Halifax Osei Acheampong, 30, works on “Haliwear” screenprint designs in Sunyani, central Ghana. Acheampong is part of a German-funded business entrepreneurship program designed to keep young people in Ghana from making the treacherous journey via Libya to Europe.
Halifax Osei Acheampong says there are few men his age left where he grew up.
“All the youths are gone,” Acheampong says. “They have gone to Libya to look for work.”
Acheampong lives in Sunyani, a mid-sized city of about 200,000 in central Ghana. He is not ready yet to leave for Libya — and European governments are sponsoring programs to encourage men like Acheampong to stay in Ghana.
In the Sunyani area, communities crowdfund to help young men migrate via Libya to Europe in the hopes of remittances that, in turn, enable more young men to migrate. It is home to 52% of all returnees rescued from Libya by the Ghanaian government during the 2011 uprising and subsequent civil war.
“All the youths are gone. They have gone to Libya to look for work.”
Halifax Osei Acheampong, entrepeneur
“I have a cousin and an uncle who went to Libya and now they are in Europe,” Acheampong tells The World.
Another cousin died while living in Libya.
“Now that there is a crisis in Libya, some
suffer from gun wounds, some are going through torture and slavery,” says Superintendent Haruna Alhassan of Ghana’s Migration Information Center, based in Sunyani — the first of its kind to provide information on migration safety.
In 2019, about 555 migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe, according to the latest figures from the International Organisation for Migration.
Acheampong, 30, has also contemplated leaving Ghana many times but has so far not done it. Instead, he started a small graphic design practice in 2018 making screen-printed T-shirts.
Now he is part of a business entrepreneurship program that he hopes will help him turn his company, “Haliwear,” into a profitable venture so that he can employ others and keep his friends from leaving. The project, funded by GIZ, the German development agency, is part of a larger pan-European effort to stop Ghanaian migration to Europe.
Between January and March 2019, five-day boot camps were held in Accra, Kumasi and Sunyani. More than 3,200 young entrepreneurs participated.
These cities were chosen because youth have migrated via Libya to Europe in higher numbers than anywhere else in Ghana to look for jobs and a better life.
Unlike many of the other African countries where people flee for Europe, Ghana is a robust democracy with good economic prospects. It is the fastest growing economy in the world in 2019, according to projections by the International Monetary Fund.
But that has not stopped thousands of young Ghanaians from attempting the perilous journey to Europe via the Mediterranean in search of greener pastures.
According to the International Organization for Migration, 62,422 Ghanaians remained stranded in migrant detention centers in Libya alone in March 2018. Ghanaians formed the fifth highest number (out of 38 nationalities) of detained migrants after Egyptians, Nigeriens, Chadians and Sudanese.
That is because structural problems belie Ghana’s economic projections and stellar GDP figures: Ghana’s new wealth, precipitated by the discovery of oil, has yet to trickle down to many — especially young people — in rural Ghana.
Unfair global trade rules and the enduring legacy of British colonialism means Ghana is still dependent on the export of raw materials, such as cocoa, which hit a 10-year low in 2018. Ghana and the Ivory Coast, producers of 70% of the world’s cocoa, agreed in June on a minimum price for cocoa to try to protect farmers.