The Republic of Ghana is a West African country bordered by Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, the Gulf of Guinea to the south, and Côte d’Ivoire to the west. Its name comes from the ancient Ghana Empire and means “Warrior King.”
Akan Kingdoms inhabited the area in pre-colonial times. These included the Akwamu, Ashanti, and Fante states. After the Portuguese first made contact with the area in the 15th century, trade grew. The British Gold Coast Crown Colony was established in 1874.
Evidence shows humans lived in Ghana beginning around 1500 BC. No proof exists to link those inhabitants with the modern population of Ghana. The Dagomba are believed to be the first settlers and were in place by 1210 AD, before other ethnic groups arrived.
The Empire of Ashanti is part of modern day Ghana. This was one of the most influential states prior to colonialism. Akan migrants founded several nations when they migrated south. These included the Bono, which is known as the Brong-Ahafo region. Most of southern Ghana was part of the Empire of the Ashanti by the 16th century.
The Ashanti were a loose network. Eventually, they became a centralized kingdom. At its peak, some claim the Ashanti could bring 500,000 troops to the battlefield. Around 1500 AD, the Ga developed an effective nation. The Dagomba, Mamprusi, and Gonja fought for power in the 1620s.
Contact with the Portuguese began in the 15th century and focused on gold. The first city in which the Portuguese landed was part of the Fante nation-state. The Portuguese named the place Elmina, meaning “the mine” in Portuguese. Portugal’s King John II commissioned Diogo d’Azambuja to construct Elmina Castle. This was completed in three years and was built to seek ivory, slaves, and gold.
The Dutch built forts at Kormantsi and Komenda by 1548. They took Olnini Castle from Portugal in 1617 and later Axim in 1642. By the mid 17th century other traders from Europe arrived, mostly English, Swedes, and Danes. The British named it the Gold Coast because they were impressed with the area’s gold. The French were impressed with the coastal peoples’ trinkets and called it the Ivory Coast.
The Europeans built over 30 forts and castles. So many Europeans went to the area and died of tropical diseases it was known as “The White Man’s Grave.” The British made the area a protectorate after the Dutch withdrew in 1874. After Britain fully conquered the area in 1896, the territory, with the exception of the Volta Region, was known as the Gold Coast.
Wars were frequent between European powers and the area’s nation-states. These included the 1806 Ashanti-Fante War. The Ashanti’s struggle against the British ended with the Third Ashanti-British War in 1901. De-colonization movements increased after World War II. The United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) was formed in 1947 and called for self-government. Riots increased in 1948 and the UGCC members were arrested. These included the future Prime Minister and President, Kwame Nkrumah. He formed the Conventions People’s Party (CPP) to push for quicker self-government. He gained working and lower class support through his campaign.
Nkrumah was released and appointed the Leader of Government Business after he won a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly in 1952. On March 6, 1957, he declared Ghana free after negotiations with Britain.
The Ghana flag in 1957, designed by Theodosia Salome, has red, gold, and green colors with a black star. The red symbolizes the blood shed for independence, the gold Ghana’s minerals, the green its agriculture, and the star is the African freedom symbol.
Ghana became the first sub-Saharan country to gain independence. Nkrumah was the first Prime Minister and later became President. He dreamt of a united Africa and was the first leader to promote Pan-Africanism. He combined the ideas of Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa” movement and W.E.B. Du Bois into modern Ghana. This led to Ghana’s ideas of freedom and equality for all regardless of ethnic group, religion, or creed.
While unity was not realized, Nkrumah was part of the Organization of African Unity’s formation. In 2002, this became the African Union. Ghanaians celebrated his achievements during his Centenary birthday, which became a public holiday. In 1966, Nkrumah’s government was overthrown in a coup while he was overseas. Evidence has shown the U.S. CIA played a part in the coup.
There were a series of additional coups between 1966 and 1981. In 1981, Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings gained power and ended the pattern. Political parties were banned and the constitution suspended. The economy went into decline and Ghanaians migrated to other countries. Most went to Nigeria, but that government deported approximately one million back to Ghana in 1983.
