Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km2 (92,099 sq mi), Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east, and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. Ghana means “Warrior King” in the Soninke language.
The first permanent state in the territory of present-day Ghana dates back to the 11th century. Numerous kingdoms and empires emerged over the centuries, of which the most powerful was the Kingdom of Dagbon and the Kingdom of Ashanti. Beginning in the 15th century, the Portuguese Empire, followed by numerous other European powers, contested the area for trading rights, until the British ultimately established control of the coast by the late 19th century. Following over a century of native resistance, what are now Ghana’s borders follow the lines of what were four separate British colonial territories: Gold Coast, Ashanti, the Northern Territories and British Togoland. Those were unified as an independent dominion within the British Commonwealth on 6 March 1957.
Ghana’s population of approximately 30 million spans a variety of ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. According to the 2010 census, 71.2% of the population was Christian, 17.6% was Muslim, and 5.2% practised traditional faiths. Its diverse geography and ecology ranges from coastal savannas to tropical rain forests.
Ghana is a unitary constitutional democracy led by a president who is both head of state and head of the government. Ghana’s growing economic prosperity and democratic political system have made it a regional power in West Africa. It is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Group of 24 (G24) and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Ghana was already recognized as one of the great kingdoms in Bilad el-Sudan by the ninth century.
Ghana was inhabited in the Middle Ages and the Age of Discovery by a number of ancient predominantly Akan kingdoms in the Southern and Central territories. This included the Ashanti Empire, the Akwamu, the Bonoman, the Denkyira, and the Mankessim Kingdom.
Although the area of present-day Ghana in West Africa has experienced many population movements, the Akans were firmly settled by the 5th century CE. By the early 11th century, the Akans were firmly established in the Akan state called Bonoman, for which the Brong-Ahafo Region is named.
From the 13th century, Akans emerged from what is believed to have been the Bonoman area, to create several Akan states of Ghana, mainly based on gold trading. These states included Bonoman (Brong-Ahafo Region), Ashanti (Ashanti Region), Denkyira (Western North region), Mankessim Kingdom (Central region), and Akwamu (Eastern region). By the 19th century, the territory of the southern part of Ghana was included in the Kingdom of Ashanti, one of the most influential states in sub-Saharan Africa prior to the onset of colonialism.
The Kingdom of Ashanti government operated first as a loose network, and eventually as a centralized kingdom with an advanced, highly specialized bureaucracy centered in the capital city of Kumasi. Prior to Akan contact with Europeans, the Akan people created an advanced economy based on principally gold and gold bar commodities then traded with the states of Africa.
The earliest known kingdoms to emerge in modern Ghana were the Mole-Dagbani states. The Mole-Dagomba came on horseback from present-day Burkina Faso under a single leader, Naa Gbewaa. With their advanced weapons and based on a central authority, they easily invaded and occupied the lands of the local people ruled by the Tendamba (land god priests), established themselves as the rulers over the locals, and made Gambaga their capital. The death of Naa Gbewaa caused civil war among his children, some of whom broke off and founded separate states including Dagbon, Mamprugu, Mossi, Nanumba and Wala.
European Contact – 15th Century:
Akan trade with European states began after contact with the Portuguese in the 15th century. Early European contact by the Portuguese people, who came to the Gold Coast region in the 15th century to trade and then established the Portuguese Gold Coast (Costa do Ouro), focused on the extensive availability of gold. The Portuguese built a trading lodge at a coastal settlement called Anomansah (the perpetual drink) which they renamed São Jorge da Mina.
In 1481, King John II of Portugal commissioned Don Diego d’Azambuja to build the Elmina Castle, which was completed in three years. By 1598, the Dutch had joined the Portuguese in the gold trade, establishing the Dutch Gold Coast (Nederlandse Bezittingen ter Kuste van Guinea) and building forts at Fort Komenda and Kormantsi. In 1617, the Dutch captured the Olnini Castle from the Portuguese, and Axim in 1642 (Fort St Anthony).
Other European traders had joined in gold trading by the mid-17th century, most notably the Swedes, establishing the Swedish Gold Coast (Svenska Guldkusten), and Denmark-Norway, establishing the Danish Gold Coast (Danske Guldkyst or Dansk Guinea). Portuguese merchants, impressed with the gold resources in the area, named it Costa do Ouro or Gold Coast. Also beginning in the 17th century — in addition to the gold trade — Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French traders also participated in the Atlantic slave trade in this area.
