This file photo from 2008 shows the insides of Elmina castle near Cape Coast from which African slaves were held and them transported to America. Ghana in 2020 has appealed to African Americans to immigrate to Ghana or invest in the country to “escape racism” and to get deeply immersed in African culture. (Photo: Issouf Sanogo, AFP/Getty Images)

Claim: Ghana, in a pitch to Black Americans, offers money, land to Americans to escape ‘deadly’ racism

An article appearing in the online publication PopularSuperstars says Ghana is offering Black Americans land and money to Americans to avoid “deadly racism.”

Ghana, located in an area once known as the Gold Coast of Africa, was the hub of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the departure point for slaves bound for America.

Last year, Ghana declared the “Year of Return” to appeal to Black Americans to visit Ghana and become acquainted with the continent of their forefathers. Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, the minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, said the program was a boon to the economy and to the effort to boost Ghana’s tourism industry. 

The BBC reported Ghana attracted a number of celebrities in 2019, including model Naomi Campbell, actor Idris Elba, comedian Steve Harvey and American rapper Cardi B.

To double down on its pitch to Black Americans, Ghana unveiled for this year a program called “Beyond the Return.” According to the cited online article: “Ghana Tells Black Americans: ‘We Will Pay You To Live In Ghana.’”

It said Oteng-Gyasi “offered unhappy African Americans to come to Ghana.”

Related: ‘I’m leaving and I’m just not coming back’: Fed up with racism, Black Americans head overseas

An appeal to Black Americans

Oteng-Gyasi’s overture to Black Americans has been pointed, as noted by her comments in Accra in June at a ceremony honoring George Floyd, whose death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer touched off weeks of protests in the U.S.

“Racism in America continues to be a deadly pandemic, for which for more than 400 years now, our brothers and sisters in the United States of America have yearned for a cure,” she said. 

“We continue to open our arms and invite all our brothers and sisters home. Ghana is your home. Africa is your home.” Oteng-Gyasi said, according to Newsweek.  We have our arms wide open ready to welcome you home. … Please take advantage, come home, build a life in Ghana. You do not have to stay where you are not wanted forever, you have a choice and Africa is waiting for you.”

More: In Ghana’s Year of Return, NAACP goes home on behalf of the ancestors

What is ‘Beyond the Return’?

According to the tourism authority’s “VisitGhana” website, “Beyond the Return” is not only aimed at promoting tourism but also fostering economic relations, trade and investments from the diaspora in Africa and the world at large.

It lists seven “pillars” of the program, including “progressive government transparent regulations” to encourage investment; developing pilgrimage infrastructure around “sites of memory,” promoting tourism; and creating a sense of national consciousness anchored on key cultural festivals.

Jubilee House, also known as the Presidential Palace, is Ghana’s equivalent to the White House in the United States. Located in Accra, it is the official residence of Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo. (Photo: Lottie Joiner for USA TODAY)

The second pillar, aimed squarely at potential emigres, “will see to the adoption of legal and policy frameworks on visa acquisition (e-visa) and the institution of a diaspora visa. It will facilitate key diaspora pathway programs such as Citizenship programs, Educational and work exchanges, Residence and work permits.”

None of the pillars in this framework for “Beyond the Return” includes any reference to giving land or money for potential immigrants.

More: Fact check: Yes, Kente cloths were historically worn by empire involved in West African slave trade

Comments by Ghanaian officials indicate that the Beyond the Return program is aimed at attracting wealthier African Americans to encourage their investment in Ghana, rather than those who might need financial assistance.

“We feel that given the wealth that African Americans and Black Americans have, given that spending power, travel budgets of Blacks in America,” Akwasi Agyeman, CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority tells Black Enterprise. “We felt that it’s about time that we start that conversation that, instead of moving to any other destination, come back to where you came from.”

Land giveaway isn’t part of the plan

In response to an inquiry by USA TODAY,  Agyemang, whose tourism authority is an agency under the Ministry of Tourism, said the Popular Superstars article regarding purported offers of land and money is “categorically” untrue.

Likewise, Rabbi Kohain Halevi, director of PANAFEST, a cultural and theatrical event that attempts to unite Africans on the continent and in the diaspora around the issues raised by slavery, says he has never heard of any financial incentive being offered to African Americans or any members of the diaspora to return to Ghana. 

Halevi, member of the original Year of Return Committee who was recently asked to serve on the Beyond the Return committee tells USA TODAY the only issue involving land that he knows of is one tribal chief who has offered land for free, but requires a registration fee for potential participants. 

Rashad McCrorey, an American entrepreneur and writer who founded Africa Cross-Culture, a back to Africa travel company that organizes trips to Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigera and Rwanda, also says it is inaccurate that a “land and money” offer is part of the program.

“The belief that Black Americans will receive free money and free land is a false rumor,” McCrorey, who took self-quarantine in Ghana during the coronavirus pandemic, tells USA TODAY. “It seems like people mistook the minister of tourism invite for Black Americans to come home and ran with it and started spreading false information.” 

Goodlet Owusu Ansah, a master’s student in International Business at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and an author on research into hospitality and tourism, explains that “Beyond the Return ” a “safe-haven of a sort to entrepreneurial African diaspora while seeking to economically stimulate the Ghanaian economy.”

“However, references to commitments in the form of financial gains and land handouts are factually incorrect. Generally, land ownership is held by the local ethnic groups and as such will be very difficult for government to be engaged in such gestures in the first instance,” he tells USA TODAY.

“Although, the Rights of Abode bill was birthed in 2000, where Ghanaian citizenship was open to those who have the need for it, there is no proclamation to support monetary and land handouts, and Beyond the Return has not changed this either,” he says. “What government can do is to expedite land acquisition processes for those who will need such.”

The Ghanaian embassy to the U.S. did not respond to inquiries on more specifics of the program.

Our find: Partly false

While the claim that Ghana is attempting to attract Black Americans is clearly true, there is no evidence that the country is officially offering land or money. Instead, Ghana, through improvement in its financial regulations, and by offering help with visas, citizenship and work permits, is looking for potential immigrants to invest in Ghana. We rate this claim as PARTLY FALSE.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

Read or Share this story: