What do Africans have to say about China’s role on the continent? How do young Africans feel about the debt their countries owe China? Four young Ghanaians weigh in and the audience decides in AfricansonChina’s Ghana @62 Debate.Read More
What does Ghana’s Year of Return mean? Is it just a call for Ghanaians to come back ? I talk about what I learned at the 1/15/19 press launch of the initiative that commemorates 400 years since the first enslaved African landed in James Town, Virginia.Read More
Last week, a friend sent me a post about African American actor, Michael Jai White’s, recent enstoolment in Ghana and asked me to share my thoughts on it.
White was enstooled by Odeneho Kwafo Akoto III, the Akwamuhene (Akwamu king) in the Akwamu traditional area this past December. White along with 90 African American celebrities were in Ghana for the Full Circle Festival, as part of the government’s Year of Return initiatives.
White was bestowed the name Nana Akoto III, Odopon, which means “The tree with strong roots that does not fear the storm”.
There is beautiful footage of the ceremony here. White and his wife have expressed deep gratitude for the honor.
Perhaps my friend asked for my opinion because some people, perhaps Ghanaians, have been murmuring or insinuating that White does not deserve the honor - I’ve heard one or two people reason that he hasn’t done anything for the Akwamu people.
Firstly, chieftaincy has its own familial, metaphysical/spiritual honor system for appointment that has nothing to do with merit or “deservedness”…so the point is mute.
Secondly, White’s contribution to the African-American community and by virtue the African diaspora makes him deserving of the honor. He is a fighter, educator, and respected author, extending his success to positively influence many others, especially youth, in the black community.
Thirdly, White’s enstoolment is a beautiful gesture of unity and embrace between Ghanaians and African Americans that really has little to do with White. White, his wife, and those with him probably felt more deeply tied to Akwamuhene, Ghana, and the continent as a result of the gesture because of the event but its ripple effect on others will be told for generations to come.
In other words, this historical moment happened through White but it is not for White.
The gesture is really a TANGIBLE note of Ghana’s investment in making African Americans feel at home and reconnected to the land. It seemed to say, “we are willing to welcome, embrace, celebrate, and bestow great honor to you should you return”.
This will not be the first time Ghana has made such symbolic gestures of inclusion to our African American counterparts. In 1957, Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, invited prominent African American leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X, to the country’s independence day celebration.
Nkrumah also invited Du Bois to Ghana to work on Encyclopedia Africana three years later. Many other prominent African Americans and other Black people of the Diaspora have made the journey home. Hundreds, if not thousands, have fully repatriated, and many have gained citizenship in Ghana. In 2016, then president, Mahama granted 34 members of the African-Caribbean diaspora full citizenship which made them entitled to every privilege deserving and due any Ghanaian.
Other countries in Africa also have also made great strides in this area.
King of Pop, Michael Jackson, was enstooled as the king of Amalaman Anoh in Krindjabo, a village in the southeastern corner of Ivory Coast. The chief had asserted that Michael was Sanwi royalty and, accordingly, invited him to be crowned king-in-waiting. Apparently, civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson, has been enstooled in Krindjabo since Michael passing.
Are there other African Americans who have been enstooled as royalty in the continent? Perhaps there are but I can’t seem to find a list.
Nevertheless, this moment is worth celebrating by us all!
Last month (Feb 23rd), I was invited to the Annual BBC Africa's Komla Dumlor Award and Africa Debate held at the Alisa Hotel in Accra. The topic: Is the older generation failing Africa’s youth? It was hosted by BBC journalists Akwasi Sarpong and Amina Yuguda.
The debate is now available online. Perhaps you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with a side, perhaps you are in the middle. Nonetheless, you wish you had a visual aide to help you place the people and their perspectives you hear on audio in its proper context. Below, I "say the thing without saying the thing" - I answer the question without answering it. Take a read at my synopsis/context analysis and let me know your thoughts. Which side of the debate do you fall on?
On February 23rd, BBC invited a mixed crowd of about 100 Africa enthusiasts to Accra, Ghana for an intergenerational conversation about the future of the continent. We are to debate the question: “Is the older generation failing Africa’s youth?”.
I am there with the Accra discourse usuals: Will Senyo, the visionary behind Accra’s tech enclave in Osu, discourse peddlers like members of the World Economic Forum’s youth initiative, Global Shapers Accra Hub, and the heralded Mustapha Hamid, Ghana’s Minister of Information.
