Academic Christmas presents come early.

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Finally, the wait is over. Sometimes, good things come in multiples and in quick succession  🙂 After months, years of hard work of revise-resubmit, some fruits have began to appear in December. The past three weeks have seen some publications came to full light. Now they look like proper published articles with the right elements. There are free copies of the first two article available through the links.

Over two years after it was accepted and published online (in May, 2014), my first research article has been assigned a volume and issue number.

Adu-Ampong, E. A. (2017) Divided we stand: institutional collaboration in tourism planning and development in the Central Region of Ghana Current Issues in Tourism, 20(3): 295-314

Abstract

This research is an exploratory study that examines collaboration at the institutional level in the tourism sector of the Central Region, Ghana. The research begins with a review of the key issues related to collaboration in tourism planning and development followed by an extensive exploration of three main issues related to institutional collaboration in tourism in the Central Region. The three main issues are the vision of tourism development shared among stakeholders, collaboration and coordination within the public sector and between the public and private sectors and the factors that constrain and facilitate collaboration and coordination. Using extensive interviews with key stakeholders and reviewing policy documents, the research indicates low levels of collaboration between tourism institutions both within the public sector and across the public–private sectors. This is notwithstanding a shared awareness of the benefits of collaboration among all actors. The research thus contributes interesting insights into the politics of collaboration in tourism destinations. Given tourism’s contribution to the Ghanaian economy, it is imperative that efforts are made towards improving the levels of collaboration and coordination between tourism agencies and institutions.

This other research note has also been assigned a volume and issue number:

Adu-Ampong, E. A. (2017) State of the nation address and tourism priorities in Ghana—a contextual analysis Tourism Planning & Development, 14(1): 135-138

Abstract

Tourism development tends to be seen as a largely private sector driven activity. However, especially in developing countries the state continues to wield considerable power in the governance and policy arena of tourism. Thus the priority given to the tourism sector through state policies and the statements of government officials is considered as key in shaping tourism development. This paper offers a brief analysis of the level of priority given to the tourism sector in Ghana through a contextual analysis of the President’s yearly state of the nation address given between 2010 and 2014. The findings show that while overall national [tourism] development plans are important, the policy speeches of government officials provide a glimpse into the immediate policy concerns of the state regarding tourism development. In some instances there are inconsistencies between policy objectives in national development plans and government’s policy speeches. This research therefore highlights the importance of assessing policy speeches in addition to the analysis of existing tourism development plans.

Finally, a paper I wrote with a colleague of mine (Hanaw Amin) at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning also found its way into publication.

Amin, H. M.T.M and Adu-Ampong, E. A. (2016) Challenges to urban cultural heritage conservation and management in the historic centre of Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan-Iraq Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, 6(3): 255 – 270

So overall,  some early academic Christmas presents to be thankful for. Now, if only Santa can get me some marking elves to help with the assessment marking 🙂

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

(Ephesians 5:20)

Looking back on it, that evening of 7th March, 2013 opened a great door for me. On that evening, after over two years of searching, applications and interviews, I finally received an email stating that I have been offered a Faculty PhD Studentship Award. I could barely contain my excitement as I imagined the world of academic life awaiting me in Sheffield. As sleep eluded me, I got up around dawn to go running on the beach of Barcelona where I was living at that time, all the time thinking of how my dream of starting a PhD was becoming a reality. It was not long after accepting the offer from Sheffield that I was notified of another PhD Studentship award offer at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Torn between a choice of continued sunshine ‘down under’ and a cold wet South Yorkshire, I chose the latter and can now look back on what has been an incredible three years and counting. The many opportunities that have come my way at the University of Sheffield have made this a great academic journey. The culmination of all the ups and downs of my research apprenticeship is partly found in this thesis. For all that I have learnt and experienced as a student, I am most grateful first and foremost to God through Jesus Christ, of whom and through whom I have been blessed with the opportunity, perseverance and determination to successfully complete this research project.

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Mural painting inside School Boy Restaurant, adjacent Victoria Park, Cape Coast

This thesis would not have been possible without the help, encouragement and support of a number of people and institutions. Firstly, I will like to thank the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (née the Department of Town and Regional Planning) for providing me with an intellectual home even when on many occasions I was unsure of my belonging. I am also grateful to the University of Sheffield for the award of a three year Faculty of Social Sciences PhD studentship. In this regard, I am indebted to Steve Connelly for nominating me for the award and making a case on my behalf. I will also like to offer profound thanks to my supervisors Glyn Williams and Tom Goodfellow for giving me room to learn, develop and make mistakes. Thanks for reading through all the drafts of my chapters along the way and offering constructive and detailed feedback. I am grateful to the following senior academics who at various stages provided me with feedback and encouragement on aspects of my work through face to face meetings and over email – Bill Bramwell and the late Dorothea Meyer of Sheffield Hallam University, UK, Chris Rogerson of the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, David Harrison of Middlesex University, UK, and Regina Scheyvens of Massey University, New Zealand.

