Studying Africa: A Guide to Sources

Studying Africa_A Guide to the SourcesIn todays newsletter, The Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) has pointed towards its revised and updated version of Studying Africa: A Guide to the Sources, which is now in its 3rd edition and available for download as a pdf at their publications database.

Studying Africa is, according to the corresponding article on NAI’s website:

“A guide to African studies, primarily within the area of social sciences. Provides practical guidance on handbooks, databases, statistics and other support for literature and fact searches.”

As a matter of fact, the publication is definitely a quite comprehensive collection of possible initial starting points when being on the lookout for quality information on the continent. It points towards:

  • Bibliographies, article indexes and journal collections
  • databases and library catalogues
  • digital archives, web portals and link collections
  • facts and country sources
  • news services
  • periodicals
  • statistics, and
  • official publications (information taken from the table of contents).

Convenient international mobile phone calls and pre-paid topping up: Rebtel and Sendly


Doing ethnographic media research on mobile phones in an urban sub-Saharan African context, I am usually on the lookout for opportunities on how to easiest and most conveniently stay in touch with people when I am not in Africa physically myself. I have now recently stumbled across such an app – it is called Rebtel and provided by a Swedish company. 

Since access to mobile phones is on the rise in many African countries since about a decade or so, the availability of mobile internet has also increased drastically, so it is more or less possible to reach people via Skype, Facebook (Messenger), WhatsApp, or the like, at a very low or no fare at all. However, internet connections are not always reliable, even in urban settings (let alone suburban locations), data plans can be unaffordable for people (so, you cannot be in touch with them via the apps as mentioned above), or, simply put, widespread feature phones or low end smart phones do technologically not support many of these apps.

A great VoIP-app called Rebtel (available for iOS and Android platforms) allows you to make extremely cheap international calls. While calling rates vary (at times considerably) from country to country and depending on whether you call a landline or mobile phone (SMS are also possible, of course) you can call, for instance, to a Kenyan mobile phone for as little as 0.062 €/min or to a Ugandan cellular for 0.229 €/min (you can check up rates for different countries here). Rebtel-to-Rebtel calls and SMS are free of charge. However, since the app uses either the mobile internet or local minutes to connect your call, you will be charged for these at your usual rate, additionally to the Rebtel international calling fare. The latter, again, and that is a huge advantage, allows you to make use of the service even when you do not have a mobile data connection available.

A nice feature is that the app actually shows you how much you will have to pay per minute or SMS for each assigned contact/number, before you call. It can import numbers from you phone registry. Another great general feature is that you do not need to have the app, a smart phone or even a mobile phone. You can even use your landline or a very simple mobile phone to make calls. What Rebtel does here is to, more or less, permanently assign a specific Rebtel-phone number to the international number of your conversational partner. In order to benefit from Rebtel’s calling rates you will, then, use this Rebtel number to call the person you would like to speak to – more information on how this works here.



To complement the story, while talking about sub-Saharan African mobile phone markets that are often overly pre-paid dominated: there is another app, done by the same company, called Sendly. Sendly basically allows you to top up any international pre-paid number with a certain amount of money (airtime). Sending airtime from one phone (person) to another is common practice in many places, where mobile phone usage is pre-paid dominated. However, when not being in the same country as the airtime-recipient, it is usually not very easy to help out a friend or family member. Sendly fills that gap.

The Rebtel app comes with a little feature that works in a similar manner: When writing a SMS to an international mobile phone number that potentially has no credit/airtime (and is not a Rebtel user, otherwise, they could write back for free Rebtel-to-Rebtel, anyway) one has the option to sort of invite the conversational partner to respond to the SMS by paying the SMS-fee in advance when sending ones own SMS.

MS OneNote für OSX ist veröffentlicht – kostenfrei, aber auch abgespeckt

OneNote_Mac_freeMicrosoft hat heute sein Alleskönner-Notizbuch OneNote für den Mac veröffentlicht. Um anderen Produkten wie z.B. Evernote Konkurrenz zu machen, ist das Programm kostenfrei. Und das seit heute über alle Plattformen hinweg.

Ich persönlich nutze OneNote in meinen Afrika-Forschungsfeldaufenthalten sehr gerne als digitales Notizbuch, um Abends, nach der Feldrückkehr, meine Gedanken festzuhalten. Sehr praktisch finde ich dabei, dass man Dokumente aller Art wie Fotos, Pdfs oder Weblinks einfügen kann, Sprachnotizen direkt einfügen, Freihandzeichnungen anlegen sowie eine quasi unbegrenzte Arbeitsfläche hat, die sich in alle Himmelsrichtungen fortsetzen lässt. Man arbeitet also eher wie auf einem großflächigen Whiteboard, als auf einem ‘kleinen’ DIN-A4 Blatt (was man allerdings in den Einstellungen festlegen muss).

Nach einer ersten Testnutzung der Mac-Variante fehlen hier (so ich diese nicht wirklich übersehen haben sollte) wohl allerdings leider viele dieser praktischen Funktionen: Ein Freihand-Modus und die Möglichkeit eines direkten Einsprechens von Voice-Memos fehlen gänzlich; Bilder lassen sich nicht über Drag-and-Drop, sondern nur über die “Einfügen –> Bild”-Option hinzufügen. Ich vermute daher, dass es noch weitere Einschränkungen im Nutzungsumfang geben wird, habe allerdings gerade mein PC-Laptop nicht greifbar, ansonsten würde ich mir das nochmals genauer ansehen.

