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Ghana

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African and African American Entrepreneurs Collaborate to Build a Community in Ghana

Kofi Anku is a shareholder and board member of Ayi Mensah Park, a vibrant of 200 unit townhouse community nestled at the foot of the Aburi Hills in Accra, Ghana.

This real estate development is the result of the collaboration between Black-owned businesses that operate in Ghana and in the U.S.

In this interview, we discuss:

1) The resources and opportunities available in Ghana

2) The importance and benefits of Black businesses collaborating.

3) Honoring the vision Malcolm X had for Black American and African unity.

African American Entrepreneurs

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Tony O. Lawson


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W. E. B. Du Bois and The Year of Return for African Diaspora

In the heart of Accra, Ghana’s capital, just a few meters from the United States embassy, lie the tombs of W. E. B. Du Bois, a great African-American civil rights leader, and his wife, Shirley.

The founder of the US-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People moved to Accra in 1961, settling in the city’s serene residential area of Labone and living there until his death in August 1963.

President Kwame Nkrumah along with WEB Dubois and Shirley Graham Dubois in Ghana, 1960.

Du Bois’s journey to Ghana may have signaled the emergence of a profound desire among Africans in the diaspora to retrace their roots and return to the continent. Ghana was a major hub for the transatlantic slave trade from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The W.E.B Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture

In Washington, D.C., in September 2018, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo declared and formally launched the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” for Africans in the Diaspora, giving fresh impetus to the quest to unite Africans on the continent with their brothers and sisters in the diaspora.

At that event, President Akufo-Addo said, “We know of the extraordinary achievements and contributions they [Africans in the diaspora] made to the lives of the Americans, and it is important that this symbolic year—400 years later—we commemorate their existence and their sacrifices.”

W. E. B. Du Bois during the ceremony in which he received an honorary degree from the University of Ghana on his 95th birthday, February 23, 1963. Credit: Digital Commonwealth


200 years since the abolition of slavery

US Congress members Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, diplomats and leading figures from the African-American community, attended the event.

Representative Jackson Lee linked the Ghanaian government’s initiative with the passage in Congress in 2017 of the 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act.

Provisions in the act include the setting up of a history commission to carry out and provide funding for activities marking the 400th anniversary of the “arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.”

Since independence in 1957, successive Ghanaian leaders have initiated policies to attract Africans abroad back to Ghana.

In his maiden independence address, then–Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah sought to frame Africa’s liberation around the concept of Africans all over the world coming back to Africa.

“Nkrumah saw the American Negro as the vanguard of the African people,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard, who first traveled to Ghana when he was 20 and fresh out of Harvard, afire with Nkrumah’s spirit.

“He wanted to be able to utilize the services and skills of African-Americans as Ghana made the transition from colonialism to independence.”

Ghana’s parliament passed a Citizenship Act in 2000 to make provision for dual citizenship, meaning that people of Ghanaian origin who have acquired citizenships abroad can take up Ghanaian citizenship if they so desire.

That same year the country enacted the Immigration Act, which provides for a “Right of Abode” for any “Person of African descent in the Diaspora” to travel to and from the country “without hindrance.”

Du Bois (center) at his 95th birthday party in 1963 in Ghana, with President of the Republic of Ghana Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (right) and First Lady Fathia Nkrumah.

The Joseph Project

In 2007, in its 50th year of independence, the government initiated the Joseph Project to commemorate 200 years since the abolition of slavery and to encourage Africans abroad to return.

Similar to Israel’s policy of reaching out to Jews across Europe and beyond following the Holocaust, the Joseph Project is named for the Biblical Joseph who was sold into slavery in Egypt but would later reunite with his family and rule Egypt.

The African-American community is excited about President Akufo-Addo’s latest initiative. In social media posts, many expressed interest in visiting Africa for the first time.

Among them is Amber Walker, a media practitioner who says that 2019 is the time to visit her ancestral home.

“The paradox of being an African-American is that we occupy spaces where we are not being considered as citizens. So I love the idea of Ghana taking the lead to kind of help African-Americans claim their ancestral space,” she told Africa Renewal. “It is a step in the right direction.

