The four-time champions are hoping to end a 37-year wait for a fifth title at the June 21 to July 19 championship in Egypt where they have been drawn against Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau in Group F.
The president was speaking at a dinner on Thursday as the team prepared to depart for camping in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.
“Teamwork is at the heart of every success. Without it, you cannot succeed in football, and as it is, in every enterprise,” President Akufo-Addo stated, as published on the Government of Ghana website.
“Teamwork means all of you have to work for each other. Religious, ethnic and other divisions do not advance teamwork.
“You are the Black Stars of Ghana and it doesn’t matter whether you’re from Jamestown or Nalerigu or Walewale, you’re the Black Stars of Ghana.
“Helping each other to win is the sort of teamwork I’m talking about.
“So, your slogan, that is [Ghana’s] slogan of the year – ‘The year of return’. This indeed is the year of return.”
Ghana won the Cup of Nations in 1963, 1965, 1978 and 1982 after which they finished second in 1992, 2010 and 2015.
“You have to respect unreservedly the authority of the coach and the authority of the captain [Andre Ayew],” Akufo-Addo added.
“That is basic rules, non-negotiable rules; if you don’t do it, everybody will be going their separate ways.
“If you do that, you cement the teamwork and you will become a cohesive forceful force.
“It is my intention to come and watch your first match [against Benin] on the 25th of June and if with God’s grace, which I believe He will give us, you make the final, I would come there as well to come and watch you.”
The ‘Year of Return’ is a national campaign urging all Ghanaians in the diaspora to make a trip to Ghana in 2019 to mark 400 years of the first enslaved African arriving in Jamestown, Virginia in the Americas.
When Lakeshia Ford decided she was going to pack up her life and her budding career and move from New Jersey to Ghana, her family could not understand why she wanted to make the trek to a country thousands of miles from home. Even more surprising, to some, was Ford’s reason: the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident, which set off protests across the United States, was a tipping point for the 30-year-old Ford and her relationship with the country of her birth.
“Mike Brown got shot and it just put this huge distaste in my mouth for, like, the country and the flag and what it means to be American and representing the American flag,” Ford says. “I felt very detached from that identity. I felt very excluded.” While that feeling was certainly shared by many across the country, Ford is part of a small but growing group of black Americans who have become so fed up with racism in the United States that they have decided to move to Africa.
“I remember a moment. I remember sitting on my bed and visualizing like … a transition,” Ford recalls. “You know that image of Mike Brown with the blood, and he was just [lying] there [in the street]? The animation in my mind was like he rose with that blood and turned into water, and I floated back. Well, I didn’t float back, but basically, I use that blood in the water to get back to Africa.”
Four years later, Ford sits in a trendy hotel bar in Accra, the capital of Ghana, a small coastal nation in West Africa. As dusk settles, she sips water after a long day of work while other patrons laugh and catch up with friends. A communications professional with a background in finance and international relations, Ford once dreamed of serving as a foreign diplomat, but she soured on the idea of representing the United States abroad. Instead, she came here and set up her own business, Ford Communications, a strategic communications and public relations boutique. Ford found a niche servicing Ghana’s booming tech industry.
The daughter of Jamaican immigrants who moved to the United States in the 1980s, Ford spent her formative years in East Orange, New Jersey. Those years were tough but grounded in the American dream. “I never knew we were poor,” she says. “I had everything that I needed.” She excelled at academics, receiving a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College and a master’s from American University. Internships took her to places like China, South Africa and Ghana, which she first visited in 2008.
“I had the time of my life, and I felt more [at] home here than I ever did in the States and Jamaica,” she recalls. “It was just this really weird internal experience that was just like … peace.” She returned in the summer of 2013, during graduate school, to work for the United Nations information centre in Accra, and again in 2014, as a Boren Fellow.
The next year, after her vision following the Michael Brown incident, she decided to try moving to Ghana, despite having no job or prospects lined up — a decision that did not sit well with her family.
“Americans, you know how people think about Africa,” she says. “They think it’s all jungles, people living in trees. It’s so crazy how that narrative has survived.”
Now, Ford works with firms like the financial tech companyMazzuma, which launched a cryptocurrency to make mobile payments easier, and the data mining companyViotech. She works out of a suburban coworking space, and after waking up at 5 a.m. to pray and meditate, she gets her emails done before driving off to meetings. Sometimes she jumps on a motorbike to avoid the snarl of cars that choke the city.
