Celebrated Holywood African- American actor, Boris Kodjoe has voiced his opinion on the media’s depiction of Africa as a war-ridden continent. For him, the opportunity to showcase the other side of Africa to the world was not only to commemorate the 400thyear of the arrival of the first documented enslaved Africans in Virginia but to also help make that switch from the mentality of “Descendants of Slaves” to “Descendants of Survivors”.
According to him, they (Boris, his wife, his brother, Bozoma Saint John and his crew) wanted to show people the true side of Africa because the media’s narrative of Africa as a famine and war zone is quite disappointing and perpetuation of falsehood. He stated that Africa is not a country, as some people perceive. On the contrary, he stressed the fact that seven (7) out of the 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa with a rich diversity in food, culture, music, people etc.
Speaking on the American talk show, THE REAL, the actor of Ghanaian descent asserted, “traditional media has painted a picture of Africa as a place of war and famine to Europe and it’s not true”. And we wanted to show people the True side of Africa”. He recounted all the fun they had with the huge crowds at the Afrochella festival and Afronation, which were two of the major events that took place in December in Ghana.
He made these remarks with regard while sharing his experience at the Essence Full Circle festival held in Ghana. He also spoke about visiting amazing Heritage sites in Ghana such as the Cape Coast Castle and many other heritage sites. He added that Africa was not just great for tourism but also great for business.
The Essence Full Circle festival was held in Ghana under the ‘Year of Return’ initiative, which was themed “Celebrating the African Resilience”. Thousands of people of African origin especially African Americans including several Hollywood celebrities visited Ghana for Christmas. Some of the stars include Idris Elba, Naomi Campbell, Akon, Rick Ross, T.I., Ludacris, Steve Harvey and several others from the diaspora who were all welcomed home to Ghana and will hopefully become one of the legacies which celebrate African resilience.
Also visiting Ghana in 2019 to partake in the celebration were the Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Black Caucus, Kofi Kingston and also the Prime Minister of Barbados.
The Ghana Tourism Authority, on behalf of the Government of Ghana, and Event Horizon, Organisers of the Afro-Nation Festival, on Monday, 20th January 2020, signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Ghana to play host to “the biggest urban music beach festival in the world” for the next five years.
The MoU, which was signed by Mr. Akwasi, CEO of the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), and Obi Asika, CEO of Event Horizon, was witnessed by the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in London, on the sidelines of the UK-Africa Investment Summit.
The signing of the MoU is part of a number of plans Ghana is putting in place, as it kick-starts the “Beyond the Return” project.
‘Beyond the Return’ aims to engage Africans in the Diaspora and all persons of African descent more positively in areas such as trade and investment co-operation, and skills and knowledge development.
The MoU will also allow the Ghana Tourism Authority and any governmental ministry, agency or authority it deems necessary to on behalf of the Government of Ghana, oversee all designs, content and production of Merchandise for the Afro-Nation Ghana Project.
The parties have also agreed, in preparation for the event every year, to establish a Local Organising Committee, comprising of representatives of each of the parties or their affiliates for the Afro-Nation Ghana Project with the LOC, amongst other duties, to be stated in the binding document responsible for securing additional sponsorship for the project.
In his remarks, after the signing of the MoU, Obi Asika stated that “Ghana is a welcoming destination, and we were happy with the warm reception we received since we took Afro-Nation to the country. The President’s commitment to the project is unparalleled, and we look forward to another successful event in December 2020“.
On his part, the CEO of the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), Akwasi Agyeman said “Afro-Nation is amongst one of the key events on which we are anchoring the ‘Beyond the Return’ initiative. We want to make Ghana the number one entertainment destination in Africa. December in Ghana will never be the same again”.
About Beyond The Return
Beyond the Return” is a follow-up to the successful Year of Return, Ghana 2019’ campaign which commemorated the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the first recorded enslaved Africans in Jamestown Virginia in 1619. The landmark campaign also celebrated the resilience of the African over the past 400 years and welcomed all people of African origin to return to Africa especially Ghana.
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.
