Kofi Kingston Comes Home

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Kofi Kingston

Ghana is gearing up to give a warm reception to the current World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Champion, Kofi “Kingston”.  He has not been to his homeland of Ghana in 26 years. His arrival this week is going to be bittersweet.  Especially with this year being declared, ‘Year of Return” welcoming all those of African descent to Ghana.

Kingston, who was born, Kofi Sarkodie-Mensah, will be on a four-day visit from Thursday 30th May 2019 to Sunday 2nd June 2019. He will be travelling with a film crew documenting his journey as a world champion, who returns home to his humble beginnings.  His visit will include a trip to Manhyia Palace in Kumasi where he will pay homage to the current Asante King, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.  Kingston’s visit will also include a meeting with President Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

His journey through Ghana will also take him through some key tourist sites including the Christianborg Castle (Osu), Bonwire and Ntonso and Lake Bosomtwe. He’ll also make a visit to the Mother and Baby Unit at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

Of course, like most Ghanaians, a visit to your family hometown is in order. Kingston will pay a visit to his paternal hometown Ejisu and to Atwima Techiman, his maternal hometown.  His family members must be so proud and anticipating seeing him after all these years away.  He certainly has made them proud of becoming the first African to ever win the WWE Championship title.

Expect to see him making the rounds on the media circuit in Ghana.  Everyone is excited to see him and welcome him home to Ghana.

For the first time in History and African won the WWE Championship, and he’s from Ghana

The World Wrestling Entertainment Champion, Kofi “Kington” Sarkodie-Mensah comes home to Ghana for the first time in 26 years.

Media Partnerships

CitiTV and Graphic meetings

Since President Nana Akufo-Addo declared 2019 as the ‘Year of Return’ welcoming all those of African descent to make their birthright journey home to Ghana, there’s been a significant amount of positive response from those living in the diaspora.  Just search the hashtag #yearofreturn and you’ll find so many images ope people who have made the trip to Ghana.  Equally, there are several making plans to visit Ghana and celebrate the year of return.  Travellers making the journey visit historical sites, attend events and gain a sense of reconnection with their ancestral roots.

Ask anyone in the diaspora about ‘year of return’ and most have heard about the commemoration of 400 years since the first documented slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia.  But ask a local Ghanaian if they know what ‘year of the return’ is about and you’re often left with blank stares and a lack of knowledge about the entire year.  With the few who are aware, something it’s a single climax event that is yet to come or that they already missed out on.

Speaking to a young man in Labone, who wished to remain nameless, he was asked if he knows about Year of Return. “No I’ve not heard about that,” he said.  I explained to him that Year of Return   When explaining what it is, he said he thought it was a good thing because by all means “the people who come back will feel like they are home.”  He went on to say that he attended the TINA Fest but had no idea it was part of this year of return.

Forming strategic partnerships with local media will be key to getting local Ghanaians engaged in Year of Return Events. 

Getting Ghanaians Involved in ‘Year of Return’ Events

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Accra / May 27, 2019 / Written by Ivy Prosper

In September 2018, President Nana Akufo-Addo declared that 2019 would be ‘The Year of Return; to celebrate the resilience of African people and to mark the 400 years since the first documented ship with enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, USA.  It was an invitation to all those of African descent to make the journey back to the motherland.  The Year of Return Steering Committee was created under the Ghana Tourism Authority to help celebrate and promote the year filled with activities that will attract visitors from around the world.

Since the launch of YOR festivities, there’s been a significant amount of positive response internationally. Just Google search “year of return” online and you’ll find several stories and social media images of people who have made the trip to Ghana.  Equally there are many making plans to visit and celebrate the year of return.  There are so many asking, “How do I move to Ghana?” “How can I travel to Ghana?” “Can I get citizenship in Ghana?”  With all the buzz in the diaspora, the exact opposite is true within Ghana.  Much of the general population is not aware of year of return.

The Year of Return (YOR) Steering Committee, Ghana Tourism Authority and the Diaspora Affairs at the Office of the President, are committed to forming partnerships with local media so that Ghanaians are informed of activities and can prepare themselves to welcome our brothers and sisters from the diaspora as they make their journey to Ghana.

