Why this headline bothers me, despite the article contents: ‘Africa is a great country: Photos from a booming land’

The first tweet that popped up on my twitter feed this morning was this one :





It immediately got my hackles up and I tweeted back something appropriately scathing about Africa being 54 countries – without reading the article I will admit.  Factually incorrect headlines tend to provoke such behaviour in me, and since this is generally quite a serious publication, I did not for a second think they were trying to be ironic.

@letlapa37 then tweeted back saying ‘Read the article to the bottom Tracy – it’s not great but it does make a point!’ And so I did (a little begrudgingly)…                                                                                                    I was surprised (and pleased) to find that it was about a photo exhibition aimed at countering this myth of Africa being one country, illustrate the great diversity across the continent and encourage people to look at Africa with new eyes. The headline still really bugs me though.

My issue with it? I have a few.

  1. Since it leads with a series of photos, most people will not read the article below, and so the photos and headline are what the majority of readers will be exposed to. While this may change their view of the continent as simply one of famine and war, it does nothing to further the goal of showing Africa as a diverse continent made up of 54 countries. Nor does it in anyway illustrate that the headline above is ironic. Is the fact that the irony of such a headline is so easily lost sad? Of course, but we know this perception problem exists – hence the need for the exhibition in the first place. These reasons are also the reasons I write this blog, unfortunately not even close to enough people globally understand the reality of Africa as a continent to get the joke.
  2. The exhibition is being held in Sweden and 3 African cities (ironically not specified) so it’s not like all readers will have the opportunity to take time to engage with the issue first hand and be exposed to all its nuances. This again brings us back to point 1, that most people will only see the headline and photos and take these at face value. The exhibition name is not of concern for me exactly because of the time to engage mentioned above. The participant is involved for long enough to create a context that very clearly underscores the name’s irony. It’s this lack of context that makes the headline irresponsible for me.
  3. On a slightly more technical note, the text of this article appears under only the first photo. So if at some stage during your viewing of the slideshow you do happen to scroll down (and let’s be honest that’s most likely at the end, if at all) unless you’re on photo 1, the only things that will appear on your screen are the misleading headline and a photo. Refer back to point 1.

So sadly while the intention of the exhibition exposure may have been good, this piece (specifically its headline) is for me counterproductive to the goals of the exhibition. Perhaps even guilty of a little of the behaviour they describe in the article…

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Opinion


Cape Verde’s Good News

Cape Verde's Good News

BBC News Africa. 2012. ‘Cape Verde profile’

Brown, C. March 2013. ‘Cape Verde prime minister talks of his nation’s progress’

Index Mundi. 2012. ‘Cape Verde’

Macauhub. November 2012. ‘Cape Verde with highest internet access penetration rate in Portuguese-speaking Africa’

World Bank. 2011. ‘Cape Verde: Life expectancy at birth’

World Bank. 2011. ‘Cape Verde: Country Brief’,,menuPK:349633~pagePK:141132~piPK:141107~theSitePK:349623,00.html


(Some) African kids changing the world

1) Kelvin Doe

Kelvin Doe is my hero and the most inspiring person on the planet in my book. He’s only 15 but recently became the youngest person EVER to be invited to MIT’s ‘Visiting Practitioner Programme’. His claim to fame? His incredible ability to turn trash into batteries, generators and even radio transmitters. Completely self-taught, he has used these skills to create a community empowerment radio station, which he runs as “DJ Focus”. But despite his genius he is incredibly down to earth, humble and the sort of person we should all aspire to be. Be warned, this video is the most motivating and heart-warming I’ve ever seen, tissues will be required!

2) Richard Turere

A 13 year old Maasai herdsman from Kenya was losing his family’s livestock to lions from the nearby Nairobi National Park. Rather than trying to kill the lions, like most people in his community felt forced to do, he used incredible resourcefulness to invent a solar powered lighting system that now protects the cattle from his own and several other villages.  By providing a different way of protecting the cattle, he has also done a lot to help the lions.  By safeguarding human lives, protecting livelihoods and building harmony with the natural environment, Richard shows us how little it takes to come up with completely new solutions when we truly pay attention to local circumstances.

3) Nadege Iradukunda

Nadege is an 18 year old Rwandan who is dramatically reducing the cost of running schools by setting up bio-digester plants. A bio-digester plant uses natural biological processes to converts food waste into energy! The plants help schools in Rwanda not only to reduce their environmental impact but also to save on heating and lighting costs by as much as 40%.  This in turn makes education much more affordable and accessible to more Rwandan children. Since the inception of the project she has overseen the deployment of 15 bio-digester plants, serving more than 15000 students.