President Akufo-Addo wants Ghanaians to extend their supportive attitude portrayed towards the “Year of Return”, to this year’s “Beyond the Return” initiative.
President Akufo-Addo believes it was due to such an attitude that the year of return was a success and he wants to see same for Beyond the Return.
A statement from the Presidency indicated that, “the welcoming attitude and the warm Ghanaian hospitality proved to be the strongest attention to hundreds of thousands of our ‘kith and kin’ from the African diaspora, who thronged our shores to commemorate the year of return.
“I urge all Ghanaians to demonstrate this same level of excitement and commitment that characterised the “Year of Return,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo initiated the Year of Return to invite all diasporans back home to not only learn more but explore and even invest in the country.
Since this initiative began many African-Americans have made their way into the country to learn more about their history. Some include Steve Harvey , Samuel L Jackson , Anthony Anderson, Micheal Jai White, Boris Kodjoe, Nicole Ari Parker, Diggy Simmons and many others.
The President launched the now “Beyond the Return” initiative as a way to continue with and solidify relations between Africans and those in the diaspora.
He said the “Year of Return’, proved itself to be exciting, and afforded Ghanaians the chance to re-establish, intensify and solidify the relations between those of us on the continent and those in the diaspora.”
He further commended the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and other institutions and persons who made The Year of Return possible for “their sense of professionalism and dedication to duty, which enabled them to preserve the peace and security of our country in the course of the celebration.”
The President also urged Ghanaians to take advantage of all opportunities that the initiative will present as this “will entail that we engage in mutually beneficial trade, investment and cultural co-operation with the Africa Diaspora.”
”Mr. Speaker, it is most appropriate to commend our President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for declaring in September, 2018 that this year – 2019, shall be observed as the: “Year of Return, Ghana 2019.” It is trite knowledge that 2019 marks 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia in the United States of America” the North Tongue MP told the House.
”Since this proclamation, it is fair to note that Ghana has attracted considerable interest and high-level visits from Africans in the diaspora, perhaps taken such Pan-African pilgrimages to the next level since President Jerry John Rawlings institutionalized the PANAFEST celebrations in 1992,” Okudzeto Ablakwa extolled.
Mr. Ablakwa was also full of commendation for President Akufo-Addo for conferring Ghanaian citizenship on 126 Africans in the diaspora. He noted that the country has done very little to take advantage of the provisions of the constitution that permits diasporans to be given such honour.
”Mr. Speaker, kindly permit me to also highlight the conferment of citizenship on 126 Africans in the diaspora by the President last week. The House will recall that last year I made a statement urging the State to make greater use of this provision in our laws,”
”Since the days of the exceptional intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois and that great poet Maya Angelou were granted citizenship, it remains my humble view that we have not made impressive effort to leverage this opportunity even though I acknowledge that in 2016 President John Dramani Mahama granted citizenship to 30 Africans in the diaspora,” he said.
In September 2018 in Washington, D.C, President Akufo-Addo declared and formally launched the ‘Year of Return Ghana 2019’ for Africans in the diaspora, giving fresh impetus to the quest to unite Africans on the continent with their brothers and sisters in the diaspora.
A number of African Americans, including Steve Harvey, Boris Kodjoe, Michael Jai White, Anthony Anderson, Idris Elba, Jidenna, Samuel L Jackson and Deborah Cox have already visited Ghana as part of the initiative.
The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Wednesday, 27th November 2019, conferred Ghanaian citizenship on 126 Diasporans, who have lived in Ghana for many years.
Speaking after the conferment ceremony, President Akufo-Addo stated that “I am glad you have decided to make Ghana your home, and thereby, join several generations of Diasporans, who committed their lives to us.”
He noted that several persons, including the likes of George Padmore, Bob Marley’s widow, Rita, Maya Angelou, and W.E.B du Bois all found homes in Ghana, with the latter buried in the country.
With the ceremony being part of the series of activities commemorating the ‘Year of Return’, the President stated that Ghana recognizes her position as the location for 75 per cent of the slave dungeons built on the West coast of Africa, through which the slaves were transported.