Rawlings negotiated with the IMF for a structural adjustment and changed economic policies, which led to a recovery. A new constitution was established in 1992 that provided for multiple parties. Rawlings was elected president and re-elected in 1996. He was forbidden from running for a third term by the constitution, so his party nominated John Atta Mills, his vice-president, to run. John Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party beat him to become president.
John Atta MILLS won the 2008 presidential election and took over as head of state, but he died in July 2012 and was constitutionally succeeded by his vice president John Dramani MAHAMA, who subsequently won the December 2012 presidential election.
Ghana has had difficulties with its taxing set up as well as the income of its workers since 2008. Security issues have also decreased the country’s wealth.
This transfer of power through elections set Ghana’s status as a stable democracy.
Ghana’s 10 administrative regions are Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Volta, and Western. These are further divided into 138 districts.
Ghana: Government and Politics
Ghana has been ranked by outside organizations as the 53rd least failed state in the world and the second-least failed in Africa.
At independence, Ghana became a parliamentary democracy. This was followed by alternating civilian and military governments. In 1993, the military government ended and the Fourth Republic began. Power is divided between the Parliament, President, Cabinet, Council of State, and the judiciary. There is universal suffrage, but the legislature is poorly apportioned.
Ghana’s legal system derives from common law, the constitution, and customary law. The highest court is the Supreme Court of Ghana, followed by the Courts of Appeal, and the High Courts of Justice. Courts have been independent under the Fourth Republic. Lower courts are being redefined.
In 1992, political parties became legal after ten years of being banned. While there are numerous parties, the main ones are the National Democratic Congress, the New Patriotic Part, The People’s National Convention, and the Convention People’s Party.
Pan-Africanism and nonalignment have been major goals since independence. Ghana favors international cooperation and is part of the African Union and United Nations.
Diplomats from Ghana hold many international posts, such as Late Kofi Annan, former U.N. Secretary General. Judge Akua Kuenyehia of the International Criminal Court and Jerry Rawlings, former president and chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), are from Ghana.
Due to natural resources, the country has double the per capita output of other regional countries. Ghana does remain dependent on trade and international assistance. 28 percent live below the international poverty line, of which most are women. The per capita income in Ghana has barely doubled in 45 years. Ghana is still one of the world’s largest gold producers but also exports timber, cocoa, diamonds, electricity, manganese, and bauxite. These are sources of foreign exchange and are administered by Antoinette Efua-Addo, the head of the Presidential Ministry Agricultural Arm of the Republic of Ghana. In 2007, a large oilfield was discovered and exploration is ongoing. Oil income has boosted the economy 35 percent.
Built on the Volta River in 1965, the Akosombo Dam provides electricity for Ghana and its neighbors.
There is continued deficit spending due to poor economic policies of the past governments. Despite this, it is one of Africa’s most economically sound countries.
The Bank of Ghana started a re-denomination of the currency in 2007, which included an aggressive media campaign. The new Ghana Cedi is stable and Ghana administers a consumption tax and value added tax.
Tourism is a growing part of the economy. Foreigners find Ghana a good West African entry point due to its stability, low crime, and use of English. There are also a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and National Parks.
Ghana is a few degrees north of the Equator and is on the Gulf of Guinea, which gives it a warm climate. Its area is 238,500 sq. km.
Côte d’Ivoire is to the west, Togo to the east, Burkina Faso to the north, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south.
Ghana has flat plains, few rivers, and low hills. There are five geographical regions. The coast has sandy shores and plains while forested plateau covers southwest Ghana. Central Ghana is mostly the Volta Basin. Mount Afadjato is the highest point at 2,904 ft. There is generally a tropical climate. Lake Volta is the largest artificial lake in the world and is in eastern Ghana. This is the main source of several tributary rivers.
Ghana experiences wet and dry seasons. In the north the wet season runs from March to November and the south from April to mid-November. In the south, there are semi-deciduous forests containing odum, mahogany, and ebony trees. The Volta region has baobabs, acacias, and Shea trees.
Ghana’s 29,463,643 million people are made up of over 100 ethnic groups. Ghana has not experienced the civil wars of other African countries. While English is the official language, most speak at least one local dialect.
