I recently sat down for a fascinating conversation with the amazing Nina Oduro of African Development Jobs over a peanut butter milkshake (she had a caramel one) at Shake Shack. Like my recent conversation with the indefatigable Winslow Robertson, I was surprised to note that Nina and I share some similar ties – she also went to school near my hometown, we both hold a strong interest in international education, question the term ‘Afropolitan’, and we have devised eerily similar Fulbright applications.
I suspect that most readers will know of Nina’s website, African Development Jobs (ADJ), which has a significantly more professional appearance than Africa in DC. ADJ is a great one stop resource for individuals looking for employment in the development sector on the continent and it also contains informative interviews and news items on a weekly basis.
Nina’s path to founding ADJ strikes me as a product of her intellectual interest in black identity and her experience as a member of the African diaspora (however, she took pains to note that this status does not confer a ‘monolithic experience’). Although Nina says that she started ADJ as a hobby while living and working in Ghana, her passion and dedication to the site is clear (and serves as a good inspiration for those like me).
Nina grew up in the Central Region of Ghana (Cape Coast) and moved to northern Virginia at the age of 7, several years after her parents immigrated to the US. Representative of her entrepreneurial nature, Nina majored in Political and Social Thought, an interdisciplinary major as a student at the University of Virginia. She went on to receive her MA in African – American Studies with a focus on Diaspora Studies, where she examined Ghana’s efforts to appeal to black Americans as a major tourism destination.
Nina returned to Ghana after receiving her MA to work in the education sector in Accra (she has also worked domestically with the Posse Foundation, which sounds somewhat alarming to me, although she assures me that it’s actually a harmless college access and youth leadership program for high school students). She admits to experiencing in Ghana what everyone always likes to downplay, namely ‘that trying to help people was very hard.’ Although not part of her professional responsibilities, one way that Nina decided to help was by launching a Blogspot site in August 2012 that featured job opportunities in the development field across the continent. One of the main goals of ADJ is to diversify the face of international development, helping to place more Africans and members of the African diaspora in professional positions in development organizations. In March 2013, Nina launched the site under its current domain. Nina was very frank about her time in Ghana, although she credits it as being an ‘amazing experience’, she says that ‘I had to learn a lot of things, it took me time to adjust, it was hard.’
Unlike some of the opinionated drivel I put on Africa in DC, Nina is much more disciplined and focused with ADJ’s content and follows a regular schedule for ADJ postings. Nina notes that in developing the blog, ‘I choose not to do me and what I think and want, but to go more for connecting people and ideas.’ Aside from job listings, ADJ runs interviews on Thursdays, provides links on Saturdays, and at the end of each month, a ‘Hero and Zero’ column highlights one commendable and one deplorable person, organization, or event pertaining to Africa. Nina is assisted on the site by two interns, one of whom is a youth that she worked with in Ghana who is now a student at the New York University campus in Abu Dhabi. She has an ambitious vision for ADJ, stating that she wants it to be more than an online resource and she committed ADJ to holding at least one public event this year.
Nina and I also chatted quite a bit about literature, food, and music. She is currently reading NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names and I hope that I convinced her to read the autobiography of Ghana’s current President (which shouldn’t be hard as she greatly enjoys reading biographies and spoke well of Kwame Nkrumah’s). Nina related an experience at a Trey Songz concert in Ghana which made my recent wait for P-Square sound relatively mild. Banku with tilapia is one of her favorite Ghanaian dishes and she enjoys getting her local west African food fix at Rahama.