Before leaving office at the end of the year, Mayor Michael B. Coleman wanted to establish a sister city relationship with an African city.
On Monday, Accra, Ghana, became Columbus’ 10th sister city during a ceremony at the King Arts Complex’s Pythian Theater.
Coleman signed the agreement with Accra’s mayor, Alfred O. Vanderpuije, that capped a ceremony punctuated by rhythmic drumming and traditional, colorful clothing.
“It is huge,” said Vicki Brew, who migrated to the United States from Ghana 34 years ago. “A lot of countries competed.”
In fact, the list of potential sister cities was whittled from 30 to 10 and then five before Accra, Ghana’s capital of about 2 million residents in western Africa, was chosen.
The goal, officials say, is to build economic, educational and cultural relationships in a burgeoning country.
“There’s so much we can do to benefit our people,” said Vanderpuije, who has been Accra’s mayor since 2009.
“I know that great days will come of this.”
Coleman agreed. “It will make both of our cities better,” he said.
There already were links. Ohio State University, for example, has a Ghana Sustainable Change Program that works on development issues with a Ghanaian university and local officials in one of the country’s districts.
Jamie Greene, a selection committee member who advocated for Accra during the process, said the city’s population is growing, and Ghana is stable.
“It’s just not a market that’s been tapped by U.S. businesses as strongly as it could be,” Greene said.
Tim Sword, president of the nonprofit Greater Columbus Sister Cities International, said of the new partnership: “We look at it as our entryway into the whole region.”
About 10,000 people of Ghanaian descent make Columbus their home. “We have a very strong and vibrant community of Ghanaians,” said James Sisto, chairman of the Greater Columbus Sister Cities International board.
One is Stella Kessie Asare, who lives on the Northeast Side and came to Columbus about 20 years ago.
On Monday, she wore a colorful outfit as she danced on stage. Later, she had her photo taken with the two mayors.
She is a queen of the Asanteman Association of Columbus, a group of about 50 Asante people who help maintain traditions.
The connection with Ghana already is paying dividends. The King Arts Complex is beginning a relationship with the National Theatre of Ghana.
Mark Cardwell, King Arts’ assistant executive director, said that the two groups are working on an agreement that would develop unique performances for the stage, arts and cultural exchanges and arts conferences and education workshops.