President Akufo-Addo of Ghana has officially declared 2019 as the Year of Return for the African diaspora, whose ancestors were taken from Africa and enslaved in the Americas. But it is also an opportune moment for Ghanaians to reflect on their own shortcomings.
The Year of Return commemorates the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Jamestown, Virginia and invites the African diaspora to undertake a birthright journey home to Ghana, the location of 75% of slave dungeons along the west coast of Africa.
According to the Ghana Tourism Authority, half a million Africans in the diaspora are expected to make the trip home to Ghana in 2019: 350,000 from North America, and the remaining 150,000 from the Caribbean, South America, and Europe.
Events planned for this yearlong celebration include investment forums, summits, concerts, and festivals showcasing African arts, technology, and culture.
This homecoming drive further cements Ghana's status as a leader of pan-Africanism. Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence. Kwame Nkrumah, the country's first President, was a Founding Father of the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor to the African Union.
Prominent African-Americans such as Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Bunche, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and Robert Wright visited or lived in Ghana during the 50s and 60s. George Padmore and W.E.B. Du Bois, both leaders of the pan-African Movement, relocated to Ghana and are buried in Accra.
The Year of Return also builds on previous efforts to encourage the African diaspora to resettle in Ghana and contribute to the development of the African continent. In 2000, Ghana passed the Right of Abode law, which allows people of African descent to live in Ghana indefinitely.
The obvious benefits to be accrued from the Year of Return include increased revenues from tourism in 2019 and beyond, investment deals and partnerships in various sectors, and closure for the African diaspora, who finally set foot in their ancestral home.
Taken for granted
A less obvious benefit is the opportunity it affords Ghanaians to reflect on the legacy of slavery and colonisation and our experience as an independent country.
Whereas Africans in the diaspora are constantly reminded of the history of slavery through their marginalisation, the average Ghanaian hardly, if ever, reflects on the history of slavery and colonisation. Ghanaians take their hard-won independence for granted...