In speaking to a young man in Labone, who wished to remain nameless, he was asked if he knows about Year of Return. “No, I’ve not heard about that,” he said.  I explained to him the desire of people of African descent to make a journey back to their roots and that the president made the declaration last year in Washington, D.C.  He said he thought it was a good thing for people to come because “By all means the people who come back will feel like they are home.”  In telling him about past YOR events, he admits having attended TINA Fest in January, but he had no idea it was part of the year of return.

 

How Do We Make Ghanaians More Aware?

Mr. Akwasi Ababio, Director of Diaspora Affairs at the Office of the President  and Chairman of the Year of Return Steering Committee and the Vice Chair of the Committee, Mr. Gaddy Laryea together with Mr. Akwasi Agyeman, CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority, and Coordinator for the Committee as well as other members of the YOR Steering Committee, recently paid a visit to some media houses.  Their first point of call was the  Graphic Communications Group Limited, where they met with Managing Director, Mr. Ato Afful and his team. Discussions were centred on how they can support promotional efforts through their various media channels.  With platforms like The Mirror, Daily Graphic and Showbiz, reaching the mass population in Ghana, this partnership would most certainly see results.

The team also met with Managing Director of CitiTV, Mr. Samuel Attah-Mensah.  Their goal was to initiate a dialogue about how they can work together to publicise events related to the year of return using radio and television platforms.  It was a positive meeting that left the team feeling confident about engaging the community about how they can also participate in the events throughout the year.  A commitment was made to communicate on both radio and television about upcoming events and show the local population how they can also be involved in the year of return.

To learn more about Year of Return, visit the website at www.yearofreturn.com

 

About Year of Return

The “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” is a major landmark marketing campaign targeting the African – American and Diaspora Market to mark 400 years of the first enslaved African arriving in Jamestown Virginia. 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 USA.

The Year of Return seeks to make Ghana the focus for millions of African descendants reacting to their marginalisation by tracing their ancestry and identity. By this, Ghana becomes the beacon for African people living on the continent and the diaspora.

The United States Congress recently passed an Act H.R. 1242 – 400 Years of African-American which is a historically significant milestone. Ghana’s unique position as the location for 75 per cent of the slave dungeons built on the west coast of Africa and the current President’s policy of making it a national priority to extend a hand of welcome back home to Africans in the diaspora cannot be overemphasised.

There are still numerous imposing European forts and castles harbouring harrowing reminders of an intense and complex history of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in our land over centuries. This on its own has made Ghana the focus for millions of African descendants reacting to their marginalization by tracing their ancestry and identity.

However, even more, important is the recognition of Ghana as a beacon of hope for African people living on the continent and in the Diaspora. This status was earned not by coincidence but by conscious efforts to validate the struggles, strengths and linkages between African descendants on a Pan-African scale.

Jamaican Reggae Star Gramps Morgan applauds Ghana for ‘Year of Return’

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Alisa Hotel, Accra/ Friday, May 17, 2019/ Written by Ivy Prosper

In the last few years, so many people from the African diaspora have lent their voice, talents and skills to help develop those in Ghana. One person who has made a commitment to helping Ghanaians is Reggae superstar Roy ‘Gramps’ Morgan.  He started his career at age 9 as part of the group, Morgan Heritage with his siblings and has gone on to have a successful solo career with multiple hits and awards. He recently conducted his annual Music Clinic at the Alisa Hotel in Accra.  He was in the country for the Ghana Jamaica Homecoming Festival as part of the Year of Return festivities.  Several local artists were in attendance in hopes of not only hearing Morgan speak but to also take invaluable information to help them develop their careers as artists and musicians.  Upon being introduced to the crowd he took a moment to thank President Nana Akufo-Addo for his vision.  “I want to take this moment to big up the President of Ghana because he has made my dream come true when I hear him declare, and remember 400 years since slavery…..[and] that most nations in Europe and the U.S. took [part] in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and to commemorate this year….he said this will be the year of return!

Gramps Morgan was born into the music business.  His father is well-known reggae artist Denroy Morgan and since he was a young child he’s been surrounded by the music.  With a lifetime of knowledge and experience in the music industry, he spoke from the heart giving words of wisdom to the aspiring artists in attendance. “There is a lot of talent in Ghana,” he said to the crowd.  He spoke about the importance of having a vision, even when talent exists, or Ghana’s industry would fail.  Because of his passion to help the next generation of artists, he’s taken it upon himself to share his expertise in Ghana with his annual music clinic.

