The year 2019 marks 400 years since the first slaves were taken from Africa to the Americas, in what was later called the transatlantic slave trade. In order to commemorate the anniversary, Ghana’s President Akufo Addo announced in September 2018 that the country would be launching a marketing campaign called “Year of Return, Ghana 2019,” which would target the African and African American diaspora.
The incentive behind this agenda is to encourage the diaspora, particularly Black Americans, to visit the great African nation, which in itself has several historical sites such as the Elmina Castle, which according to PBS transported about 30,000 slaves from the castle to the Americas each year, and the Cape Coast castle, where about 1,500 slaves were placed in dungeons and were forced to live in very dehumanizing conditions.
It is without a doubt that the legacy of slavery has indeed had a negative impact on black people in the diaspora. The Year of Return programme in Ghana seeks to inform and educate people on the gruesome events of the slave trade and perhaps perform a spiritual rite of passage of cleansing from slavery to freedom; from death to life.
The big question is how does Ghana benefit from all of this?
According to Reuters, the Ghana Tourism Authority is expected to have about 500,000 visitors this year for the celebration. This would be an increase from the 350,000 tourists that showed up in 2018. In addition, the Ghana Tourism Authority anticipates making $925 million in annual revenue for 2019. This value would represent a 50% increase compared to the year of 2018.
Although this amount in the tourism industry is overshadowed by Ghana’s $2 billion Cocoa industry, Reuters claims that tourism remains very significant to the Ghanaian economy.
Tourism in Ghana has done relatively well over the past couple of years and has attracted famous celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Jidenna, Anthony Anderson, Idris Elba, Michael Jai White and many more. The country also formulated a 15-year-long tourism plan.
According to CNN, the plan is to increase the yearly number of tourists from one million to eight million per year until the year 2027. If the plan is successful, Ghana’s travel industry would be projected to make about $8.3 billion a year by 2027 in addition to the associated benefits. However, there should be a parallel strategy to expand infrastructure to meet the deliberate strategy that will grow tourism. Transportation, hospitality industry and other factors that encourage tourism must be taken into consideration as well as investors, who will want to play in this space. The relative security and political stability that has characterized the political landscape in Ghana remains a plus to drive investor and tourist confidence and must never be compromised or traded for the bellicose self-interest of some pseudo messiahs in some parts of the continent.
The Year of Return tourism campaign would give Ghana a nudge ahead in the tourism market, compared to its fellow west African neighbours like Nigeria and Senegal that have shared experiences in the Slave trade saga. It would also seek to make Ghana a very appealing place to visit for foreigners who are considering new vacation destinations.
The Year of Return should be more than a promotion of tourism. It should also be a year of reconciliation between the Africans in the Diaspora and Africans who remained on the continent. It should be a period when Africans on the continent should not only receive them, make peace for these four centuries, but also take some responsibility for their fore father’s treachery in selling their own blood and conniving with the slave merchants. It is the year of taking responsibility; a year for peace. That should be the more sublime value of this year. It is commendable that Ghana has taken the initiative to put this together.
[READ ALSO: Have tourists seen all of Africa?]
So, what are you waiting for? I encourage all my brothers and sisters in the diaspora to book a flight to Ghana during the Christmas period, in order to experience the sight and sounds of the African continent through the lens of the country, and perhaps exorcise the dark painful history of betrayal that has mired and estranged relationship among black people.
Paul Olele Jnr writes from Washington DC. He is a 2019 graduate of George Washington University and currently works as graduate Media and Research Intern at the Initiative for Global Development.
INEC to introduce election results viewing portal
INEC says the policy would be tested at the Nasarawa State Constituency Bye-Election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has announced the introduction of a dedicated public portal called the INEC Result Viewing (IreV), which would enable Nigerians to view real-time results in polling stations.
This was announced Thursday evening in a statement signed by Festus Okoye, INEC’s Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee.
— INEC Nigeria (@inecnigeria) August 6, 2020
“ The Commission is aware that result management has remained a major source of mistrust in our electoral process. INEC is determined to address any source of this concern through enhancing the level of transparency in the conduct of elections,” INEC said.
INEC also said that it is an important principle for votes during elections to be correctly counted. This new initiative is a major step towards achieving that goal. However, INEC said this does not constitute electronic collation of votes just yet. Instead, “the collation of election results shall remain as provided for by law, a manual process of completion.”
