Legendary singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder is officially Ghanaian.

On Monday – the US musical icon’s 74th birthday – he was granted citizenship of Ghana by the nation’s president.

Channel 1

“This is it, congratulations!” Nana Akufo-Addo told a beaming Wonder, handing the Grammy winner a certificate at a ceremony in the presidential palace where he was also presented with a birthday cake with a Ghanaian flag iced on top.

Wonder said that gaining Ghanaian nationality on his birthday was an “amazing thing”.

The superstar was born and bred in the US state of Michigan but has long had an affinity for Ghana – a West African nation thousands of miles from home.

In 1975, with a string of hit albums behind him, Wonder openly expressed a desire to quit music and move to Ghana. He believed his ancestral lineage could be traced there, reports say.

Wonder stuck with singing and stayed stateside, but after headlining a Ghanaian music festival in the 1990s, he again expressed a desire to set up home there.

On a later trip to Ghana, Wonder wrote the entirety of his album Conversation Peace and in an interview, external just three years ago the star said he was moving to Ghana to escape racial injustice in the US.

Wonder’s love affair with the country was ignited by the people he met whilst there.

He told the BBC that one of these encounters was with late Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings, who in the 1990s hosted him at the presidential residence.

“I remember the late President Rawlings, who allowed me to be a co-pilot on a flight,” Wonder said.

“I was able to fly with him from one end of Ghana to the other end. The north to the south, and it was amazing.”

Flanked by his family and donning a scarf made of traditional kente cloth, Wonder was visibly delighted to have finally become Ghanaian.

Ghana has long prided itself on being a bastion of pan-Africanism – its founding leader, Kwame Nkrumah, called the West African state a “Black Mecca”.

Wonder is just the latest African-American icon to celebrate this message – writer W.E.B Du Bois moved to Ghana and was buried there in 1963, while Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali all paid high-profile visits to the country to reconnect with their African roots.

In 2001, Ghana became the first nation on the continent to give the descendants of Africans the right to stay.

Since then, Africans in the diaspora have been able to live and work in Ghana without renewing their visas or work permits.

And in 2019 the Ghanaian government launched the “year of return” initiative to encourage Africans in the diaspora to relocate there.

More than 300 Africans in diaspora have been granted Ghanaian citizenship since.

In a statement, Ghana’s interior ministry said Wonder becoming a citizen “marks a significant milestone in the country’s efforts to attract diasporan Africans and recognise outstanding contributions to the African diaspora”.

The man himself said he now plans to engage in initiatives that will create great job opportunities for Ghana’s youth, who make up roughly 38% of the population.

“The youngest generation is in Africa. We need to begin to think about how their greatness can shine,” he said.

BBC
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