Making connections with Ghanaian communities globally

By Abena Serwaa – editor-in-chief of AKADi Magazine

Being born and raised in England meant that my way of connecting with my Ghanaian culture came through family, friends, pictures and my dad’s impressive collection of Highlife records. Central to all of that was the many Ghana Union events I grew up attending.

For many of us that grew up as a minority (Ghanaian) in a minority (Black) in the UK, being able to shed those labels for a few hours while old friends gathered and reminisced about life back home between dishes of jollof and bottles of Malt, was more than edifying.

These gatherings were where I widened my friendship circles. They were where I listened to the familiar lilt of Asante Twi being spoken, and learnt about important rites of passage, particularly funerals. It was also where parents let their hair down and proved that, despite their advancing years, they had lost none of their youthful dexterity on the dance floor.

I’ll never forget the excitement I would always feel when we – as a family – got ready for such gatherings. My mum always picked out her latest kaba and slit, made in Ghana from her last trip there. And I was always enthralled with how my dad looked so regal in his Kente cloth and Oheneba sandals – ignoring the stares from our neighbours and the bite of the cold on his shoulder as he stepped out of our house and into the car.

Fast-forward to adulthood and that desire to connect with community remains as important today as it was for me as a child. According to 2019 figures from the Office of National Statistics, there are over 114,000 Ghanaians living in the UK, and the most up-to-date figures I can find estimate that Ghana’s diaspora numbers are between 3 and 4 million.

With more of us venturing outside Ghana and, in some cases, living in some of the remotest parts of the world, the need to connect with each, particularly since COVID-19 has kept many of us isolated, remains key.

That was one of the reasons why I created the digital culture publication AKADi Magazine. The publication aims to strengthen that connection between those of us in the Motherland and the diaspora.

The name AKADi means source of light in Ewe and that need to highlight the transformative experiences of Ghanaians globally has been a motivator in getting others to share their stories too.

In recent issues, we have profiled Ghanaians in Literature, Ghanaians in British politics and explored what the state of environmental awareness in Ghana. We event looked at diaspora migration back home in an issue that looked at the value of Ghana’s Year of Return initiative.

Other stories have included that of entrepreneur and inventor Danny Manu, the man who developed Bluetooth earbuds that can translate a live conversation from one language to another live.

Central to the work we are doing is centring the voices of ordinary Ghanaians that have amazing experiences to share. That has included speaking to Rosamund Addo-Kissi-Debrah, mother to the late Ella Roberta Kiss-Debrah. Ella died aged nine years old from a severe form of asthma that – in a landmark case – the coroner recorded as being due to air pollution. Her story – part of our Climate Change Champions project – is powerful and not only speaks to the devastating impact of pollution that affects us all but also highlights the part we can play in challenging those in power to impact change.

No matter where we reside, our cultural connection to Ghana is what unites us. I believe that through our different experiences, cultures, languages and professions, we can help to educate and inspire each other. This is why AKADi Magazine has embarked on an initiative called Ghanaians Abroad to find at least one Ghanaian in every UN-designated country in the world. We’ve connected with Ghanaians living in Japan, Vietnam, and even Madagascar and very recently, connected with one Ghanaian, who during her time living in the Philippines helped to free a Ghanaian woman wrongfully imprisoned in a jail there.

Our experiences are rich, they are powerful and they can help to change lives. Join us to see how you can be part of that change

By Abena Serwaa – editor-in-chief of AKADi Magazine