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Afronation, Afrochella, and the many thrills of Accra

PAM is on the ground for the 2022 editions of Afronation and Afrochella in Ghana’s capital for the wild times and world class performances of some of Africa’s biggest stars.

Chale, make we for dey here! E be Asake I come watch. Dem for let us in,” the horde of people yelling outside the Black Star Square in the bustling city of Accra, Ghana, was something I had never seen before. With over 10,000 people inside and 2,000 others still struggling to get in at the gates, my mind flickered to one single question: why was everyone trying to attend the Afronation Festival?

Afronation Festival is a flagship festival for the global black community, becoming a tourist magnet wherever it is held. As of now, it is held annually in three different countries – Ghana, Portugal and, for the first time since inception, in the United States.

Combing stars from Nigeria, Ghana, and even the United States, the show was lit up with exciting performances from Dadju, Ckay, Oxlade, Tiwa Savage, Meek Mill, P-Square, Kamo Mphela, Kuami Eugene, Gyakie, Black Sherif, Camidoh, among others.

The stage was impressive, with powerful lighting and adequate barricades. The food sold by vendors was price friendly. The only issue with the entire festival was its security. The organisers underestimated the bizarre fandom culture of most Africans, especially Ghanaians, and the few police officers and soldiers were unable to disperse the thousands of people who tried to illegally gain entry into the festival on the second day, forcing an abrupt cancellation of the show and denying the accredited festival goers the chance to see Skepta, Rema or Asake perform.

Kwesi Arthur – Afrochella 2022 © Chinonso Ihekire

While the Black Star Square charged up the heart of Accra, not too far from it was another breathtaking festival that jostled for the remaining part of the city’s youth. At the El Wak Stadium was the annual Afrochella festival, now renamed as Afrofuture. The festival had a similar line-up, with only few variations such as Ayra Starr, Burna Boy, Fally Ipupa, King Promise, Shatta Wale, Kwesi Arthur, Kofi Kinaata and Fireboy DML, among others.

With Afrochella, the crowd was half the size of Afronation, but twice the excitement. Everyone had smiles on their faces and gusto in their dance steps. Save for the bottlenecks in the media area, where photojournalists had to cram their bodies to get good shots, the show moved on smoothly.

The fall of Ayra Starr on the stage just as she was about to perform the Mavin hit song, “Won Da Mo,” was quite a sad moment for the entire festival. The silence that engulfed the entire stadium was loud enough for everyone to hear. Nonetheless, the ‘Celestial Being’ found her mojo back, and rocked the show like a ‘baby in a cot.’

The shows were the highlight of the holiday experience in Ghana. And the hundreds of tourists that swarmed the city definitely left a good impression on Ghana’s public image and its GDP. In fact, Accra’s Oxford street is literally a tourist haven, with hundreds of tourists lodged in the city’s expensive hotels.

With ample security, great food (oh, I must admit that the Ghana Jollof is the best in the world), constant power supply, friendly country people, and exciting activities like Afronation and Afrochella, it is no longer rocket science to see why it is slowly becoming the top tourist destination in West Africa.