Source: MyJoyOnline (Accra)
By Stephen Kwaku Asare | Professor at University of Florida and CDD-Ghana Democracy and Development Fellow in Public Law and Justice
Ghana has declared 2019 as the “year of return” for Africans in the diaspora, as part of its commemoration of the 400th year since the first slave ship from Africa landed in Virginia. The declaration and related events are aimed at reviving the movement to unite Africans on the continent with their diaspora brethren. To this end, the government plans to confer Ghanaian citizenship on 200 African-Americans. The country has always been a trailblazer at reaching out to the African diaspora.
For instance, Ghana’s first Prime Minister, Kwame Nkrumah, is well known for framing Africa’s liberation around the concept of Africans all over the world resettling in Africa. The tombs of the great African-American civil rights leader, W. E. B Du Bois, and his wife, lie in the heart of Accra, just a few meters from the US embassy. In 2000, the country provided for a “Right of Abode” law, which allows any person of African descent in the Diaspora to ingress into and egress out of the country without hindrance. In 2007, the government initiated the Joseph Project to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery by the British parliament and to encourage the African Diaspora to return home.
The “year of return” also targets natural born Ghanaians who, for a variety of reasons, have relocated to the diaspora in recent times. Because Ghana is a net sending (emigration exceeds immigration) country, this population is significant and is estimated at 235,000 in the United States alone.
Quite apart from rekindling the socio-cultural tissues that bind the country and the African diaspora, the government understands, appreciates and is keenly aware of the economic impact that a returning African Diaspora can have on the country’s economy. In fact, to be eligible for the “Right of Abode,” the government must be satisfied that the applicant is capable of making a substantial contribution to the development of Ghana. In 2018, remittances from Ghanaians in the diaspora to the country reached $3.8 billion (approximately 8% of GDP). Ghanaians in the diaspora also represent a source of entrepreneurial capital and have become an important lobby group for Ghana in their new countries.