Ford’s move is part of a larger trend of African-Americans and Ghanaian-Americans moving back to the continent and Ghana specifically. Members of the African-American Association of Ghana estimate that about 5,000 African-Americans are currently living in Accra, a sharp increase from about 1,000 a decade ago. The influx of skilled workers is helping to grow several industries in the country, particularly technology.
Nestled between the Ivory Coast and Togo, Ghana has long been a refuge for African-Americans seeking to escape America’s ugly side. In 1962, poet, novelist and civil rights activist Maya Angelou moved here with her son, Guy. She lived in Accra and worked at the University of Ghana for three years. She found a tight-knit community of other African-Americans who had fled the United States to evade Jim Crow and racism and were drawn to the new nation headed by president Kwame Nkrumah, who was educated in America.
Today, Ghana’s capital is bubbling with energy. It is laid-back yet bursting at the seams. Congestion that would test the most patient person is ever-present, yet the people are friendly and peaceful. The city is a mix of cosmopolitan, with impressive architectural offerings like the National Theater, and developing city, with the hustle and bustle of haphazard urban planning. Above all, as one would expect in Ghana, it is a place where black faces are everywhere. The daredevil weaving in and out of traffic on a motorbike: black. The manager in the bank: black. The celebrity on a billboard, trying to persuade you to try her jollof rice: black.
For people like Ford, that blackness, combined with the energy of a booming economy, makes it an attractive place. The country’s gross domestic product grew by 7.4 percent in the third quarter of 2018, and the World Bank projected that the nation would be one of the fastest growing economies that year.
On the tech side, the information technology sector in Ghana grew by double-digits in 2016, outperforming the economy as a whole, according to theOxford Business Group. The highest rate of mobile penetration in sub-Saharan Africa, and widely available WiFi, contribute to Accra’s appeal as a destination for tech start-ups, luring both African-Americans and Ghanaian-born people who had previously settled in the United States.
Yaa Cuguano, 36, first arrived in the United States at the age of 14. She recalls landing at Kennedy Airport in frigid December weather, wearing a T-shirt and jeans: “My mom’s uncle met us and gave us these windbreaker jackets. It was snowing, and I went right back inside.”
In 2014, after more than 20 years in America, Cuguano moved back to Ghana. Her parents and siblings still live in the United States, but she had tired of the rat race, the explosion of racial issues and the weather. Though Cuguano is a U.S. citizen, her country of birth would provide the consanguinity she needed.
Cugano works at MPharma, an e-health company co-founded by another returned Ghanaian-American, Gregory Rockson, and backed by Silicon Valley venture capital firms. A 2017 report found that African companies received more than $500 million in venture capital, a 53 percent increase from the previous year.
At MPharma’s bungalow-like offices in a suburb of Accra, a hammock sits in the corner of the front yard, and a Maltese-poodle nips at visitors’ heels. Cuguano, who had lived in Washington, Illinois, California and New York, is serene but pointed when she explains the move. Her long, slender hands gesticulate to emphasize.
“So the moment I decided to move to Ghana, it had to do with the Trayvon Martin verdict. I was very affected by that. I was like, ‘What the hell?’ I just saw that things were happening differently than in the America that I had known.”
She says life here is less materialistic. “I feel at peace here,” she says. In the United States, she laments, people “just keep chasing and keep chasing, chasing, chasing.” In Ghana, “I have a lot of work, but I have a lot of time to just think and just be, you know? The way I live here is just very minimal.”
Another major plus is not being judged by her skin colour, as she says she often was in America. She had been a team leader at an educational product firm in New York and has degrees from three universities, but she always felt undermined.
“In America, all the places I worked at, I was always the only black woman in my team,” she says. “In New York, one of the places I worked at, it was a very — I would call it a hostile environment. … It was just very hard to work with them because there always was an objection to everything I said or suggested.”
At MPharma, she is spearheading a product that uses mobile technology to enable patients to access medicine more efficiently. And she doesn’t have to worry about people judging her by her skin colour, because most people look like her.
