American artiste, Usher performing at Global Citizen Festival at Accra’s Black Star Square
It all started with an announcement made by the Deputy Tourism Minister, Mark Okraku-Mantey on Joy FM, culminating in a night of sheer ecstasy and memorable moments. It was definitely one for the history books!
The Global Citizen Festival is an annual music festival organised by Global Poverty Project. It started in 2012 and was founded by Ryan Gall and Hugh Evans. Since 2015, the goals of the festival have been closely aligned with the United Nations’ SDGs.
Tickets to the festival are distributed through a lottery system with festival-goers performing actions on Global Citizen’s website and mobile app, for a chance to attend the event. According to Time Magazine, Global Citizen’s model of ticket distribution in 2017 generated 1.6 million actions in two months, equaling commitments of $3.2 billion for sustainable development.
The festival is usually held in New York City but was moved to Montreal, Canada in 2016, followed by Hamburg, Germany in 2017 and back to New York. The 2021 event took place concurrently in multiple cities around the world, including Lagos, Seoul, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, London, Mumbai and Sydney via a live broadcast. Some notable names like Jay Z, Beyonce, John Legend, Rihanna, Ed Sheeran and a host of others have all graced the Global Citizen Festival stages.
The 2022 festival took place at Central Park’s Great Lawn in New York City, with Metallica, Charlie Puth, the Jonas Brothers and Mariah Carey as headliners and Priyanka Chopra Jonas as host. A parallel edition was held at the Black Star Square in Ghana on the same day, featuring performances from Usher, SZA, Stormzy, Tems, Gyakie, Sarkodie and Stonebwoy.
The likes of our very own Berla Mundi and Joselyn Dumas excelled as hosts alongside Danai Gurrira of Black Panther fame, Sabrina Dhowre Elba and Michaela Coel. DJ Mic Smith and his hype man Kojo Manuel kept the music playing while South Africa’s own Uncle Waffles blessed the night with a touch of ‘amapiano’.
The decision to host the Global Citizen Festival in Accra has been attributed to a commitment made by President Akufo Addo during the 2018 festival in South Africa to commemorate the late Nelson Mandela’s centenary celebration.
In the days leading up to the festival, the organisers staged multiple events to spur world leaders to invest in their campaign priorities. These included a beach clean-up exercise in Tema to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the environment. There was also a forum to sensitize the public about the festival’s theme urging the need to take action with regard to poverty alleviation, demanding equity and defending the planet.
The organisers of the Global Citizen Festival, Accra prioritized local content and participation by collaborating with the finest of Ghanaian talents who constitute a big chunk of the creative industry in planning this festival. Sometime in 2020, Ghanaian firm, Big Ideas Consult was approached and chosen as the Local partner for the Global Citizen Festival and its CEO, Kojo Poku revealed that since then, over 3000 Ghanaians were recruited to carry out numerous tasks in various fields to ensure successful execution of the festival.
The local professionals and artistes who were brought on board based on the recommendation of Kojo Poku had the privilege to work alongside the world’s best brains when it comes to the planning and coordination of events like this and glean insights from their experience and vast knowledge. Some of the equipment and logistics used were imported solely for the show and some were also locally sourced. The Global Citizen Festival is a privately funded initiative hence the amount of money pumped into this investment has not been made known yet. The government of Ghana however supported this event by facilitating a number of processes through the relevant state agencies.
Just like the Superbowl Halftime Show and other major global events, artistes who graced the Global Citizen Festival stage were not paid any performance fees but the organisers did invest in all the necessary elements of every artiste’s performance set. The benefits of mounting stages like these to showcase one’s talent are enormous and can’t be understated.
Almost all the acts who were billed to perform that night were given 20 minutes each with the exception of SZA who had 25 minutes and Usher, who had 35 minutes. All the artistes were given the liberty to explore their creativity and bring on board their set, whosoever they deemed fit, once it was within their allotted time frame. Everyone who had a role to play that night had to stick to the plan agreed upon, no last-minute surprises were allowed! More than 20,000 fans gathered in person at the Black Star square with additional people joining the live broadcast from over 140 countries worldwide.
The impact of the 2022 Global Citizen Festival in Accra has been overwhelming. The experience and exposure will for a long time, cause a tremendous ripple effect in boosting Ghana’s arts and tourism potential as well as government’s Beyond The Return agenda.
American morning television program “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts was in Accra for a special segment of the show that was broadcast live in the States. Robin Roberts and “Black Panther” star Danai Gurrira explored Ghanaian culture, history, and fashion and also engaged some repatriates who are in Ghana to connect with their ancestral history.
The 2022 Global Citizen Festival Campaign amassed $2.4 Billion in commitments to End Extreme Poverty.
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