Way to Go: Ghana
The Black Star of Africa, the former Gold Coast, now known as Ghana, was the first country on the continent to gain independence from the colonial powers. On its independence in 1957, Ghana became the beacon for the whole of Africa and the Diaspora. It is not for no reason that the Kente cloth became a major symbol of the Pan-Africanist movement.
Ghana is today one of the top destinations for Diasporans (African Americans and those from the Caribbean) seeking to connect or return to their ancestral homeland. The country also has sites of major importance on the history of the Slave Trade; and it’s centuries old slave forts like Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle draw thousands of visitors every year. Both castles are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The US president, Barack Obama, made a historic visit to Cape Coast Castle in 2009 alongside his wife Michelle, who is of slave ancestry. America’s first couple is not alone. Many major African Americans identify with Accra and Ghana as a whole. Rita Marley lives there; Stevie Wonder reportedly has a home there. And increasingly, Nigerians are reaping the benefits of buying property in our neighbouring West African country.
Accra has in the last few years become the favourite short-hop destination for Nigerians looking for quick getaways from the stress of a city like Lagos. Accra inhabitants enjoy an easier pace of life than the residents of Nigeria’s major cities. The power failures that plague Lagosians are almost unheard of in Ghana, just an hour’s plane journey away. You can be in Accra several days and not hear the sound of a generator, which for many Nigerians, must be bliss.
Many Nigerian airlines operate flights to Accra’s Kotoka International Airport. Be sure to visit those forts for some historical contemplation that will put the present in critical perspective. Visit the bustling markets in some of the other cities like Kumasi, or the coastal town of Takoradi. Enjoy the special Akwaaba (Ashanti for ‘welcome’) that Ghanaians uniquely offer.
And while you’re there, sample one of the hottest breakfast take-aways in Accra, it’s called the Tom Brown. When you get there, you’ll know just how good it is. Don’t forget to take a few pictures, and send a postcard home.