The First Anglo-Ashanti war, 1823–31:
More than thirty forts and castles were built by the Portuguese, Swedish, Dano-Norwegians, Dutch and German merchants; the latter Germans establishing the German Gold Coast (Brandenburger Gold Coast or Groß Friedrichsburg). In 1874 Great Britain established control over some parts of the country, assigning these areas the status of British Gold Coast. Many military engagements occurred between the British colonial powers and the various Akan nation-states. The Akan Kingdom of Ashanti defeated the British a few times in the 100-year-long Anglo-Ashanti wars but eventually lost with the War of the Golden Stool in the early 1900s.
Transition to Independence:
In 1947, the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) led by “The Big Six” called for “self-government within the shortest possible time” following the Gold Coast legislative election, 1946. Kwame Nkrumah was the first Prime Minister of Ghana and the first President of Ghana and formed the Convention People’s Party (CPP) with the motto “self-government now”.
Nkrumah won a majority in the Gold Coast legislative election, 1951 for the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly in 1952. Nkrumah was appointed leader of the Gold Coast’s government business. The Gold Coast region declared independence from the United Kingdom on 6 March 1957 and established the nation of Ghana.
On 6 March 1957 at 12 am, the Gold Coast, Ashanti, the Northern Territories and British Togoland were unified as one single independent dominion within the British Commonwealth under the name Ghana. This was done under the Ghana Independence Act 1957. On 1 July 1960, following the Ghanaian constitutional referendum and Ghanaian presidential election, Nkrumah declared Ghana as a republic as the first President of Ghana. 6 March is the nation’s Independence Day and 1 July is now celebrated as Republic Day.
At the time of independence Nkrumah declared, “My first objective is to abolish from Ghana poverty, ignorance, and disease. We shall measure our progress by the improvement in the health of our people; by the number of children in school, and by the quality of their education; by the availability of water and electricity in our towns and villages; and by the happiness which our people take in being able to manage their own affairs. The welfare of our people is our chief pride, and it is by this that the government will ask to be judged.”.
The flag of Ghana, consisting of the colors red, gold, green, and a black star, became the new flag in 1957 when Gold Coast gained its name Ghana. It was designed by Theodosia Salome Okoh; the red represents the blood that was shed towards independence, the gold represents the industrial minerals wealth of Ghana, the green symbolizes the rich grasslands of Ghana, and the black star is the symbol of the Ghanaian people and African emancipation.
Nkrumah was the first African head of state to promote the concept of Pan-Africanism, which he had been introduced to during his studies at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in the United States, at the time when Marcus Garvey was becoming famous for his “Back to Africa Movement”. Nkrumah merged the teachings of Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the naturalized Ghanaian scholar W. E. B. Du Bois into the formation of 1960s Ghana.
Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, as he became known, played an instrumental part in the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement, and in establishing the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute to teach his ideologies of communism and socialism. His life achievements were recognized by Ghanaians during his centenary birthday celebration, and the day was instituted as a public holiday in Ghana (Founder’s Day).
Operation Cold Chop and Aftermath:
The government of Nkrumah was subsequently overthrown by a coup by the Ghana Armed Forces codenamed “Operation Cold Chop”. This occurred while Nkrumah was abroad with Zhou Enlai in the People’s Republic of China, on a fruitless mission to Hanoi in Vietnam to help end the Vietnam War. The coup took place on 24 February 1966, led by Col. Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka. The National Liberation Council (NLC) was formed, chaired by Lt. General Joseph A. Ankrah.
A series of alternating military and civilian governments, often affected by economic instabilities, ruled Ghana from 1966 to 1981, ending with the ascension to power of Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) in 1981. These changes resulted in the suspension of the Constitution of Ghana in 1981, and the banning of political parties in Ghana. The economy soon declined, so Rawlings negotiated a structural adjustment plan changing many old economic policies, and economic growth soon recovered during the mid-1980s. A new Constitution of Ghana restoring multi-party system politics was promulgated in Ghanaian presidential election, 1992; Rawlings was elected as president of Ghana then, and again in Ghanaian general election, 1996.
