. All of it. Small pay or otherwise, it’s the murkiness of our so-called systems that make bribery and corruption easy. The same reason why our President will falter during a BBC interview when asked whether he has ever taken a bribe, only for allegations to crop up weeks later of him receiving a “gift” as Vice-President.

I can only hope that this article offers some insights to other travelers on being vigilant once they arrive at Kotoka International Airport, because unfortunately the facelift is a ruse. We are still rotten to the core. But in the event that it does reach anyone who cares or is responsible enough to actually make some much-needed changes, here are some suggestions:

  1. Make the policies clear: Is there a fine or isn’t there a fine? Does it apply to someone who waits for 30+ minutes or for anyone who so much as ventures towards a curb? Make the policies clear so we all know what to expect. Better still, revamp the airport management's website and announce new policies there.
  1. (Stop blocking the) Signage: At any sane airport there is signage to guide people, particularly since most of the people there are likely to be strangers – travellers passing through or first-timers visiting the country. There is no way you can expect each of these people to know the rules and regulations in a country unless you tell them. Create signs that clearly indicate areas where people can or cannot be picked up or dropped off – and don’t block them with official cars. Some suggested wording “No stopping at any time” “Drop off and pickup only. Maximum time 3 minutes. Penalty of 50GHS and possibly towing” and so on.
  1. Announce any new policies: When I was transiting in Rwanda a few weeks ago, the airline crew made the following announcement: “Passengers disembarking in Kigali should note that Rwanda has instituted a new policy regarding polythene bags. Polythene bags are banned and will be confiscated at border control. Please hand over your polythene bags before entering the country. Failure to do so will result in a fine and possible jail time.” After that who will dare say they didn’t know?
  1. Announce the fine amounts: Public officials take advantage of passengers (and potential investors or tourists) when the details concerning fine amount are not clear. Any public entity truly committed to managing or reducing corruption will make it clear what the fines are for various offenses. And if that’s not spelt out, well, as they say, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
  1. Teach professionalism: As one Twitter follower shared, a friend of his who was subjected to a similar incident was left quite frazzled and disappointed. This was a first time visitor to Ghana and this was his first impression of Ghana. And you know what they say about first impressions.

For travelers who encounter corrupt officials, here are some ideas for reducing the risk of having to pay for a bribe:

  1. Ask questions: If nothing at all, it will unnerve them and it will give you insights which you can use to prevent falling into their trap another time. Did I mention it will unnerve them?
  1. Ask for or take down their names: Joseph Owusu, Dr. K. Oduro and James Adjetey were a bit uncomfortable when I asked for their names. And while it may seem far-fetched, should the opportunity ever arise to have them take responsibility for their irresponsibility, I will not hesitate in offering up their names.
  1. Make sure you have a paper trail: If the system is as corrupt or deep seated as it is in Ghana, it probably won’t help much. But by going through “official” channels and leaving a paper you reduce the chances of them absconding.
  1. Record or film the incident: The younger officer was clearly uncomfortable with me holding my phone. It might not guarantee threat of punishment, but it sways the balance from low threat of punishment to a higher threat of punishment. At the end of the day, corruption and bribery is a cost-benefit analysis. The higher the benefit of engaging in the act (or the lower the threat of punishment), the more likely one is to engage in bribery and corruption.

We can throw on as much paint and insert new technology into the airport building, but until we take a serious look at improving the professionalism of airport staff to ensure that unsuspecting travelers are not duped or taken advantage of upon entry, the best we can claim to be is the “Gateway to a bed of corruption”.

This article was written by Jemila Abdulai and originally published on circumspecte.com.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

We've Moved: The "New" Circumspecte.com

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

― Anais Nin

For Circumspecte, that day has come: unveiling another layer of possibility
I've spent the past year preparing for our transition from a blog to a full-fledged website.

Photo Credit: Nii Nai-Kwade

Now that the hour is here, I find myself quite emotional. 
Circumspecte: SEVEN years worth of priceless insights and experiences.  I'm thankful. 
While this may be my final post here, you can still access our archive of 331 posts
(see menu to the right)!

I am also excited! 
For all of you to discover the "new" Circumspecte, our team (!), and all we have in store!
Our URL may have changed, but our essence remains the same:

Inform. Interact. Inspire.

For now, I just want to say THANK YOU. Introducing, Circumspecte 2.0:


Monday, June 09, 2014

Circum-Byte: Introducing CHALE!, Ghana's newest street-talk web series!

