“It is your spark, your creativity, and your determination that will drive the future. And with that then, African ideas and innovations will shape the future of the world. And so we must invest in the African ingenuity and creativity, which will unlock incredible economic growth and opportunities, not only for the people of the 54 countries that make up this diverse continent, but for the American people and people around the world.” – Vice President Kamala Harris, address to Ghanian youth
Africa is home to more than 1.4 billion people, whose median age is 19.
By 2050, one in four people on Earth will be on the continent. Peace and stability in Africa are vital to peace and stability in the rest of the world.
That’s why I was honored to serve among the delegation that traveled to Ghana as part of Vice President Harris’ historic trip to promote democracy and economic prosperity.
It was a far different Ghana than I experienced in 1980, when as a college student I accompanied my father, Ernest “Dutch” Morial – then Mayor of New Orleans – on a trade mission. Since the presidency of the great pan-African leader Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana had been ruled by series of alternating military and civilian governments, beset by economic instabilities.
Ghana now is one of the continent’s most stable democracies, and the United States’ most important partner on a range of issues in West Africa, including conflict prevention, inclusive economic growth, and climate resilience.
The trip was both a source of great pride and great opportunity for Vice President Harris and for the United States, as we engaged with young creatives, tech entrepreneurs, and other young people to highlight the dynamism on the continent and how African innovations have benefitted the entire world.
As the first Black Vice President, she represents an authentic cultural link with Africa. That link was reflected in the warm reception she received, with Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo welcoming her “home,” and addressing her as “Abena, the Akan name for all Tuesday born females.”
The visit to Cape Coast Castle, Ghana’s former slave-trading post, was deeply personal to the Vice President.
“The horror of what happened here must always be remembered,” she said. It cannot be denied. It must be taught. History must be learned.”
The trip was a great opportunity for me, as well, as I was able to meet privately with President Nana Akufo-Addo to discuss the National Urban League’s potential role in promoting inclusive economic empowerment in Ghana.
I also was deeply moved to visit the gravesite and memorial to the great civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois, who spent his final years in Ghana, and Black Star Square – also known as Independence Square or Liberation Square – built to celebrate Ghana’s independence from British colonial rule.
I was inspired and exhilarated by the energy and spirit of the industrious, hardworking, and forward-thinking Ghanian people. African ideas and innovations will shape the future of world, and I am grateful and to have been part of such a historic moment.
Marc Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.