“That is why we had a responsibility to extend a hand of welcome back home to Africans in the diaspora. Many have responded to this call, and the ‘Year of Return’ has so far proven to be a joyful and learning experience all round for all of us,” he said.
To the 126 Diasporans, the President urged them to respect and abide by the laws of Ghana and live in accordance with the tenets of Ghana’s Constitution.
“You have the responsibility of preserving and promoting the image of a country whose reputation, amongst the comity of nations, is, today, high. You are citizens of a country that is regarded as one of the most stable on the continent, a beacon of democracy, governed by the rule of law and respect for individual liberties, human rights and the principles of democratic accountability, as a result of the commendable acts and deeds of past and present generations of your fellow Ghanaians,” he said.
The President continued, “In all your actions, I urge you to guard jealously our country’s image. It is a charge, I am confident, you will uphold. In doing so, I suggest that to facilitate the process of re-integration, you learn at least one Ghanaian language of your choice – Akan, Ewe, Ga, Dagbani, Hausa, or Nzema, amongst others.”
President Akufo-Addo urged them also to be engaged fully in the realization of the vision of a Ghana Beyond Aid.
“Simply put, I just want us to be self-confident, and accept that we shall never reach the level of development we aspire to by relying on aid or external assistance, no matter how generous. It is a mindset that I wish us to discard, a mindset of dependency and living on handouts,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo, in concluding, paid tribute to the late Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey, Jake to others, who, as Minister for Tourism and Diasporan Relations under the Government of the 2nd President of the 4th Republic, the outstanding Ghanaian statesman, His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, championed the cause for the return of descendants of the slave trade to their homes of origin.
“He instituted the “Joseph Project”, whose aim was to reconcile and unite the African peoples, on the continent and in the Diaspora, and to release their energies to help build Africa and the Caribbean. This ceremony would be a happy moment for him,” he added.
Over the weekend the maiden Global African Diaspora Kumasi Carnival 2019 was held in Kumasi. There was so much energy and the connection between the Caribbean Diaspora and local Ghanaians was strong. Powerful words were spoken by many about staying connected.
Supporting the event was Miss Trinidad & Tobago UK who said for her “Ghana feels like home”.
This is the first, and organisers hope to continue it as an annual event and celebration that attracts travellers every year.
A group from Suriname was there and made some strong statements about coming back home to Ghana and wanting to be embraced by Ghana.
Just before the procession began, the Suriname group wanted to express themselves.
It carnival procession ended with Street Fair and a variety show in the evening.
Ahead of the historic trip to Ghana, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, met with Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Dr. Barfuor Adjei-Barwuah, at her office in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, July 25, 2019.
The speaker extended an invitation to Ghana’s Ambassador to review key matters regarding the upcoming trip.
In his remarks, Ambassador Adjei-Barwuah touched on Ghana’s existing relationship with the United States, and the need to enhance the friendship between the two countries. “Ghana is very excited about this trip, and for us, it’s a call to open a new page to ensure a better relationship.”
On her part, Speaker Pelosi expressed her deepest gratitude to the President and the people of Ghana for commemorating 400 years of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia. “We go on many trips, but nothing compares to this one. We feel a special connection because of our history. The historical nature of commemorating 400 years of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans makes this trip special. Truly, this trip strikes to the heart” the Speaker said.
The visit will include a tour of some of Ghana’s historic slave-trading ports including Elmina and Cape Coast Dungeons, the Slave Heritage site at Assin Manso which houses the remains of slave ancestors brought down from the United States including a former U.S. Naval officer, Samuel Carson among others. A forty-member delegation will accompany the Speaker on this trip including members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The Ambassador was accompanied by Joseph Ngminebayihi, Head of Consular Department, Kofi Tonto, Head of Information & Public Affairs and Bernard Acquah, First Secretary/Political Affairs.
The Miss Heritage Global pageant is not like any other beauty pageant. According to Mudzithe Phiri, Business Development Manager of Miss Heritage Global, it’s an international event that is bringing together culture ambassadors from around the world. This pageant is an opportunity for the contestants to share the culture of their home country while learning about others and to experience the culture of other beauty queens through interacting with them.