There are socialites like actress/artist Sister Deborah, impassioned students from oft-cited Ashesi University, and acclaimed journalists like Joy FM’s Kojo Yankson. The panel for the day’s debate is also to note: Zanetor Rawlings, Member of Parliament in Ghana; Patrick Awuah, founder of Ashesi University; Fatima Tambajang, a 24 year-old Gambian woman who returned from Denmark to live in Ghana; Ethel Cofie, entrepreneur and founder of Women In Tech Africa; and John Kufuor, former Ghanaian president and African Union Chairperson.
Like the event’s venue, the attendees and panelists are unassuming. No fancy suits or thousand dollar shoes or purses, a few young people notably wear ankara print, or ‘African wear’ as is the traditional Friday fashion in Ghana. Decorations are sparse - there are just a few pull up banners projecting a smiling Komla Dumor, the iconic Ghanaian journalist who worked for the BBC and in whose honor the mornings event was held. There are light refreshments a few people meander around.
The ambiance is genial, people in the room are generally familiar with each other, or at least, each other’s work. There is no trophy to be won, no points to be scored, and no money to be earned; we are freed our our usual African competitiveness and let their guards down. With the exception of the launch of the Komla Dumor awards prior and a five minute run down on the opening and closing applause for the show, no parts of the conversation are contrived.
The debate is how you hear it- the magnetic moderators, Ghana’s Akwasi Sarpong and Nigeria’s Amina Yuguda, guide the audience through a build up of questions on the state of affairs between African youth and and the older generation. Like one blows into a balloon, Sarpong and Yuguda effortlessly guide the conversation between the panelists and one or two audience members, till, pop, twelve hands shoot up and stay up, and Yuguda must choose who can speak. The room becomes measurably opinionated, energetic, and spirited. By the end, Sarpong notes that even the Minister for Information did not get to speak.
You will hear or have heard the meat of the show so what is of essence here is I paint a picture of what you cannot hear: the humor with which former President Kufuor courts the crowd despite vivid protests on the face of many when he affirms traditional gender tropes in his arguments. It’s almost like knowing both the intention and harmlessness of a person so forgiving him before he is remorseful.
Many may not agree with the former president but the man is endearing. It is also important to note the sympathy, despair, and concern with which many listen when a young Ghanaian man talks about his to journey to Libya. He talks about starting a business and losing his money in the mid 2000s. Pushed to the wall, he decides to head to Libya. Just like the saying goes, he too is saying the thing without saying the thing. Many of us know too well the uncertainty of the African marketplace, the plight of economic migration, and the reality of our precarious existence as young people in Ghana and Africa at large.
Finally, it is worth noting the agnst with which the students from Patrick Awuah’s brainchild, Ashesi University, speak. These students are among the youngest in the crowd and are armed with budding consciousness about our society and world. They are innocent and moral enough to seek justice and repair. If this is any testament to the temperament of the audience assembled, when they speak, we become silent and deliberate. Many times, we know they are right.
In fact, the debate closes with no clear answer to the question posed but prescriptions from audience members and panelists alike are commendable. As we prepare to usher in a new decade, Africa, like the rest of the world, is anxious about what the future holds. The continent, perhaps unlike its counterpart, contends with a hyper-charged reality, a growing and more vocal and visible youth, the world’s largest and youngest population.
As old paradigms disintegrate and shift, discourse is imperative to imagining and creating new systems and beliefs. If the continent can exhibit the attentiveness the BBC Africa debate audience extends to the ferocious Ashesi students who speak, we might be in good standing to create a prosperous continent for the most affected: our youth.
News report about the rape of a 4 year old in Ghana and her mother's journey to justice have been circulating widely. I argue that both a crisis and systems response is required to meaningfully address the issue.Read More
I recently learned about the grim history of the Bronx of the mid 70s to early 90s. How does the current conversation around the African Diaspora and contributions to the continent fit into this history and narrative? I share the history of the burning borough and how it relates to development in this post.Read More
Disruption and the change we seek to make won't happen immediately; but whether and how we believe it will happen ultimately dictates the type of work we do. In this post, I share my dad's perspective on Uber and how it differs from mine.Read More
A new generation of young Black people are visiting and moving to the continent at an increasing rate. I present a cursory look at this trend and why we may be seeing such a movement at this time.Read More
Mobile Money, the money transfer platform which has gained significant traction in East and West Africa, is not an Africa-only product because it can function anywhere. But it is useful because it is relies on and upholds deep traditional values. What happens if you take the product, and its values, to the U.S. and Europe?Read More
A lot of young Africans in the Diaspora are interested in doing business in Africa and want a personal perspective on what works and doesn't work. I share a bit of what I've seen and why I think certain areas are more lucrative than others.Read More
Our generation has been exposed to more and can therefore do more with what our parents have lacked the imagination or ability to do with what they have. Let's look at real estate and what young Africans can do with these assets.Read More