In the year that marks 400 years since the first enslaved Africans were forcibly taken abroad, Ghana – one of their key departure hubs on the continent – is calling their descendants home to visit, live, and invest, and many Slaylebrities most notably Jidenna are encouraging black Americans to consider going back to their roots.
Ghana’s decision to scrap entry visas for Jamaicans is also fantastic. In June, the island joined a growing group of Caribbean states with this advantage, including Barbados, Dominica, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.
What these countries have in common is that they are home to people of African descent. This gave Ghana the emotional hook for its “Year of Return” campaign. The government in Accra is making a considerable effort to convince people within the African diaspora to visit, invest, or even settle permanently in Ghana.
The ‘Year of Return, Ghana 2019’ marks 400 years since the first African slaves were forcibly taken to the United States. Ghana – known then as Gold Coast – was a major hub in the transatlantic slave trade. It saw an estimated 77 million African people shipped off to the Caribbean and the Americas.
As part of the year-long campaign, 200 African-American and African-Caribbean people who live in Ghana will be granted citizenship.
Ghana saw a steady inflow of visiting international stars with Ghanaian heritage in December 2018. Hollywood actors Boris Kodjoe, Michael Jai White, Djimon Hounsou, Anthony Anderson, Jidenna and German national team and Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng were among them. US President Barack Obama visited the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana in 2009 with his family
A Pan-African Festival of arts and culture takes place countrywide in July 2019 as part of the ‘Year of Return’ campaign. It explores the journey the slave ancestors took from Ghana to the plantations abroad and culminates in a ceremony of ‘healing and atonement’ on 1 August 2019, the day descendants of slaves commemorate as Emancipation Day.
Ghana Tourism Authority CEO Akwasi Agyemang says the campaign is expected to attract 500,000 visitors. “Ghana remains home to the global African family. For centuries, Africans walked through the infamous ‘Door of No Return’ at the Cape Coast Castle directly into slave ships to the US, Latin America and the Caribbean.”
In an interview with DW, Agyemang noted that anyone with African roots has the right to stay in Ghana indefinitely under a law passed in 2000.
Ghana also sees the economic advantages of promoting the country within the diaspora.”We are positioning Ghana as a gateway to the West African market,” Agyemang says. Big corporations from the Caribbean are increasingly setting up their West African offices in Ghana, he says.
The process of acquiring a residence permit can be cumbersome however,
Those who want to return need to prepare. “It is very frustrating to get used to a certain system and certain structures being in place and to move to Ghana and not have the same thing in place for you to function. In the end those who take the plunge are more often pleasantly surprised than the latter.
The organizers of the ‘Year of Return, Ghana 2019’ didn’t have to search hard for the ideal campaign song. The track by muscian Osibisa is on the playlist of every Ghanaian who has ever ventured away from home. “Come on back when you are ready to know. You are always welcome home. Welcome home.