The Pan-African Festival (PANAFEST) and Emancipation 2019 kicked off in style in Cape Coast last Saturday, with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo describing the trans-Atlantic slave trade as a “barbaric episode” which must never be allowed to occur in any form.
He said the celebration must give Africans the opportunity to say to one another that never again should African people go through such inhumane treatment.
The celebration, which is on the theme: “Uniting the African family”, and the sub-theme: “Beyond 400 years: Reaching across continents into the future”, will be used to showcase the country’s rich and diverse culture.
PANAFEST, which is a special celebration for Africans and people of African descent, is rooted in the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the development of Africa.
It is aimed at promoting understanding, peace and unity among all African peoples and those in the Diaspora.
Most of the events will take place in Cape Coast.
Emancipation Day, on the other hand, commemorates the significant date of August 1,1834 when slavery and the slave trade was formally abolished in most of the British Empire.
The celebration dovetails into the Year of Return 2019, which is a major landmark event Ghana is marking, targeting the African-American and the Diaspora Market to mark 400 years of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia.
It is against this background that the launch of the event in Cape Coast was marked with pomp and circumstance.
Chiefs, in their full regalia, portrayed the richness of Ghanaian culture, much to the admiration of the hundreds from within and outside the country who watched the ceremony.
President Akufo-Addo said the celebration would also reignite the Pan-Africanism flame.
He further expressed his commitment and dedication to the cause of Pan-Africanism, which the country’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, committed himself to at the time of Ghana’s independence.
He said PANAFEST provided the platform to reawaken Africans in the Diaspora to retrace their roots to the Motherland, Africa, using Ghana as the gateway.
The President said the anniversary must also provide the opportunity to strengthen the bonds of solidarity between Ghanaians and “our kith and kin overseas and in the Americas and the so-called New York”.
“It gives us the opportunity to restate clearly that the destiny of all Black people is bound up with the destiny of African people,” he stressed.
The Minister of Tourism, Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, said the ministry’s resolve to develop the country’s rich and diverse tourism, arts and culture products was based on the fact that the tourism potential was huge if well harnessed and supported.
She said such a potential would serve as a catalyst for the rapid transformation of the economy, particularly in generating the much-needed foreign exchange and revenue and boosting micro, small and medium-scale businesses in communities that hosted tourism activities.
She said the ministry was of the conviction that another laudable aspect of PANAFEST was its propensity to present business and investment opportunities to visitors in the various sub-sectors of the tourism industry.
“Let me assure you that the current government of Ghana is committed to the tourism, arts and culture agenda and every support is being given to the sector to execute its mandate in the development of the country,” Mrs Oteng-Gyasi stressed.
The Paramount Chief of the Oguaa Traditional Area, Osabarima Kwesi Atta II, who chaired the event, disclosed that Mamphey Development (MAMDEV) Ghana Limited, led by Mr Kojo Mamphey, in collaboration with the Cape Coast Metropolitan Assembly and the traditional council, would undertake a $10-billion transformation of Cape Coast into a Green City where everyone would have an enjoyable and pleasant stay.
That laudable initiative, he noted, would be a game changer in Ghana’s quest for development.
The Chairperson of the PANAFEST Board of Trustees, Prof. Afua Sutherland Addy, said she considered the ceremony as a family gathering aimed at strengthening “our ties”.
She commended the Ghana Tourism Authority for delivering its mandate to the letter, adding that “we have enjoyed such cooperation from many such institutions and individuals”.
For his part, the Vice-President of the National House of Chiefs, Daasebre Kwebu Ewusi, said when President Akufo-Addo launched the programme in 2018, it breathed fresh air into the atmosphere, adding that the President’s strategy to do that was commendable.
He underscored the need to support the theme for the anniversary in order to position Ghana’s identity, adding: “We appreciate all those who contributed to make this a reality.”