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Marking Ghana's "Year of Return"

In Washington D.C, in September 2018, Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo declared and formally launched the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” . . During a September 2018 event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., he said the “time is right” for people of African descent to make the journey back, with Ghana leading the way with open arms.

An article posted to The Final Call’s website also noted that President Akufo-Addo, declared that Black Americans have earned the right, “not by coincidence,” but historically by a conscious effort that validated “the struggles, strengths and links” between Africans on the continent and those who are a part of the African Diaspora. In the light of this, A US preacher Roxanne Caleb was in tears as she came out from a pitch-dark dungeon where African slaves were once held before being shipped across the Atlantic to America.

"I wasnt prepared for this. I'm heartbroken," She told AFP as she toured the Cape Coast slave fort on Ghanas ocean shore. My mind still can't wrap around the fact that a human being can treat another worse than a rat." Caleb said.

Caleb is among the African/American visitors touring to Ghana as it marks the "Year of Return" to remember the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing in Virginia. The West African nation is heeped massively, banking on the remembrance to give a major boost to the number of tourist arrivals as it encourages the descendants of slaves to "come home" back to their "motherland". The actual point or magnet point of visiting is Cape Coast Castle, 150 kilometres (90 miles) from the capital Accra, The white-washed strong military building, lined with cannons was one of dozens of prisons studding the Atlantic coast where slaves were held before their journey to the New World.

A lot of prominent African-Americans have headed to the site this year to mark the anniversary since the first slave landing in 1619. Among them were delegation of Congressional Black Caucus led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that also toured last month. For those visiting it feels like an emotional rite of passage.

"This has been understanding my history and my roots where I came from,. I am very thankful I came here as part of the Year of Return." Caleb said......(cannot forget history).

Sampson Nii Addy, a corrections officer with the Montgomery police department in Alabama, affirmed that he and his family had found the tour an educative one.

"I think every black person needs to come around to learn history; how people were treated," the 52-year-old told AFP. "We cant forget history but we can always learn something from it." She added.

The "Year of Return" has added fresh impetus and the country is hoping it will increase visitor numbers from 350,000 in 2018 to 500,000 this year, including 45,000 African-Americans. Kojo who has spent nine years guiding tour groups around the Cape Coast Castle says 2019 has seen a surge in interest as Ghana looks to rake in tourism revenue of $925 million (830 million euros). He said:

"Its like a pilgrimage. This year weve a lot more African-Americans coming through than the previous year. Am urging all of them to come home and experience and reconnect to the motherland." Akwasi Awua Ababio, the official coordinating "Year of Return" events, pointed the high hotel occupancy rates as he said "enthusiasm is very high and we've got huge numbers coming from the US and Caribbean". He insisted that beyond the major economic boost, Ghana was also looking to use the new connections it is forging to convince the descendants of slaves to resettle for good and help the country develop. "Human resource is always an asset and we need to see how we can welcome them home to utilise their expertise and networks," the director for diaspora affairs at the presidency said.

It is worth experiencing and a good course too to integrate West Africans and Ghanaians who have moved away, into their new surroundings. Its also an exposure which brings enlightenment to Ghana and what Ghana has to offer to foreigners mostly.

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