In 1920, when Marcus Garvey presented his Back-to-Africa movement proposal in New York, a mission that earned him some vile and horrible names from his kinsmen.
It's almost a century later, and the same problems that Garvey pointed out still haunt the African-American. According to Garvey, the push by African-Americans for social equality was an exercise in futility since they were destined to remain a permanent minority who could not integrate because the majority whites would not allow them to.
Unlikely pioneers have emerged in the 21st century to embrace the vision of Garvey. Millenials in the United States, inspired by the never ending racism in America have decided that it is not the American dream they need to embrace, it is a time to embrace The African Dream.
When Lakeshia Ford decided she was going to pack up her life and her budding career and move from New Jersey to Ghana, her family could not understand why she wanted to make the trek to a country thousands of miles from home. Yet Ford was adamant, she did not feel at home, the US was home only in name.
The tipping point leading to the decision would not have been a surprise to the 20th century advocate of this vision. Inspired by the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer, Ford decided this was the end of her relationship and the country of her birth.
“Mike Brown got shot and it just put this huge distaste in my mouth for, like, the country and the flag and what it means to be American and representing the American flag,” Ford says. “I felt very detached from that identity. I felt very excluded.”
Many decided that taking to the street was the answer for their problems. Yet it has been decades since the iconic Selma march led by Martin Luther King Jr. and blacks have only made marginal gains in the civil rights movement. You need not look further than the racial slurs, police massacres and Charlottesville for you to realise Garvey was right America had little or no space for blacks.
The story of Ford is one among a handul of other young blacks who have decided that Africa holds a healthier environment for their dreams and visions. Members of the African-American Association of Ghana estimate that about 5,000 African-Americans are currently living in Accra, a sharp increase from about 1,000 a decade ago.
Ghana is forecasted to be the fastest growing economy in the world in 2019. Along with 5 other African countries, they headline the Top 10 fastest growing economies of 2019.
This represents a big opportunity for most skilled young Americans who are looking for the energy to go where they are more appreciated and allowed space to grow.
Now, Ford works with firms like the financial tech company Mazzuma, which launched a cryptocurrency to make mobile payments easier, and the data mining company Viotech.
In 2014, after more than 20 years in America, Yaa Cuguano moved back to Ghana. Though she had attained the much coveted US citizenship, she had grown weary of the rat race and realised she needed more, and Ghana would provide the consanguinity she needed.
Cugano works at MPharma, an e-health company co-founded by another returned Ghanaian-American, Gregory Rockson, and backed by Silicon Valley venture capital firms. A 2017 report found that African companies received more than $500 million in venture capital, a 53 percent increase from the previous year.
Unlike in the United States, she feels at home with her skin colour in Africa. There is no risk for being judged by it or the strength of her ideas weighed by her blackness.
“In America, all the places I worked at, I was always the only black woman in my team,” she says. “In New York, one of the places I worked at, it was a very — I would call it a hostile environment. … It was just very hard to work with them because there always was an objection to everything I said or suggested.”
What Garvey realised though was that it could be problematic to try to advocate for evry black person to Africa. He set out on a mission to attract skilled professionals into Africa.
Ghana's office for diaspora relations has followed this path. It is on a mission to attract those who are able to boost the economy and build the nation. The country marked 2019 The Year of Return to attract African-Americans and Ghanaian-Americans.
The story of Ford and other returning blacks show the opportunity that Africa holds for her returning children. The booming economic landscape in countries such as Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya and others offers opportunities for growth and development for young start-ups. The social sentiment is more than welcoming; locals are ever ready to embrace their kin.