Before coming to Ghana, I had taken classes in which we discussed the importance of the country as a catalyst for the decolonization movement in Africa. Led by Kwame Nkrumah, and his radical ideas for development and nationalism in Ghana, it gained independence in 1957. One ideology that Nkrumah was a huge advocate for was Pan-Africanism. Defined as the political union of people in Africa, Nkrumah believed that “the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked-up with the total liberation of the African continent” – quoted on the steps of what is now the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum the night Ghana gained independence (“20 Quotes to Remember Kwame Nkrumah By”). His actions for Pan Africanism included bringing many African scholars and influential figures of the diaspora to Ghana, organizing one of the Pan-African Congress’, supporting the decolonization of African countries, among others.
However, his plans for the country were questioned when he became authoritarian and was ousted by a military coup in 1966. It seems that with him the ideals of Pan Africanism also became unpopular with the end of his presidency, and finally his death in 1972. In our class on political systems in Ghana this week, I asked about what Ghanaians think of Pan-Africanism – an ideology that helped bring the nation and the continent together – today. The answer that I received was not positive. Today, according to Dr. Bob-Milliar, a professor in the department of history and political studies, Ghanaians do not completely understand the meaning of Pan-Africanism. They understand the definition, but the societal and transnational meaning of Pan-Africanism does not resonate as it would have to colonized African countries who were fighting for independence together. Additionally, from personal interactions with Ghanaians, I have noticed a common sentiment of dislike towards other West African countries, and in particular Nigeria. With the agreement between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the tensions between Nigeria and Ghana expanded to more than who has the better jollof. ECOWAS allowed for the free movement of people and goods between member countries, among other agreements. In Ghana, people believe that Nigerians are smarter. Ghanaians believe that they always loose the market to Nigerians because they are able to sell and make the same products for less. With growing income inequality and unemployment in Ghana, the adversity to Nigerians, and other Africans in West Africa, is likely to continue to increase. From my conversations with taxi drivers, people that I work with, and Dr. Bob-Milliar, the common denominator in all these conversations was ECOWAS. They believed that ECOWAS allowed for Nigerians and people of other the other member states to come to Ghana and take their jobs and money. This rhetoric resonates close to home.
With this year, 2019, being branded a the “Year of the Return” in Ghana, it is calling for the African diaspora to come together to the ‘homeland’ and learn about Ghanaian and African cultures. However, the promotion of the Year of the Return directs its attention to people in the diaspora that were able to rise above the economic, social and political disenfranchisement that people of African descent faced, and continue to face, especially in America, and it does not accommodate for the low-income members of the diaspora. Everyday Ghanaians do not reflect the same ideals of a unified Africa and African diaspora as the Year of the Return is trying to show – and their critiques are even harsher to Africans from the continent who are in Ghana. Hopefully, the attitudes towards immigrants do not escalate to what it has reached in the US. In this day and with these ideas spreading, Ghanaians should be mindful of the principles that Nkrumah fought for independence with and support the total political, economic, and social upliftment of Africans.
“20 Quotes to Remember Kwame Nkrumah By.” AnswersAfrica. https://answersafrica.com/remembering-kwame-nkrumah-on-this-day-with-20-quotes.html
“Pan-Africanism.” Mirriam-Webster Dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Pan-Africanism
- A similar, but better researched, article on the relationship between Ghana and Nigeria’s relationship, including immigration. This was published after the “news of inhumane treatment and deportation of 723 Nigerians living in Ghana.”
- To learn more about the Year of the Return programming and rationalization here.