Paul Miller Owusu, 38, is a tech entrepreneur who moved to Ghana in 2017 after living in the United States since he was a child and working at Silicon Valley companies Yammer, GBox and Chime. Like Cuguano, he says that incidents like the Trayvon Martin case were a catalyst for his move — as was a much more personal interaction with police.
“I think it was three weeks after the Trayvon dismissal,” he recalls. “I was coming home from work in Mountain View, and I was literally around the corner from where Facebook headquarters is, and I was pulled over by a cop. They were looking for a stolen car. The car that I was driving was whiter than the skin colour” — and not at all the colour of the car police were looking for. “I thought it was very bogus.”
He continues: “And at that moment I felt very angry, to put it lightly.” Owusu made the move alone, leaving his young family behind. He still travels back to see them and has not made a decision about whether they will join him in Ghana yet.
Owusu acknowledges that the United States provided him with the building blocks of his success, but he says Ghana has a magnetic pull that allows him to be centred.
“I can unplug from work and not worry about anything,” he says. “In the States, you’re constantly plugged in, so work-life balance is just nonexistent. People will say it, but I think it’s like complete B.S. … Work-life balance in Ghana is really good; there is a lot of freedom in the way I move around.”
Since moving back to Ghana, Owusu has launched multiple companies, including a peer-to-peer and remittance company called SIKA, and raised $4.8 million from a Ghanaian investor for LOGIQUE, a tech accelerator and incubator.
While the gravity of race relations and the pull of a friendlier place have attracted people like Ford, Cuguano and Owusu, Ghana has embarked on a mission to siphon talented individuals.
Akwasi Akua Ababio, director of diaspora relations for the office of the president, believes the political situation in the West could be a boon for countries like Ghana.
“While it is unfortunate that geopolitics in the West has taken an uncomfortably insular turn, personally I consider it an opportunity to attract the energy, skills, and knowledge of people of African descent to the continent,” he says. “It is time for African nations to put measures in place to attract and sustain people of African descent here on the continent.”
At the beginning of 2019, the Ghanaian government rolled out the red carpet for African-Americans and the diaspora under the banner Year of Return.Throughout the year, there’ll be events marking the abolition of 400 years of the slave trade and encouraging people of African descent from all over the world to come to Ghana to network and invest.
David Hutchful, a software designer and an expert in the Ghanaian tech space, says the industry has grown in the past three decades, attracting highly skilled people and investors. He thinks this development has led to more individuals from the United States moving back.
“When I think about technology in Ghana, when I first came it was very different, but I feel like it is now growing, and we are beginning to carve out an identity for ourselves,” he says.
Hutchful, who has worked in tech in the United States and India, says Ghana’s tech space has grown from one that developed mostly software for government systems to one where a start-up and entrepreneurial ecosystem is thriving. Hutchful was born in Ghana and went to school in Zimbabwe and the United States. He thinks the movement of African-Americans and Ghanaian-Americans back to the country bodes well for the continued growth of the tech industry.
“What Africa really needs now are people called links — people who have legs in both places — because there’s a lot of transfer of skills and knowledge and understanding. If I were to think about African-Americans beginning to redefine kind of a new adventure for themselves, I think them serving [as] that link then would be great,” he says.
Ford says she hopes more Africans in the diaspora move back to the continent, or at least travel there.
“Black people need to come to Africa, even if they are visiting,” she says. “I won’t say everybody needs to move back — I don’t think that is a good solution — but it’s a pilgrimage that every black person needs to have.”
France24 has in a report looked at how Ghana is increasingly becoming home to hundreds of African-Americans especially in light of the on-going ‘Year of Return, Ghana 2019’ campaign. The report looks at the lives of some African-Americans who have settled in Ghans over the years. Read and watch the report below.
Ghana was one of the main West African departure points for the transatlantic slave trade. Today, the government has launched a campaign to reach out to the descendants of those Africans who were forcibly removed from their homelands. It has dubbed 2019 the “year of return“. Several hundred people have already put down roots in Ghana, many of them African-Americans. Our colleagues from France 2 report, with FRANCE 24‘s James Vasina.
This article comes on the heels of other reviews published earlier in the year.
Watch the programme/video report prepared by Patrick Lovett and James Vasina below.
