Obama is coming - will he be allowed to leave?

Obama is coming - will he be allowed to leave?

Recent media coverage has given a lot of attention to the hopes which have been attached to the visit of President Obama to Ghana. This week, the Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Juliana Azuma-Mensah spoke about the positive impact of the President’s visit, and she  once again reiterated the importance of tourism to the economy of the country.

Meanwhile the reality that faces some of the tourists who are already in the country has illustrated that there is more work to do in areas other than cleaning up the town of Cape Coast. On Tuesday, four days before the arrival of President Obama, one of our guests, also American, went through a harrowing experience at Kotoko International Airport when he was catching his flight to return to the United States. This man had a valid multiple entry visa which had recently been updated when he traveled to Cote d’Ivoire and re-entered Ghana. He was returning to the United States after spending considerable money during his stay in Ghana, and was planning to return at some future time for repeated visits.

Immigration Officers pulled him aside in the Airport and accused him of being in the country illegally. He showed them his American passport and valid visitor’s visa, but to no avail. After being threatened that he would be put in jail, and with the fear that he miss his flight which was soon boarding, the gentleman offered the officials a payment. After much argument in which they requested a larger sum, they finally accepted $300 and allowed him to board the plane. He left Ghana, traumatized by his experience, and firmly convinced that he will never return to this country.

The Minister of Tourism has recently referred to the Obama visit, stating, “Ghana must hang out all her best wares to be captured by the cameras to enhance our domestic earnings for economic growth.” It is clear that there are some Immigration Officials at Kotoko International who are taking the Minister’s pleas quite literally – they are ensuring one of two things:

  1. They have enhanced the domestic earnings of the Immigration Service by collecting this additional fee


  1. They have enhanced their personal earnings for their own personal economic growth.

Is this the experience that the Minister wishes to be captured by the cameras?

Is this the thank you that the Government of Ghana is offering to American citizens who have come to this country to spend money? Perhaps  the Minister should turn her attention to matters other than some of the short term window dressing on which her government has suddenly and lavishly spent money if she is sincerely devoted to increasing tourism revenue for this country.

This is not the first time that we have heard of these kinds of incidents at Kotoko. It is imperative for the Government of Ghana to take seriously the issues that beset potential tourists who experience difficulties in getting visas to come to the country, and even more importantly, it is time for the Government of Ghana to ensure that the lasting impression of Ghana that a tourist has is one created  by their positive experience while in the the country  instead of an incident such as the one which our guest experienced this week at the last point of exit – involving greedy Immigration officials at Kotoka International Airport.