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A brief catch up


Hello peeps,

My latest article was commisioned by Al Jazeera. It is about the boom in mobile phone usage in Africa and the innovative solutions the technology is spurring in the continent (makes a change from the doom and gloom that we usually we get from Africa).

Also, on the Guardian, you can read an article I wrote about Dr Hawa Abdi, Somalia’s answer to Mother Theresa (back to the doom and gloom). This lady is doing amazing things in the war torn country. U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called Dr Abdi “perfect example of the kind of woman who inspires me” and Glamour Magazine named her as the Woman of the Year for their award in 2010.



The good, the bad, and the ugly


I have completed a number of work placements with the national media over the summer, and here is what I have learned so far.  I have compiled a brief list of Do’s and Don’ts for those who might be interested.

Do speak up

Editors tend to be the friendliest people in the newsroom, most of them are happy to talk to interns; they’ll invite you to editorial meetings and might even seek your opinion, so don’t be afraid of speaking up.

During my week long placement at the Times, I participated in three daily editorial meetings. One such meeting involved Deputy Editor of the newspaper and three other senior editors, so it was quite small meetings. The trial of the former Tunisian leader Ben Ali had just started and they were discussing the editorial for the next day’s paper. I observed and listen as they discussed possible angles, the Deputy Editor then asked me for my opinion. I suggested an angle, he liked it and elaborated on what I suggested, and that is what they went with.

Do avoid the Foreign Desk

I have an interest in international news; domestic news is not my forte, so when I was at the Times, I ask to join the Foreign Desk.  Big mistake.  80 to 90 % of foreign news is sourced from the wires, the remainder is from the reporters stationed overseas, so you’ll probably end up doing very little when there.  This is true for most papers.

Do avoid the Sunday papers

Because they are published weekly, if you end up doing a placement with a Sunday paper, there is a strong chance that you will find yourself with little do most of the time.  When I was at the Observer, I was often twiddling my thumbs, but the opportunity allowed me to network with section editors from the Guardian.  I had an article commissioned by the Guardian with an opportunity to write for them again the future, so it the placement had its benefits.

Do be prepared to be ignored

Some media organization have formal short term work experience schemes, which means there will be a steady flow work experience students going in and out, so some journalist will ignore your presence. Which is annoying and rude, but try not to take it personally because some are legitimately busy others are just insecure twats.

Don’t be intimidated

As I have already said, most editors tend to friendly and approachable, but recently I have had the opportunity to meet one who is less so.  This editor works for a well known Broadcasting corporation. While I was there I found myself doing little when the other journalist appeared to be swamped with tasks, so I approached him and suggested I could be of use if given more work. He took it as me criticising the work placement which didn’t go down well. So while taking the initiative is always a good thing, do be careful, some people might not respond in the way you’d hoped. Having said, you have nothing to lose by speaking up, so never be intimidated.

Somalia Crisis


Hello dear friends!

I haven’t updated this blog in a while, but that does not mean I have been idle! A quick recap of what I have been up to.

Earlier this week, I was invited to talk about the famine in Somalia on the BBC Word Service. You can listen to the clip here: 

I have also written an article about the stigma surrounding mental health illness in the Somali community in the Diaspora. The piece has been published by the United Nations news service IRIN. You can read it here.

I am currently working on a series of articles looking at China’s engagement with Africa.  The articles features an interview with former US ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shinn, who offers a unique perspective on China’s interest in the Horn of Africa, so stay tuned!


Challenges to the dragon: the cost of doing business in Africa


Chinahas penetrated almost every corner of Africa; where others see trouble,Beijing, it seems, sees opportunity. A case in point is their involvement in Somalia–a country that annually tops the Failed States Index and is considered to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Somalia has been mired in conflict for over two decades and currently has no effective government, yet the telecommunications sector in the country is thriving, largely due to Chinese powered equipment. According to a Wikileaks cables that was released last year, Chinese companies are “one of the few that are willing to send technicians intoSomaliato set up and maintain the equipment” in the country.

Chinese companies may have marched into volatile regions on the assumption their country’s policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries, was enough to protect them, but that has not been the case.

In recent years, Chinese nationals have been subject to the same attacks and threats as Western personnel in African conflict zones. 

In 2007 the Ogaden National Liberation Front attacked a Chinese petroleum and gas exploration base in southeastern Ethiopia, killing nine Chinese workers. 

On several occasions the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Sudan attacked Chinese petroleum facilities and personnel in Southern Kordofan; the leader of JEM accused China of “trading oil with our blood.” 

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Nile Delta in Nigeria has  kidnapped more than a dozen Chinese nationals on the grounds that the oil-producing regions do not receive a fair share of the revenues.

According to former US ambassador toEthiopia, David Shinn, “The Chinese may have thought that they would be treated differently because they are Chinese but rebel groups don’t make any distinction.  If China is seen to be supporting the government when rebel forces are trying to topple that government, Chinese nationals will be treated like any other national group. These rebel organizations probably perceivedChina’s presence as support for the governments they were opposing.”