The “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” is a major landmark spiritual and birth-right journey inviting the Global African family, home and abroad, to mark 400 years of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia. The arrival of enslaved Africans marked a sordid and sad period, when our kith and kin were forcefully taken away from Africa into years of deprivation, humiliation and torture. While August 2019 marks 400 years since enslaved Africans arrived in the United States, “The Year of Return, Ghana 2019” celebrates the cumulative resilience of all the victims of the Trans Atlantic slave Trade who were scattered and displaced through the world in North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia.
The Ghana Tourism Authority(GTA) under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture is leading the project in collaboration with the Office of Diaspora Affairs at the Office of the President the PANAFEST Foundation and The Adinkra Group of the USA.
One of the main goals of the Year of Return campaign is to position Ghana as a key travel destination for African Americans and the African Diaspora. In 2019, the events planned throughout the year will serve as a launch pad for a consistent boost in tourism for Ghana in the near and distant years. Beyond tourism, this initiative supports one of the President’s key developmental agendas in Ghana Beyond Aid. We know that tourism can be a leading indicator to business and investment.
We are focused on ensuring that our brothers and sisters have a safe, pleasant and wonderful journey home so they will want to come back, get involved, see the opportunity that exists in Ghana for us to work together and begin to rebuild what has been stolen and lost over the past 400 years.
A group of students from the United States of America have arrived in Ghana to partake in this year’s Pan African Student Summit as part of the Year of Return – Ghana 2019 programme line up.
Numbering up to 17 from different universities across the US, the all African American students will take part in the 2-day summit scheduled to take place at the International House of the University of Ghana which would also involve students from the host university and their counterparts from University of Cape Coast.
The March 8 and 9 summit will engage these students to participate in critical discourse and think tanks on essential topics toward the liberation of all African people around the world. The summit will feature a keynote speaker, panel discussions think tanks, networking sessions, entertainment and many others.
The Pan African Student Summit will also lay the foundation to foster network and partnership development between the student changemakers and budding Pan-Africanist in both the diaspora and the continent.
Speaking to journalists on arrival at the Kotoka International Airport, some of the students who said they were in Africa for the first time after several years abroad expressed their excitement that they could be part of the trip which does not just present them an opportunity to learn from other students in the country, but also is a great chance to explore Ghana for the next 13 days they will be spending in the country.
The summit is being spearheaded by 3GC Inc, True Culture University in partnership with CA Study Abroad, Antique Lemonade and the African American Association of Ghana.
Landtours, Ltd. is a tour company operating out of West Africa at a really bustling time for tourism in the area. 2019 marks what has been deemed the ‘Year of Return’ for people of African descent in the diaspora, a call to action that marks 400 years since the first slaves were kidnapped and sold into the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The ‘Year of Return’ calls for people in the African Diaspora to make a birthright trip “home” to West Africa.
With that in mind, Landtours is uniquely positioned to provide travelers with the immersive experiences they’re seeking on these journeys. Here, we talk to Landtours CEO Mona Boyd about what makes the company’s tours special and why the ‘Year of Return’ is so important for travelers and the countries that they’re exploring.
YOR Official Video
Travel Noire: What was the impetus to start Landtours?
Mona Boyd: My Ghanaian Husband and I, with our 18-month-old son moved to Ghana in 1993 and started an independent car rental company (now Avis Rent a Car). During the first year of providing car rental services, we noticed our customers frequently asked us to provide tour and destination management services for them. We would often be asked to make a hotel reservation in a tourist destination outside Accra, or to recommend a restaurant for a special occasion. The most common question was “my family is coming to visit me; what can I do with them?” After one year of giving free advice, we set up a tour and travel company called Landtours Ghana Ltd.
TN: You could’ve easily curated tours that highlight markets, safaris, and luxurious beaches. What made you choose immersive experiences?
MB: From my past experiences traveling throughout West Africa, I knew the region had so much more to offer than just museums, beaches and markets. I wanted to show the magnificent countries in which we operated to the world and in the very best light. I also wanted to debunk everything negative Americans, Europeans and others had learned about Africa. My team and I felt the only way to do this was to showcase the people and their culture, and to ensure that the traveler(s) had an up close, people-to-people cultural exchange experience. I felt that descendants of African slaves particularly needed to be welcomed back to Africa in the most sensitive manner.