Over the course of my research, I have had the opportunity to undertake a number of fieldwork visits, attend conferences and engage in research mobility programmes. In March, 2014, I founded the Tourism Research Network (TouRNet) which brings together staff and students with research interest in tourism across the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, and other affiliate universities. I am grateful to the White Rose Doctoral Training Centre for providing the seed funding to kick-start the network through which some of the ideas in this thesis were developed. I am grateful for funding from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning that supported a number of conference attendances and presentations. The Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID) provided funding for a second fieldtrip to Ghana through its Research Enhancement Fund.  An award from the Santander Research Mobility Fund programme at the University of Sheffield funded a research visit to the Department of Geography and Resource Development at the University of Ghana. I also undertook a research visit to the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at the University of Surrey through an award from the Sheffield Methods Institute Fund. An award from the World Universities Network Research Mobility Programme funded a 6 weeks research visit to the African Centre for Cities based at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. All these research visits provided me with time and opportunity to think, analyse and write this thesis as well as to discuss my work with (senior) colleagues at these institutions.

I will like to acknowledge and extend special thanks to all the people who made time to be interviewed during the two periods of fieldwork in Ghana. This research would not have been possible without your assistance. In particular, I am grateful to Dr. Annah Prah at the University of Cape Coast, Mr. Justice Amoah who is now a Coordinating Director at the Wa Municipal Assembly, and Mr. Ebenezer Ebo Dadzie, a proud citizen of Elmina, based at the desk of the National Commission on Civic Education in the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem Municipal Assembly.  I am also indebted to my dear friend George Nana Addo Ofori-Atta for hosting me during my stays in Accra and for our ongoing discussion and debates about governance, politics and national development in Ghana. My thanks go out to my mates and friends in Dunkwa-On-Offin, Kumasi, Accra, Cape Coast and Elmina for making each fieldwork visit feel more like a homecoming. Special mention goes out to ‘Organa Fadas’ Ben and R. Nico for all the visits to the Fufu joint, to Kaku Ackah and ‘Burgga’ Ankomah for the jokes and reminiscing each time I get to Kumasi and Dunkwa-On-Offin, and to Martin ‘Alaska’ in Elmina for the fun times. Enrique Wedgewood Young, a man of the world and whose last known location was in a stately home in Edinburgh deserves a mention for help with proofreading.  To the many others who kept asking about the progress of the PhD, I say thanks!

Last but certainly not the least, I wish to acknowledge and thank my ever-supportive family. I am grateful to my parents, A.B. Gyedu and Cece Akua for all the investment in my education. I look forward to being able to tell my mum that I am no longer a student. My deepest gratitude and thanks go to Marre Adu-Ampong, my dear wife without whom this thesis could not have been produced. Thank you for your patience, sacrifice and strength in being a ‘single mother’ for Zoë and Joshua for long stretches of time while I got lost in this research project. I dedicated this thesis to you, Zoë, and Joshua. Maybe one day we can all read through the thesis as a family bedtime story!

Emmanuel Akwasi Adu-Ampong

Sheffield

1st December, 2016

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What is the summary of your PhD thesis?

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As I edge ever closer to the submission date of my PhD thesis, I can now relax a bit. I can afford to look back on a bizarre incidence that happened to me on Thursday 29 September, 2016. I had a scheduled meeting with my supervisor in the late afternoon but I decided to go in early to the department to get some printing done and also catch up with colleagues. I had sent my draft thesis to my supervisors about 3 weeks prior to the meeting. I felt so exhilarated after sending in the draft that I couldn’t bear to think of the thesis anymore. It felt good to keep my distance. To put some space between myself and the thesis that had intensively occupied my every waking moment over the summer when I was in Cape Town. Furthermore, I was occupied with all that comes with settling into my new role as a Lecturer in Tourism Management at the University of Lincoln. I switched focus from my thesis (and forgot all about it) to getting to grips with the admin and finalising module handouts and preparing lesson plans for lectures and seminars. This was my state of mind on that date as I went to my Department of Urban Studies and Planning to prep for my supervisory meeting. On that day I was not in a position to provide a coherent answer to the question of what my thesis was all about – even to myself. If it was a 3MT (3 Minutes Thesis) competition, I would have flopped. I could only come up with fluffy convoluted response.

When I got to my department in the early afternoon, I kept up my old habit of checking out the book shelf in front of the departmental office to see what new and interesting notices, magazines and general university-related info sheets were available. True to form, there were copies of the new summer 2016 edition of the Research Newsletter of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. I picked up one of those and went to the my desk in the Postgraduate Research Room to sit and have a read through. It was then that I realised that I had been featured in the Newsletter with the title – “Tourism and Planning in Ghana – Emmanuel Adu-Ampong tells us about his PhD research in Ghana”. I was pleasantly surprised and was greatly impressed with the succinct summary provided of my research. I had no recollection (at that moment!) of having written any of that. Neither did I remember of granting an interview. The words on the page describing my research were so polished and far removed from the incoherent ideas swirling in my mind at that moment. I wondered whether perhaps someone had made that summary based on drafts of my thesis that I sent to my supervisors. I even showed it to my supervisor and the Director of Doctoral Studies in the department and asked them if they knew anything about it. They couldn’t tell me much.It was rather puzzling that I got to be featured in the Newsletter while having no remembrance of having written the words.

