Summer in Chad: Ismaël Maazaz reflects on fieldwork


This is an excerpt – read Ismaël’s full account on the University of Edinburgh African Studies blog.

By Ismaël Maazaz, MSc student in African Studies

Thanks to a Global Development Academy (GDA) scholarship, I was lucky enough to conduct fieldwork in N’Djamena, Chad over the month of June 2015. A friend of mine, Mathilde, working for the CILONG, a centre of liaison connecting together NGOs, kindly hosted me and helped me gear myself up for my research. I was rapidly embedded in a crew of Chadian and French residents who made my stay amazingly human.

I was especially impressed by the diversity of N’Djamena’s settlement; the particular location of Chad at the crossroad of Africa explains the motley crowds one observes in the streets. N’Djamena is not only an internationalised city due to the presence of NGOs, multinationals or U.N agencies on the ground. It is also because of various waves of migrations gathering nationals from all Africa’s corners. Having lunch with a Guinean medic narrating his staggering experience of humanitarian work in Central African Republic, jabbering about politics with the Sudanese manager of a café in classical Arabic, which this man masterfully commanded, or discoursing on Chadian military history with a Cameroon-born officer who went through the murky troubles of rebellions: here are a few of the situations one could be brought into, by keeping one’s ears and mind open. The variety of religious faiths, and manners of living them, also strikes the foreigner used to more monolithic expressions of beliefs.

I was warmly welcomed by 17 interviewees who openly shared their views with me on a wide range of topics relating to my research. I rarely felt I should avoid any sensitive aspect, and their replies would often go beyond my questions, sometimes turning interviews into lively debates on the future of Chad. I agreeably found a great deal of my Chadian interlocutors passionate about politics and history.

Obviously, Chad has its stains of dark, especially now. Boko Haram carried out its first deadly attacks in the capital city when I was there and the security context is deteriorating. I could witness increased restrictions being imposed by the military and the police; foreign nationals limited their movement to “imperative professional duties” and various NGOs went a step further, barring their employees from leaving their residence.

Yet, as long as one follows the rules prescribed by common sense and N’Djamena’s residents, things are likely to be fine. Well, there is not much individuals can do anyway. “Be cautious” is not a really meaningful word of advice, my friend Mathilde remarked. One of the sentences I would hear on a frequent basis was: “We’re not gonna stop living because of this”. Indeed, what else can one do, than simply continue his or her life in spite of tragic events?

Chad leaves me with the bittersweet and contradictory taste of a place filled with individually fantastic people embroiled in a turbulent context, which oversteps all of us. If Chad’s future is riddled with uncertainties, I am convinced that more researchers should pay attention to it, since it may be geopolitically decisive for the larger Africa.

Summer in Kenya: Edinburgh students visit iHub

Nairobi city centre

Nairobi city centre

A team of undergraduate and postgraduate students from the University of Edinburgh are visiting Nairobi – Africa’s technology and innovation capital – in July 2015. In collaboration with the Global Development Academy and led by Dr Jamie Cross, four students who won the Smart Data Hack for International Development will visit iHub, home to some of the world’s most cutting edge tech solutions to development problems.

Dr Cross describes the trip on Vice President for International, Professor James Smith’s blog, Africa 2015: 

 ‘The students won the opportunity after building a bespoke search engine to help development professionals filter news on technology trends…This is a great opportunity for (them) to learn from technology professionals amid the spectacular Kenyan backdrop.’

Read more here.

Summer in Ghana: ECA and Modern Space

Conserving W African Modern

Edinburgh College of Art’s Architecture lecturer, Dr Ola Uduku, is currently in Ghana leading a workshop on conserving West Africa’s great modern buildings. Part history, part preservation, this work is uniting African and Western scholarship and practice to reclaim Africa’s recent urban design past. More information is available on partner website DOCOMOMO, and stay tuned for updates!

