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Name: Tessa Pijnaker

PhD: African Studies

Thesis Title: Styling success: ICT, design and public performance among technology entrepreneurs in Accra, Ghana.

Thesis Description:

This project investigates how technology entrepreneurs style themselves and their creative output (especially mobile applications) to engage successfully in Accra’s startup industry. Accra has a dynamic informal sector and is one of Africa’s fastest growing ICT centres. Young startup owners and employees operate in a competitive field, ranging from entrepreneurs and transnational NGOs and corporations to (inter)national government agencies, where success is not available for everyone. This research approaches questions about the use of ICT for development (ICT4D), a topic dominated by the social sciences, from a rare humanities perspective. First, it focuses on two genres of public performance: hackathons and app challenges. It investigates how tech entrepreneurs establish their own value and that of their apps according to standards set by the staff of NGOs and corporations at these competitions. Second, it explores historical Ghanaian ideas about success through redistribution, nuancing global neoliberal narratives about entrepreneurship. Third, it investigates how app design and processes of self styling are a means to acquire social mobility.


Supervisors and Institution(s): Dr. Maxim Bolt and Dr. Kate Skinner, University of Birmingham


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

Pijnaker, T., & Spronk, R. (2017). Africa’s Legends: digital technologies, aesthetics and middle-class aspirations in Ghanaian games and comics. Critical African Studies(3), 327-349.

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

Humanity in Action Fellow

Member of the Board of the Senior Fellow Network The Netherlands


Other Research Interests:

African heritage, Game Studies, Postcolonial Studies


University email address:



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