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The feature in the Newsletter

After getting home, I informed my dear wife  who was of the view that I should get to the bottom of this mystery and find out exactly how this came about. But, there so much going on with teaching and revising my PhD thesis based on the feedback from my supervisor. I did not have the space in my head to bother about the mysterious summary. After all, I thought to myself, there is no harm in having this summary that looks impressive. It was about a week later that I suddenly had an eureka moment. It was one evening at home while I was rearranging my desk that the light bulb went on in my head. As I moved old papers aside, I sighted the green cover of the Newsletter. At that moment, it dawned on me! I had the clarity that had eluded me a week earlier. It became clear that I had indeed written that summary myself. I checked out my email to be doubly certain and sure enough, the evidence was there. It was the PR and Marketing administrator at the departmental office who sent me an email in early May saying he wanted to feature my research in the Newsletter. He asked if I could write a short policy-focused summary of my research which I indeed did. I realised that I had actually written the summary while I was on a research visit to the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at the University of Surrey between end-May and early-June, 2016. The question is: how could I have forgotten about this? Why did I not recognise my own writing of just over four months old? It was both funny and troubling when I had that eureka moment.

The main reason I could come up with was that my brains were toasted from the teaching at Lincoln in addition to the distance I gave myself away from the PhD. It felt like I have been so consumed with detailed work on specific aspects of the thesis and that I have just lost the big picture. It was pretty hard for me to carve out mental space to think of the thesis as a whole without the intrusion of thoughts  of what still needed done for the next lecture, the next seminar or the student email I had to respond to. I am now a bit better at segmenting brain space so that I can concentrate on the thesis work on certain days and at certain times and then fully focusing on my lectureship duties for the rest of the time. At this moment, I can sort of see the light at the end of the tunnel and look forward to 1st December, 2016!

Cape Chronicles V: Salani kakuhle! Till we meet again

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Just three nights ago, I had the experience of being called out as a Ghanaian. As I made my way out of Rondebosch Mall to catch a taxi home in the evening, I briefly exchange “the nod” with two guys. Now, “the nod” is a greeting phenomenon that is often played out between ‘black’ people especially when in a different country other than their own. I mean I don’t give “the nod” to every person I meet on the hot streets of Kejetia  in Ghana for example. However, if I find myself in London, Amsterdam or Barcelona and I meet a fellow ‘dark coloured’ African then I happily give “the nod”. Sometimes it feels almost instinctive and second nature. It’s a covert language, a form of saying, “I see you bro” or “I acknowledge our shared situation in a foreign country”. But I digress from the original story. So I give these two guys “the nod” and then one of them approaches me and asks with great conviction, “Are you Ghanaian?” and then I said “yes”. He tells me he is called Alidu and that he is also Ghanaian and that he could tell that I am Ghanaian because we have a shade darker skin tone than our South African brothers. Moreover, he added, I look like former president John Agyekum Kuffour. This is actually not the first time I have heard about my likeness with the former president. Maybe I should also become the President of Ghana. The point is, I was happy at this random encounter of being called out as a Ghanaian by another Ghanaian. I remember in my Cape Chronicles II, I mentioned how I walk on UCT campus hoping to see a familiar face and calling out to or being called out by someone I know from time past. It kind of began to happen but sadly at the end of my stay.

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Jameson Hall at the University of Cape Town

In the two weeks since my double Cape Chronicles III and IV, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. I have had a good interviews and meetings and interesting conversations over tea and coffee. Progress have been made in my thesis writing project and meeting the goals of the research visit. All in all, I managed to write three new chapters of my thesis during my stay in Cape Town. This is in addition to reworking the first 4 chapters in response to comments from my supervisors. I now leave here with Chapters 1-7 drafted and cleaned out have arrived with only Chapters 1-4 with pending comments. Now I can give my brains a short break before churning out my last chapter. Only then will the long road towards submission by October/November, 2016 really begin after I get to see all the red pen markings and comments on the thesis from my supervisors. For now I feel like I achieved almost all of the objectives I set for myself 5 weeks ago when I headed down to the Mother city. I have carried out the exploratory research set out in my funding proposal through the interviews and informal conversations I have had with university researchers, taxi drivers, shop keepers, tour guides, and entrepreneurial photographers at tourist attractions among others. Now I know more than before I came about tourism in Cape Town and how its role in economic development and poverty reduction is perceived in some quarters. The interview I had with the Destination Development Manager of the City of Cape Town was particularly useful. It shed new light on how to (re)view aspects of my PhD thesis. He made the subtle yet important distinction between benefiting from tourism and benefiting from tourists.

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View from the top of Table Mountain

Sometimes communities get to benefit directly from tourism and indirectly from tourists when people are employed in businesses outside of the community but catering to tourists. While it will be ideal to have many communities benefit directly from tourists this is not always possible in the short term. Nonetheless, communities can benefit from tourism and tourists if their products are brought to the established route frequented by tourists. This might be an easier option in the short term than the difficult option of trying to (re)direct tourists away from key attractions towards far off communities with few attractions.  In the context of the Elmina 2015 Strategy, the goal was to get benefits to the community by redirecting tourists to go through the more of the community and not just visit the Elmina Castle. This did not work out quite well because it is difficult to shift tourists away from established routes to new places in the short term. Instead of setting up a craft market away from the established route as was the case of the Elmina 2015 Strategy, it might perhaps have helped if the produce of the community and the market was rather brought up to the noses of tourists by setting it up right in front of the Elmina Castle. I can hear cries of commodification of a tragic past but how can we help communities taste the benefits of having a UNESCO World Heritage Site on their doorstep? It is such a delicate balance to achieve.