Chale, how! Chale freeeesh!

Depending on intonation, pronunciation, context, time of day, people involved, energy, mood, the Ghaniaan word "Chale" - apparently a localised version of "Charlie" - can mean very different things!

In this case, it's the newest "street-talk" web series produced by the Fashionista GH and Excelsis crew which - according to the official CHALE! Facebook page - seeks to "capture our very essence and the word on the street across an interesting mix of issues - some of which we easily gloss over."

I mean, how can you knock that hustle? E be cool waaa.

When Fashionista GH team lead Ob Absenser first sent me the link to preview, I was immediately captivated by the name and branding - ingenuous, I'm willing to bet that every konkonsa (gossip) session in Ghana begins with "Chale". Then came the sound bytes for M.anifest's Blue (Charlie What Dey Happen) and it's street cred was sealed.

After sharing my impressions with Ob about the CHALE! concept, we got into a very interesting discussion regarding language and more specifically, the lack of subtitles in the first episode which - quite aptly - captures people's opinions about the World Cup and the Black Stars' chances of winning. Here's what Ob said that struck me:

"When I was in primary school I read a book by a Nigerian author. He never translated the local language. That stubbornness kind of stuck with me.

Our discussion was spurred by the fact that I couldn't understand a word of the Ga one of the ladies was speaking, and I wanted to know what she was so passionate about. I asked Ob if he planned to include subtitles. His response:

"Aha! So I wish people would FIND a Ga speaker to translate... What she said is very funny, but in English? Might lose the kick."

Can't argue with that. It's about time we started promoting our local languages online and creating content around them. If not us, then who?

We're already seeing an emergence of Ghanaian web series, beginning with the uber successful (or shocking - depends on who you ask) "An African City" YouTube series produced by Nicole Amartefio and Millie Monyo. I've had so many NON-Ghanaians, from Kigali to Tunis, asking me about the show and whether there will be a season two. According to Nicole, they are working on it, looking forward to it myself. Oh, and let's not forget Boys Kasa and the antics of the humorous Kalybos, the only boss with one 's', and his darling (yet ever elusive) Ahuofe Patri!

Given the success of Fashionista GH, Ob's latest project is bound to be as riveting. Why? There's a ton of great content to capture and even more people to consume it!

Chale, how you go do am? You for go with the flow, na what I mean? And without much further ado, I will spare you all from my poor attempt at pidgin LOL.

Ladies and gentlemen, the first episode of CHALE! with guest presenter Nana Fokzi. You can also check out Manifest's joint below. E dey be!

P.S. Are you crazy excited as I am about the World Cup? This time dieerr, Ghana for show them all! Go Black Stars!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Mentorship: The Importance of Knowing Juliet

I had come home to find a stack of papers and brown envelopes in my laundry basket. Assuming it was my sister’s, I ignored them. That is, until I needed the laundry basket. They were mine: college applications, recommendation letters, letters from high school, the works.

I ignored them still. Until I needed yet another excuse to delay my packing (procrastination becomes your best friend when you absolutely dislike packing). So, leafing through the stack of materials I’d long forgotten I had, I time-traveled to younger versions of myself and of my parents.
Among the things I found were invoices, letters and notes from my first real job… straight out of high school. Now I must say that I didn’t get my job as an administrative assistant and sub-editor the traditional way. Applications? No siree. Connections – mum tells distant-not-really-a-relative aunt of so-so and so that her all-grown-up-distant-not-really-related-niece is all done with high school and looking to keep busy – nope. I got my first job through my network. – There’s a crucial difference between “networking” and “connections” which I’ll probably cover in a later post. – I wasn’t looking for a job. I was preparing to start a software development course at AITI-KACE when my good friend Nani called me up about a job she’d applied for. After interviewing she decided it wasn’t for her and recommended me instead. I got called up, went in for the interview, and by the end of it, I was employed.
Now you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with anything. Among the papers I found was a list – a bucket list of sorts – for my time at my then-new job. Looking at it, I was confused. I didn’t recognize the handwriting. Later, I realized it was Juliet’s handwriting, and the memory came flooding back.