Acts of violence against the Chinese are not just limited to conflict zones. Even in relatively stable countries in Africa , locals are becoming discontent with Chinese nationals setting up small business and undercutting them.

“They should stick to direct investment, building roads, bridges and other big things we cannot do for ourselves. Why come all the way from China to sell plates?” asks Stella Sinkala, a vendor selling household items in Karikaoo, Dar Salaam’s biggest market where a number of new Chinese owned shops had popped up prompting the government to ban small Chinese small business from trading in the market earlier this year.

Discontent with the Chinese is compounded by reports of mistreatment of workers by Chinese employers. Last year Mozambique revoked the visas of three Chinese men accused of beating construction workers with a hammer and scalding them with boiling oil. At the same time 12 Chinese mine managers in Zambia were accused of shooting local workers.

Opposition leaders in Zambia now campaign on the anti-Chinese agenda.  The 2006 presidential candidate Michael Sata often referred to the Chinese as profiteers, not investors and threatened to “drive them out” if he won.

In many African nations, the anti-Chinese sentiment is fuelled by perception that Chinese companies often bring in workers  from China and pay their wages into accounts in China, thereby not creating employment or contributing to the economy of the country they operate in.

Deborah Brautigam, a professor of International Development at the American University Washington DC, says this perception is not entirely accurate.  “InAngolaandAlgeria, where Chinese companies are a relatively new presence, oil-fuelled construction booms have created shortages of skilled workers. Chinese companies here typically bring in at least half of their labour from home. But in Tanzania,Egypt and Zambia, where Chinese companies have been working for several decades, they tend to hire 80-90 percent of their workforce locally.”

However, Brautigam does agree that Chinese companies are “used to lax standards at home, frequently give few benefits, pay low wages, and have inadequate safety standards.”

On the whole, the majority of Africans still welcomeChina’s interest in the continent, but to avoid being portrayed as exploitative, Chinese companies need to clean up their business practices, pay fair wages in the local context and introduce health and safety standards across their business operations.

“Duckface” pictures on Facebook draw a backlash


The trend of facebook users using mobile phone cameras and taking pouting pictures in their bathrooms is hardly new.  So it comes as no surprise that it has finally attracted a backlash and a new term to describe the expression, duck face. 

The term refers to people who suck in their cheeks in an effort to produce a sultry pout—the end result is more Derek Zoolander than Kate Moss. An anti duck face group on facebook has 17,320 members.  Messages on the group’s wall include: “YES! I’m anti duck face. AND Anti “looking up at the camera looking surprised when you know you took the damn pic yourself”

Another read: “Do people really think duck face makes you look sexy? If you ask me I think it only makes you look like a retard”

An anti duck face website has also been created. The mission statement reads; “because no really, you look stupid.”

Others disagree. “It’s just a harmless fun. I don’t see what the big deal is,” says Shamima Begum, “some people can pull it off, and others can’t.”

What’s your opinion on the duck face debate?

7 signs that you are a chronic Twitter user


1. You tweet your other half

2. You know exactly how many followers you have and you notice when you lose even one

3. You take your phone to bed and tweet before falling asleep & check you twitter feed the first thing in the morning

4. You use # outside of twitter

5. The words “trends” and “trending” no longer have any fashion connotations for you

6. You meet or plan to meet up with people you have met on Twitter

7) Increasingly your rely on Twitter to give you information on breaking news

Feel free to tweet me more suggestions or add them on the comment field. Thanks!

David Cameron under pressure to re-think MoD cuts


David Cameron’s former military adviser urges the government to review defence cuts in light of the Middle East crisis.

The coalition government has come under pressure to consider how cuts will affect the Ministry of Defence (MoD) given the fact that Britain has taken a leading role enforcing the no fly zone in Libya.

Lord Dannatt, a former Chief of the General Staff, told Sky News it was time to look again at the £4.7billion cuts in the Ministry of Defence’s budget: “In any changing dynamic set of circumstances, it is right for the government of the day to review its past decisions.”

“Quite clearly the situation in North Africa and the Middle East does constitute changed circumstances. At the very least, I think the National Security Council, Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office ought to make sure that the decisions taken last autumn still stand up and are credible in the light of where we are this spring.”

Autumn’s Strategic Defence Review announced that the MoD will reduce its expenditure by eight percent over the next four years to help reduce the £38bn black hole in the Ministry of Defence’s budget.

Two RAF Tornado squadrons, which carried out missile strikes against the Libyan leader’s air defences, will be disbanded in June and RAF Marham in Norfolk, the air base used to launch the bombing raids, also faces closure.

The frigate HMS Cumberland was on its way to the scrapheap before being called to help the coalition effort in Libya.

Chancellor George Osborne repeated in an interview on Sunday that he would not reopen the defence review.

The MoD has declined to release official estimates of how much the air offensive is costing the taxpayer. But experts say the use of expensive cruise missiles and long-range jet fighter missions means the MoD is running up a steep bill.

In a statement on Monday the Treasury announced that the costs of the Libya campaign could potentially be claimed back from the UK government’s special reserves.