4) Ludwick Marishane

This 17 year old South African is no stranger to invention, and when in Grade 9 (12 years old) he even invented his own bio-fuel! The invention featured below is called Dry-Bath and is a way to properly cleanse your body without using any water. Ludwick says he specifically invented this for the millions of people across the world who don’t have enough access to clean water, and so help with the prevention of diseases such as Trachoma. Beyond this though, he sees this particular invention as a way to save water, protecting and preserving this scarce resource.

5) Laetitia Mukungu

Laetitia (18) founded and steered to success the Women’s Rabbit Association of Kenya. After a volunteer teaching stint she realised that the biggest impediment to quality education was a lack of funds at home, which impacted on the schools’ resources and even affected their ability to provide uniforms and stationery. She decided she needed to start an income generating project and decided on rabbit breeding! Watch this to find out why she chose rabbits, as well as how 15 families have been transformed by this one inspiring individual.

6) Miriam Nsekonziza and Precious Nyabami

Having only very recently been announced as the winners of a regional science, technology, engineering and mathematics competition (March 2013) little information is currently available on these two 17 year old’s achievements. What is known is that their study can be considered, in the inventors own words, ‘as a major breakthrough in the wake of concerted efforts by the government to ensure access to clean water for all households in the country.’ Their studied covered methods of tapping of rainwater from rooftops.

Rwanda article


Tsitsikamma to Tataouine Expedition

The world’s second biggest continent, 54 countries, a continent of mystery and intrigue, of immense beauty and promise.  Its also the place I call home.  Africa has always inspired me, always tempting me with the promise of adventure.  But for so many people across the world Africa is nothing more than poverty, war, disease and corruption, and I am passionate about encouraging people to see Africa differently, because this is not the Africa I know.  The best way we (my hubby and my best mate) can think of to right this wrong is to answer the call to adventure, exploring our great continent and smashing stereotypes along the way.

How we will do this? We’re going to drive from Tsitsikamma in South Africa to Tataouine in Tunisia, touching all 4 sides of the African continent and 3 of the cardinal points and passing from the most southern tip at Cape Agulhas to the most northern tip at Ras Ben Sakka . This expedition will take us 153 days and through 23 countries throughout Africa. By the end of our adventure we would have driven almost 30 000km.

Along the way we want to change more than perceptions though. We also want to ensure that we leave a long-term and sustainable difference in each country that we visit. We will do this by planting two school food gardens in each country we travel through – that’s 44 gardens in total. We will also be living on US$1.25 for a day in 6 capital cities along route to explore and better understand the most commonly used definition of poverty, its usefulness in a continent with such a strong informal economic sector and possible alternatives.

You can follow our journey on Facebook or Twitter (@T2T_Trace, @T2T_Matt & @T2T_Ishtar). Our website will be up and running soon so watch this space:)

T2T infographic 2




A response to Robert Bates’ piece ‘Africa through Western Eyes: The world’s dark continent or capitalism’s shining light?’

Robert Bates recently wrote a piece ( documenting his understanding of the history of and reasons for Africa’s image in the West. I found the piece thought-provoking but have to say I don’t agree with everything he said.  After reading it I felt it necessary to respond to some unsubstantiated claims, particularly relating to what I saw as his unfair and uninformed portrayal of the organisation Africa The Good News. Let me at this stage declare that I have written for them (as an unpaid volunteer) in the past and plan to do so again in the future. I support Africa The Good News’ mandate and believe that they have an important role to play in inspiring, informing and mobilising the people of our continent – our greatest strength and resource.

He wrote: “It is partly because some people think the best way to repudiate the negative stereotypes of Africa is to pump out wholly ‘good news’. An account on Twitter called @AfricaGoodNews is a case in point. Its handler tweets links to positive reportage of Africa: such “Angola May Produce One Million Eggs a Day…” and “Doing Business in Fast-Growing Africa – Europe Edition…”.

It is one facet of a larger rebranding project. Whilst some observers may approve, seeing them as necessary correctives to the boilerplate journalism mentioned above, others are already finding them clichéd and boring or downright misleading; a facile PR exercise designed to encourage (mainly Western) investment.”

My first objection is to the selective representation of the sort of information shared by Africa: The Good News’ Twitter account.  In it the writer has quoted (out of context and incompletely) two mundane, banal and Eurocentric tweets. He doesn’t show the tweets about opportunities to be involved in volunteer-created textbooks, feedback on research and census studies, economic market information and news of general political, cultural, environmental, economic and even entertainment events from across the continent.  All these, I would like to add, seldom appear in Western media, even in the “back pages” so to speak. Is this news primarily positive? Yes, that is the entire point of the organisation, but more on that later.