Artists in the music industry abroad have had the upper hand for decades because of knowing and understanding the business aspect more so than many artists in Ghana.  Before Morgan spoke, other members of Ghana’s music industry shared their experiences in the business saying that “Many musicians don’t know much about the business aspect of the music industry.” Some don’t even realise that to build their careers in music they need more than a manager. Ras, a respected person in Ghana’s music scene, said, “In the business, we have personal managers, road managers, technical managers and business managers…. these all make the artist.” He wanted them to understand the bigger picture is more than just the music, it’s a complete package.

With Morgan’s ability to spot talent, it’s no surprise that artists wanted to meet him and share their music with him in hopes they can be Ghana’s next superstar.  A few years ago, one artist stuck out to Gramps Morgan on his visit to Ghana.  He was talking to Reggie Rockstone those years ago when he pointed a young man out and declared, “This guy is going to change the face of music in Ghana, this boy has something special.” He was speaking about Stonebwoy, now one of Ghana’s most celebrated artists on a global platform.  Morgan surprised Stonebwoy those years ago when he called him asking, “Please, can you come and tour with me?”  He made Stoneboy the opening act on his tour and said to him, “This is where your life begins internationally.”

There is no denying the power of collaboration and uplifting emerging singers and musicians.  Morgan’s Music Clinic is opening doors for artists in Ghana. His passion for helping is deeply rooted in the connection he feels with the continent. “I feel like it’s my job to build the bridge from the diaspora, to come home…build the bridge from Australia, from the UK, from Europe…because there were Africans that were born there, but they need to have a connection with Africa. This is Africa and it’s time.

Year of Return: WWE World Champion Kofi Kingston to visit Ghana after 26yrs

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Reigning World Wrestling Entertainment Champion, Kofi Kingston has in a Facebook and Instagram post said he will be visiting home after 26 years. In a post that suggests he has heard the call to action in the trending #YearofReturn hashtag ‘Brafie’ #brafie and responding by inviting others to the slogan #LetsGoGhana, Kofi is will be returning home for a 4-day visit beginning May 30 to June 2, 2019 to pay a courtesy call on the President, Nana Akufo Addo and the Asantehene, Otumfuor Osei Tutu II at the Manhyia Palace as well as visit many tourist attractions including Lake Bosomtwi, Christiansborg (Osu) Castle, Bonwire, Ejisu and Komfo Anokye. He will be accompanied by a WWE crew who are shooting a documentary on him as World Champion.

Read the story below as published by WWE.com on Friday, May 9, 2019.

Kofi Kingston is going home. And, of course, he’s got a little extra luggage to take with him this time around.

Read Also:

Ghana opens its arms to africans in the diaspora

The WWE Champion revealed Friday on Instagram that he is planning his first visit to his home country of Ghana, West Africa since 1993 — part of a celebratory “Year of Return” in the wake of winning his first World Championship. A WWE film crew will be documenting the four-day visit, which includes a children’s rally, visits to Kofi’s maternal and paternal hometowns, as well as a courtesy call on the Ghanaian president, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and a visit to Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Asante Monarch.

Read the full press release below, and stay tuned to WWE’s digital channels for more on Kofi’s homecoming.

 

Journey to becoming World Champion

The New Day’s Kofi Kingston is powered by positivity, and he’s used it to catapult himself, Xavier Woods and Big E to new heights.

Since bursting on the WWE scene in 2007, Kingston has established himself as one of WWE’s premier high-flyers. That, paired with his upbeat attitude, made him a perennial favourite of the WWE Universe as he racked up Intercontinental, the United States and Tag Team Championships. Kingston also cemented his place in WWE history with a series of daredevil moments where he saved himself from elimination in several Royal Rumble Matches.

 

Above: Video of how Kofi Kingston won the title

When he joined forces with Big E and Xavier Woods to form The New Day, though, no one could have guessed that the trio of unicorn horn-wearing, Booty-O-chomping Superstars would achieve the feats that they have in WWE. In fact, the WWE Universe despised them at first but soon grew to love them.

Read Also:

Hundreds of African Americans resettle in Ghana

As a veteran member of the team, Kingston provides his wealth of knowledge to his younger compadres, and it has paid off. Not only has The New Day become one of the most popular factions in WWE history, but ya boys have held multiple Tag Team Championships between their stints on Raw and SmackDown LIVE, including the longest reign in WWE history – an astonishing 483 days.

