YEAR OF RETURN
The Year of Return is an initiative by the government of Ghana marking 400 years since the first recorded arrival of enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia in the United States. Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo officially launched the undertaking in September 2018, when he extended an invitation to Africans in the diaspora to make a return to the home of their ancestors. Ghana was a key transit point for the transportation of enslaved Africans to the Americas.
The campaign is intended to encourage Africans in the diaspora to visit Ghana for tourism or with a view to settle and invest in the country long-term. As part of the presidents’ vision, President Akufo-Addo aims to make Ghana a key travel destination for African Americans as well as others in the diaspora, targeting those who can trace their ancestry back to Africa. The project is led by The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) under the umbrella of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture in collaboration with the Office of Diaspora Affairs, the Panafest Foundation and the Adinkra Group of USA. This undertaking is both a spiritual and birth right journey for Africans in the diaspora to re-connect with their heritage as well as for Ghana to promote and share its rich customs, traditions and culture with its long-lost brothers and sisters in a “celebration of the resilience of the African spirit.”
Other objectives of the initiative include promoting investment in Ghana and fostering relationships with the African diaspora, with a view to rebuilding the lost past spanning 400 years. The highlights of the December period include Afrochella, a festival celebrating African culture combining art, fashion and music, as well as the ESSENCE Full Circle Festival New Years celebration and the first-ever Global Black Economic Forum.
Those who visited this past December in commemoration of the 400 year anniversary, made special visits to Cape Coast and Elmina castle, in homage to their ancestors. While in Accra, they also visited tourism sites in the city such as the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial (the final resting place of the first president of Ghana) and the W.E.B Du Bois Centre, dedicated to the founding father of the Pan African movement. Other places of interest that welcomed the throngs of tourists included Makola market, James Town and Labadi beach.
In terms of tourism, the overall numbers showed an increase, with 45% growth compared with the same period in 2018. Official data from January to September 2019 indicated that an additional 237,000 visitors flocked to Ghana. A number of international celebrities were spotted in Ghana celebrating the event, including model Naomi Campbell, actor Idris Elba and rapper Cardi B. Many returnees reported experiencing an immense sense of African pride as well as feeling incredibly overwhelmed by the tremendous resilience of their ancestors. A movement in itself, The Year of Return is not viewed as just a once-off event, but rather a yearly celebration as the government of Ghana intends to continue promoting the country and the event organizers aim to make their offerings an annual occurrence.