Charles Owiredu, a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has briefed members of the diplomatic community in Ghana on the “The Year of Return, Ghana 2019”.
The briefing was to enlighten them on government’s plans to welcome hundreds of thousands of people of African descent back to their homeland, to reconnect with their roots and to explore business opportunities in the homeland.
It would be recalled that in Washington, D.C., in September 2018, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo declared and formally launched the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” for Africans in the Diaspora, giving fresh impetus to the quest to unite Africans on the continent with their brothers and sisters in the diaspora.
“The Year of Return, Ghana 2019” is also to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first slave ship from Africa on the shores of the United States.
Mr Owiredu said Ghana needed the usual cooperation and support of all her development partners including the diplomatic corps in promoting and patronizing all programmes of the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019”.
He said Ghana had long recognized the many ways by which it could enhance diaspora-homeland relations including social, cultural, economic, political and security arrangements.
He noted that since its independence in 1957, Ghana had made several efforts to develop and improve state-diaspora relations.
For instance, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, in the late 1950s, promoted a continental diaspora engagement through his vision of uniting Africa and the concept of “African Personality”.
Mr Owiredu said: “To the former President, Africa would be stronger if it involved its entire people, home and abroad, for national and continental development”.
“Thereafter, a number of programmes have been implemented by successive governments to further boost the relationship of the state with the diaspora.”
The Deputy Minister said in line with President Akufo-Addo’s vision of a “Ghana Beyond Aid”, the engagement of the diaspora remained a major development programme of the Government.
Mr Owiredu said with its democratic credentials, rule of law and the stability of the country, Ghana intended to serve as a pacesetter for welcoming their own back to their roots and to provide for assimilating them into the Ghanaian society in particular and African societies in general.
He said the Ministry, on its part, was taking the necessary steps towards removing all bottlenecks that would impede smooth hosting of the programmes of the Year of Return.
He said to this end, the Ministry had set up a committee, which included its directors, together with some senior representatives from the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and NGOs to address possible challenges that participants might encounter in travelling from host countries to Ghana, to participate in the various events.
He said the Government was also in the process of working to have visa agreements with some countries such as the Caribbean where diasporan total number was quite significant; citing that “This year for instance, Ghana and Jamaica established visa-free agreement where nationals of each of the two countries do not need visa to travel to the other’s country.”
He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also liaising with the Ministry of the Interior to resolve issues relating to citizenship, dual citizenship and right to abode; adding that in May this year 66 foreigners who applied for Ghanaian citizenship were granted their request.
Mr Akwasi Awua Ababio, Director of Diaspora Affairs, Office of the President, gave a presentation of programme outline and “The Year of Return, Ghana 2019”.
He said a pillar event slated from July 3rd to 6th, would be the diaspora homecoming event.
Other pillar events yet to be celebrated include the Panafest and Emancipation Day 2019, which would be held in Cape Coast from July 24th to August 2nd with a climax event in December.