My second concern is with Bates’ portrayal of Africa: The Good News as a Twitter account and no more. It is far more than that, and he has neglected to mention the organisation behind it.  A little research would have revealed that the organisation was originally founded as an offshoot of the very successful South Africa: The Good News, which had been founded a few years earlier by Steuart Pennington. Its aim was and is to counteract the overwhelmingly and exclusively negative portrayal of South Africa in the local and international media. It was not about creating an artificially positive alternative reality, but rather was aimed at ensuring that the real South Africa, both the good and bad news, got the balanced coverage it needed and deserved.  This all started when Steuart went to a ‘Farewell, and Congrats you’re getting out’ party for some friends emigrating to Australia, and found himself getting angry at the endless negative stories and statistics about South Africa doing the rounds at the event. What made him really angry was not so much that these things were being said, but that they rang true at first hearing and he did not have the facts at hand to refute or confirm them. After taking on a couple of the guests, and earning himself a night on the couch as a result, his wife suggested he do something about it instead of moaning about it.

So he started doing some research, and discovered that not only were many of these common ‘truths’ on the downfall of South Africa overexaggerated or downright wrong, but also that there were many good things happening too. He found himself motivated and inspired to join the ranks of those working towards the future we all dream of for South Africa, and so the organisation was born. After a few years of running the rapidly growing and successful South Africa: The Good News the team recognised that a similar platform was needed for the continent as a whole, which led to the birth of Africa: The Good News. Of course both these organisations are (hopefully) changing the attitudes and actions of investors (local and international) but the arrogance inherent in the assertion that Africa: The Good News is just an investor propaganda machine quite frankly infuriates me. Even if this assertion was true (which it is not) why should Africa not be able to market itself to investors by showcasing its strengths? Virtually every city and country in the world does that!

South Africa: The Good News and Africa: The Good News take the view that since the negative side of Africa gets so much coverage there really is no need for them to add to it. Does this mean they only publish naively positive stories? No. When reports such as the Global Competitive Index come out they are shared in their entirety, not just the positive parts. Does either organisation blindly act as if either South Africa or the continent as a whole doesn’t have any problems? Again, no. They do, however play an active role in correcting these instead of swooping in from afar, dismissing inconvenient details as irrelevant and rushing away without offering any solutions or alternatives. I see no reason to give more credit to negative news than positive simply because of their outlook – I’ll admit Bates never actually says this outright but the implication is pretty clear. If this analysis of Africa: The Good News had been based specifically on reliability of sources, accuracy of data or even the dates of data published etc. and then substantiated I would have paid more attention. Let me be very clear that I don’t believe any of these are in question, however a rational review of them would have at least been useful and much more fair.

My final complaint is not against the portrayal of Africa: The Good News specifically, but the general assertion that reporting on good news from the continent is found by “others” to be “boring”, “cliched” and “misleading.” Those are pretty serious claims to make and if they had been made against a specific journalist we would now have quite a row on our hands.  Why should it be any different when made about an entire group of (unnamed) journalists?  Who are these “others” he refers to?  The fact that no one specific is mentioned makes it difficult to challenge him on specific facts – probably the intention of these vague, unsubstantiated claims in the first place.   There is no logical reason why good news should be reported any less than bad news, and all reporting should be judged on its accuracy and reliability, not simply it’s positive or negative tone.

Since Bates started with Twitter let’s go back there now: a quick search  of the word ‘Africa’ shows the enormous number of people in Africa and across the globe who have warped and inaccurately negative views of the continent. Africa: The Good News is an important and laudable initiative for a grossly misunderstood and maligned continent. All Mr Bates’ attack on this organisation does is show how very necessary initiatives like this still are.


Using Twitter to be (more) Successful

During the recent #WiredWomen’s conference, one of the major discussions that occurred on and off-line revolved around the use of social media platforms (mainly twitter) to develop and enhance a brand, personal or as an organisation. Delegates wanted clear and specific guide lines on best practise and so, instead of just talking about being ‘good’ at twitter, I decided to measure who was getting Twitter right during the conference by monitoring the hash tag. I did this by using a variety of tools (including tweetreach and NodeXL) and in so doing was able to establish exactly which tweets and tweeps were successful. This then allowed me, to identify common characteristics of success.

Before we get to those though, it is important to clarify exactly what is meant by being good or successful at Twitter.  Twitter is about people, connections, networks between these connections and influence within networks and among connections. Why should you care about this? Personally or professionally, it is a quick and easy way to connect with like-mind people all over the world. This has, and does, turn into business, travel and growth opportunities if managed correctly – I wouldn’t have been a panellist at this conference if it hadn’t been for Twitter! With only 140 characters you can reach hundreds, even thousands, of people in seconds at the same time, and if you’re connected enough there is no quicker way (electronically or otherwise) to disseminate information. Twitter is THE crowdsourcing tool and anything from IT problems to a need for directions to a specific location can be found almost immediately through your connection’s varied locations, knowledge and interest areas. There is also no quicker way to stay up to date with news and events from around the world, often information is released on Twitter even before the press picks it up. Beyond this, live tweeting can allow you access to conferences and the like that you never would even have known about before. This is of particular value because access to early industry news disseminated intelligently will enhance your position within your industry. I could go on and on but these are the main reasons I believe it’s worth spending a little time on understanding how to ensure you maximise the benefits received from Twitter, which was after all the point of this exercise!