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Sunset on the Karoo semi-desert

 

So then, this is how it all comes to an end, suddenly! Even as I beginning to feel some small sense of belonging through my network of taxi driver friends, the familiar faces of staff in Pick n Pay and those at KAUAI, the brevity of time has caught up with me. This is surely not goodbye but more of a “see you later”. My time in Cape Town seem to have whistled by just when I was beginning to enjoy being a proper tourist and visiting the sights and sounds of the city. It has been a pleasure and a joy to have had this opportunity to see, experience, learn and connect with a lot of what was on offer here. I am satisfied with what I was able to do and not able to do. Now I can look forward to the flashes of memory and reflection of my time in Cape Town that will invariably come upon me once I get into the new routine of my lectureship position in Tourism Management at the University of Lincoln – which I officially start this Monday 22nd August, 2016….whew!

 

 

 

Cape Chronicles IV: “Amandla!…Ngawethu!”(Joburg in pictures)

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How could I have explained to anyone that I have been in South Africa for 5 weeks and didn’t make it to Johannesburg/Joburg/Jozi! I just could not restrict myself to only the fairest cape. So for week three, I packed up and headed to ‘a world class African city’. It might take a whole PhD thesis to try to deconstruct how city marketing authorities came up with this interesting tagline and what they hope to achieve with this. Importantly, it will be worth trying to understand the planning and policy out-workings of becoming a world class Africa city. What is world class? What is an African city? But I digress.

I had a great time in Joburg and felt like I was on a much needed proper holiday – after two intensive weeks of research and thesis writing. I had lovely hosts in Jesse and Jana  -thanks once again! – who helped me settle in and introduced me to some of their friends. It was nice getting the chance to have mini ISS reunions with Glenda and Thandi separately (too bad I couldn’t meet you Sacha).  On some levels, the centre of Joburg felt very familiar. In part it was a bit like a busy market day in Kejetia or Makola in Ghana. The interesting difference that I should quickly point out is the men hairdressers. I don’t think I have seen many men braiding women’s hair in Ghana but in Joburg there were a large number of men braiding hair on the pavements. Others were holding up their signboards awaiting customers. There was so many different experiences I encountered  – from the wonderful off-duty BRT bus driver who himself heading towards Soweto and engaged me in delightful tales about the neighbourhood called Lagos in Joburg to the self-taught photographer in of Mandela’s house who told me about some of the benefits of tourism to the community. Unfortunately I have used up all my non-thesis writing credits for this week  so I will share the experiences later. For now I decided to just let some pictures tell the story.

Oh, I almost forgot this one…..in my first Cape Chronicle post I mentioned that one of my earliest memory of South Africa came from the poem – Nightfall in Soweto – by Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali. I have now gone to see Soweto for myself – filli-filli (live and coloured) as we would say in Ghana. The houses I saw are not the same matchbox house Oswald talks about in his poem. Things have changed but I could still imagine how life must have been for Oswald when he languished in helplessness during nightfall. I still need that experience to sink and then I can (re) appreciate the poem and write a reflection of it.

Now here are some thousands of words of my Joburg trip in pictures……which included a 30 hours Shosholoza Meyl train ride from Joburg back to Cape Town

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…townships as seen from the air approaching OR Tambo Airport

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The Calabash also known as the FNB Football Stadium

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City marketing

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Now you know…..Joburg is the hipster capital

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Kejetia, Makola or Joburg? Same same

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In case of spiritual emergency

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Amandla!….solidarity statue in Soweto

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Iconic image

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Famous address

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Mandela’s amateur boxing days….

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In need for a tour guide? Call them….

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Amandla! Ngawethu! Peace! Solidarity!

 

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Remembering the fight and chaos……..and the hope for freedom

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The Gold City

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Rainbow flag on top of Constitution Hill

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Remembering survivors of Number Four

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Rocking it with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi…survivor of Number Four

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ISS reunion and generous host Jana and Jesse

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Amandla!…Ngawethu! ISS reunion with cheeky Glenda

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ISS reunion with Thandi

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Chukuchaka…Chukuchaka…30 hours train trip back to Cape Town

 

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Beautiful sunset on the Karoo semi desert….the stars at night were absolutely gorgeous

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Over 40 minutes of travelling through this long train tunnel between Joburg and Cape Town

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A chance meeting on the train which turned out to be a very interesting bio of Fela….now who he was

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Enjoying the desert views

 

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Chukuchaka…Chukuchaka…here we come

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Inching ever closer to Table Mountain after 30 hours on the train

 

 

Cape Chronicles III: What will you tell your kids in the year 2066?

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In 5o years’ time – i.e. the year 2066 – what do you say to your kids and grandchildren when they ask you: “Dad what were you doing in 2016 when the world seemed to have gone into free fall?”, “What did you do when there were so many reports of poverty, violence and injustice going on?”, “What were you praying for back then?” and  “What kind of sermons were coming out of the pulpit then?” These are the questions I was left to start my second week in Cape Town with. This was after a very delightful Church on Main UCT students service on Sunday 24th July. It was an inspiring and provoking service that asked us to be aware of how we (re)act towards prevailing  and structural injustices in between the times when the headlines flashes with flagship events of terror and chaos around the world. In 2066 will I be able to tell my kids and grandchildren that in the year 2016 I did more that offer virtual solidarity  with those hurting in far flung countries (by liking or sharing stories on social media)?. Can I look them in the eyes and tell them that I also took time to reach out face-to-face to those in my neighbourhood, community and country suffering from hurt, injustice and poverty? Can I say that I joined to march in the streets to demand for some dignity for the downtrodden of society? Now ,that was some heavy stuff to begin my week. I was forced to be more aware of the things around me and how I can often tune out people and issues I encounter.

