Ghanaian president declared 2019 the ‘Year of Return’. Consequently, there are series of events to commemorate the celebration later this year. As a way of creating awareness for the upcoming celebration, the president has undertaken a tour of five Caribbean countries. This includes Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana, and now Jamaica.
Consequently, Jamaica Prime Minister, Andrew Holness and the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo have agreed to waive entry visa requirements for citizens traveling to and from both countries. This was revealed during a press conference in Kingston, Jamaica on Saturday, June 15, 2019. The agreement came into effect on 1st July 2019. The leaders also seized the opportunity to discuss relations between both countries. Speaking at the press conference, Prime Minister Holness said,
“We also discussed the excellent opportunities for cooperation in other areas such as energy and mining; sport and culture; as well as tourism, education, and training.”
How the year of return can strengthen the bilateral relationship between Ghana and Jamaica
Ghana-Jamaica relations goes back to the slave trade and emigration of Ashanti to the Caribbean. However, the Year of Return is to celebrate 400 years since the arrival of first African slaves to Jamestown Virginia. President Akufo-Addo described the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as a “horrendous episode of human history”. President Akufo-Addo said,
“We want to commemorate it, to be able to say together that never again will Africa and her people permit themselves to be subjugated to these types of dehumanizing and inhumane events. Never again! At the same time, we want to use the symbolism of this year to take concrete steps to solidify the relations of our kith and kin in the Americas and the Caribbean. The relationship that we are forming here in Jamaica will form part of the process of solidifying the relations between those of us on the continent of Africa and those of you in the diaspora, outside Africa.”
Besides the sensitization for the Year of Return, the two leaders pledged to reactivate the Ghana-Jamaica Permanent Joint Commission for Co-operation. The Joint Commission has been dormant for a long while. The Ghanaian president believes the Commission will serve as a legal business framework for both countries. In his words, President Akufo-Addo said,
“Now, it has come to the time to give teeth to those relations by making sure the various areas of engagement in education, tourism, and cultural activity are specifically tied down. That is really my purpose of coming here, apart from a mission to sensitize you in Jamaica about an event that we are commemorating this year; [Year of Return].”
The significance of the visa waiver
With the visa waiver now in place, Ghanaians can travel to Jamaica without fulfilling entry visa requirements. However, the Foreign Affairs Ministers of both countries will negotiate and finalize the agreement. Stressing the importance of visa waiver to Ghana-Jamaica relations, President Akufo-Addo said,
“We cannot have visas standing in the way of those relations, so the decision has been taken by my government that, as Ghanaians benefit from visa-free arrangements here in Jamaica, we are also going to provide visa-free arrangements for Jamaicans in Ghana, to facilitate and also make it easier for you to come and join us for the ‘Year of Return’”.
Prime Minister Holness hailed the Year of Return as an initiative that can help both countries deepen commercial relations. In a statement affirming the long-standing relationship between Ghana and Jamaica, Prime Minister Holness said,
“Our relations are deeply rooted in our ancestral and historical connections, forged over many years and only made stronger by our firm democratic traditions, shared principles and vision for peace and prosperity, and the cultural affinities which unite our peoples. We can use this initiative to forge increased inter-personal connections and at the same time deepen the trade and commercial relations between our respective countries.”