“It is definitely comforting because that kind of red carpet has not been rolled out by our oppressors in the Western world,” she added.

The W.E.B Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture

In making the announcement, President Akufo-Addo said: “Together on both sides of the Atlantic, we’ll work to make sure that never again will we allow a handful of people with superior technology to walk into Africa, seize their people and sell them into slavery. That must be our resolution, that never again, never again!”

But Walker took issue with Akufo-Addo for appearing to downplay the actions of some Africans in the slave trade.

“In the president’s [Akufo-Addo’s] statement, he sounds like the entire blame is placed on white people coming in with weapons and taking black people away, but that’s not necessarily the history. So I think that needs to be acknowledged,” she said.

She suggested a form of reconciliation such as took place in post-apartheid South Africa—a truth and reconciliation process that will satisfy the millions of Africans whose forefathers were sold into slavery.

 

In 2013 the United Nations declared 2015–2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent to “promote respect, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent.”

The theme for the ten-year celebration is “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development.”

The “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” will coincide with the biennial Pan African Historical Theatre Festival (Panafest), which is held in Cape Coast, home of Cape Coast Castle and neighbouring Elmina Castle—two notable edifices recognized by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as World Heritage Sites of the slave era.

 

Source: IPS News

Cover image: by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast
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Two Sisters Created the Only Luxury Chocolate Brand Made in Africa

Although West African countries produce over seventy percent of the world’s cocoa, I’ll bet you can’t name one African chocolate brand. Why? Because most of the Continent’s cocoa is exported to foreign countries that produce their own brands.

Fortunately, there are now African chocolate makers getting into the game. Meet sisters, Priscilla and Kimberly Addison. They are the founders of 57 Chocolate, a Ghanaian made chocolate brand.

Priscilla and Kimberly Addison, Founders of 57 Chocolate

SB: What inspired you to start 57 Chocolate and what does the name mean?

57C: Having spent time living in Geneva, Switzerland, we thought it was strange that Switzerland is known for its chocolate but yet doesn’t grow cocoa, the core ingredient in chocolate. Meanwhile, Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa but produces very little chocolate itself. We saw a vast need for the manufacturing of chocolate in Ghana and across the continent of Africa.

In Ghana, the candy shelves of supermarkets and malls are overflowing with foreign chocolate bars, many undoubtedly made with Ghana’s very own cocoa. Having recognized all this, we were determined to use Ghanaian cocoa to create a Ghanaian brand of chocolate that is reputable locally and internationally. Chocolate really piqued our interest because it allows us a lot of creativity.

We get to experiment with different factors such as how dark to roast the beans, the percentage of cocoa to include, and creating different flavors and parings (e.g. sea salt, coconut shavings etc). We also love chocolate because it really is a healthy treat if you choose chocolate that is high in cocoa content.

The name ‘57 is short for 1957—the year of Ghana’s independence. 1957 was a revolutionary year for the country, not only because it was freed from colonial rule, but it is the year that gave birth to the nation’s “can do” spirit. The name ‘57 is meant to inspire a reawakening of Ghana’s 1957 “can do” spirit.

It is a call and reminder that sometimes in order to go forward, we need to look back at our foundation—our roots. ‘57 Chocolate aims to inspire the people of Ghana, especially the youth to create and develop made in Ghana high quality products.

SB: What has been the most challenging and the most fulfilling part of your entrepreneurial journey so far?

57C: A major challenge for us with starting the business was dumsor– a popular Ghanaian word used to describe the unpredictable power outages. Ghana has been undergoing a power crisis and our business requires a study supply of electricity in order to produce and store our chocolate, since it is made from the cocoa bean to the chocolate bar.

The most fulfilling part of our journey is seeing the joy our chocolate brings to our clients, and knowing that we are adding value to a resource right at home. Many people thought this would be impossible to achieve. Additionally, it’s the support and encouragement that we’ve received from near and far. We have received several inquiries about investments and whether we ship our chocolate abroad.  

 

SB: How important is it to you that African countries manufacture more products instead of importing?

