The first contact between Europe and the Gold Coast (now called Ghana) dates to 1470, when a party of Portuguese landed. During the next four centuries, the English, Danes, Dutch, Germans, and Portuguese all fought for control of the coastal areas of present-day Ghana.
In 1844, Fanti tribal chiefs came to an agreement with the British that became the legal stepping-stone to colonial status for the coastal area. For the next 100 years, the British ruled and administered the region, which came to include present-day Togo, using it as a base of operations for their transatlantic slave trade. In the 1920s Britain introduced indirect rule to traditional authorities, which helped spur nationalist opposition within the Gold Coast. By the late 1940s, the independence movement had grown strong and started to gain significant momentum after a series of violent incidents between the British and the locals in Accra. A number of African politic
al parties within the crown colony fought to lead the Gold Coast to independence from Britain and even approved a constitution in the spring of 1954. On March 6, 1957, the state of Ghana, named after the medieval West African empire, became an independent country within the Commonwealth of Nations. Kwame Nkrumah is often credited as the father of Ghanaian independence.
After independence, Ghana endured a series of power struggles and failed governments before Lt. Jerry Rawlings took power in 1981 and banned political parties. In 1992, after approving a new constitution and reinstating party politics, Rawlings ran for the presidency of Ghana and won. He served two successive terms before being constitutionally blocked from a third in 2000. John Kufuor succeeded him and was reelected in 2004. Currently, John Atta Mills serves as the Ghanaian head of state and president, leading the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
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1. Ghana is divided into ten administrative regions, the largest and most populated of them being Greater Accra, where approximately one-sixth of the population resides. Accra has been the capital city and the seat of Ghana’s government since 1877, when the British ruled this part of West Africa. The regions include Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Volta, and Western.
2. The Ghanaian currency is called the cedi, derived from the Akan word for cowrie shell. Cowrie shells were once used in Ghana as a form of currency. A hundred pesewas make up one cedi. The symbol for the cedi is GH₵.
3. The 1992 Constitution of Ghana guarantees freedom of the press and allows for an independent media; as a result, the media in Ghana are among the most active and free from censorship in all of Africa. The mix of state-run and independent media sources in Ghana creates a diverse and vibrant press within the country. Major state-owned newspapers include the Daily Graphic and the Ghanaian Times, while the two most popular independent papers are the Ghanaian Chronicle and The Independent. Press radio and television are also widely popular; the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation provides both television and radio stations.
4. The official language of Ghana is English; however, most Ghanaians speak one of nine government-sponsored indigenous languages. Of these latter, Akan is the most widely spoken throughout Ghana.
5. Here is Ghanaian social etiquette 101: Smoking in public places is socially acceptable. Ask before taking someone’s picture. Always greet everyone in a party, starting with the elders. Don’t eat, wave, shake, or point with your left hand, as that is considered taboo.