(3 of 4)
According to Valerie Papaya Mann, president of the African American Association of Ghana, there are approximately 5,000 African Americans living in Ghana. Mann sees tangible benefits from dual citizenship, like voting rights and land ownership, but much of her case is rooted in other things. "We're saying, as African Americans who were taken from these shores hundreds of years ago, we also should have the rights to dual citizenship," she says.
Yet in what may be one of history's great paradoxes, many native Ghanaians regard African Americans as more white than black. Africans Americans, especially those with fairer skin, are sometimes referred to as obruni by Ghanaians. The term roughly translates as "white person" or "stranger," depending on whom you ask. The result is that African Americans who would like to think of Ghana as home sometimes get the cold shoulder. The government has started a campaign to get Ghanaians to use the term akwaaba anyemi--which means "welcome home, brother"--when talking to African Americans. Just fake the sincerity, in other words. (It works in the U.S., doesn't it?) Obetsebi-Lamptey says the new measure isn't just about investment but also about healing old wounds. But not all African Americans are so thin skinned. "It is not derogatory. It's more like foreigner," says Blanche Agyemang, who owns a bakery in Accra. "Wherever you go, unfortunately, you're going to be a foreigner if you're not a native of that place."
Stateside, Ghanaians who have emigrated to America have taken up that call. Samuel Akainyah, an art teacher and gallery owner, last year pulled together a group of 40 Chicago-area African-American businessmen and -women and took them on a 10-day trip to Ghana. The group was received by the President and the Ghanaian business community and then given a tour of the country. "It's a mutual benefit," says Akainyah. "We benefit from the technology and the investment, and African Americans with the entrepreneurial impulse find a fertile market to make money."
Willie Carrington, who accompanied Akainyah on the trip, runs Carrington & Carrington Ltd., a firm that specializes in connecting big business with minority executives. When Carrington arrived in the Ashanti region, the aristocrats liked him so much that they named him the Agona Nkosuohene--developmental chief--for the region. When he returned to Chicago, members of the local Ghanaian community began visiting Carrington regularly, instructing him on how to dress and conduct himself during state functions.
The rehearsals are more than empty ritual. Carrington worked for Arthur Andersen for a few years, and his firm has done business with such big companies as Boeing and Raytheon. The thought is that Carrington would be able to leverage some of his contacts into investment in Ghana's Ashanti region.