ACCRA, Ghana (Finalcall.com) – Meeting and greeting many African Americans in a hotel lobby, some even from your own hometown, may seem like no big deal in the U.S., but what are the chances of bumping into each other in a hotel lobby in Ghana, West Africa?
According to reports of the 446,000 tourists pouring into Ghana in 2005, nearly one-quarter were Africans from the Diaspora. If that doesn’t get your attention, it did Ghana’s government, for in May Ghana’s tourism ministry changed its name to the Ministry of Tourism & Diasporan Relations.
Many Diaspora Africans are in Ghana developing businesses, producing films, establishing religious edifices, completing university course requirements and, like W.E.B. Dubois before them, also planning on making Ghana their final resting place.
Currently, there are an estimated 5,000 Diaspora Africans living in Ghana. Many of them, including former Detroit native Nana (chief) Kwadwo Oluwale Akpan, were honored this past summer in Ghana at a dinner sponsored by the Philadelphia-based 20/20 Group.
According to the event’s keynote speaker, Nation of Islam International Representative Minister Akbar Muhammad, “the late Kwame Nkrumah, while a student at Lincoln University, believed that, if Africa could create a marriage between them and Africans in the Diaspora, we could move Africa forward.”
Nana Akpan agrees. His non-governmental organization is currently involved in the free distribution of land to Africans in the Diaspora. “This community is meant to be a model community, utilizing the skills and talents that we have learned in the Diaspora to bring (Diasporans) back and marry them with the skills and talents of our Brothers and Sisters here.”
The “return home” is spearheaded by Fihankra International, a Ghana-based NGO involved in education and community development projects, that has partnered with the 20/20 Group, a U.S. real estate development and investment company.
Nana Akpan also stressed the historical significance of the project’s beginning. The land distribution project got its genesis during the annual Nation of Islam Saviours’ Day Convention that took place in Ghana in 1994. During a workshop on diverse religious beliefs that included a discussion on traditional African religions, a sidebar conversation occurred in the back of the room, which resulted in a proposal that Ghanaian chiefs “should apologize for their role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”
That statement engendered so much emotion with an outburst from another participant that the session was temporarily interrupted. During discussions in the interim, participants broached the idea of repatriation land to Africans in the Diaspora.
The rest is history, leading to Ghana’s counsel of chiefs allocating 30,000 acres of “prime land” in the Eastern region of Ghana as part of “Africa’s atonement for its ‘less significant’ (than European) involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”
A few days following the tribute dinner, and after traveling to the Eastern region and viewing the land, a think tank of over 100 persons from the United States and Ghana took place in the same hotel ballroom. The think tank was designed not only to assist Africans in the Diaspora fulfill a life-long dream of “returning to Africa,” but also discussed how they could assist Ghana in achieving its development goals.
During an interview with The Final Call, Tomi Bannister, who attended both the dinner and think tank, expressed interest in not only moving to Ghana, but also assisting in its development. She owns a successful IT/management consulting firm in Silver Springs, Md., yet shared that, after visiting South Africa and Ghana, she “fell in love, with the land, with the people, (and) with the whole notion of Africa and going home and following your roots.”
“The one thing I could offer would be the experience I have of starting and running a company,” she said, “and how Ghanaians could do business with U.S. firms.”
She is also working on a skills database for the 20/20 Group. Still in the incubator stage, it will be web-based and allow individuals to register their skills and expertise. “It is a place individuals can register their individual skills to (later) be matched with potential job opportunities (in Africa),” she informed.
Today, Ghana, once at the heart of Africa’s slave-trading routes, has the largest community of African Americans in West Africa.
According to Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey, “Who we most want as tourists, (residents) and investors are our people who left 200 or 300 years ago. The tourism and Diasporan relations minister is obviously getting his wish.”