Beyond The Return: A New Generation Comes Back Home


In 2019, the world witnessed Ghana’s Year of Return. The highly talked about and successful experience highlighted the “return” of Diasporans from around the world to their Motherland.

But there is a very important and growing group of people that must be acknowledged – those who have already returned to Ghana. Over the past 5-7 years, there’s been a migration of first-generation millennials that are actively choosing to move back to the Continent. Their reasons vary from escaping systemic racism and prejudice in the Western world, to chasing business opportunities. Whatever the reason, we are seeing younger people choose Ghana over the United States, the UK, Canada, etc as the place to settle down and build their lives.

With their migration comes their experience: businesspeople, lawyers, doctors, engineers, chefs, tech giants and more. They bring years of education, strong networks and an insatiable desire to help improve Ghana, but they also face many barriers in making that happen. While the government does have some programs in place to help returnees, many of the resources available come through private businesses or personal connections. In addition, the majority of the work being done by returnees (and the larger Youth Diaspora), to give back to Ghana is also done on a personal level. From building boreholes in villages across the country to building and sponsoring schools, real nation building work is being done on their own. How much more could the Youth Diaspora do with even more support of Ghana’s government?

In 2018, Jake Bediako was appointed Youth Ambassador for Diaspora Affairs (the role has since evolved to Presidential Coordinator for Youth Engagement and Strategy). His role is to champion diaspora youth engagement initiatives – and he has done just that by connecting Diasporans to Ghanaians on the ground, sponsoring events through the President’s office and supporting private events like Afrochella and collaborative with Ghanaians domestic and abroad on creative and business endeavors. Seeing the success of this new role, it seems that Ghana’s government should increase investment into millennials and Gen Zers both home and abroad with the goal of continuing to make Ghana a key stakeholder of the continent and beyond.

This work is critical to Ghana’s development, especially in the age of technology. Ghana’s youth – both domestic and abroad – are resource and talent rich. This is a combination that could easily push Ghana to become a market leader in so many areas including agriculture, energy, film, tourism, music and more. But in order to do this we must create stronger systems that provide adequate support to those who have already taken the risk and those who are seriously considering making the jump to move home.

An official Youth Diapsora directory could be one integral step to this larger goal. Having a central place where interested diasporans can register their information, including skill sets, would not only give the government an idea of the numbers of people potentially interested in permanently returning, but could also be a database used to provide jobs for Ghanaians on the ground. With entrepreneurship numbers booming, it’d be ideal to have the ability to hire directly from Ghana for businesses with the growth plan to eventually be based within the country.

A directory would help ease the vetting process and this system also provides space for recruitment and training services to become available to those who have the raw talent but may need an extra push to be hired for larger, full-time roles. Other networking initiatives could serve to close the culture gap between Ghanaian youth at home and abroad. Each group has many things to learn from the other, and an official push to facilitate these conversations would help to create understanding, which is a critical step in creating and implementing substantial solutions to our problems. In the grand scheme of things, Ghana has too much potential in its youth to not invest in it properly. Investment looks like creating jobs for local Ghanaians and also providing support for Diasporan Youth are bringing jobs to Ghana. It looks like expanding the Youth Engagement office with additional tools and resources to implement systems that increase the ease of moving back home and build upon the casual but impactful connections being made every day. It also looks like listening to the youth and being open to constructive criticisms about current practices surrounding nepotism, red tape and bureaucracy, all of which are a hinderance to progress.

These things cannot and will not happen overnight, but if we are able to properly engage Ghana’s youth and its youth diaspora, the possibilities for progress, success and positive change are endless.

The writer is the founder of Meraki Africa, a boutique creative agency working with and for the Diaspora in the areas of digital/brand strategy, event production and talent management.

Posted by on Jan 27 2022. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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