Ghana’s biggest branding campaign “Year of Return” ended last year with heritage tourism being the core pull factor for the African American population. It will go down as one of the country’s biggest branding and tourism campaign and its effect were felt around the globe.
The country’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who launched the project in America in 2018 has opened the new chapter which seeks to build on the goodwill the country has enjoyed to drive Diaspora investment into the West African country.
He launched the “Beyond the Return “ initiative and the Ghana Tourism Authority is expected to play a key role in the execution of this initiative.
Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) annually embarks on several marketing campaigns in its source markets. While there are new areas they seek to explore, GTA is equally keen to consolidate markets that have naturally been considered key to its marketing strategies.
The Netherlands is one of the countries they often showcase the country’s tourism assets. It’s capital, Amsterdam is connected to Accra daily by KLM and adds up to the factors which influence their choices. Vakantiebeurs Consumer Holiday Fair was the first stop for the Authority.
Millennials’ excitement about Ghana
Year of Return might have ended but the collateral success is still attracting people to Ghana. During the show, Millennials’ who visited Ghana’s stand were looking to visit Ghana at some point during the summer holidays. They made mention of programs such as Afrochella and AfroNation as some of the events they want to participate in.
The Suriname community in the Netherlands see Ghana as their natural home and can’t get enough of the rich Ghanaian culture.
Business & strategic meetings
The CEO of the GTA Akwasi Agyeman and his team held several meetings with hospitality and tourism institutions to explore a partnership to the benefit of Ghana’s burgeoning tourism sector.
Ghana Day Reception
The Ghana Day celebration has become one of the social events GTA holds to showcase the gastronomy of the country as well as the display of rich Ghanaian music and dance. Once again, the Year of Return vibe attracted hundreds of trade and consumers to the Ghana stand. Ghana’s Ambassador to the Netherlands H.E. Sophia Honar Sam led the cultural dancers with “Adowa” dance.
Prospects of Netherlands-Belgium Markets
The GTA CEO in his remark to the press at the just ended exhibition said, they would like to continue the marketing efforts in the Netherlands and also encourage diasporans and Ghanaians living in the Netherlands to come home and invest in the country’s economy since it offers a better return on investment.
It’s the last Saturday of the year in the heart of Accra, Ghana’s capital. The air is thick with the anticipation of the thousands of revelers who have swarmed the gates of El Wak Stadium to take part in an annual celebration of African culture known as Afrochella.
Inside it’s a sea of diversity. Austrian, Ivorian and Nigerian men pose for cameras before inviting an American woman to join.
Nearby, two French women draped in the traditional Ghanaian Kente cloth dance to a mix of reggae and afrobeats.
At the bar, four British men chat with locals while scanning the crowd bathed in neon lights.
They all have one thing in common: they answered Ghana’s call to come home.
A new Harlem Renaissance
Ghana is having a moment and some describe it as akin to the Harlem Renaissance, the 1920s movement in the United States that’s credited with revolutionizing African-American arts and culture.
Ana Lucia Araujo, Professor of History at Howard University, says what’s happening in Africa now correlates almost identically with the Harlem experience.
“The Harlem Renaissance was a time when African culture and arts were finally being valued during a period when segregation and racism ran rampant in America,” Araujo told CNN.
“We are finding now that the diaspora wants to experience their culture and feel accepted in a place where racism is not so engrained as in many parts of the West,” she says of Ghana’s appeal.
Cynthia Ofori-Dwumfuo, a 35-year-old Ghanaian citizen who serves as the head of marketing for an insurance company, agrees.
“We are getting to a point where the dichotomy between Africans and the diaspora is slowly fading away,” she says. “We are all starting to see that we are all African. What is happening here is a celebration of culture and it has helped me to see that being African is so cool.”
The Pan-African movement
This is not the first time that African-Americans and the diaspora have heeded the call to come home to Africa.
Araujo says that shortly after the US abolition of slavery in the 19th century, influential leaders such as Marcus Garvey pleaded with African-Americans to return to Africa, some staying for good, including the Pan-Africanist intellectual, W.E.B. Dubois.