Monday, May 05, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: Boko Haram & Nigeria's 200+ Chibok Girls, Three Weeks On

On April 15, 2014 an estimated 200+ girls at the Chibok Government School in Borno state of Northern Nigeria were abducted by armed militiamen suspected of being members of the radical Islamist group Boko Haram. The girls had just returned to school to take their final physics exam following school closures across the region after targeted attacks by Boko Haram. Almost 20 days after the incident, over 200 16- to 18-year old girls are still missing, with about 50 escaping and returning to tell their harrowing tale.

Accounts from nearby village inhabitants, who witnessed a mass wedding taking place indicate that the girls may likely have been "married off" to the militiamen, have left parents and relatives at wits end. There are also fears that the girls may have been trafficked into neighboring Chad and/or Cameroun. Their parents received this information when they ventured into the wilderness with bows and arrows in search of their daughters.

Two weeks after their daughters were abducted,  distressed parents, relatives and concerned Nigerians took to the streets to beg the Nigerian government to do more. The main message is to bring back the girls alive.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Circum-Alert: iHAV Conference - July 30 - August 2, 2014 - Accra, Ghana (Applications open)

Ladies and gentlemen, Entrepreneurship is IN!

Not just because entrepreneurs are some of the coolest peeps ever, but because we Africans have a very real challenge on our hands. The dilemma presented by Africa's youth bulge: to either sink or swim in the face of youth unemployment and other issues.

The good news is that there's a growing awareness of just how much of an opportunity or a challenge the youth bulge presents for Africa, and people and organizations like Christabel Ofori and the iHAV (I Have a Vision) Foundation are working on capacity building and employment generation by putting "Vision in ACTion!" with the IHAV Conference.


iHAV Conference: An annual conference "designed to raise a generation of young African entrepreneurs who will work collaboratively to create employment and provide sustainable solutions to Africa's challenge".

2014 Theme: Creating an Agribusiness Revolution with Africa's Youth.

Topics: Embracing ICT, Women's role in agriculture, Climate change impact, Globalizing local markets, Agribusiness

On the agenda: Coaching, mentoring, lectures, roundtable sessions, dialogues and debates, group project challenges, business plan development.

July 30 - August 2, 2014

Accra, Ghana. Venue TBA


Participants: 100 outstanding and innovative young problem solvers aged 18-28 years. Apply here.

Resource people: Over 15 prominent business and political leaders and change champions.

Speakers: Sigismund Dzeble, PZ Cussons Ghana Ltd; Jennifer Agyeman- Image & Life Coach; Former Minister of State Dr. Gheysika Agambila; Regina Agyare, CEO of Soronko Solutions; Ehi Binitie, CEO of Rancard Solutions; Edison Gbenga, Executive Director, African Recovery and Agripro Lead; and Yaw Adu-Gyamfi, award winning Atlas Corps Social Entrepreneur.

Sponsors: Agripro, Independent Skies Magazine, Sangy Nursing Services, the Kumasi Centre for Lifelong Learning, Ghana Center for Entrepreneurship, Employment and Innovation (GCEEI) and the National Youth Authority.

  1. Entrepreneurship is IN (and essential to African and youth development)
  2. We're making agriculture sexy
  3. IHAV Foundation is youth-led, regional and culturally diverse; show support
  4. IHAV provides a platform for further youth opportunities
  5. We're the ones we've been waiting for. Let's get to work!

How (to get involved)
  • Apply by May 24, 2014 to participate (sponsorship available)
  • Sponsor, partner, advertise: Christabel Ofori: (+233) 0243650790, email: ihavafrica@gmail.com 

Official Press Release


Need social media marketing for an Africa-focused and inspired event or initiative? Contact info[at]circumspecte.com

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Poetry/Prose: Dirty Dancin'

We danced. For months on end.
The tango, the waltz, even salsa'd it up
Amidst the swirling shadows, intoxicated by tune
Daylight? T'was always the dark we craved
Grinding against each other - wanting, denying, no sleeping tonight
Heavy breaths in sync, bass tempo till light

Staring. Breathing the other in. 
Intimate, strange.
Enveloped, conspiring; tearing the other apart.
Remedy to the madness, but poisonous at touch
Pure and utter insanity, the reasons to exile.
Yet come night fall, we dance it up again.

Deeper into the dungeon, velvety curtains drawn apart.
Deadly passion, intoxicating yearning.
Scratch marks the evidence of struggle.
Copulate, then dilacerate.
Copulate, then dilacerate.