57C: We believe manufacturing is crucial for the growth and survival of any economy. There is a vast need for manufacturing in Ghana and across the continent of Africa. Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa on the African continent but, very little value is added to the bean itself. We think it’s time to change this narrative.

SB: What are some the different flavors that you produce that are unique to your brand? 

57C: Currently, we have 6 signature chocolates: dark (2 kinds including 88 percent baobab and 73 percent dark chocolate), milk, white, mocha latte (coffee flavor) and bissap (hibiscus flavor) chocolate. We pair our chocolates with various ingredients like coconut and sea salt.

Other services we provide include catering for events and chocolate pairings/tastings for groups (a minimum of 6 people). 

SB: How important is it that your branding was is on point from the design of the chocolate to the packaging?

57C: Branding from start to finish is incredibly important to us, given that we aim to challenge the status quo of luxury chocolate being only a product of Europe. What is most unique about our brand is that we produce chocolate that is a reflection and celebration of Ghanaian art and culture, particularly through our Adinkra bars.

These bite-sized bars are beautifully engraved with visual symbols created by the Ashanti of Ghana. We have a collection of 12 different Adinkra symbols, each representing a concept or a particular meaning such as leadership, beauty, humility, strength, and resourcefulness. We will be adding more concepts to our collection in the coming year.

SB: You’ve lived in multiple countries around the world. In what ways has this influence your brand?

57C: Our brand has certainly been influenced by the places we’ve been lucky to call home. Living in Switzerland—(one of the country’s most known for its chocolate) we had the opportunity to sample a lot of quality chocolate and so we wanted to create a brand that also exuded excellence.

Our return to Ghana was simply a re-awakening of the need to manufacture chocolate from bean to bar—right at home. The Adinkra chocolates we offer pay homage to our Ghanaian roots.’57 Chocolate is more than just chocolate. It’s about art and culture. This aspect is reflected in everything we do and our brand as a whole.

Living in multiple countries has also influenced our chocolate flavors. For example, having grown up in Dakar, Senegal we drank Bissap (a drink made from hibiscus leaves) often.  It was truly a treat for us and our three older siblings. It was always in our fridge and a fresh batch never lasted more than 3 days.

For years we watched our mom steep copious amounts of hibiscus leaves in hot water with cloves, sieve and mix in sugar, vanilla, homemade ginger and pineapple juice. We wanted to somehow recreate this tangy but fruity taste from our childhood and pay tribute to this drink that cherished around the world. Bissap is also enjoyed in Ghana, but it’s more popularly known as sobolo.

It is always eye-opening going into a local mall or grocery store here in Ghana and seeing that 99.9 percent of the goods sold are imported.  Foreign soaps, fruits, dog food, juices, chocolate, tomatoes, flour, sugar, and even toothpicks (to name a few) flood the aisles of Ghana’s supermarkets. The country imports goods that its people can either grow or manufacture.

It is known that Ghana primarily exports its resources in its rawest forms–the cocoa bean is a perfect example. We believe in adding value to our local resources by processing and manufacturing them into finished goods. We also believe in patronizing and purchasing other locally made goods and products when we can.  

When people manufacture or purchase locally made goods, we are helping Ghana’s economy grow. Our hope to one day walk into Ghana’s supermarkets and see high quality made in Ghana goods dominating the aisles.

SB: Where do you see your company in 5 years?

57C: We will continue to provide high-quality products that reflect Ghanaian art and culture to our customers. We also plan to continue to create gainful job opportunities as we expand our operations.

SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

57C: It is important to know and understand the factors that can either benefit or hurt the operations of your business. There is a saying that goes: knowing your customer is paramount for business success. While this is true, we also believe knowing the business climate—where you work is of equal importance.


Also, we believe it is a great time to be in Africa. Africans and Africans in the Diaspora are showing the world that the continent has an incredible amount of potential, worth, and creativity.

Entrepreneurs, change-makers, and bloggers are writing a positive narrative for the continent—contrary to how the global media normally portrays the continent (e.g. typical depictions of abject poverty and civil war). We encourage African youth to actively participate in contributing to this positive narrative.

For a complete list of 57 Chocolate products and to book a tasting, visit their website.  

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson