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Meet The Group That’s Coordinating ‘Birthright Trips’ To Africa

By Parker Diakite

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This year’s 400th year anniversary of the first Africans to arrive in America has sparked an interest in ancestral tourism with people from the United States, Caribbean, and Europe seeking to explore their West African roots.

Tourism in Ghana has nearly doubled this year alone after the country’s President Nana Akufo-Addo announced the “Year of Return” campaign, which was designed to boost the country’s tourism, while simultaneously allowing descendants of the African diaspora to reconnect with the continent.

Throughout the year, Ghana plans to “open its arms even wider to welcome home brothers and sisters in what will become a birthright journey home for the global African family,” Akufo-Addo said during the Year of Return Launch.

Accra, Ghana – August 17, 2017: Young dancers practice a traditional dance on the beach

And it’s a campaign that has clearly resonated with travelers.

The Ghana Tourism Authority expects 500,000 visitors this year, up from 350,000 in 2018, as reported in Reuters.  Of those, 45,000 are estimated to be seeking their ancestral roots, a 42% increase from the previous year.

With events and programming all year long, 2019 marks a landmark and symbolic year for those wanting to embark on the “journey back home.” 

But it’s also an expensive one as we get closer to the end of the year.

The good news is that there are a number of organizations that have been working to connect African descendants with the continent, including Birthright Africa. 

Birthright Scholars at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial in Accra, Ghana. Instagram | @birthrightafrica

Founded by Walla Elsheikh and Diallo Shabazz, Brightright Africa sends youth and young adults ages 13 through 30 of African descent to countries throughout West Africa.

Elsheikh, a Sudanese-American 38-year-old-woman who grew up aboard in Sweden, Uganda, and Sudan before relocating to New York, told Face2Face Africa that she always wondered why there were not organizations similar to Israel’s Taglit-Birthright experience, which offers Americans of Jewish descent to Israel.

“As the principle of Sankofa states ‘You have to know where you come from in order to know where you are going,’” said Elsheikh. “We believe through travel to places of cultural significance that expose one to both historic and present-day leaders of African descent, we can instill pride, enhance self-efficacy, and spark the creativity of our Scholars to fulfill their leadership and entrepreneurship aspirations.”

Click here to find out more information about Birthright Africa.

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