African American News and Genealogy

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ghana to Offer Lifetime Visas to U.S. Slave Descendants

BY LAURIE GOERING Chicago Tribune ACCRA, Ghana - Ever since Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president, invited his classmates from Pennsylvania's Lincoln University to come home with him to help build Africa, African-Americans have been coming to Ghana to visit, work, volunteer, invest or live in what has become the quintessential African homeland. W.E.B. Du Bois lived here. So did Maya Angelou. Today the country, once at the heart of Africa's slave-trading routes, has the largest community of African-Americans in West Africa, most of whom have come looking for their roots and a sense of purpose. Now Ghana, a poor country eager for more American tourists, donors and investors, is about to make life even easier for its far-flung black diaspora: It plans to soon offer slave descendants lifetime visas or even dual Ghanaian-U.S. citizenship. "Who we most want as tourists and investors are our own people who left 200 or 300 years ago," said Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey, the country's tourism chief, whose department last month was renamed the Ministry for Tourism and Diasporan Relations. "It's not just about blood ties. It's good economic sense." Lifetime visas should be easy for regular visitors to get. But the new passports - still awaiting approval in Parliament - won't be handed to just anyone, Obetsebi-Lamptey said. African-Americans eager for formal Ghanaian identity will have to commit to invest, help develop or live in Ghana because "citizenship carries some responsibility," he said. Ghana does not offer any particular tax breaks for investors from the diaspora. But it is eager for help from its relations abroad, be it regular visits from American tourists, donations to development projects or investment in job-creating enterprises it desperately needs, officials said. Full Story:


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