With time, December has essentially positioned itself as the centerpiece for primal events and activities across West Africa- Nigeria and Ghana being at the forefront. Riddled with festivities ranging from concerts to festivals and parties, the cities of Lagos and Accra have found ways to set a stamp as the hub for holiday thrillseekers from the diaspora the world over. This last holiday was no different. If anything, it could be argued that it witnessed an exponential growth.

Christmas in Ghana

The Ghanaian 2018 December experience was nothing short of spectacular featuring events like Ghana Rocks, Accra Gidi Cookout and the most prominent event Afrochella Festival.

A lot of African American celebrities were in Ghana over the holidays. Why?

What however sent tongues wagging and social media fingers frenzied was the plethora of black Hollywood celebrities that set up camp in the capital of Ghana over the holidays. They included Nicole Parker, Diggy Simmons, Cynthia Bailey, Anthony Anderson, Michael Jai White, Gabourey Sidibe, Idris Elba, A. J Johnson, Rosario Dawson, Jidenna, Jesse Williams, Naomi Campbell amongst others. The stars were treated to a five-star Ghanaian holiday experience by Ghanaian-German actor Boris Kodjoe, as part of the week-long Full Circle Festival. The festival is said to honor Ghanaian ancestry by celebrating cultural heritage and generational legacy.

A visit to the Bogyawe Palace, Akwamufi where they were hosted by Akwamuhene Odeneho Kwafo Akoto III was an essential part of the event as it allowed the guests obtain deeper connections to their roots and culture. The decision to usher the celebrities in the country was due to a request made by the Ghanaian Government as part of its campaign for the Year of Return Programme 2019.

What exactly is the Year of Return Programme?

On the 8th of September 2018, The Year of Return Programme was proclaimed by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana. The programme is aimed at commemorating one of the darkest times in world history as 2019 officially marks the 400th year anniversary of the landing of the first enslaved Africans at English North America in 1619. It also seeks to celebrate the resilience and triumph of African decendants in the face of harrowing struggles.

In a statement at The National Press Club Washington, the Ghanaian president made clear his intentions for the programme acknowledging that “the time is right” for the diaspora to make its way back home. “With historic leaders and creatives like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., WEB DuBois, Maya Angelou, Stevie Wonder, who have all honored Ghana with their presence and been inspired by Ghana… Ghana has opened its arms wide and welcomes its other brothers and sisters back home. Never again should Africans allow themselves to be enslaved… We are home.”

What should be expected from the programme?

The year-long calendar of activities will be led by the Ghana Tourism Authority by way of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture in collaboration with the Office of Diaspora Affairs at the Office of the President, the Adinkra group and the Panafest Foundation, led by Executive Secretary Rabbi Kohain.

So far the list of events pegged for the year are said to include the “Bra Fie” Concert hosted by Damien Marley, son of renowned activist and reggae artist Bob Marley, this month, Fuse ODG, the ‘Back2Africa’ concert, Independence Day activities in March a Homecoming and Investment Summit in June; Panafest and Emancipation in July, Ghana Carnival in November and Afrochella in December.

What does this mean for the Ghanaian Government?

The Year of Return should usher Ghana’s tourism sector into a new phase. The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Hon. Catherine Afeku , states that the launch event will mark the start of a year-long celebration of the resilience of the African spirit and said her Ministry is working with other public sector agencies to make the return journey seamless and hassle free.