Read Also:

Panafest in the year of return

Kingston’s 11 years of hard work and dedication finally brought him to the dance at WrestleMania 35 where he challenged Daniel Bryan for the WWE Title. With the entire WWE Universe behind him, as well as his New Day brothers and the SmackDown locker room, Kofi beat Bryan to claim WWE’s ultimate prize. It just goes to show what the Power of Positivity can accomplish.

 

Kofi Kingston’s explains his unique Adinkra Tatoos

Kofi Explains his Ghanaian Adinkra Tatoos

 

About Kofi Kingston

Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah(born August 14, 1981) is a Ghanaian-American professional wrestler signed to WWE, under the ring name Kofi Kingston, where he performs on the Smack Down brand, and is the current WWE Champion in his first reign. He is the first African-born WWE Champion and is also a member of The New Day along with Big E and Xavier Woods.

After graduating from college, Sarkodie-Mensah decided to pursue a professional wrestling career. He began performing on the New England independent circuit as a Jamaican wrestler by the name of Kofi Nahaje KingstonAfter signing a developmental deal with WWE in 2007, he shortened his ring name to “Kofi Kingston”. Kingston debuted in WWE in 2008 using the same Jamaican character as he did on the independent circuit. In late 2009, he stopped being billed from Jamaica and dropped the accent although he kept his ring name. He then started being billed from his home country of Ghana.

Kingston spent much of his first few years in WWE on the midcard singles scene, during which he became a four-time Intercontinental Champion and a three-time United States Champion. In 2014, Kingston formed The New Day with Big E and Xavier Woods. The trio went on to break the record for the longest Tag Team Championship reign in WWE history when they held the WWE (Raw) Tag Team Championship from August 2015 to December 2016 while defending the titles under the Freebird ruleIn April 2019, Kingston defeated Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35 to win the WWE Championship, his first world title in WWE.

He is the first African-born world champion in WWE history as well as its 30th Triple Crown Champion and 20th overall Grand Slam Champion (13th under the current format). In addition, Kingston himself holds the singular record for most days spent as a Tag Team Champion within WWE and is also known for innovative ways of suspending his elimination from Royal Rumble and battle royal matches. With the exception of a few months spent as a heel (villainous character) in 2015 with The New Day, Kingston has been a babyface (heroic character) for almost the entirety of his WWE career.

 

About Year Of Return

The “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” is a major landmark marketing campaign targeting the African – American and Diaspora Market to mark 400 years of the first enslaved African arriving in Jamestown Virginia. 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 USA.

The Year of Return seeks to make Ghana the focus for millions of African descendants reacting to their marginalisation by tracing their ancestry and identity. By this, Ghana becomes the beacon for African people living on the continent and the diaspora.

The United States Congress recently passed an Act H.R. 1242 – 400 Years of African-American which is a historically significant milestone. Ghana’s unique position as the location for 75 per cent of the slave dungeons built on the west coast of Africa and the current President’s policy of making it a national priority to extend a hand of welcome back home to Africans in the diaspora cannot be overemphasised.

There are still numerous imposing European forts and castles harbouring harrowing reminders of an intense and complex history of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in our land over centuries. This on its own has made Ghana the focus for millions of African descendants reacting to their marginalization by tracing their ancestry and identity.

However, even more, important is the recognition of Ghana as a beacon of hope for African people living on the continent and in the Diaspora. This status was earned not by coincidence but by conscious efforts to validate the struggles, strengths and linkages between African descendants on a Pan-African scale.

France24 Report on Year Of Return: Hundreds of African-Americans resettle in Ghana

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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.

 

Related Articles:

HomeToGo – https://visitghana.com/ghana-listed-in-top-10-trending-summer-destinations-for-2019/

Year Of Return: “Come with an open mind and heart” – Mona Boyd invites Diasporans

Year of Return: African Diaspora in Ghana for Back2Africa Festival

CNN: CNN Travel lists Ghana as place to visit in 2019

 

About Year of return, Ghana 2019

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.

Year of Return: Youth In Tourism Festival Launched

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The Tourism Society of Ghana (TOSOGHA) in partnership with the Ghana Tourism Authority and the Year of Return Steering Committee has today launched the Youth in Tourism Festival (YOTOFEST) at the Accra Tourist Information Centre.