Was bleibt ist die Hoffnung, dass Microsoft diese Funktionalitäten in kommenden Updates noch hinzufügt, denn ansonsten ist OneNote als umfassendes multimediales Forschungs-Feldnotizbuch – zumindest auf dem Mac und obwohl ansonsten plattformübergreifend verfügbar (iOS, Android. usw.) – für meine Begriffe nicht zu gebrauchen. Sollten diese fehlenden Funktionen nicht hinzukommen, müsste man sich sicher in Zukunft für weitere Forschungsprojekte einmal Gedanken über die Vor- und Nachteile möglicher Alternativen wie bspw. (das kostenpflichtige) Evernote machen. Allerdings habe ich so nun zumindest die Möglichkeit, meine im Feld auf einem Windows-Laptop getätigten Notizen ohne den umständlichen Umweg über die Web-App auch auf dem Mac der qualitativen Analyse in MAXQDA (seit Kurzen auch für OSX erhältlich!) zuzuführen.

Mehr Infos zu OneNote auf der OneNote-Website und auf dem Office-Blog.

Meta-Textshortcuts unter OSX

Wenn man täglich viel Text am Computer schreibt, kann es hilfreich sein, wenn man Textbausteine oder Wortkombinationen, die man oft verwendet, nicht immer ganz ausschreiben müsste, sondern quasi über ein Shortcut generieren könnte.

Mehr oder weniger per Zufall habe ich, als ich letzthin durch die Systemeinstellungen meines MacBook Pro schlich (OSX Mavericks 10.9.2), eine solche Möglichkeit entdeckt. Man findet diese über den Pfad Systemeinstellungen –> Tastatur –> Tab “Text” .


Dort kann man nun in der linken Spalte bei “Ersetzen” irgend eine beliebige Zeichenfolge eintragen und sodann in der rechten Spalte bei “Durch” festlegen, was deren korrespondierender Textbaustein sein soll.

Ich muss sagen, dass ich das eine recht praktische Sache finde. Und das Beste daran ist: Dadurch, dass diese Option in den Systemeinstellungen quasi auf einer übergeordneten Ebene festgelegt ist, können die Tastenkürzel in sämtlichen Apps angewendet werden (Textverarbeitung, eMail, usw.); ebenso, wie beispielsweise gerade in diesem Augenblick hier in WordPress im Browser beim Schreiben dieses Textes.

In diesem Sinne:

Beste Grüße     

Beste Grüße!


Africa is NOT a country

no need to be saved

“Africa is not a country” is an imaginative do away with your stereotypes-campaign that is carried out on social media by the African Students Association of New York’s Ithaca College. The idea basically is to have ethnically different people posing being wrapped into different African national flags, each being accompanied with a slogan that addresses a cliché perceived to be quite typical for ‘westerners’.

// For the CNN-coverage of the campaign, see here.
// Find the Facebook page of the African Students Association here (click on photos to see all the other campaign-images).

Ofodile by Chimamanda Adichie

Commonwealth Lecture 2012. "Connecting Cultures" by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Photo credit: Commonwealth Foundation/Colin Patterson 2012

Just before christmas, The Guardian in its series “christmas ghost stories” has released a wonderful short story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, called “Ofodile” – read it here. It is, in short, about an either ever crying or sleeping male child and how his mother deals with him. I would say it is, as usually, an absolutely amazing piece of Adichies writing, however pretty terrifying and also somewhat disturbing. It is also very much open to interpretation, I think. One of the story’s most interesting aspects to me were the weird feelings and the thereby caused scratching of limbs and face that were imposed on anyone entering Ofodiles room – except for his sister in the end. Are these ‘ghosts’ the bad conscience, pouncing on the mother for giving her son sedatives that she declared as vitamins? And: did the father have notice of that?

Kenya & Uganda Arts Diaries 2014

Kenya Arts Diary 2014                    Uganda Arts Diary 2014

On the lookout for a new calendar for 2014? Then this might be just for you: the beautiful Kenyan and Ugandan Arts diaries. While the Kenya arts diary exists since 2011 and is in its 4th edition now, the Ugandan version makes its debut this year. The aim of both projects is, amongst others, to offer an alternative to tourist tailored ‘african cultural products’. Support East African art and contemporary popular culture!

How to get ‘em?

Kenyan arts diary (160 pages, all-colour, more than 60 artists featured, 1.850 KES = about 15 €): “To order for your copy, please email or call [+254] 0770 314554/ 0773 809556. Free delivery within Nairobi” (Source and more information on, The calendar is also on sale on local major book shops, galleries and art centers. Overseas Kenyan art lovers may also contact for details (Source). They do also have a Facebook Page for the 2013 edition – the 2014 edition’s page was not yet on Facebook by the time of the post.

Ugandan arts diary (more than 50 artists featured, about 10 €): “Available in town [Kampala] at Aristoc, Kampala Road; 1000 Cups, Buganda Road; Cafe Kawa, Colville Street; Aristoc, Garden City; and Maridadi, Nakumatt Oasis. In Kamwokya at Afriart, Umoja, Good Glass, and Endiro, Kisementi. In Muyenga at Cafe Kawa. In Bugalobi at 49 Cheese & Wine. In Lubowa at the bookshop and craft shop in Quality Mall” (Source and more information on their Facebook page, or

Never buy into the Single Story. Or: What it means to be ‘authentically African’

This is a must-see and very inspiring as well as insightful TED-talk by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie. Amongst other references, she talks about her experiences of being an ‘African in the West’ and how she got confronted with the socially constructed concept of ‘being African’, though she had never thought of it before. Well, why would she have ever done that?

„I left Nigeria to go to university in the United States. I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. She asked if she could listen to what she called my “tribal music,” and was consequently very disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey [...]. She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove.”


Reference: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009, July 23rd): The danger of a single story. Oxford: TEDglobal 2009.
Recommended readings by Adichie: Americanah (novel) & The Thing Around Your Neck (12 short stories).

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