In 2019, Ghana ran a hugely popular Year of Return campaign to attract international visitors of Ghanaian descent.
In Accra, people from all walks of life arrived in the thousands in the last few days of 2019. Among them was the mother of megastar Beyoncé, Tina Lawson, who was visiting Ghana for the first time.
“This experience has been eye-opening,” she told CNN in Accra. “I understand now why everyone is talking about coming here. This place makes me want to heal.”
Felix Darko, 26, a German-Ghanaian computer engineer who moved to Ghana when he was eight, says the Year of Return is significant.”It was the year that Ghana jumped into the global and diaspora consciousness,” he says.
“This place is incredibly rich in culture and is also one of the more culturally relevant places to visit for the diaspora as most slaves that were taken from the continent were done so from our shores.”
‘A spiritual and birthright journey’
The Year of Return marked 400 years since the first arrival of African slaves stepped on American soil.
The Ghana Tourism Authority and Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture spearheaded the campaign, inviting the “global African family, home and abroad” to make the “landmark spiritual and birthright journey.”
Two hours west of the capital, in the Cape Coast, comedian Steve Harvey, actors Boris Kodjoe, Danny Glover and musicians T.I. and Ludacris all visited the Elmina Castle, a life-changing trip for most, who come to tour the major hub that served as the final destination in Africa for millions of slaves before being shipped overseas.
Ghana Tourism Authority’s CEO, Akwasi Agyemang, told CNN that the social, economic and media impact from Year of Return has been a “phenomenal awakening.”
A rival to Ibiza or Cape Cod?
The World Bank also notes that compared to 2018, Ghana’s economy expanded with a GDP growth rate at 6.7% in the first quarter alone, its private sector grew stronger and local businesses have seen a significant improvement, said Agyemang.
Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo said last December that the diaspora has positively impacted countries “through increased trade activities, investments and the transfer of skills.”
Ghana made 126 African-Americans and Caribbeans its citizens part of Year of Return celebrations
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo/Facebook
Asante Berko, owner of two restaurants, AM&PM and Fat Fish, at Accra’s upscale community, the Villagio, described how his businesses have been impacted in one word: “Phenomenal.”
“Sales practically tripled,” he said, adding that demand was so high that he was forced to turn people away.
But the reason behind this was more important than the business revenue, he insists. “To be a part of this movement has taught me the strength in numbers. [The diaspora] can normalize this and make this a place akin to Ibiza or Cape Cod.”
The country’s tourism authority agrees. “This is a very important time for this country,” CEO Agyemang says.
“People are now starting to make the pilgrimage here just like Jerusalem or Mecca, and we are here to welcome them if they decide to return.”
Ghanaian-American Kojo Terry Oppong, the owner of a Ghanaian lifestyle concierge service, doesn’t need any further convincing to return.
“As many of us in the diaspora experience our “moment of clarity,” he says.
“I trust that others will join me in agreeing that it is not malaria, poor infrastructure, etc… that you need to be concerned about. It is the “Ghana Bug,” which once bitten, makes you hold her dear in your heart.
“You will find yourself coming back again, and again, and again,” he says.
What seemed to be the last major event on the tourism calendar for 2018 did not disappoint patrons. The 2018 Culture Afrochella dubbed #afrochella18 came off at the El-wak Sports Stadium on Saturday December 29, 2018 bringing traffic to a stand-still.
The beautifully and artistically designed entrance was just a foretaste of what was in-stock for patrons. From afrocentric dressing to woodcraft, acrobatic display to foot’pool’, eye-opening paintings to giant candies, the photo opportunities were endless but requiring phones with extra memory space for selfies.
The music was just ‘afrocentrically’ riveting as the food caused taste buds to produce excess saliva. Crowning it all was the evening musical performances that left no room for parking for patrons who arrived late. Patrons are already looking forward to the 2019 edition and organizers have promised nothing but a more exciting event.