UK ELECTION #DevelopmentDebate: GDA Brings Together Top Party Representatives 

On 29 April, the GDA hosted its first-ever UK Election debate on global development issues. Representatives from Scotland’s top five parties spoke in front of an audience of over 100 staff, students, and members of the development community in Scotland about their party’s stance on international development. Surprising levels of agreement were achieved between (L-R): Iain McGill, Conservative candidate for Edinburgh North and Leith; Claire Baker MSP (Labour) Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs; Michael Moore (Liberal Democrats); Humza Yousaf MSP, Minister for Europe and International Development (SNP); and Patrick Harvey MSP, Co-Convenor of the Scottish Green Party (outside photo frame). 

All parties applauded the UK achieving the 0.7% target for Gross National Income percentage dedicated to aid – an effort led by Moore through a Private Members Bill. Gender equality and empowerment for women and girls were also high on all speakers’ priority lists for international development. More of the keen audience questions can be explored through the twitter feed, #DevelopmentDebate. The packed debate marked an inaugural collaboration between the GDA and co-sponsors, ONE, the anti-poverty campaign, and NIDOS (Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland), with future plans to address the sustainable development goals for the post-2015 agenda in the works.

Read more coverage here and here.

Photo credit: Chris Mitchell/ONE

EUID Guest Post: Our Year in Review

1514215_637765942953904_1340803496_nA letter from Edinburgh’s International Development Society incoming and out-going Presidents:

EUID’s 2014/15 year began with an entirely new committee, which made up for its lack of prior experience with plenty of enthusiasm. Our main objectives were to make EUID’s activities more accessible to undergraduates and to enhance its social media presence, both of which were achieved quickly as our first event in David Hume tower was a full house. Afterwards, we looked to structure our schedule to cohere to the Millennium Development Goals, which were due to expire. Particular highlights included a panel discussion on the different ways local gender dynamics affect work in the field. This included the GDA’s very own Zoe Marks as well as representatives from Mercy Corps and International Service.

The highlight of our year was International Development Week, in which we toiled to organise 12 events within one week. This included events with Edinburgh’s finest professors, World Development Movement, International Alert, the OECD, the German Government and, perhaps most importantly, soup purveyors, Union of Genius. As this year slowly tailed off with exams and essays occupying the committee members’ brain cells, we were able to relax slightly and interact with less obvious organisations such as the Swahili Club. Now that the term is finally done, we can thank all of the individuals and organisations (far too many to name here) that have engaged, helped and funded us, and attended our events. We also thank our outgoing committee members – Ines, Tina, and Marie – who worked tirelessly and cheerfully to make EUID as innovative, accessible, and fun as possible.

Looking ahead to 2015/16, we want to keep growing. 2014/15 has seen event attendance and on-campus visibility rise significantly. We want to keep going from here. We have expanded our committee from 5 to 8 members, hoping to express each member’s talent, enthusiasm and interest in development by implementing a wider range of development-related events. New event ideas and new partnerships will hopefully push the development discussion into new areas of student life. In this vein, we are planning events with Friends of MSF, Engineers Without Borders, the Scottish Government and local MSPs.

We plan to continue engaging with development by using a local and global perspective, casting an accessible, yet critical light over current issues. We are hoping to work more closely with the GDA and NIDOS (and its associate NGOs) to relay academic and practical expertise to students of all and any academic background, showing how active Edinburgh and Scotland are in development. Following our successful workshop-style events last year, we plan to emphasize how active students can be at and through Edinburgh University. By introducing them to the wonderful volunteering societies and NGOs we have been exposed to and contacted by, as well as by organising careers talks, we will offer a platform by which students can be active in international development.

We are very proud to stay on board with EUID, a project we want to see grow even more this coming year!

Alastair (Vice-President) & Chris (President)

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EVENT: 13 May 2015, Reflections on the Nepal Earthquake

Place: 50 George Square, Screening Room G0.4, Edinburgh, EH8 9JY

Time: 17:00 – 19:00

Date: Wednesday, 13 May 2015.