IreV would be tested during the Nasarawa State Constituency Bye-Election scheduled for August 8th, INEC said.
Concerned Nigerians are advised to visit inecresults.com, create an account, and fill in their details which will lead them to the portal to oversee the collation of votes.
Chinese Loans: Clauses are international standard terms – Amaechi
The probes into Nigeria’s use of foreign loans could negatively affect how foreign lenders perceive the country.
Nigeria’s Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, said the clauses contained in Nigeria’s Chinese loans for infrastructural development are standard international commitment clauses. In other words, such are regular, applicable clauses whenever a country goes into a trade agreement with another country.
The Minister revealed this while on Channels Television’s evening political talk show, Politics Today.
I have said that these are standard clauses in international commercial agreements. We have been keeping to our repayment plans and we will repay our loans. pic.twitter.com/XGnakdgQsq
— Chibuike.R. Amaechi (@ChibuikeAmaechi) August 5, 2020
Back story: The Nigerian Senate called a hearing last week, asking the Minister to explain the clauses on Chinese-funded infrastructure projects in Nigeria. Instead, the Minister argued that the probe into Nigeria’s use of foreign loans to finance infrastructure projects could negatively affect how foreign lenders perceive the country and also impact further financing for future projects.
Later during his recent Channels TV interview, the Minister said Nigeria is not Madagascar or Sri Lanka and has been keeping up with payment plans for the loan. “ No country has complained about Nigeria’s loan obligations,” Amaechi said.
Although he acknowledged Nigeria has debt over revenue problems, he made it clear that “that does not mean we have at any point in time refused to pay our loans.”
Amaechi then claimed that only a criminally-minded person would have issues with the loan terms. “Only those who don’t want to repay are worried about the clauses. If we repay our loans we won’t get arbitration,” he said.
The Minister also disclosed that the Ministry of Finance has repaid up to $98 million of the loans, adding, “those are standard international commitment clauses” and that no loan can be taken by the government without the approval of the National assembly.
NDDC reveals more lists of contracts awarded to federal legislators
The Commission said it released the list to expose committee chairmen in the National Assembly.
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) said there is another list of emergency contracts that were awarded to National Assembly members in 2017 and 2019. This list was not submitted to National Assembly following the recent probe of the NDDC.
This disclosure was made in a press statement by the NDDC earlier today which was signed by the commission’s Director for Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili. According to the statement, the initial list that was submitted by the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, was actually compiled by the former management of the commission in 2018, not the minister himself.
The statement by the NDDC went further to note that the Interim Management Committee of the Commission stands by the list which came from the files already in the possession of the forensic auditors.
“The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Commission stands by the list, which came from files already in the possession of the forensic auditors. It is not an Akpabio list but the NDDC’s list. The list is part of the volume of 8,000 documents already handed over to the forensic auditors,” the statement said in parts.
In the meantime, the NDDC has urged prominent indigenes of the Niger Delta, whose names appeared on that list, not to panic, because the NDDC is aware that their names were used to secure contracts. The ongoing forensic audit would help to unearth those behind those contracts, the NDDC said in the statement.
Furthermore, the commission disclosed that it released the list to expose committee chairmen in the National Assembly who used fronts to collect contracts from the NDDC, some of which were never executed. Interestingly, the list did not include the unique case of 250 contracts that were signed for and collected in one day by one person, ostensibly for members of the National Assembly.
While assuring that the forensic audit exercise is on course, the NDDC noted that the commission had positioned 185 media support specialists to identify the sites of every project captured in its books for verification by the forensic auditors.
The NDDC then enjoined members of the public not to be distracted or swayed by a lot of misinformation and falsehood that are being orchestrated by mischief makers, even as more of such will be expected by those opposed to the IMC.
It can be recalled that Akpabio, while appearing before the members of the house of representatives ad-hoc committee probing the N40 billion corruption allegation against the IMC of NDDC, said that most of the contracts that are being awarded at the commission were given to members of the national assembly.
Not that likely, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, asked the minister to provide within 48 hours, the names of the legislators that benefitted from such contracts with full details or face legal action.
Senator Akpabio, in response to the ultimatum, sent an official letter to the Speaker, providing the names of the national assembly members that benefitted from such contracts.