Ufahamu Africa: A great new podcast you need in your life

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Two of our favourite academics in the whole world run a podcast that you need in your life. They have also used the podcast to recommend some of the best books on Africa, and other important links. We wanted to make sure that you didn’t miss out, so we asked Kim Yi Dionne to introduce the podcast and get DiA readers up to speed.

A couple of years ago I started Ufahamu Africa, a weekly podcast on life and politics on the African continent. Ufahamu in Kiswahili translates in English to understanding or consciousness. The podcast features content and covers events with the aim of broadening our audience’s understanding of the continent. Our weekly episodes begin with an overview of what we’re reading and learning from the continent, followed by an in-depth interview with a thinker, maker, or innovator. All Ufahamu Africa episodes are Creative Commons-licensed.

We recently launched Season 3 of Ufahamu Africa, now co-hosted with Rachel Beatty Riedl (@BeattyRiedl) and supported by the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University (@NU_PAS).

We release episodes every Saturday (find us on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud), and sometime in the following week we post links to material from the episode. We’ve been a little behind in sharing links the last few weeks, but to give Democracy in Africa readers an idea of what we feature on the show, here is a round-up of everything mentioned in our last three episodes, starting with our most recent:

In Episode 47, we chatted with George Bob-Milliar and Lauren MacLean about recent protests at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana. Together with Prince Nii Afotey, George and Lauren wrote in Africa is a Country (@africasacountry) about the student grievances that led to the protests and also the broader political context that shaped how the protests unfolded and how government responded. In addition to giving background to the protests, the piece shows how the KNUST protests shed light on how polarized and partisan politics are in Ghana, and the continued importance of chieftaincy in mediating disputes in the present day. At the end of the episode, George and Lauren each made one book recommendation:

Book recommendations: Democracy in Africa and Africa Rising

Here are links to a couple of the pieces we mentioned in the news wrap segment of Episode 47:

  • On Nigeria’s upcoming (February 2019) elections, read this by Carl Levan (@Dev4Security), which suggests that Buhari’s record on insecurity is not necessarily critical to winning the election. See also data and analysis from Afrobarometer (@afrobarometer) showing that unemployment and “management of the economy,” ranked first and second (53 percent and 35 percent, respectively) among Nigerian citizens’ priorities. Insecurity was not mentioned.
  • Yesterday (December 12) was Universal Health Coverage Day, and folks who want to know more about UHC should read a piece in The Monkey Cage/Washington Post by Joseph Harris (@JosephHarrisBU) of Boston University, who wrote about how poor countries managed to commit to universal health care. His piece draws on his book, Achieving Access: Professional Movements and the Politics of Health Universalism.  In the piece (and the book), he compares the political dynamics that led to important and wide-ranging health-care reforms in Thailand and Brazil but delays and disappointment in South Africa.

In Episode 46, Rachel spoke with Evan Mwangi (@evanmwangi) about language, literature, and translation. Check out his latest book, Translation in African Contexts: Postcolonial Texts, Queer Sexuality, and Cosmopolitan Fluency and his earlier book, Africa Writes Back to Self: Metafiction, Gender, Sexuality. He recommended Chris Abani’s novel, The Secret History of Las Vegas.

Here are links to pieces we mentioned in the news wrap segment of Episode 46:

  • Read this to get up-to-date on the Ebola outbreak in the DRC.
  • Madagascar announced that no candidate secured a majority of the votes in its presidential election. There will be a runoff election on December 19.
  • Ethiopia chose a former exiled dissident, Birtukan Mideksa, to head its election board. This appointment comes on the heels of a series of other reforms, reconsidering the fundamental ethnic federalism, rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, a new set of cabinet appointees last month, half of which are women, and an internal housecleaning within the government of military-business linked officials, former spy chiefs, and northern and eastern elites.
  • South Africa’s women’s soccer team qualified for the World Cup in France next year. (Banyana Banyana eventually lost to Nigeria in the final of the Africa Women Cup of Nations.)
  • The British Museum has finally agreed to return the Benin bronzes to Nigeria. The return will happen more than a century after British soldiers stole the bronzes.

One of our most popular episodes ever has been Episode 45, in which Rachel spoke with Abdulbasit Kassim (@ScholarAkassi1). They talked about Kassim’s new book (co-edited with Michael Nwankpa), The Boko Haram Reader. We mentioned during the episode that he did a TED talk earlier this year, and we encourage our followers to watch it. At the end of our chat, he recommended Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History.

Here are the links to pieces we mentioned in the news wrap segment of Episode 45:

And here are a few bonus links:

Tune in this Saturday when our next episode goes live; we chat with Michael Woldemariam (@MikeWoldemariam) about the unprecedented political developments in Ethiopia and Eritrea and his book, Insurgent Fragmentation in the Horn of Africa: Rebellion and its Discontents.


Kim Yi Dionne is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California Riverside. She is also an editor of The Monkey Cage, a blog on politics and political science at The Washington Post, and a co-host (with Rachel Beatty Riedl), of Ufahamu Africa, a podcast about life and politics on the African continent.

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