Featured Image: Gabby Otchere Darko

The ‘Year of Return 2019’, which President Akufo Addo declared last year has received wide admiration from the general public with many describing it as “very successful”. The campaign which seeks to commemorate 400 years since the first batch of slaves left the shores of Ghana has seen many people with Africa descent visiting Ghana.

The founder of the Danquah Institute, Gabriel Asare Otchere Darko, has named the persons and institutions behind the success of the campaign.

See his full post:

Akwasi Agyeman is the mighty drive behind “Year of Return” – a series of events this year that has connected Africa to the African Diaspora perhaps more than any initiative in the past and has positioned Ghana as the spot to which to return. Already, the organisers of this fantastic initiative are thinking what next Beyond the Return.

I am told it all started in September 2017, when the newly appointed CEO of the Ghana Tourism Authority, the dependable Akwasi Agyeman, met Diallo Sumbry, CEO of Adinkra Group, in Washington, DC. After a series of discussions, the GTA signed an MoU with the Adinkra Group in December 2017. The focus was to promote Ghana as a major tourist destination and to work on a Back 2 Africa Festival and documentary in February 2019.

After the Back 2 Africa last Feb, Diallo and Akwasi set to work on using the upcoming 400 years anniversary of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as a key marketing push in the US, especially. To promote this, they organised an East Coast Tour in March 2019 and met with key opinion formers on what they called at the time: the Homecoming 2019 project.

Back home in Ghana, other groups like Panafest were also working on Panafest 2019 with a theme around the 400 years.

Akwasi seized the opportunity and met with the Panafest Foundation, the Adinkra Group and invited the Diaspora Affairs Office at the Office of the President, Jubilee, to be part of this collaborative effort. It paid off.

It was at this meeting of conscious heads that the whole Year or Return thing crystalised. They agreed to the ff.

1) they align and work together

2) the name “Homecoming” conflicted with the “Homecoming Summit” which is organised biennially by the Diaspora Affairs.

3) they agreed to form a steering committee, which came up with the name “Year of Return”, after a brainstorming session.

GTA then set up an inhouse Year of Return secretariat working under the CEO as the coordinator.

Gaddy Laryea, one of Ghana’s foremost marketing gurus, and marketing consultant to Panafest played a key role on the steering committee.

Members of the steering committee, who worked day and night to make this Year of Return such a great success must be mentioned for praise:

The Manager of the Secretariat is Anabelle Mackenzie, a returnee appointed by GTA.

Along the way, they brought on board other agencies and expanded the committee to include Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Immigration, the Du-Bois Center, etc.

Special mention must go to Catherine Afeku, who as Tourism Minister, gave the Year of Return all the zealous push and focus it needed. Her successor, Barbara Oteng-Gyasi also picked up the baton and ran with it.

Indeed, the President of the Republic immediately saw the idea to be a potential winner and gave it the presidential seal of approval by being the main ambassador for it, touring the US and the Caribbean to promote the Year of Return.

Indeed, so successful has it been that the President has to allow visas to be issued on arrival since the embassies, particularly in the US, could not cope with applications for visa.

Akwasi Agyeman and his team have done remarkably well. He is my Man of the Year. Oh, he is also a Gunner!