The festival will among other things, allow for greater local participation, especially the youth in the year-long commemoration of the Year of Return, Ghana 2019. The Youth in Tourism Festival will include a series of activities comprising, a public lecture and workshop, float, exhibitions, musical jamboree and a tour over a three -day period from July 18 to 20.

CEO, Ghana Tourism Authority, Akwasi Agyeman

Coordinator of the Year of Return and CEO, Ghana Tourism Authority, Akwasi Agyeman at the launch, was full of praise for TOSOGHA for continuing to reorient the youth on the need to promote domestic tourism through their activities such as the establishment of tourism clubs in both second cycle and tertiary institutions all over the country.

He mentioned that domestic tourism was at the heart of the country’s tourism growth and TOSOGHA remains a key partner to further complementing the efforts of the Authority and other institutions to better strengthen the domestic tourism drive. Agyeman reiterated his outfit’s continuous support for the organization and the Youth in Tourism Festival.

Youth Tourism Ambassador and Executive Director, TOSOGHA, Joseph Amartey

On his part, Youth Tourism Ambassador and Executive Director of TOSOGHA, Joseph Amartey envisages the Festival to be a potential social platform that effectively and efficiently market Ghanaian indigenous culture and heritage values for international patronage through broader youth engagements. “The foremost objective of YOTOFEST is to re – establish the smooth as well as swift patronage of domestic tourism from a more holistic and grassroots approach,” he said.

An important feature of the festival, according to Amartey, “is the creation of ready market for local artifacts and promotion of commercial sale of ‘’made in Ghana ‘’ goods and services internally and for export, hence a platform to promote the See, Eat, Wear, Feel Ghana agenda.”

A section of students at the launch

The launch of the event attracted student membership of TOSOGHA from various institutions within the Greater Accra Region with other high profile persons also in attendance. They included; Akwasi Ababio, Director for Diaspora Affairs at the Presidency and Chairman of the Year of Return Steering Committee, Kwadwo Antwi, CEO, Ghana Tourism Development Company, Bella Ahu, President, Ghana Tourism Federation and Olivia Opoku-Adomah, Director of Research, Statistics and Policy at the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture who represented the Deputy Minister.

Some of the invited guests at the launch

The Tourism Society of Ghana is a youth-led organization with the objective of promoting domestic tourism and imbibing tourism culture among the youth and has over 30,000 members in secondary and tertiary schools across the country.

Click here to view more photos from the launch

Story by: Samuel Obeng Appah

Year of Return: Students from Diaspora in Ghana for Pan African Student Summit

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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.

Year of Return: Be conscious of your African roots – students told

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Participants at this year’s Pan-African Student Summit have been told to be cognizant of their ancestral root no matter how long it takes for them to discover their African identity.

The call was made by various speakers at the event who shared their individual stories about how they eventually became interested and identified with Pan-Africanism.

They included Diallo Sumbry, President & CEO of The Adinkra Group, Akwasi Agyeman, CEO, Ghana Tourism Authority, Prof.Esi Sutherland-Addy, Chairperson, PANAFEST Foundation, Paul Kwaw, Executive Director, W. E. B Du Bois Centre for Pan African Culture among others.

A section of participants at the Summit

The two-day Pan African Student Summit which came off at the African House of the University of Ghana engaged university students of African descent from the Diaspora with Ghanaian university students to participate in critical discourse and think tanks on essential topics toward the liberation of all African people around the world: identity and social issues, economics and entrepreneurial possibilities, education, and global health and wellness.

Mr. Agyemang who is also Coordinator for the Year of Return speaking to the press at the Summit said for the visiting students it was such a great delight for him that they could be in the country to experience things for themselves and further be part of such an important discourse.

Speakers at the Summit

He added that the Year of Return Steering Committee and Secretariat will continue to support any individual, group, institutions and initiatives that will help bring more people from the diaspora into the country.

The March 8 and 9 Summit also included a collaborative service learning day at Echoing Hills School where summit participants had a lot of activities with kids and teachers at the school, including painting, games, planting of water melon seeds at the school’s garden and lot of fun-filled educational activities.