Pure and utter insanity, deeper into the dungeon we go.
Nooks and crannies, monsters under the bed.
The questions. The shadows. Therein all dwell.
The darkness hath come and conspire with it we shall

We dance. Over and over again.
A misstep here, a two step there, a little shimmy in between.
The rhythms of our beings, conspiring.
One body, one name, multiple souls contained. 
Hate it or love it, we dance.
Till the end of time, dirty dancin' all night long.

Inspired by the questions, the give and take, the exchange, the ebbs and flows of our be-ing. 
The many versions of oneself we encounter in solitude; when we dare to go within. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Circum-Alert: Lean Accra - Sign Up to Win Free Tickets to 3-Day Entrepreneurship Workshop!

We're excited to be partnering with Lean Startup Machine (LSM), a three-day workshop on starting a successful new business.

Most new startups fail because they build something no one wants. LSM teaches you a systematic process for learning which products or services will succeed and which ones will not. Over 25,000 entrepreneurs have had their lives changed by the LSM experience.

The date for LSM in Accra will be announced soon.

Sign-up today to be notified and get a chance to win a free ticket to the event: click HERE.

the lean startup machine - accra team 
twitter:  @leanaccra

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We're nominated! Vote 'Circumspecte' in #BlogCamp14 Awards & Join Me for a Chat!

Hi everyone,

Ghana's 2nd Blogging & Social Media Awards is ongoing and I'm excited to let you know that Circumspecte and myself have been nominated for a total of THREE categories!

  • Best Blog
  • Best Female Blogger and 
  • Best Twitter Profile

You can vote by clicking here - all you need is your email address and a few minutes. Voting ends March 28, 2014. I also encourage you to take a look at some of the other nominees, a lot of great content and folks.

I must say that after our nomination and subsequent win for Best Citizen Journalism and News last year, having three nods is very encouraging and tells me that maybe I'm doing something right :)

Thanks to everyone who nominated/votes for me and everyone who reads, follows, engages and supports me.

Jabdulai vs. Circumspecte

That said, I'll admit I am a bit surprised about a couple of things.

First, that jabdulai.com (the "second generation" of Circumspecte) made the list in lieu of circumspecte.com (this site, which is the more popular one). Again, that's a good thing. So in case you were wondering - yes, jabdulai.com is Circumspecte. It's just (hopefully) a better platform geared at improving your online experience, because in essence, you are central to Circumspecte.

Second, that my twitter profile (@jabdulai) made the cut! Definitely a pleasant surprise, thank you tweeps :)

So last year, I used my nomination for Best Citizen Journalism blogger as an opportunity to see how effective social media could be as a campaign tool. In addition to tweeting my heart out about how Circumspecte has helped me grow, I created this video on 10 things you probably didn't know about Circumspecte, slipping in a few seconds of me doing the Azonto. From what some commentators said, the "azonto bribe" worked - their words, not mine LOL!

Well it's 2014 and Azonto has - quite sadly - had her day. I hear the dance in the streets now is Alkayida (not to be confused with the terrorist group); which unfortunately I have not learned. So there will be no dance antics this year.

Let's Chat!

As we say, Content is King and Conversation is Queen.

I'd like to invite you to have a Twitter chat with me on Friday March 21, 2014 from 12:15pm to 1:00pm GMT;  a "Meet the Blogger" kind of thing. I will be sharing some blogging and social media tips, and we can talk writing,  branding, development, media, education/career, scary "life stuff" - basically stuff you find on Circumspecte.

I'll respond to any questions you might have - like this "Ask Me Anything" Q&A session I did in 2010 - and will ask a few questions of my own about what your Circumspecte experience has been and what you're interested in.

Got questions? Comment below or email them to me at jemila(AT)circumspecte.com, with your name and/or twitter handle. You can join or follow the Twitter chat via hashtag #MeetJemila.

Great, I'm already excited and hope you join in!

In the meantime, here are 20+ reasons why you should considering voting 'jabdulai' (Circumspecte) by March 28, 2014.

Thanks for all the support!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Poetry/Prose: Hybrid

Grand plans.
That’s what we had.
Of where we’d end up, how we’d end up, when we’d end up.
I mean, we said “let’s leave it to Allah, let’s wait and see”.
But really, the levers in our mind had long clanked away.

Breaking news:
I will never be Ghanaian, African [insert whatever label] enough.
Trust me, I have tried.

