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Ghana declares 2019 the year of the return

WELCOME: Ghana is encouraging people of African heritage to relocate to the country (Photo credit: Nana Ko Acquah))

LAST NOVEMBER, I organised an event in London called #HostileEnvironment? Look To Africa!

In light of the Home Office’s ongoing hostile environment immigration policy, it was meant to be a forum for people to explore the options of whether to stay in Britain, move to Africa or the Caribbean, or create better ties back home.

Dr Jennifer Obaseki and Jacqui McKenzie provided the legal context to immigration and resident status of those from African and Caribbean Commonwealth countries.

Dr Adotey Bing explained how co-operative business models can be used to enhance our economic base in the UK and back home. Journalist Onyekachi Wambu talked about his organisation AFFORD’s engagement across Africa and the importance of remittances. Dr Evelyn Mensah spoke about providing medical skills to transfer to West Africa.

We also had video contributions from former London-based journalist and PR professional Akosua Annobil speaking on the challenges of relocating from the UK to Ghana.

And John and Safiyyah Christian, who videoblog on YouTube, spoke about the challenges of relocating one’s family from the US to Ghana. A few weeks before our event, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo had launched his country’s The Year Of Return (TYOR) programme in Washington DC, where United States Congress had passed the H.R. 1242 – 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act.

This Act established the 400 YearsofAfricanAmericanHis- tory Commission to organise activities throughout the United States, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first documented arrival of Africans (their status as indentured or enslaved workers is still debatable, as chattel enslavement had not yet been instituted in North America) in the English colony of Virginia in 1619.

EXPERIENCE

So although TYOR stems from an African American experience – and you can bet that African-Americans will be in Ghana in force this year, judging by the Ebony magazine team that had come on a reconnaissance trip a few months ago, we must not forget that TYOR is also aimed at second-generation Ghanaians and all diasporic Africans.


PICTURED: Kwaku

Indeed, the 2019 year-long programme kicked off this month with TINA (This is New Africa) Festival, consist- ing of talks aimed at engaging the diaspora with Ghana, and with the last day climaxing in a concert featuring British-Ghanaian Afrobeats star Fuse ODG and veteran rapper Lethal Bizzle, plus a host of Ghanaian acts such as hiplife artist Sarkodie.

Reggae singer Freddie McGregor will lead a contingent of Jamaicans, who will
launch on March 9-10 what is expected to be an annual JaGha Festival, which will promote Jamaican and Ghanaian music and art.

It will also be an opportunity for strengthening the long historical bond between Jamaica and Ghana. Although Emperor Haile Selassie may have donated the Shashamane land in Ethiopia to African Caribbean people for resettlement, and the Roots TV series may have made the Sene-Gambia area attractive for diasporian engagement, Ghana holds a special place in African Caribbean history.

For example, Jamaican Maroon history has a place named Accompong, people called the Coromantees, and leaders such as Queen Nana (Nanny), and her ‘brothers’ Cudjoe and Quao.

While the Ghanaian government has earmarked this year especially to attract diasporan Africans to visit Ghana, it also has laws to make the transition for those who want to settle or do business there less cumbersome.

The 2000 Immigration Act provides diaspora Africans with a Right of Abode status, which means they have an inde nite right to live and work in the country permanently, without need for visas and any other restrictions.

Additionally, the 2000 Citizenship Act allows diasporan Africans to apply for Ghana- ian citizenship – the first to receive certi cates of citizenship was a cohort of 34 people, mainly from the Caribbean, in 2016. So if you’ve ever thought of going to Ghana, this is certainly the year to do so.

The range of TYOR activities include business and history conferences, gospel music concerts, arts festivals, including the biennial Panafest (Pan African Historical Festival) and a carnival.

For more details visit visitghana.com.

Kwaku is a London-based history consultant.

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