Planting melon seeds at the Echoing Hills School

The Pan-African Student Summit is an initiative of 3GC Inc., True Culture University in partnership with CA Study Abroad, Antique Lemonade and the African American Association of Ghana with support from Year of Return – Ghana 2019.

Participants helping to paint Echoing Hills School

Year Of Return: “Come with an open mind and heart” – Mona Boyd invites Diasporans

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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.

Ghana: Come For The Celebrities, Stay To Be A Part Of Something Bigger

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(Forbes) “In the year 2019, we open our arms even wider to welcome home our brothers and sisters in what will become a birthright journey home for the global African family.” With these words, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana proclaimed 2019 “The Year of Return” for diasporan Africans. This year also marks the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of enslaved Africans to North America. The “Year of Return” has gotten off to a very strong start. Naomi Campbell, Idris Elba, Michael Jai White, and Rosario Dawson are just a few of the global celebrities who spent parts of the Christmas and New Year’s holiday in Ghana. They came to take part in a week-long ‘Full Circle Festival‘ hosted by actor Boris Kodjoe and marketing maven Bozoma Saint John.

Viola Labi, a first generation Canadian-Ghanaian shared, “I am so proud that our President is the first to have such an initiative. I am proud that I’m Ghanaian; proud that we are leading the way.” Labi has been visiting Ghana a few times a year for almost a decade. She would visit with friends and family, connect with her heritage and then return back to Canada to her career in luxury retail with brands such as Burberry and Nordstrom. On one of these trips in 2015, she noticed women weaving textiles on the side of the road in the town of Tamale, Ghana. She immediately pulled over the car and spent the next few hours chatting with the women and learning how to weave Batakari, a textile from the northern region in Ghana. She posted some photos to her Instagram feed.

As Labi continued to share the work of Ghanaian artisans on Instagram, messages started to come in from both friends and strangers. They would ask, “Can I buy that?” With her strong fashion sense and entrepreneurial spirit, Labi began carrying products back to Canada and shipping them from her home to customers across North America. By 2017, she launched Woven. “I was already doing it without realizing it. It was an actual business,” recalls Labi. 10-months ago, she flew to Ghana with a ticket to return to Canada 2-weeks later. She canceled the return flight and does not “plan on leaving any time soon.”

Woven is working to help bring excellence into a fragmented fashion industry in Ghana. Labi pulls from her experience in retail to develop the artisan sector, run primarily by women. “Women are the backbone of Africa,” says Labi. Woven offers retail consultancy, workshops for fashion schools, wholesale export, and custom co-creation of products. Labi strives to create high-quality, innovative products in Ghana to fight the perception that African products are “below par”. When she learned that a European fashion tech brand uses re-engineered fibers like orange peels to create luxury textiles, she thought that with their abundance of fresh produce, “Ghana can do the same.”

Women weaving baskets in Ghana. (Photo by Adepa Foriwaa courtesy of Woven) PHOTO CREDIT: ADEPA FORIWAA

Labi is excited by the Year of Return. The name of her company is not just a nod to the woven products that they sell. “Woven means to unite into a cohesive whole,” says Labi. Labi crafted her definition of self by weaving together her different identities, but it was not always easy. Working in high-end retail, she put up with micro-aggressions of “willfully ignorant” customers. Once, while at a bookstore, she asked the saleswoman for a recommendation of a book about a young black girl. She led Labi to a section of books set in the jungle.

The Year of Return is part of the change that Labi is noticing. There is a company in Ghana making black dolls dressed in traditional Kente fabric. “If I was exposed to symbols of self-representation like that when I was growing up, maybe it wouldn’t have taken 35 years to figure myself out. Since my parents were African immigrants, they didn’t grow up as minorities, so they didn’t talk much about my blackness – it was more about my African-ness. Overseas, the two are different,” said Labi. For Africans of the diaspora, the Year of Return is about accelerating this discovery of identity. Labi explained, “We need a way to connect. We are looking for points of validation; for points of our heritage. Home.”

 

I am the CEO & Co-founder of OZÉ, a mobile platform that equips small business owners in Africa to make data-driven decisions to grow their business

and access capital. I started my career as a Community Economic Development Volunteer in the Peace Corps in Guinea. Durin…MORE

Curious about how small businesses in Africa are using real-time data to make better business decisions? Check out what I’m working on at OZÉ.

Written By: ForbesWomen