Ghana and Rwanda provide deep lessons for Africa on Pan-Africanism

Nana Akufo-Addo and Paul Kagame
L) Nana Akufo-Addo at the European Development Days forum in Brussels in June 2017 (R) Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the ITU Plenipotentiary Meeting in Busan, Korea.Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

In September 2018, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo launched the ‘Year of Return, Ghana 2019’ in Washington D.C. In 2000, Ghana’s parliament passed the Immigration Act, further welcoming Africans in the diaspora and providing the “Right of Abode” for any “Person of African descent in the Diaspora” to travel to and from the country “without hindrance”. There has been a flock of African-American celebrities who traced their roots back home. Many of them, in honour of their ancestors, visited the El Mina Slave Castle in Ghana. The Castle was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea, and the oldest European building in existence south of the Sahara.

Ghana has benefited hugely, not just in terms of foreign exchange, but the shaping of the narrative around Pan-Africanism. President Akufo-Addo’s initiative to reconnect African Americans to the continent is a continuation of the Pan-African movement which is central to the progress of Africa and Black people.

W. E. B Du Bois and his wife Shirley moved to Ghana in 1961 and died there. Du Bois founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) alongside other African-Americans. The constant bickering on social media between Africans on the continent and African-Americans is nothing but an unnecessary distraction that doesn’t move Black people forward.

There are individual achievements  that Black people have made, and continue to make both across the continent and in the Diaspora, which are worth celebrating, but progress which benefit Black people as a group is what we need to continue striving for. Rwanda’s Paul Kagame having cited the importance of the continent growing together, charting and redefining its own way without interruption from outside has unfortunately been a lone voice urging other African leaders to unite for the social, economic and political progress of the continent. In a number of speeches, President Kagame has reiterated the importance of Africans doing things on their own terms, defining our own culture, politics and governance.

The economic progress Ghana is recording comes from equally embracing Black people not just on the continent but from all over the world. The  act of opening up Ghana’s borders has led to many African-Americans, many who have suffered injustice under the flag of the United States, to relocate back to the continent, and many others are considering retracing their roots.

Unfortunately, many African countries are not open to embracing each other, with numerous restrictions existing which inhibit the movement of Africans on the continent.. Travelling on the continent is not just expensive but hugely cumbersome. Africans can definitely benefit from each other, socially, culturally and economically. The very base of Pan-Africanism should be a realisation that all Black people have at a point in time suffered a similar oppression from a common oppressor.

Ghana’s progress, and Kagame’s speeches and continued action need to be replicated all over the continent. It first starts with African countries opening their borders and being receptive of each other.

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