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General News of Saturday, 20 July 2019

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Government to clear challenges in visa acquisition by diasporans

The government has put measures in place to clear challenges in visa acquisition that often affect the celebration of the biennial Pan African Historical Festival (PANAFEST) and programmes marking the Year of Return 2019, the Chief Executive of the Ghana Tourism Authority, Mr Kwasi Agyeman, has stated.

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, reforming the cumbersome visa application processes and applying visa waivers in selected Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and Guyana.

Spelling out the details at a press conference in Accra yesterday as part of activities lined up for the Year of Return, he said the programme secretariat was 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 diasporans face with visa acquisition, which would be completed by the end of the year.

Mr Agyeman, however, admitted that while some significant milestones had been reached, particularly on visa waivers, there were still some bureaucratic bottlenecks affecting its implementation.

“Some of the airlines still refuse passengers board and flight unless they see documentations from Accra,” he added.

Annual General Meeting

Activities have also been lined up for this year’s PANAFEST and Emancipation Day celebrations as part of the Year of Return.

Benefits

The Chairperson of the PANAFEST Foundation, Professor Esi Sutherland-Addy, said besides the sense of identity for which diasporans appreciated PANAFEST, it 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, Prof. Sutherland-Addy said one of the many achievements of PANAFEST was also the spotlight on 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, were all tangible benefits of PANAFEST in the area.

Programme

Programmes scheduled for the year for 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.

She said 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 starts on July 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.

PANAFEST

PANAFEST was mooted 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.

It has attracted patrons from across the world, particularly in the Diaspora, in the last 25 years. Some of the participants observe it as a mission to rediscover their roots and identity.