The most evident characteristic of successful #wiredwomen tweeps was engagement. Those at the centre of the #wiredwomen twitter network not only engaged with others the most at the actual conference, but also had engaged so broadly in their general pre-conference twitter activity that they had already come into contact with many network members long before the network was even formed. This also meant that they were automatically the most influential in the network, as they had already built trust, rapport and established their position as experts. This sounds simple, obvious even, but is definitely a case of easier said than done! The key was a combination of the clear demonstration of expertise, including (very importantly) the offering of this freely, with being human! By that I mean: joining the conversation rather than preaching from a pedestal, not talking exclusively about one subject (even if you are a business) while simultaneously maintaining a consistent persona, responding to others calls for help, asking for help, sharing success and exciting news, admitting to failure or a gap in knowledge and in general sharing more of yourself. If you want someone specific to join a conversation or see specific information mention them directly – that’s how conversations get started.

To ensure you are part of relevant conversations you need to use hash tags, as they enable you to join or even start conversations.  Hash tags are the easiest and most commonly used way to find conversations that you’re interested in and ensure that your voice is heard in this conversation. You may have much to contribute, but not making use of the relevant hash tag is like putting yourself on mute. It also limits your potential to connect to only those currently in your network, as opposed to the entire twitter network. There were some very informative and important tweets that went unnoticed at the #wiredwomen conference because the authors didn’t use the hash tag and as such excluded themselves from delegate’s radars. This may – again – sound like rather obvious advice, but I think you’d be surprised at the number of tweets directly related to the conference but not containing the hash tag, and there must have been many more I have missed since they are by their very nature disconnected and so difficult to find.

Whether you’re using a hashtag or not, the more you tweet the more likely you are to be heard. There is however a very fine line between creating a high profile account and alienating respondents who will get bored with too many tweets. Those that tweeted the most at #wiredwomen were among the most connected in the network, but were not the most retweeted or mentioned. Those that were among the most retweeted and mentioned did tweet more than average but, more importantly, seemed to have found the balance between frequency, relevant content and timing. For example, successful #wiredwomen tweeps allowed others time to respond in between tweets or before sharing the next bit of the story/information. Not only does this engage those involved more, but, also, by lengthening the time over which the conversation occurs, increases the likelihood that other connections will be exposed to it.  There is no magic number of how often you should tweet – it depends completely on the subject involved, relevancy of issue etc. but good advice is to use the same filter you do in normal conversation and life where you wouldn’t dominate completely but rather listen too.

When analysing the content of specific successful #wiredwomentweets it was immediately noticeable that:

  • Tweets that pointed to links, videos, infographics, pictures, etc. enhanced tweeps experience and as such engaged them more and for a longer period of time. Not surprisingly, funny tweets had the same effect.
  • Tweets containing simply a headline and link were much less mentioned, commented on or retweeted than those that also included insightful comments or thoughtful responses.
  • Tweets that were 120 characters or less were retweeted and commented on much more than longer ones, simply because space was left to do so! Tweeps love sharing breaking news, interesting and useful information – it only increases their profile -and are much more likely to do so if they can add their own two cents too.
  • Tweets specifically mentioning tweeps by username where more often responded to than those not, as people are much more likely to respond when they feel like the message is directed specifically at them.
  • Statements that were backed up with a source were mentioned and retweeted at a significantly higher rate than those that appeared to be opinion only.

Since the #wiredwomen were such an incredibly connected group (as was evident when the hash tag trended nationally in South Africa) it would be safe to say that these tips for successful tweets are not only relevant for users within this network but much more broadly too. As such, following this advice will ensure your twitter account yields all the benefits discussed and more!



Any #wiredwomen wanting specific information on their personal twitter performance during the conference (retweet rates, number of mentions etc.) are welcome to contact me on twitter (@TraceAdjoa) or e-mail (

#wiredwomen reach

Most retweeted tweets and tweeps

Most mentioned tweeps during the 2012 #wiredwomen conference


Tags: , , ,

TedxRhodesU: The Tea Stop that Taught Me to listen

This is the video of my TedxRhodesU talk – I was incredibly nervous, as the opportunity to share my passion and stories that would makes others #seeafricadifferently was incredibly important to me, I wanted to make sure I took full advantage of it. I wasn’t quite as eloquent as my written speech was but I think I got my point across. Would love to hear your thoughts!