By Ahedor Jessica
The Chief Executive of the Ghana Tourism Authority, Mr Kwasi Agyeman, has stated that by the end of the year, all hindrances to visa processes to Ghana will be resolved. Addressing the media at a press conference in Accra, as part of activities lined up for this year’s celebration of biennial Pan African Historical Festival (PANAFEST) and the Year of Return, he said the programs secretariat is also working with the Foreign Affairs Ministry to ensure that it left behind an e-visa system as a Year of Return legacy initiative to remove the barriers and hustles diaspora face with visa acquisition.
According to him, the measures include slashing visa fees for people from the Diaspora who are coming from countries whose citizens require visa to gain entry into Ghana from $150 to $ 75. It has also done some reforms to the cumbersome visa application processes and applying visa waivers in selected Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and Guyana. Mr Agyeman, says even though some milestones has been chalked in the countries on visa processes there are still some bureaucratic bottlenecks affecting its implementation.
PANAFEST is an annual home coming celebration birthed by the late Efua Sutherland Addy in the mid-1980s as a cultural vehicle to bring Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora together in Ghana. In the last 25 years, the platform has attracted patrons from across the world, particularly in the Diaspora,. Some of the participants observe it as a mission to rediscover their roots and identity.
Hosting this year’s celebration under the theme PANAFEST and Emancipation Day celebrations as part of the Year of Return. Speaking to the chairperson of PANAFEST Foundation, Professor Esi Sutherland-Addy, she says besides the sense of identity for which diaspora appreciated PANAFEST for, it has also provided them the opportunity to reconnect with their cultural heritage. With widespread castles, forts and other footprints of colonialism and slavery in the Central Region, one of the many achievements PANAFEST has spotlighted the region as a tourism hub.
She said the springing up of hotels, hosting of activities at the Cape Coast Centre for National Culture, including trade in artifacts and organic products, are all tangible benefits of PANAFEST in the area. As part of program line up, the celebration of Year of Return include providing opportunity for the participants to relive the experiences of their ancestors who went through the horrifying ordeal of slavery in Cape Coast through the door of no return and ending up at the Elmina Castle on July 26, 2019.
Buses would be provided to convey people from Accra to Cape Coast, Elmina, Assin Manso and Assin Praso; communities that would play key roles in the celebrations for free. The event which started on Juyl 20, 2019, with the crossing of the Prah, a durbar at Assin Praso and a pre-slave route pilgrimage atonement which ends on August 2, 2019. Other highlights are a wreath-laying ceremony to pay tribute to pioneers of Pan Africanism at the W.E.B Dubois Centre, George Padmore Memorial Library and the Nkrumah Mausoleum, all in Accra on July 24, 2019; the opening of One Africa Walls of Remembrance at One Africa Health Resort in Elmina; international variety night at the Cape Coast Stadium on July 27 and an inter-faith dialogue at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium. There will also be a colloquium for people of Africa descent and reparation at the University of Cape Coast on July 29, which will be followed by a Women’s Day on July 30 and musical performances on August 3, 2019.