I graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2006. It had been a great year. I read, on average, close to 4000 pages a week. I wrote papers and debated with professors and fellow students. I also enjoyed a healthy social life, living in Jarratt Hall of Selly Oak Village.
My first degree was a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Iceland. That is where I first got interested in African politics, mainly because it was never mentioned – it was like politics didn’t exist in that continent. So I decided to write my dissertation on the role of globalisation in the spread of western democratic ideas to Sub-Saharan Africa.
Having finished that I expected the main media outlets in Iceland to fight for my precious talents. But no – it seems I wasn’t quite as much in demand as I thought I was. So for a year I considered my next step and that lead me to the University of Birmingham and the Department of African Studies and Anthropology, where I went for an M.A. in African Studies.
There I decided to look further into the development of democracy in the Sub-Saharan Continent. Eventually I settled on the role that civil society plays in democratisation, comparing Nigeria, the DRC (then Zaire) and South Africa. In short, I found that prevalent theories didn’t afford civil society enough of a role in the democratization process.
Having finished my M.A. I returned to Iceland and was soon hired by a media company. I spent the best part of the following year covering foreign news on their website as well as on national TV and radio, consistently trying to report on African issues. The following year I applied for a paid internship with the Foreign Service and got in – on the back of my education.
Nine years on and I am still with the Foreign Service (in a permanent position now). It has taken me from Reykjavík to Rome, London, Maputo and now Paris. I have worked with the F.A.O., the WFP, IFAD, and the World Bank on matters of international development cooperation. I have also been able to work on political issues and those relating to security – among other things the recent developments in the Middle East.
And the starting point for all of this was when I arrived at the office of the Department of African Studies and Anthropology, announcing I was there to study (which was fortunate since the Department wasn’t aware of my acceptance of their offer of a place and was planning on cancelling the course altogether due to lack of students – in the end there were only four of us).
So if you are planning to study at DASA, you have my full support.