…utilizing contacts with African diaspora to meet investment targets
- as 2018 Panafest ends on August 1
In July and August every year, Africa and its Diaspora mark the remembrance of the end to slavery. Pan-African speakers at forums and durbars normally mention the unpleasant legacies it left on the continent.
The event usually shows photos and documentaries on how the strong and the healthy breeds of Africans were chained, beaten and dehumanized before being transported to destinations in faraway foreign lands.
The narrations usually begin from the 1880’s when the Europeans subjugated our people, dominated and altered our economic structures, then later our political, social and cultural establishments.
The events would explain to us, or rather try to convince us that colonialism is still in existence but only that the perpetrators, this time around, are not taking our lands as was in the colonial days.
We are mostly made to believe that the colonialists are working through our leaders, through grants and other dubious benefits, through our educational system and the use of the media to dominate our minds with their cultures.
Each year, Pan-Africanists repeat the same slogan which is; ‘emancipation, freedom and the need for self-discovery as Africans. The general theme year after year, is almost similar on emancipation day celebrations in Ghana.
No wonder, the theme for this year’s celebration, which is the 20th edition since the inception of the programme, is also not different from the previous’. This year’s, theme is; ‘Emancipation: our heritage, our strength’ with a sub theme, ‘celebrating the African resilience’.
The stories normally begin by introducing the culprits of slave trade and colonialism, the Europeans, as having deprived the African of his self-identity; infiltrating our culture and having succeeded in clogging our minds from self-discovery.
Further accounts would also emphasize that, the colonialists have impeded our ability to manage our political, social and cultural affairs. The stories may also project the causes of continuous slavery by other methods, and would usually suggest feeble mechanisms for their abrogation.
In a message delivered on the International Day for Abolition of Slavery on December 2, 2005, Former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan urged “all states to ratify and implement existing instruments’’ to make efforts that would end women and children being trafficked, including other transnational organized crimes.
Kofi Annan was neither bitter nor sounded as though he had any regrets about the African past. And if the conciliatory tone was as a result of his position as the General Secretary of a world body mandated to ensure corporation among all countries in the world at the time, then that should be the tone of all lovers of the African continent.
No doubt, events in the past of any person or group of persons, to a large extent determine the subsequent events of such persons or groups. But it must be stressed that the look-back into, and memories of the past should serve as a positive guide to the future. Such events should not necessarily arouse sad feelings. It is the future that matters!
Our flaws in the past, the wrong choices and steps, and our mistakes, should embolden us to deal with the present and plan for the future. The ingredient for this is the maturity of mind and soul.
Exploitation of people by other people on the basis of the quest for economic advancement, whether in the form of enslavement or domination, abounds in the history of pre-colonial Africa.
Ancient Egypt was essentially an African power that depended on slaves for the construction of many of their national monuments.
We are told in ‘Europe; and the people without history’; a book by Eric Wolf that, “almost all African states depended upon slave labour, occasionally provided from their own citizens as a result of a person being ‘pawned’ into slavery for debt or consigned into slavery by judicial offenses or more frequently acquired through the military conquest of neighbouring states”.
The pursuit of wealth is the right of every group of persons or nations. However, in the ancient world, global laws were not stringent on human right issues, neither were they in existence.
Hence, in pre-colonial Africa, the powerful people in society therefore relied on slaves in every aspect of human endeavor. In the same vein, the European countries who score highest when it comes to issues on human rights today, were busy strangling each other in their various attempts for colonies in Africa and Asia.
The reasons why Europeans were seeking colonies so fervently in Africa in the 19th century were numerous among academic circles, few of such reasons suggested cruelty and greed.
But whatever the reason, the world has reached a stage where a look back into the past with pain is unnecessary.
Europeans burnt women who exhibited strange behaviours through illness in the era of witch-hunting between 1480 -1750, a phenomena, which occurred due to the ideas of superstition; The God of the Witches (1960).
This practice, which was borne out of strange beliefs, does not exist any longer in these European countries. The people who pursued acts like these and those of similar nature have gained some maturity in knowledge.
However, in Africa and perhaps in Ghana, we are yet to enlighten those who perpetuated and, are still involved in human rights infringements including housing ‘innocent’ women at the Gambaga witch camp, the ‘trokosi’ system and several more.
History disclosed that, life in pre-colonial Africa itself facilitated the Europeans’ conquest and the enslavement of our people.
The internal dissensions and conflicts in Africa in those days were said to have been capitalized on by the colonizers, thereby alienating hitherto unified and organized African society in the pre-colonial era.
History attests that, the States in pre-colonial Africa were plagued by internal dissonance because there were no widely accepted methods of transferring political power. The Ancient Mali Empire was said to have been conquered and collapsed as a result of non-existence of proper mechanisms to control the throne.
In the fifteenth century, when the European ‘powers’ arrived to trade in goods, they realized that some conducive atmosphere for trade in humans had already been created; they realized that, the native rulers themselves were willing to cooperate to meet the demand for slaves for export, through the barter system.
Between 1450 and 1810, African rulers supplied the major part of the estimated 7.6 million slaves exported to the European colonies, as well as the unknown numbers sent by Muslim traders across the Sahara and the Indian Ocean.
But somehow, the Muslim contribution to African slavery has not gained prominence in the minds of many Africans; neither do they see the equally devastating effect it had on Africa when we take a look into the past of events which led to colonialism and slavery on the continent.
This exposition does not suggest in any way that because the slave trade occurred a long time ago, its consequences should be forgotten, nor is it restraining the effects of colonialism which had altered our social, political, economic and cultural make-up.
The chunk of the reasons of Africa’s underdevelopment; which includes low productivity, stagnation and corruption in this present era, cannot be blamed on our colonial past.
As the standpoint of most people who are abreast with issues of contemporary Africa, majority of Africa’s leaders have failed the continent in providing the relevant leadership quality which is needed to turn things around.
The celebration of Panafest in Ghana must be realigned to meet our current needs. This will enable the country to derive maximum gains from Africans in the diaspora who have long wished to return and embark on investment projects here.
With the theme of the celebration being similar each year, it is not surprising that organizers of the event this year, see no need to put together a forum to create awareness on investment opportunities available in the country.
Same agenda for Panafest has been pursued for a long time; a slave master whipping and maltreating his servant, wreath laying, freedom walk, grand durbar among others.
These schedules have been the usual routine of the event since its inception. It is time organizers of Panefest, see it necessary to capitalize on the programme to offer investment prospects in the entertainment, fashion, catering and hospitality (which falls within the tourism industry), real estate, transportation and other sectors of the economy.
The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre and the Ghana Export Promotion Authority must in the future be included in the event to organize investment forums as part of the celebration to market business prospects and the opportunities that the country has for investors from the diaspora.
Until this is done, Panafest will always be the usual predictable celebration with same monotonous programme outlines.
Ghana must tap from the wealth and resources of the hundreds from the diaspora who visits this country each year on Panafest’s ticket.
Visitors from the diaspora, through Panafest, must be offered the opportunity to pursue business interests. The Ghana Tourism Authority has been doing a lot in luring investors from the diaspora in recent years, but a lot more can be achieved when other agencies join forces with the GTA.
The authorities involved in the event must make the conscious effort to pitch available investment opportunities, to enable prospective investors from the diaspora to establish businesses here.
That initiative could go a long way to positively alter the canker of youth unemployment in this country.
By Wisdom Jonny-Nuekpe