Key Lessons from a Trip to Ghana, and How Liberia can Benefit
Cape Coast, Ghana -There is a lot to understand about the African Continent. Although we, as Africans, are often subjected to the single story the West has assigned to us, we are so much more complex than that. The continent is made of 50 different countries, all divided into states, regions, counties, languages, and ultimately, different cultures. In recent time, I have been able to experience and celebrate a bit of that difference during a series of visits to Ghana, in a quest to better understand the people and their culture.
Ghana, capital city, Accra, was once known as the Golden Coast due to its surplus supply of one of the world’s most valued minerals; you guessed it, gold. Home to over 30 million people, Ghana is made up of 10 regions, each possessing their own special skill and/or contribution to the Country.
As for the Ghanaians, they are a special group of people. With most speaking the nation’s official language, Twi, which almost sounds like a song when spoken, Ghanaians are straight forward and patriotic, with a slight politeness that carries an undertone of force and skepticism. Its all intriguing really, but what I admire most about them is their love for their nation, which is apparent in their words and their actions. I’ve honestly never seen a nation as decorated with their own flag and its colors as much as Ghana. it is an absolutely beautiful and empowering sight to see.
Since moving back to Liberia almost two years ago, I have been to Ghana on a few occasions, with each time more eye-opening than the previous. With all that I have heard, observed, and experienced in the golden coast, the theme that remains constant is the rich and interesting story the nation has to tell.
Unlike Liberia, Ghana has mastered the art of telling its own stories, so much, that those stories have become a source of income for the nation through its tourism sector. People from around the world, especially those of African descent, travel annually to Ghana in hopes of forming a connection to the African continent — a connection that was violently stolen from them through the trans-atlantic slave trade. With it being the direct gateway through which Africans were stolen from the African continent, most of whom never returned until their death, there is a sense a surrender that encapsulates you as a visitor. Surrender, not in the sense of defeat, but in the sense of realization, sorrow, and understanding — all strong emotions I felt upon visiting the Elmina Castle in Cape Coast, which was the direct departure point for captured Africans during the slave trade.
Like their Liberian counterparts, the people of Ghana are so, so strong. Despite having suffered a seemingly eternal feat of colonialism under the British rule, they have managed to remain deeply rooted in their culture and traditions, a trait that constantly leaves me in awe because as a Liberian, it is not something I am so used to. I feel like knowing or understanding my own culture is a journey I have embarked on alone, with no clear direction as to where to start or end.
Liberia prides itself on never being victim to colonialism, and yet, our culture seems non-existent, leaving the people confused as to what really is “Liberian”, which then makes us resort to borrowing from the Nigerians and Ghanaians alike.
Liberia, being the direct return point for descendants of captured and enslaved Africans, specifically those carried to the United States, can take a page from the Ghanaian playbook and market itself as what it is — the gateway to Africa from the Diaspora. It can also be a point of connection in which people of African descent from all over the world, can come and feel like they have returned home. They can understand their history and that of their ancestors through Liberia, but only if the nation rightly packages that history, as the Ghanaians have done. Yes, our past might be a bit painful, but before that pain was something else — pride, tradition, belonging… homecoming. These are the stories that need to be told.
Luckily, we have brands like West Tourism (IG: @west_tourism), founded by Chiquita Afuluenu, which is a tourism company based in Liberia that organizes tours and sight seeing options for individuals and groups visiting Liberia according to their taste and interests. This company is a great blueprint for the growth of the tourism industry in Liberia.
Visiting other nearby African countries, especially Ghana, has motivated me to continue doing the work I do to bring light to what Liberia has to offer, in hopes that it peaks the interest of the public to begin seeing Liberia as the tourism destination it is.