Chaired by Dr Jeevan Sharma and Professor Ian Harper

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit central Nepal on 25 April 2015 at 11.56 local time and was followed by a series of aftershocks. Details of this devastating event are still emerging with more than 8,000 already declared dead with more than 20,000 injured and 8 million people estimated to be affected. Just this morning, Tuesday 12 May, another series of major aftershocks wracked the country. A major humanitarian response is underway, involving local people, the Nepali State, and bilateral, multilateral and international humanitarian relief organisations.

Please join us for a series of brief presentations and discussion on the Nepal Earthquake and its impact,  as we express solidarity with the affected population, and those working in Nepal in response to the crisis.

With the outpouring of support for Nepal, we will provide some seismological context, and historical, political and social background to the humanitarian response, and issues emergent since the 25th April.

“Visualising Sustainable Development” Competition


Congratulations to Jaye Renold for recently winning a “Visualising Sustainable Development” competition organised by the University of Edinburgh’s Sustainable Business Initiative. Jaye’s illustration was inspired by a visit to Cairo’s waste collectors, the Zabbaleen, in 2013.

What does a sustainable world look like? During the University of Edinburgh’s Innovative Learning week students were asked to share their perspective on sustainability through artistic expression – whether painting, photography, illustration, or sculpture – in order to show how they understand and interpret sustainability.

Cairo[1] JPEG small

See Jaye Renold’s winning illustration enlarged !

The competition was open to all, staff, students as well as the public. Entries were judged by Dr Kenneth Amaeshi (Director of Sustainable Business Initiative), John Brennan (Head of Edinburgh School of Architecture), and Ben Twist (Director of Creative Carbon Scotland).

Jaye is a fourth year Social Anthropology student who has recently completed a dissertation on street recyclers in Chile. She developed her interest in waste and recycling through setting up The Swap and Reuse Hub, a cooperative located near the University of Edinburgh’s central campus.

University of Edinburgh anthropology lecturer Jamie Furniss, who has conducted fieldwork in Cairo on the Zabbaleen, can be seen giving a talk about them here.

‘Let there be light…..’

gda student blogs

Experiences of a Work-based Research Placement in Bangalore, India: An MSc Dissertation Project on Solar Energy in Urban Slums

By Rebecca Forster
MSc Environment and Development

The large southern city of Bangalore has become a globally recognised symbol for Indian economic resurgence, and as the national centre for technological commerce it has been coined ‘the Silicon-Valley of India’. A sprawling metropolis of cosmopolitan districts, high-end shops standing back-to-back with plush restaurants and cool bars, it’s like no other place I’ve been in India. Yet the city is fraught with dichotomies. The reason I’m here lies at the antithesis of the luxurious hubbub I had the pleasure of exploring during my first week.
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Discussing international development with the Scottish Parliament


By Dr Neil Thin

On 1st May 2014, Neil Thin represented the University of Edinburgh and the Global Development Academy at the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee in a meeting to discuss the Scottish Government’s proposals for an independent Scotland’s international development policy and aid programme. Discussions were structured around evidence submitted in response to four explicit principles articulated in the policy proposals, namely:

  • More and better aid: the policy would be guided by a binding, statutory commitment to meet the aid expenditure target of 0.7 per cent of GDP, hoping to rise to 1% of GDP, which would likely be £1-1.3 billion per year.
  • Debt relief: The policy would seek to avoid creation of any new “unjust” debts, and would establish procedures for debt arbitration
  • Gender equality: Gender equality would be ‘at the heart’ of the policy both as a goal and as a procedural principle
  • Do No Harm and policy coherence would be guiding values of all foreign policy, including development cooperation.

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Planning for the future: GDA Away Day 2014


By Dr Barbara Bompani, Co-Deputy Director (Global Development Academy)

Earlier this month, the Global Development Academy (GDA) staff, steering committee and associates gathered together for an Away Day to reflect on past achievements and discuss future plans and targets in a friendly and sociable environment. The GDA Away Day was held in Summerhall by the Meadows, and while it was not really ‘away’ from Edinburgh, it was far enough from campus to inspire us.

The day was organised in association with the Global Justice Academy (GJA) and there was a mix of joint activities, as well as work dedicated purely to the goals of the GDA. It was great to share the day with our GJA colleagues and getting the chance to know them better and develop shared projects for the future. Most of the work of the GDA is framed by ideas of justice and development work is strongly connected to the work of our sister academy.
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The “development” curriculum: nine critical questions



By Dr Neil Thin

Are our ‘development’ curricula thematically diverse enough to lead students towards a balanced, diverse and open-minded appreciation of development processes?

This question may sound too obvious, but it is important because: a) we have been rapidly expanding the number and variety of courses and students taught under a ‘development’ rubric, and b) the expectations of what ‘development studies’ means have greatly changed and expanded in recent years. We have changed and diversified, but is this enough or do we exhibit problematic gaps or biases?
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Debates on Resource Extraction and Fair Trade in Africa: Conceptualising the “Global” Dimensions

By centreofafricanstudies

Sam Spiegel

On February 26 and 27, two events were held in Edinburgh to discuss resource extraction and fair trade in Africa. Having had the chance to reflect on them both, both excellent stimulating events, I wanted to share some preliminary thoughts — and to also draw your attention to an upcoming event – the CAS Annual Conference – this year on ‘Mining and Political Transformations in Africa’ (coming up soon – April 24-25, 2014)!

The first event in February was a panel discussion event at the University of Edinburgh, with a group of panellists including …read more

Read more here: Debates on Resource Extraction and Fair Trade in Africa: Conceptualising the “Global” Dimensions

The ICT Classroom Project

20 x 20 ft Render1

ESALA Projects Team: 20 x 20ft rendering

By Shaun McLeod
4th Year Architecture Student, University of Edinburgh

The Project

The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Classroom Project began as a collaboration between ESALA – a pro bono architecture design team at the University of Edinburgh, Learning Planet – an educational NGO providing design and infrastructure assistance to remote or disadvantaged communities, and Aleutia – an innovative low-power computing manufacturer specialising in the developing world. The design team’s task was to help plan and design a successful, self-powered, instant ICT classroom prototype, based on 40-foot or 20-foot shipping containers. The classrooms had to function as affordable, rapid to deploy, flexible and inspiring learning environments for ICT education and other developmental needs. It is aimed at both urban and rural areas where access to such education and infrastructure is poor or non-existent.

The initial project is aimed at late primary and early secondary school children (10-16 years of age). The current deliverable of this project is a prototypical scheme that will be constructed in the grounds of Ghana’s House of Parliament as a showcase for decision makers on innovative, rapid deployment, ICT training facilities for Ghana’s schools.

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What do we do ‘After Development’?

gda blog

We are pleased to launch the new blog for the Global Development Academy (GDA) at the University of Edinburgh! 

What do we do ‘after development’? What does it mean to address global challenges of unequal access to health and energy, food, clean water and sanitation today in the wake of 20th century development policies, plans and programmes? What happens when planned programmes of targeted social and economic change end, and how can we examine the diverse impacts of ‘development’ without romanticising local communities and cultural traditions? What happens when private sector actors – from large-scale multinational corporations to start-up social enterprises – become agents of development alongside governments and NGOs? What comes after ‘development’ as a cultural and political project? What does it mean to address global challenges of poverty after the idea of ‘development’ has been challenged and contested as a tool of power and control? How can we address global challenges of poverty, health, energy without being prescriptive? And, how can we celebrate the transformative potential of science and technology – from antibiotics and anti-retrovirals to mobile telephones and solar photovoltaic lanterns – whilst asking critical questions about the ways in which global public health is delivered or about how markets are made to work?

This blog – launched and hosted by the University of Edinburgh’s Global
Development Academy – is committed to practical actions, engaged research and informed critiques that address these questions in moments of crisis and the everyday.

Stay tuned for interesting and thought-provoking posts from academics, students and practitioners working to make practical and intellectual contributions to international development in the 21st century.