Updated: Feb 23, 2019
At this point in time, it is pretty much old news that Ghana is the place to be in 2019.
The year kicked off with local and international publications talking up the prospects of astronomical tourism returns for Ghana primarily due to 2019 being dubbed ‘The Year of Return’. 400 years ago, the first bunch of Africans were bundled out of their comfort zone into a world of servitude and here we are today – still reeling from the effects of slavery and looking for answers from arguably ‘distorted facts’.
What is unarguable is the fact that there is no time to mope around. The long road to being a self-sufficient continent is a test of perseverance and Ghana seems to be doing something right in this respect. ‘The Year of Return’ sure does sound grand and climatic. The phrase has caught on quickly after it was introduced at the back end of 2018. It became clear to me that the president of Ghana held this agenda close to his heart after I noticed a trend in his international speeches – particularly at the London school of Economics and Cambridge University – which sought to cajole the African diaspora to return and help rebuild the continent. I was therefore not surprised when him crown 2019 ‘The Year of Return’ after the ground work he had done.
Genius, some will say. After a host of African diaspora stars thronged to Ghana for their December holidays, it seemed like the president had made some really shrewd moves after all. The hashtag, #fullcirclefestival was a statement of intent in my view. Seeing these celebrities at the slave dungeons and travelling to lesser known areas in the country to get in touch with what is supposed to be the culture and heritage of their descendants could fire them up to join the cause back home. BUT there is always a ‘but’.
Excitement about the benefits of the Year of Return is full circle, if I may say. The domino effect of internationally acclaimed stars having a good time out here cannot be questioned. But it is important for Africa not to fumble the bag like it has done a number of times before. Getting structures and logistics in place in order to milk the flood of tourism benefits will be key, especially in Ghana’s case for starters. Let’s get our people front and center of this opportunity. How? African minds and African-led companies leading the charge to beef up infrastructural development (instead of signing on second-grade Chinese contractors under bloated contracts) which will continue to make Ghana and Africa an attractive destination. I would love to see local creatives get a boost in their respective fields through international collaborations and lucrative genuine investments. Guess how that is going to happen? Give them a chance to display.
So, I am only eagerly waiting to see what the next play in President Akufo-Addo’s book is going to be because he has succeeded in getting us excited for what the Year of Return could birth in years to come.