roots revival

Diaspora tourists heed the call of Ghana’s ‘Year of Return’

By Eromo Egbejule

Posted on September 16, 2019 11:52

Ghana is a regional leader in ‘heritage tourism’.

“45,000 are estimated to be seeking their ancestral roots, a 42% increase from last year,” according to a Reuters report. The tourism authority expects the country to rake in $925m in 2019.

In September 2018 in Washington D.C., Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo launched the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” while addressing prominent members of the African-American community. .

  • “We know of the extraordinary achievements and contributions they [Africans in the diaspora] made to the lives of the [sic] Americans, and it is important that this symbolic year — 400 years later — we commemorate their existence and their sacrifices,” said Akufo-Addo.

The bad times…

2019 marks the 400th anniversary since the beginning of slave trade from Africa to the Americas. Ghana’s president is hoping to encourage Africans in the diaspora to visit important sites in his country such as the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Cape Coast castle, which was visited by Michelle and Barack Obama in 2009.

  • Prominent historian and African-American civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois relocated to Accra in 1961, four years after Ghana’s independence. He lived there until his death in 1963.
  • In 2000, Ghana’s parliament passed a new law allowing dual citizenship for people of Ghanain descent who hold citizenship abroad.

Ghana is leading the way in attracting heritage tourism unlike its counterparts along the west coast.

  • A new programme allows citizens of Barbados and Guyana to enter Ghana for 90 days without a visa.
  • Ghana has extended the same invitation to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

And the good times…

Ghana also offers plenty of opportunities to let off steam. Dozens of Hollywood celebrities of African origin attended Ghana’s Full Circle Festival last December. Ghana has also played host to several major events, including the Homecoming and Investment Summit, African-American Investment Forum, and Emancipation Day Celebrations.

A Nigerian entertainment duo plans to host their famous beach party – Afro Nation – on Accra’s white beaches in December.

  • The festival comes to Africa from Portugal, which coincidentally played a major involvement in the slave trade centuries ago.
  • UK-based events promoter Adesegun ‘SMADE’ Adeosun Jnr and his media-mogul partner, Obi Asika, are bringing a cohort of superstars to Accra.
  • Nigerians Davido, Burna Boy and Wizkid are among the headline performers.

Bottom line:

While many African countries are searching for new ways to grow their economies, Ghana looks set to rake in nearly a billion dollars from its tourism sector this year alone.

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