A first foray to the heart of the Cape Town’s CBD followed after my church service. As I will naturally do in Ghana, I hailed and jumped into a trotro – which they call a taxi here interestingly – that appeared to be heading into town. An interesting way I have found to get to know a city for the first time is to intentionally try to get lost by just walking around, following people and your senses without consulting a map. At the final stop of the trotro, I pretended to know where I was and where I was going. I just followed the stream of people in front of me who seem to be heading somewhere. After loitering around city landmarks, I followed the city signs like the one in the picture below. I did get a bit lost following these signs so I will occasionally check the map on my phone to reorient myself.

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Which way?

I finally manged to make it to the V&A Waterfront where I first grabbed an overpriced Tunisian hot pressed avocado sandwich. As a tourism researcher, I know that tourists sites such as the V&A Waterfront have their own pricing mechanisms. Yet still I always find it a bit…..

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Putting on my research cap on, I took a leisurely stroll around the waterfront taking in the sights and sounds. I closely observed the composition of tourists and day trippers. The interesting observation I made – which was later confirmed by interviews I had later in the week – was that a large number of people seem to be on a simple day trip to the Waterfront. This group of people come not to dine and wine in restaurants but to enjoy the experience of having been at the Waterfront. They bring their own food and sit on the lawns close to the sea. They picnic with friends, take pictures and then head back home ready to start their week. There were also a number of entrepreneurial photographers who were doing good business with their portable printing apparatus on the boulevard. It was a nice research experience for me mingling among the crowds. To top it off, as I headed to the bus station to catch a trotro back home, I saw the clouds sitting on Table Mountain.

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Clouds taking a sitting break on top of Table Mountain

Academic targets for week two were met  to a large extent. I had a couple of interviews with researchers and practitioners involved in tourism planning in the Cape Town Metropolitan area. I also had an appointment with the Research Collaborations Specialist at the UCT Research Office. This was to introduce myself as a World Universities Network Research Mobility Programme researcher visiting UCT. In terms of my PhD thesis, I managed to polish up the chapter I wrote from week one which I sent to my supervisors for feedback. While it is sometimes hard to let go of drafts that I feel can be further worked on, sending it on to my supervisors allow me to close off that chapter in my mind. It also makes it easier for me to begin work on the next chapter even though I know there are still some revisions to be done. I do feel good about the writing schedule notwithstanding the pressure of trying to write a chapter a week. At the end of week two I had completed a big portion of the next chapter but in a very disjointed form. The good thing, as I have to keep reminding myself, is that I do have a large body of text that I can play around with and put together in a better shape later on. At the end of the Friday of week two, I was so knackered when I got home from the UCT campus that I had to postpone writing this blog post – that is why this is coming later. The only thing that kept me perked up was my next day trip to Johannesburg.

Cape Chronicles II: Johnny Just Come

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It has already been a week since I arrived in the Mother City but I still feel like ‘Johnny Just Come’ (JJC)! But this is not the usual JJC syndrome of being in awe and not knowing how things work. My JJC is more psychological and I realise that it goes back to the cold December day in Sheffield when I got the ‘Congratulations – your funding application has been successful’ email. Now imagine how delighted I was to be looking forward to a summer in Cape Town. In my mind, a number of key distinctions were conflated. This included thinking that July/August are summer months everywhere. Even when I was reminded that it will be winter in South Africa, I mentally conflated the varied geographical differences across the African continent with the thought that it is always hot in Africa. If South Africa is part of Africa then how bad can winter get. Moreover, I was also told that it is usually a mild winter compared to the winters in  Sheffield. Now I know, I should have listened more to my thesis supervisor who told me winter in South Africa is cold and rainy because it is really cold, rainy and windy. Having tasted and seen, I now know that I am not born for the cold – not even this so called mild winter on the tip of the hot continent. The question that I am still asking myself is why did I bring my football boots?  😦

Anyway, the cold weather aside, this has been a pretty good week for me. The Saturday after my arrival was sort of sunny and offered me the opportunity to go wandering around the lower, middle and upper campuses of the University of Cape Town. I spent the next three days in lock down in my room and managed to churn out over 8000 words for Chapter 5 of my thesis. More than half of this was actually first handwritten at home and then typed up when I went to the office at UCT. I realise that I think faster when I hand write than if I’m typing straight away on the laptop. Typing out the written notes then offers an another opportunity for more analysis and finessing of the text. It has been quite a writing boot-camp and the experience has so far been good for me. Although on some days I keep sinking ever deeper as I immerse myself into the interview transcript and policy documents without much success in finding that magic first sentence to set my writing inspiration flowing. It can be frustrating and in the midst of all the ups and downs I remind myself that this too shall pass.  🙂

In a very nerdy kind of way, getting my UCT student card has been one of the key highlights of my first week. The admin paper work was not too complicated and now I feel like ‘I am here some’. I feel like I am one of the folks. As someone who considers studying as a profession it is kind of cool to have another institutional affiliation.

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I am here some!