I wanted African Americans to leave West Africa changed forever; with a deeper understanding of their heritage, identity, and of what happened to their Ancestors 400 years ago.
Tourists arriving for Pan-African Students Summit
TN: What are some challenges Landtours faced in its first years of operation? How did you adjust?
MB: I not only had all the challenges of getting two start-ups up and running in a country with almost no business infrastructure or service culture, I was also adjusting to a brutal culture shock. To be honest it was an overwhelming experience for the first three years. At the time we started our businesses, Ghana did not have a service industry, and there was very little knowledge about what service should look like.
How did I adjust? I was unrelenting about our standards, hired the smartest people I could find, and trained them to deliver the service our clients expected. My biggest breakthrough came when I realized I needed to stop expecting everyone to be like me and work like me. I leaned in more to better understand what was most important to Ghanaians. Through the change I made in my management style, I was slowly able to win employees trust.
TN: Which destination is currently most popular among Landtours travelers? Why do you think that is?
MB: Landtours’ Ghana, Togo and Benin Cultural Package are the most popular. Travelers have an opportunity to experience the people and culture of three different countries. Furthermore, they also experience the difference between an Anglophone Ghana and two Francophone countries; Togo and Benin. It is interesting to see how the British and French cultures have influenced the people and their institutions in all three countries.
TN: Which destination do you feel doesn’t get the shine it deserves? What should travelers know about it?
MB: About seven years ago we discovered Sao Tome and Principe, an off the beaten track group of Islands located off the Atlantic shore of Gabon. Sao Tome and Principe offer the closest experience I have had to be in the Garden of Eden. Everywhere you look are blossoming flowers, deep green foliage and everything about the Islands exude pure relaxation. The Islands have no high rise buildings, are not over-crowded, and there are very few cars on the road.
In addition to the stunning beauty of the islands, the people of Sao Tome and Principe have a very interesting story to tell. These beautiful, laid back and warm people are descendants of the captured Africans who were on the way to the Americas when they became shipwrecked and ended up on the Island of Sao Tome and Principe. The islands were colonized by the Portuguese, and the Africans on the ship ended up in slavery in Sao Tome. Like all slaves who were sent to the Americas, the people of Sao Tome and Principe have no tribal/ethnic identity. Although they descended from tribes of many places in West Africa, they identify themselves as people from Sao Tome and Principe.
TN: We know that the ‘Year of Return’ is of special significance for African Americans and others in the African diaspora, but what does it mean for the people of West Africa?
MB: There has been a lot of buzz in Ghana about the Year of Return, and I posed the question to ten Ghanaians of “What does the Year of Return mean to you?” The answers I received fell into three categories:
20 percent said that the Year of Return meant an opportunity to showcase Ghana’s culture and learn more about Ghana’s history. 20 percent said it meant Ghanaians will have an opportunity to learn more about their brothers and sisters in the Diaspora. 60 percent said that the Year of Return means a very good business opportunity for Ghanaians.
This is what I expected most Ghanaians would say about the “Year of Return.” Unlike African Americans, most Ghanaians do not articulate any emotions about the transatlantic slave trade. They know the slave trade took place, but do not feel it is about them.
TN: What do you hope travelers gain from being part of a Landtours experience?
MB: I hope travelers will have an experience that will ensure they learn, grow and be changed forever. I also hope that they will come to understand we are all connected and are far more similar than we are different. The colour of our skin, the shape of our body, or the texture of our hair is only about environmental adaptation. What makes us the same is our humanity, and we should celebrate our differences in its full glory.
TN: What’s the most fulfilling part of being at the helm at Landtours?
MB: I love, love, love what I do! But there are three things that I love the most: One, I love providing incredible experiences for travelers and exceeding their expectations. Two, I love working with intelligent young people and motivating, guiding and coaching them to discover their considerable talents, and just how much they are capable of doing. Third, I love being successful and winning every day. It gives me an incredible sense of pride and achievement
TN: What’s next for Landtours? What are your plans for the coming years?
MB: Currently we work in West Africa but our goal is to provide tours and travel services everywhere on the African Continent.
TN: What’s your last piece of advice for travelers new to West Africa?
MB: Come with an open mind and heart, and you will truly be touched by the wonderful people and cultures of Africa.