When Admitting Your Sins Is Good For Business

by Dish Staff

According to Theodore Johnson’s fascinating study of three West African countries that formally apologized for their role in the slave trade, Ghana’s 2006 mea culpa was “largely a business decision”:

It formed part of a strategy to forge a stronger tourism economy, and closer ties to America, by making it easier for black Americans to visit, emigrate, own land, invest, and start businesses in Ghana. The initiative, called Project Joseph after the biblical character sold into slavery by his brothers, sought to portray Ghana to black Americans as Israel presents itself to the Jewish diaspora. Ghanaian tourism companies even offer “ceremony of apology” packages that black Americans can purchase to accompany visits to ancient slave castles.

Explaining that healing and reconciliation would play a prominent role in the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the country’s independence in 2007, Emanuel Hagan of Ghana’s Ministry of Tourism and Diasporean Relations told a local news organization that the history of slavery was “something that we have to look straight in the face because it exists. So, we will want to say something went wrong, people made mistakes, but we are sorry for whatever happened.” And Ghana’s efforts worked. Around 10,000 black Americans visit the country every year, and around 3,000 now live in Ghana’s capital—triple the number estimated to have lived in the entire country in 2007.