However, the day after I got my card and went to back campus I did realise how lonely I feel as a new student. On Thursday morning when I got to campus, there was a Redbull music event on Jameson Plaza where a large crowd of students were gathered – sitting, standing and hanging on short walls in little groups. I found a place to stand and observed all around me the familiarity between many people who were bouncing their heads and feet in tune with the music. I did feel singled out and a real JJC. It was as if everyone was looking at me but of course they did not have a clue that I am newbie. It is quite a funny feeling walking around campus and checking out faces in anticipation of recognising someone I know or have met somewhere before. But all the faces I see are at once familiar and unfamiliar. I know I can be happily introverted when I want to be but it will still be nice to bump into someone on campus and go…”OMG! its great to see you again!!! Long time no see!!! Where have you been all these years!!!” But I am not holding my breath for this yet. At least I have had Adam – a fellow Ghanaian who is consultant with Habitat SA and doing a PhD at UCT  – come to check on me. Plus, I have booked my travel to Jo’burg where I can be sure to meet familiar faces for an ISS reunion.

Thus far in my first week I have not seen anything beyond the route from my house in Rondebosch to the UCT campus. Adam did drive me pass the Presidential Palace in Cape Town where Mr. Zuma stays when he is in town. My hood is a very quiet leafy suburbia place with many huge and menacing dogs guarding houses. Maybe it is time to explore a bit more of what this city has to offer. This morning I am going to fellowship at Church on Main which has a student congregation meeting on UCT Lower campus. What better place to get to meet fellow students and be warmly welcomed and accepted than in church 🙂 If the forecast of snow fall on some hills doesn’t get to Rondebosch and the sky holds steady in blue, I might even continue to the city centre for a stroll to kick off another exciting week.

 

 

Cape Chronicles I – Sarafina! and predeparture briefing

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For the next 5 weeks I have the privilege of calling Cape Town my home. I am embarking on a research visit to the University of Cape Town and will be hosted by the African Centre for Cities. The aim of my research visit is to explore the planning issues associated with the use of tourism for local economic development and poverty reduction in the Cape Town metropolitan area – and to then compare it to what I know of the case of Cape Coast, Ghana. Thus, the rather long title of the research proposal as – “A tale of two capes: tourism-led local economic development planning in Cape Town, South Africa and Cape Coast, Ghana”. I am most grateful to the generous funding from the University of Sheffield through the World Universities Network Research Mobility Programme. Now, this is not going to be the fun holiday research visit I envisaged when I first wrote the grant application but I am nonetheless excited. The major goal of my time in Cape Town is to grind out and finish writing the 2nd draft of my PhD thesis in addition to fulfilling the objectives set out in my grant proposal. The good news is that I am told it is going to be a rainy and cold winter season so I can look forward to getting stuck indoors writing my life away.

Due to many competing priorities, I have not had the chance to really reflect on the kind of experiences I hope to gain. I don’t even know the top 10 ‘must-do/must-see’ things/sites in Cape Town. At least my sweet wife Marre has offered me some tips and insist that I visit the Robben Island. In addition, I have been informed by both South Africans and non-South Africans who have first-hand, second-hand and third-hand experience of having visited (lived in) South Africa about the great atmosphere and things to do in Cape Town. Amidst all the good stories of the wonders of visiting/living in South Africa, there have always been the sobering warnings about the need to be extra careful and to develop a sixth sense for my personal safety given the rates of crime and violence. I have found this to be quite peculiar although I know that personal safety precautions are a must when in a new city. I have been informed that South African cities have a different vibe to them than what one encounters in West Africa. Consequently, I am going to be both wary and curious of the realities of this vibe vis-à-vis the image I now hold of Cape Town.

One of my earliest memory of and knowledge of South African while growing up in the mid-1990s came through the movie SARAFINA! The enduring memory from that movie has been the music and dancing and certainly the school shooting scene. I think for many of my generation in Ghana who grew up watching it, this movie was a combination of feel-good elements, sad bits and hopeful ending. I mean how can you not smile, sing and dance along to….FREEDOM IS COMING TOMORROW!!!

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Recently, this meme of the movie came through one of my ‘Old Students’ Whatsapp group bringing back childhood memories. So in anticipation of and preparation for my research visit, I watched SARAFINA! again. This time around it was a more sobering experience for me. This set me thinking of how the innocence of youth gets stripped away by the realities one encounters on the path to growth and maturity. Reflecting on the movie now against my current knowledge of South Africa, which comes from reading news and feature articles, conversations with South African nationals I have meet and remain friends with, I know there are enduring features of segregation, poverty and violence even years after independence. Perhaps, a ‘perfect’ summary of the image of South Africa I held in my teens is captured in “Nightfall in Soweto”, a poem by Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali. As a student of Literature-in-English back in Senior High School, this poem was one I had to memorise, study and write ‘appreciation’ report on in terms of its use of literary devices, imagery, subject matter and meaning. I used to be able to recite all 8 verses verbatim but now I managed to remember only the first verse. I have reproduced the full poem here for your enjoyment reflection.

NIGHTFALL IN SOWETO
Nightfall comes like
a dreaded disease
seeping through the pores
of a healthy body
and ravaging it beyond repair

A murderer’s hand,
lurking in the shadows,
clasping the dagger,
strikes down the helpless victim.

I am the victim.
I am slaughtered
every night in the streets.
I am cornered by the fear
gnawing at my timid heart;
in my helplessness I languish.

