Year of Return: Gov’t urges airlines not to insist on visas from passengers to Ghana

Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, is requesting all airlines not to insist on entry visas from passengers travelling to Ghana before boarding.

In a brief to all international airline operators, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Shirley Ayorkor Botchway explained this is to assist with government’s Year of Return initiative till the end of January 2020. 

“To facilitate their movement, the government has reduced the visa fees and also introduced the issuance of visa-on-arrival. I am appealing to your airline to support the effectiveness and efficiency of the Ghana Government’s incentives aimed at providing easy access to an entry visa. 

“It should be appreciated if those responsible for checking-in passengers travelling to Ghana are advised not to insist on entry visas prior to their boarding,” excerpts of the letter requested. 

The government of Ghana has introduced new measures that would enable visitors travelling to Ghana during The Year of Return obtain visa-on-arrival. In a circular, the Ghana Embassy in the USA explained this is to manage the pressure on issuing high volumes of visas. 

“The new arrangements are expected to simplify check-in procedures for boarding passengers and ease the burden on travellers who are unable to obtain Ghanaian visas in their countries of residence. The new arrangements are valid until January 2020.”

Joy Business had earlier reported on how there has been a scramble for visas at the various consulates and embassies of Ghana across the United States of America with over 15,000 visas so far been processed in New York City alone from the beginning of 2019. 

Consul General of the Consulate General of Ghana in New York, USA, Professor Emeritus Samuel Amoako says pressure has mounted on his workers in meeting the huge demand for Ghana visas. 

“The Year of Return has put pressure on my staff. From January to September we had already processed about 15,000 visas and as yesterday we had 216 visa applications in a day. I won’t be surprised if by the end of the year we will have about 20,000 people visiting Ghana,” he told Joy Business. 

According to him, the applications are made up of “Ghanaians who have naturalized in America who hold American passports, and also Americans and other nationals who would want to visit Ghana.” 

With thousands arriving at the Kotoka International Airport for the Year of Return, there have been questions on the exact returns this initiative will have on Ghana’s tourism prospects.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Tourism, Barbara Oteng-Gyasi has claimed the entire program has raked in $1.9 billion for the Ghanaian economy. 

President Akufo-Addo has revealed that a program is being structured to take over the Year of Return initiative after it ends in 2019. 

At a press engagement on December 13, the president disclosed the ‘Beyond the Year of Return: The Birthright’ has a whole set of outline that aims to continue the mission of bridging the distance between Africans and the diasporans. 

“We ought not to make this (Year of Return) a one-off. It should be a permanent feature as part of our outreach both in terms of using it as a vehicle for solidifying the relations on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said. 

His comments come after many people have questioned what the country seeks to do after the last Year of Return celebrations roll by.

President Akufo-Addo added that the mission to continue with the Year of Return initiative can also help double the revenue of the Tourism Ministry. 

According to him, the relationship between the diasporans and Africans can be institutionalized through ‘Beyond the Year of Return: The Birthright’ created by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and the Ghana Tourism Authority. 

Ghana initiated the Year of Return to invite all diasporans back home to not only learn more but explore and even invest in the country. 

Since this initiative began many African Americans have made their way into the country to learn more about their history. Some include Steve Harvey, Samuel L Jackson, Anthony Anderson, Micheal Jai White, Boris Kodjoe, Nicole Ari Parker, Diggy Simmons and many others. 

The Tourism Ministry outlined numerous activities including the ‘December in Ghana’ events to bring the Year of Return to a fruitful end.

The programme includes the premiere of Perfect Picture 2, Sankofa Music Festival, Afro Nation, Afrochella, Gold Coast Experience, The Creative Arts show, Ghana Festival of Light and many others.


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