To hold on to the vestiges of who I think - we think - I should be
To reformulate the Ghanaianness in me 
Down to the last ei, o, and more recently, the last tweaa
I mean, how can you possibly not know how to Azonto
It was the fad. Now it’s vintage. 
Encoded in our identical histories.
Yet it seems you missed that particular memo.

“Too American”, “Too White”, “Too Outspoken”, “Too Different”
Yeah I know.
 You make me aware of the fact daily.

With every “It’s not how we do things”,
Each “why can’t you be like…”
But see - we traded all those possibilities in.
The minute I checked in, went through security, boarded that plane.
And maybe there might have been hope yet
If I hadn’t gone running in all directions at once
But I did.
So here we are.

The glamor of going abroad.

The consequences of going a-broad.
Extending identities, redefining opinions, encountering the new,
This they neglected to mention.

Of being torn between two worlds
Of having the impression - ay the appearance - of being one or the other
But never actually quite getting it.
The impressions of five odd years,
From an alley in Pairs, a boat in Dakar, countless subway rides in NYC.
And yet, you ought to still ride the trotro in Accra the same?

Grand plans we had. 
And here we are clutching away at the frays,
Willing the time spent elsewhere to come back.
To reinstitute the plan second, minute, hour, day by day.
Yet - we know time lost is never regained,
And time spent seeking time lost? Equally futile.
So why do we insist, tarry along this tired, old path?

I would have you know me, I would have you see me, I would have you learn me anew
Just so I would have the honor of doing the same. With you.
Yet, here we are. Swimming in the wreckage of grand plans gone adrift.

I’ve never been conscripted, but o the wars I’ve fought!
Trying to justify, trying to explain, trying to make you understand.
And then I wonder - whatever happened to “May Allah guide us”?
Whatever happened to letting things unfold according to His will?
If nothing truly happens without our Creator’s acknowledgement,
whatever happened to trusting that this is how it’s meant to be?
That maybe, maybe this hybrid of a person the earth coughed up,
Is exactly who she’s supposed to be?

Choose your battles, not every one is meant to be fought.
This particular war I thus renounce without another thought.

I will never be [….] enough - not for you, not for them, sometimes not even for me
But that’s okay, because I’m still a work in progress, a hybrid being ever formulated
And if it be His will that I be broken down and built up anew multiple times on end
Who am I to say otherwise?

Hybrid. The glamor of being in-between.

Circum-Alert: Behind The Seens - The "Gratitude Journal" Challenge

“Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.”

Oprah Winfrey said that. She should know, she kept a gratitude journal for sixteen years! So here's the deal: as part of Circumspecte's "Behind the Seens" project we're inviting you to keep a "Gratitude Journal" this year - beginning Monday February 3!

Why participate?
Well, I don't know about you, but we seem to always be in a state of wanting. I definitely have moments where I finally have something I'd wished or prayed for moments ago...and yet I'm off chasing down another "want" or "need" without appreciating that which I do have.

If Oprah's theory is right, you'll see more goodness in your life. If it's wrong, you'll still get to learn something about yourself and life. If you're like a writer like myself - or want to develop your writing skill - it'll help make writing a daily practice. At the very least you'll be more conscious about yourself, your environment, your life. All in all, you've nothing to lose, but so much to gain.

How to participate?
Write down at least one thing you are grateful for at the end of each day. No expectations, no obligations, nothing too large, nothing too small. Write it down. Even if it's just breathing or being alive.

At the end of each month we will invite you to share on what you were most grateful for, your "Gratitude Journal" experience, surprises - anything really - and it just might end up being featured on this website!

What do you need?
Yourself. And something to capture it all.
  • Old School - You can decide to go all "traditional" and put pen to paper - a journal, diary, notebook, calendar.
  • Tech Savvy - You can also go the techy route by using  - your smartphone, tablet, computer. And guess what? There's an app for that! Check out Gratitude365 (iPhone, paid) and Attitudes of Gratitude (Android). You can also just use the good ol' notetaking applications like Evernote - a personal favorite - or the note feature on your gadget.

esfjourno2Special Offer

If you decide to go old school and you are currently in Ghana, we're happy to announce a special offer with the Energy Solutions Foundation - makers of these gorgeous journals (see photos).

You can own one of these beautiful recycled journals for a discount of 20-30%!

Just email ESF and mention "Circumspecte Gratitude Challenge"!

Sign Up
Up for the challenge? Got questions? Email me!