Man has ceased to be man
Man has become beast
Man has become prey.

I am the prey;
I am the quarry to be run down
by the marauding beast
let loose by cruel nightfall
from his cage of death.

Where is my refuge?
Where am I safe?
Not in my matchbox house
Where I barricade myself against nightfall.

I tremble at his crunching footsteps,
I quake at his deafening knock at the door.
“Open up!” he barks like a rabid dog
thirsty for my blood.

Nightfall! Nightfall!
You are my mortal enemy.
But why were you ever created?
Why can’t it be daytime?
Daytime forever more?

After over 20 years of independence as the rainbow nation, I wonder if this poem is still a ‘perfect’ descriptor of the realities of live for many people. I am curious to find out if the image of South Africa I have aggregated from different sources concur with the reality of my own first-hand experience. During my stay in Cape Town, I hope to write about my experiences in a series of ‘Cape Chronicles’ blog posts. Stay tuned and let me know if you have suggestions of what to see/do – preferably things that can be done during daylight and not at night 🙂

 

 

Ciao Napoli – I hope to see you again!

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My first outside social encounter in Napoli on the second night of my stay in the city took place at the entrance of a restaurant and unfolded like this:

Me: “Are you already serving food?”

Italian Waiter:”Food?”

Me:”Yes!”

Italian Waiter:”Do you want to eat?”

Me:”Yes!”

Italian Waiter:”Do you have money?”

Me:”What?!?”

Italian Waiter:”Do you have money to pay?”

……(shaking my head and laughing I head straight to get a seat)

From a social and cultural perspective this encounter is peculiar and raises a number of questions about the racism stereotypes we often rely on in dealing with others. I wonder whether everyone is asked the same questions or whether we had this dialogue simply because of my handsome black face. After I sat down, I thought of leaving and going over to the other restaurant across the street. But then I thought, heck, I am going to sit here and let him serve me and then show him that I can pay for my meal. He later told me he was only joking but I did not know what response to give him so I just let  it be…

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Aside the unfortunate restaurant incidence, my week in Napoli attending the ICOT 2016 Conference has been great.  The conference – like any other conferences – had its ebbs and flows but it was worth my time. I attended a number of presentations, some good and some not so good – not the content per see but the presentation.I think I will need a full post on the conference presentations, especially quantitative based research presentation vs. qualitative based research presentations. For some of the quantitative research presentation the expression that came to my mind was “death by a thousand decimal points”. However, there were a lot of interesting ideas that excited and ignited my mind with regards to tourism and leisure research in Ghana. One example that I thought of concerned research about the leisure attitudes people have in Ghana. If we are to promote domestic tourism then we will first need to understand the attitude (and financial capability?) of people towards leisure activities. This will allow educational and marketing campaigns to be geared towards aligning people’s attitude to tourism and leisure activities – but I digress.

Overall, I can easily tick off as completed the long to do list I brought with me. I finished writing a section of my PhD thesis that was becoming unbecoming; I met and got to know new and interesting people; I gave a great presentation (judging from the unsolicited feedback that I got); I had great conversations about academic life, BREXIT and how my wife helps me to balance work and family life among so many other topics. I did swim in the sea although there is no sandy beach here, I ate authentic pizza and soaked in the local life of which I made my observations.

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Panoramic view from the top of Vesuvius

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Pompeii

Napoli looks like a nice city with a lot going for it in terms of tourism. Via Partenope is a pretty sea boulevard/promenade that is for the most closed off to traffic so the locals and tourists alike can enjoy walking with a view. The sheer number of motorbikes in the city was a bit of a surprise observation for me. It felt a bit like I was in Tamale, Ghana where motorbikes are also in great numbers. Here in Napoli, it seemed like motorbikes were part of a rite of passage for both boys and girls.There were many children, some under 15 years, who were riding big motorbikes and sometimes without helmets. The other thing I observed were the tattoos, tattoos, and more tattoos. It appeared like every young person both male and female had tattoos. In a sociological way I perceived these tattoos as also being part of a rite of passage – in addition to the usual smoking by young and old. On my last night in the city, I went to what is referred to as the Spanish quarters to get more insights into how the locals lived their normal lives. I got to watch the Germany vs. Italy Euro quarterfinal match which unfortunately Italy lost on penalty shoot-outs. But the interesting bit of my watching football with the locals was when Italy won a penalty in the second half from which they scored to equalise. The game was screened in front of a betting shop so many locals had put bets on Italy winning presumably. There was great jubilation that went beyond simple patriotism, when Italy equalised. My guess is that part of the delight was to be found in knowing their bets were still on. I hope those betting locals were not too disappointed that they lost in the end.

It has been great having the opportunity to spend this past week here in Napoli. I have had the opportunity to take an evening trip to nearby Sorrento which was nice but meant that the conference gala dinner was overly delayed. The Saturday trip to Pompeii and then to Vesuvius certainly belong to the category of major highlight of my experience. It would have been great if I did not have to work or think of my presentation during my visit and/or importantly had my family here with me. But, ah well, such is life. Ciao Napoli, I hope to see you again!!!

