Sankofa : Ghana expatriates return home to seize opportunities from booming economy

It seems Africa’s brain gain is continuing as I watch many of my friends return to the motherland and see more and more stories like these coming out speaking of Africa’s boom in banking, technology, fashion, film, oil,real estate,  agriculture etc. The continent of Africa at large is boldly claiming that Africa is open for business and ready for its close up as an economically viable market on the world stage.  It seems that the Sankofa spirit of returning to get it is at an all time high in a modern day era reminiscent of Marcus Garvey’sBack to Africa Movement“.

As great as this may sound for Africa and Africans, let’s not pretend that it is all riches and diamonds awaiting us. Infrastructure, lack of electricity, slow pace of business, laziness, nepotism, corruption and other ingrained African obstacles aside; African nations are often harder for Africans and their children to do business in than for foreigners because we still have that mental slavery mentality of “White is right” and that every White person that walks along our shores is somehow wealthy and will help us in some way more than our fellow African. The real truth is that I have had to listen to friends who have moved back tell me that if I plan to move back and start a business then I better come with a lot of my own ready cash or some type of White business partner- if I want to get things done in any type of expedient  manner. As appalling as this may sound it is the reality that I faced in Ghana and the reality that many of us returnees face all around Africa, which if not checked will reverse the brain gain as many of those who returned to seek opportunity in Africa are giving up and coming back to Europe and America. There is opportunity in Africa; however we have to face our truth of who the opportunities are really set up for just as much as we have to be ready to be the change that we want to see for our nations no matter the hurdles, trials and tribulations that may meet many of us. At this point in many of our lives where the idea of the European and American Dream seems to be all but non-existent -Africa has become our Future and we must lay our foundation and manifest our dreams in our Africa!

It is a good time for the banking sector in Ghana,” said Opuni. “The banks have benefitted from what’s happening in the broader economy – the oil find, increased earnings and the high price of gold. Ghana has lots of opportunities, and there are so many markets that haven’t been tapped into yet. The banking sector in Ghana is very receptive at the moment to new ideas.”

Opuni is one of many Ghanaians attracted by Ghana’s steady economic growth – which reached 14.4% last year, driven primarily by the boom in oil, construction, technology and agriculture – to leave a successful career in the UK and return to his homeland.

Raised in Ghana until the age of 18, Opuni travelled to the UK and embarked on a senior management training programme with Lloyds TSB. Like many of the estimated 800,000 Ghanaians abroad he had a vague hope of returning one day. But it was after getting married four years ago that he was provided with the impetus to do so.

Now a fashion designer whose clothes sell under a label with her name, Rebekah Opuni grew up in Ghana but moved reluctantly to the UK after meeting Julian.

“I stayed in the UK because of Julian but I didn’t like living there,” said the 28-year-old. “I studied fashion at the University of Hertfordshire, but it was cold, I didn’t make a lot of friends, I didn’t have that much in common with people there. I was very keen to come back to Ghana.”
“A few years ago an imported dress would have had way more prestige, but now people love wearing African fabric, and they appreciate designers who can put good quality on it. And there is extra cash in the system – more people have money to spend now.”

The Opunis enjoy a degree of luxury in Ghana. They are building themselves a family home and enjoy weekend retreats at some of the country’s high-end lakeside or seaside resorts, and eating at top hotels such as the Mövenpick Ambassador during the week.

They are part of a growing community of affluent Ghanaians and business travellers who have helped the hotel and restaurant sector expand by 11% in recent years. Ghana is now one of 23 African countries that have reached middle-income status – a dramatic change in fortunes from the economic and political turbulence that followed independence from Britain in 1957.

But the couple say they recognise that they are, nevertheless, members of an affluent minority.

“I do feel part of a bubble,” said Opuni. “When I think how much it costs to pay our driver or our nanny, I know that we can go to lunch or dinner and spend the same in one night as they earn together for the month. That does make me feel bad.

“But the reality is as someone who has returned, I have a genuine interest in making Ghana better, and I have a global picture in mindREAD MORE