Commentary

Why I Became A Tour Guide

My Launching Pad

In Atlanta, where I resided before moving to Ghana, I lived in the West End, the heart of Atlanta’s culture. My neighborhood was home to the Nation of Islam, the Hebrew Israelites, the Ausar Auset Society, and the Ras Tafari community. Each group impacted my evolution and reinforced my observation that Babylon’s system is designed to keep a slave a slave.  It was in this Community of communities that I met brethren who frequented Africa. When I got my invitation to visit Ghana I quickly accepted and found myself on a flight to Ghana 6 months later, in February of 1996.

My first visit to Ghana was a rude awakening. Not only didn’t it meet my expectations, but I was bombarded with frustrations! If felt like nothing worked, the simplest transactions required lengthy negotiations, and most of the conveniences I took for granted in America were luxuries in Ghana.  I should mention that I was very much the American I thought I wasn’t, steeped in her ways and culture for so long I didn’t recognize my own culture when I came face to face with it. I was used to what I was used to and I wanted it in Ghana! I returned to the States disappointed and put Ghana to the back of my mind. Life continued to happen, I got married and then came my first born. As with most new fathers everything took on new meaning .  Although I wasn’t prone to trouble, I operated outside Babylon’s parameters and I had no real intention on becoming a model citizen. I was still young enough to be determined not to conform, yet smart enough to know I wasn’t invincible. Sobered by my dilemma I reconsidered some of the challenges I faced in Ghana and weighed them against the risks of being a Black man in America. Ghana started to look very good again, especially as a place to raise self-loving, African children. Over the next year I sold my home in America, rented a home in Ghana, and relocated to Ghana with a wife and 2 children in July, 1999.

Down & Up

By now I knew better than to think Ghana was going to be paradise, but after being traumatized and dehumanized for most my existing life and many of my previous lives, I wanted and needed a glimmer of Zion to be real. I needed a respite. I didn’t get it. Instead I ended up in a very insecure position, unable to properly maintain my family. In the first year I went through all my savings and by the second year my wife took my children and returned to the States.

It was against that backdrop that I started writing. In 2000 I started info-ghana.com, a website where I shared my experiences as a repatriate in Ghana. Mines was the only voice in that space, at that time, and I was pretty transparent, which made me relatable to many aspirant repats. Not to mention, the internet was still in its infancy and Ghana had very little presence, so my website ranked at the top of Google’s search for Ghana-related categories. My blogs eventually earned me the respect and trust of my extended community and I became the go-to person for many repatriates coming to Ghana.  To meet these needs I started Zion Tours, the entity under which I intended to play my role as guide to those seeking to find their way back home. But the demand wasn’t for sightseeing, the demand was for land, so instead a I became a real estate broker.

For the better part of the next decade I sold over 100 acres of land to more than 50 clients, none of which lost a dime doing business with me. I also helped families, businesses, and NGO’s to successfully establish themselves in Ghana. I would still be selling land today if not for the fact that the laws that govern the sale, registration, and/or transfer of lands in Ghana are simply too flawed. I stood a very high risk being embarrassed by a situation I could not remedy, so I gradually wound down that business and breathed life into another venture I had been nurturing.

Ghana is/was the primary source of the world renowned shea butter and black soap, but neither of these products were on any of the mainstream shelves in Ghana, rather they were relegated to the informal market where they were sold in their raw form. My brand, then called Salifu’s, was the first to introduce Ghana’s mainstream market to a locally refined versions of these products. It caught on and proved a more consistent stream of income than real estate and far less risky, so I channeled all my energy to making natural skin and hair care products.  With the support of my partner and a co-founder of Earth Seed, we’re building a name in Ghana and laying a foundation for successive generations.

Touring

Fast forward to 2019 and Ghana is trending. The Year of the Return draws more tourist in one year than the combined total count for the previous ten years. The following year Ghana’s Tourist Board launched Beyond the Return to capitalize on the momentum. In an attempt to draw in more Africans from the Diaspora Ghanaian representatives from the President on down were basically promising citizenship to wanting African Americans. (Although I did get my Ghanaian citizenship, it was after being here for more than 22 years and it was anything but a straightforward process, like they make it sound.)

Then came the plandemic, and many displaced Africans had a light bulb moment, all of a sudden Africa had appeal and with Ghana offering the right-of-return many gathered their things and relocated to Ghana. Since there is no actual governmental support and no supporting programs most found themselves ill prepared for the harsh reality of life in Ghana, beyond the vacation. This resulted in a record number of repats returning to America broke and broken.

Those of us who repatriated know how difficult it is and can’t help but resent the inconsiderate way in which our kith & kin are being primed for failure. Most of us try, in some way to support our brothers and sisters on their return. I decided to catch them before they make the leap, affording them what we all need most at that junction:

  1. To be recognized and treated as a returnee and not just a quick tourist buck.
  2. To be told the truth and not just what someone thinks you want to hear.

That said, although I am an advocate of repatriation, I do not push it. I know, better than most, that it’s not the path for everyone, yet I believe even those with the most basic objectives for visiting Ghana will prefer the reality show over a mirage. Well I’m “Mr. Reality”.

Most of all I love the outdoors and even though I live here, I don’t take advantage of the splendor that surrounds me often enough. Touring Ghana is an outlet for my family and I, a way for us to breathe pristine air and stay physically and mentally fit. For that reason I started by organizing tours for people like myself, who live in Ghana but aren’t really living it up. The success of those tours is what really prompted me to extend my offering to my people across the pond. Where this path will lead is yet to be seen, but I suspect it will propel us to our next best.

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