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The continued existence of international development researchers

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On The Guardian’s Global Development Professionals Network page, I recently came across an article and from where I ‘borrowed’ the title for this blog post. In that short article (which you can see here) the author raises some interesting points about current international development practice. The central question posed by the author is whether International NGOs (INGOs) have the right to exist some 60 odd years after development in practice started and INGOs blossomed. I felt this question resonates not only in terms of INGOs but equally in the field of international development research and study. It left me thinking of what the answers might be if the question was re-stated as: do international development researchers have the right to exist? The majority of international development researchers are based in universities and research institutes in the Global North – the equivalent of the INGOs? – carrying out research work in their ‘countries of expertise’ in the Global South. This makes the question more interesting because after all these years what can we say about the impact of our research and fieldwork in the very communities we research. Considering the inherent tensions I have recently encountered as a young international development researcher, I want to suggest in this short blog that international development researchers might still have the right to exist if new approaches are adopted.

When I was young and of simple mind, and perhaps naïve at the workings of the world I used to question why some countries will ‘donate’ large sums of money through INGOs to help other countries. I just could not understand why for example the UK government will decide to ‘donate’ a million or more pounds to poverty reduction projects in Ghana when there are also poor people in the UK. I wondered at why the UK government does not use the money to help its own poor people or better still why Ghana does not get fair prices for its resources so there is enough revenue to take care of itself. Now I a bit older and less naïve of how the world works, but there are still many things that I wonder at when it comes to international development research and practice. One thing that I am curious about at the moment is the emotional tensions and frustrations (if any) faced by international development researchers from the Global North who are researching in the Global South, and what they do about it. I am of the view that it is through the tensions and frustrations that new approaches may yet evolve.

In an earlier post I wrote for the FOReTHOUGHT blog based in the department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield, I recounted some of the emotional tensions I faced while conducting research in Ghana. As a young Ghanaian scholar researching the outcomes of a planned development interventions for my PhD I was left with raw frustrations at how the planning process has been botched up. I had a hard time reconciling the emotional disappointment I faced with the academic excitement of hearing “correct” answers from interview respondents in part because I wish those “correct” answers were not the reality. I was torn between thinking of how to instigate change in my own country and the pressures of just getting on with the PhD research. I wondered and continue to wonder how other researchers feel when their research findings while ‘insightful’ for publication indicates that a planned development intervention or planning system is not working well. What further role can such a researcher take on beyond publishing a ‘REF-able’ journal paper? Alternatively, will ‘simplifying’ the journal paper into a bullet point policy brief suffice? For researchers working outside their home country – say a British researcher working in Uganda, India, Ghana or Indonesia – what are the options?

There are many communities in the Global South who are considered as ‘research fatigued’ and where community members are no longer enthusiastic about being research participants. This might be due to the fact that after years of countless research projects and researchers these communities are yet to see any long term development change that can be attributed to these researchers. This to me speaks to the question of whether international development researchers have the right to exist given the over 60 odd years of international development teaching and research. I would like to suggest that the right to continue to exist might lie in bringing in new forms of research approaches. Might more international development researchers become ‘activist researchers’? Could the adoption of more ‘participatory action-research’ projects offer the opportunity for international development researchers to have the right to exist? I think there is the need to go beyond the traditional view of scholarship as just to study, understand, explain and make recommendations and then leave the messy details to the political and bureaucratic system.

A more activist approach means that researchers stay in one place long enough to be able to build partnerships that foster long term structural changes. This approach coupled with the adoption of long term participatory action-research development projects that are more than simple co-production is essential. Perhaps the newly opened Field Centre by SIDshare and KEDE/CEDE in Tanzania will offer opportunities for long term community engaged research by community members, students and established researchers. This will provide the community with the chance to actively partake in activities and to be able to see the link between research and long lasting structural changes and livelihood improvements. Another example (from the Global North) is the ongoing Westfield Action Research Project which is a participatory action research project being carried out in a disadvantaged area in South East Sheffield by the Urban Studies and Planning department at the University of Sheffield. This project provides opportunities for engaged learning for students as well as facilitating the exchange of knowledge and skills between university staff and community members. For the next 10 years this project will establish a long-term relationship between researchers and community members as part of a commitment to making vibrant, sustainable and socially just places. It does appear that it is more likely for communities in the Global North to receive such long term research funding, but difficult if not almost impossible to secure funding over say a 10 year period to conduct research in a single community in the Global South. However, this is the kind of commitment that international development researchers need to make to the people and places they research.[1]

Given that international development researchers in the Global North have access to the ears of governments and research funding, there has to be some form of devolution and the building up of capacity of Global South researchers and development practitioners. International development researchers need to be become activist researchers who put their money where their writings are and ‘empower’ (incite?) communities to seek for lasting change. In this empowering process of participatory action research and activist research, researchers will need to disempower themselves, give up power, be more courageous and take more risk with research funds. All this will have to stem from researchers making explicit any frustrations and/or emotional tensions they encounter in the course of their research work. Aside from methodological reflexivity I am yet to come across many articles that explicitly engage with the emotional frustrations of seeing planned development interventions fail. A move to addressing such issues I believe offers the opportunity for international development researchers to continue to have the right to exist while encouraging new ways of research and impact. Researchers need to become more invested in the communities they research, and participatory action research and activist research may offer the needed avenues for this to take place.

 

[1] I am keen to hear from anyone who is conducting, or is aware of,  long term research projects in the Global South. Do get in touch.

This post was first published under the title of “Do international development researchers still have the right to exist? ” in April, 2016 on the blog of the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID) at the University of Sheffield, UK.