Miss Heritage Global was previously held in Zimbabwe and South Africa. When asked why the move to Ghana Phiri said, “Because Ghana is one of the countries on the continent that has managed to keep its culture intact. When you come to Ghana you immediately see that the local culture has been brought into the new century with all the modern cultures that have been brought from the rest of the world, but Ghana’s culture still stands through. You see the pride in the people,” she said. “We wanted a country that would really give the contestants an African experience…and with this year being the ‘Year of Return’ in Ghana, it was a great time to make the move.
The official launch took place at the Ghana Tourism Authority Headquarters on 10thJuly 2019, and the MC for the event was Nana Amperibea Boadu, from the Year of Return Secretariat, which is located at the Accra Tourist Information Centre. Present for the media launch were key partners in supporting the upcoming event in Ghana. Mr. Akwasi Agyeman, CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority and Coordinator for Year of Return, Mr. Akwasi Ababio, Director of Diaspora Affairs, Office of the President and Chairman for Year of Return, Mr. Kwadwo Antwi, CEO of Ghana Tourist Development Company, and Diallo Sumbry, Founder The Adinkra Group and Member of the Year of Return Steering Committee were all at the high table to lend their voices to the exciting event and what it means for Ghana and Year of Return.
There will be 55 contestants representing different countries from around the world. They arrive in Ghana on 10thof August and the main event takes place on 20thAugust at the Accra International Conference Centre. This gives the ladies a 10-day experience in Ghana and puts pressure on our own Eugenia Abotsi, Miss Heritage Global Ghana 2019, to be the perfect host of her home country. “I’m excited because I get to share the culture of Ghana with the entire world,” she said. “I’m excited because if I’m able to sell Ghana well to the other contestants it means that when they go back to their various countries, they can continue to sell Ghana to others.”
When Agyeman gave his closing remarks he spoke of how having the pageant in Ghana during this year of return was the perfect time. “Our arms are wide open to everybody to return to Ghana,” he said. “Ghana is the centre of the world and so the centre represents the coming together of different people of different races and different tribes as one people. That is what we are about.” He thanked the media and bloggers for being there to share the event with the masses. JoyPrime will be airing the competition on its channel. Nana Yaa Sarpong, Channel Manager was there and pledged the commitment they will make to promote the pageant on their TV station along with some of their partner radio stations with Multimedia.
Miss Heritage Global was founded in 2013 for the purpose of promoting the preservation of our global heritage and to create an environment of culture sharing to inspire tolerance as more communities are becoming diverse around the world. This year’s event is in partnership with Ghana Tourism Authority and The Ministry of Tourism Art & Culture. The main event takes place on 20thAugust and will also feature performances from some of Africa’s biggest entertainers. For more information and the full list of participants visit www.missheritage.organd follow all their social media platforms @missheritageglobal.
The government of Ghana has reduced visa fees on arrival for “The Year of Return, Ghana 2019”. The fee is reduced to $75 from the initial $150. The move is to allow for many people living in the Diaspora to participate in the various activities for the programme.
The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Charles Owiredu, made the revelation while speaking to the Diplomatic Corps on the programme in Accra.
He said, “Our Missions’ abroad are liaising with Ghanaians associations, airlines, etc to work and make it relatively easy and convenient for those travelling to Ghana to participate in the programmes of “The Year of Return, Ghana 2019.”
“The Government of Ghana is also in the process of working to have visa agreements with some countries such as those in the Caribbean where the Diaspora total number is quite significant. This year, for instance, the government of Ghana and Jamaica established a visa-free agreement where nationals of each of the two countries do not need a visa to travel to the countries,” he stressed.
The deputy minister further noted that in line with President Akufo-Addo’s vision of a “Ghana Beyond Aid”, the engagement of the Diaspora remained a major development programme of the government.
“With its democratic credentials, rule of law and the stability of the country, Ghana intended to serve as a pacesetter for welcoming their own back to their roots and to provide for assimilating them into the Ghanaian society in particular and African societies in general,” he said.
The year-long event which commenced at the beginning of this year 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 program also aims at celebrating 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.