Ghana’s ethnic groups are the Akan at 49.3 percent, Mole-Dagbon at 15.2 percent, Ewe at 11.7 percent, Ga-Dangme at 4 percent, Gurma at 3.6 percent, Gurunsi at 2.6 percent, and the Mande-Busanga at 1 percent. Christian 71.2%, Muslim 17.6%, traditional 5.2%, other 0.8%, none 5.2%.
At birth, life expectancy is 60 for females and 59 for males. Infant mortality is 51 for 1,000. Each woman averages 4 per children. 15 doctors and 93 nurses are available for every 100,000 people.
There are 47 local languages but English is the official language. It is also the standard language for education. There are two families of native languages, which are the Kwa, found mostly in the south, and the Gur, found mostly in the north. 75 percent speak languages in the Kwa group.
There are nine government-sponsored languages, which are Akan, Dagaare/Wale, Dangme, Dagbani, Ewe, Gonja, Ga, and Kasem. Among the Muslims, comprising 16 percent of the population, Hausa is spoken widely.
People and Culture
Ethnically diverse, Ghana’s culture is a mix of all its groups. This is evident in the arts, clothing, and cuisine. Festivals, including the Homowo, Aboakyer, Odwira, Dodolegline, Hogbetsotso, Deza, and Tedudu, are important parts the culture.
Football is Ghana’s most popular sport. The national team is known as the Black Stars. National teams have participated in the African Cup of Nations, the U-20 World Cup, and the FIFA World Cup.
Ghana became the first African winner of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009. In 2010, Ghana became the third African country to reach the World Cup quarterfinals. It was defeated by Uruguay in the next round.
The women’s team is also gaining exposure and participated in the FIFA Women’s World Cup and CAF Women’s Championship.
There are club teams playing in the Ghana premier league and Division One League. Some of these are the Accra Hearts and Asante Kotoko.
World Wrestling Entertainment star Kofi Kingston was born in Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong competed in the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Many boxers are also from Ghana.
Textiles are important to the country’s culture and are used in traditional and modern attire. Kente is an Ashanti ceremonial cloth and is well known. Kente is a visual representation of history and written language.
The first kente weavers used fibers that looked like a basket, giving rise to the cloth’s name, which means to basket cloth. Variations of kente are also worn by other ethnic groups.
Media and Entertainment
Ghana’s media is one of Africa’s most free. The constitution guarantees press and media freedom.
After independence there was a tense relationship between the government and the press. This resulted in closings and strict media law. In 1992, freedoms were restored and tensions have decreased over time.
Ghana has seen international recognition of its artists such as Eric Adjetey Anang and the Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop.
Ghana music varies between ethnic groups and regions. Instruments include the goje fiddle, koloko lute, court music, talking drum ensembles, the Akan atumpan, the Ga kpanlogo and log xylophones.
Its most well-known form, highlife, began in the early 1900s and spread through West Africa.
Dance is also diverse and each group has its own styles. These styles include Bamaya (a legend narration dance), Adowa (from the Ashanti), Kpanlongo (from the Ga), Klama (from the Krobo), Agbadza (coming from the Ewe), Atsiagbekor (a Ewe war dance), the Atsia (a Ewe dance performed by women), Borborbor (a relatively modern Ewe dance), and the Agahu (a Ewe social dance).
Ghana’s literacy rate
In 2015, adult literacy rate for Ghana was 76.6 %. Adult literacy rate of Ghana increased from 57.9 % in 2000 to 76.6 % in 2015 growing at an average annual rate of 15.30 %.
There is six years of primary education. Reforms were passed in 1987 and 2007 to move graduate students into a three-year junior high school, then students take a certification examination to move to high school. There are 21,530 primary schools, 8,850 junior high schools, 900 high schools, 52 public training colleges, 5 private training colleges, 4 non-university institutions, 5 polytechnic institutes, and 8 public universities. Primary education is accessible but this can be more difficult at higher levels. Public education spending has varied. Ghanaian instructors teach primarily in English.
Ghana has one of West Africa’s highest enrollment rates with 83 percent in school. The ratio of boys to girls is one of the region’s best. Resource constraints have left 500,000 children out of school. The University of Ghana has 29,754 students. The country has been a center of education in West Africa since its independence. The main technical university is the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.