Winning the 2000 Ghanaian elections, John Agyekum Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was sworn into office as president of Ghana on 7 January 2001, and attained the presidency again in the 2004 Ghanaian elections, thus also serving two terms (the term limit) as president of Ghana and thus marking the first time under the fourth republic that power was transferred from one legitimately elected head of state and head of government to another.
Nana Akufo-Addo, the ruling party candidate, was defeated in a very close election by John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) following the Ghanaian presidential election, 2008. Mills died of natural causes and was succeeded by vice-president John Dramani Mahama on 24 July 2012.
Following the Ghanaian presidential election, 2012, John Dramani Mahama became President-elect and was inaugurated on 7 January 2013. Ghana was a stable democracy.
As a result of the Ghanaian presidential election, 2016, Nana Akufo-Addo became President-elect and was inaugurated as the fifth President of the Fourth Republic of Ghana and eighth President of Ghana on 7 January 2017.
Ghana is located on the Gulf of Guinea, only a few degrees north of the Equator, therefore giving it a warm climate. The Prime Meridian passes through Ghana, specifically through the industrial port town of Tema.
Grasslands mixed with south coastal shrublands and forests dominate Ghana, with forest extending northward from the south-west coast of Ghana on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean 320 kilometres (200 miles) and eastward for a maximum of about 270 kilometres (170 miles) with the Kingdom of Ashanti or the southern part of Ghana being a primary location for mining of industrial minerals and timber.
Ghana encompasses plains, waterfalls, low hills, rivers, Lake Volta, the world’s largest artificial lake, Dodi Island and Bobowasi Island on the south Atlantic Ocean coast of Ghana. The northernmost part of Ghana is Pulmakong and the southernmost part of Ghana is Cape Three Points.
Ghana is an average natural resource enriched country possessing industrial minerals, hydrocarbons and precious metals. It is an emerging designated digital economy with mixed economy hybridization and an emerging market with 8.7% GDP growth in 2012. It has an economic plan target known as the “Ghana Vision 2020”. This plan envisions Ghana as the first African country to become a developed country between 2020 and 2029 and a newly industrialized country between 2030 and 2039. This excludes fellow Group of 24 member and Sub-Saharan African country South Africa, which is a newly industrialized country.
Ghana’s economy also has ties to the Chinese yuan renminbi along with Ghana’s vast gold reserves. In 2013, the Bank of Ghana began circulating the renminbi throughout Ghanaian state-owned banks and to the Ghana public as hard currency along with the national Ghana cedi for second national trade currency. Between 2012 and 2013, 37.9 percent of rural dwellers were experiencing poverty whereas only 10.6 percent of urban dwellers were. Urban areas hold greater opportunity for employment, particularly in informal trade, while nearly all (94 percent) of rural poor households participate in the agricultural sector.
The state-owned Volta River Authority and Ghana National Petroleum Corporation are the two major electricity producers. The Akosombo Dam, built on the Volta River in 1965, along with Bui Dam, Kpong Dam, and several other hydroelectric dams provide hydropower. In addition, the Government of Ghana has sought to build the second nuclear power plant in Africa.
The Ghana Stock Exchange is the 5th largest on continental Africa and 3rd largest in sub-Saharan Africa with a market capitalization of GH¢ 57.2 billion or CN¥ 180.4 billion in 2012 with the South Africa JSE Limited as first. The Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) was the 2nd best performing stock exchange in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013.
Ghana also produces high-quality cocoa. It is the 2nd largest producer of cocoa globally, and was projected to become the world’s largest producer of cocoa in 2015.
Ghana is classified as a middle income country. Services account for 50% of GDP, followed by manufacturing (24.1%), extractive industries (5%), and taxes (20.9%).
Transport in Ghana is accomplished by road, rail, air and water. Ghana’s transportation and communications networks are centered in the southern regions, especially the areas in which gold, cocoa, and timber are produced. The northern and central areas are connected through a major road system.
Increased transport investment helped to increase the number of new vehicle registrations and transportation alternatives include rail, road, ferry, marine and air.
The railway system in Ghana has historically been confined to the plains south of the barrier range of mountains north of the city of Kumasi. However, the 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow gauge railway, totaling 935 kilometres, is presently undergoing major rehabilitation and inroads to the interior are now being made. In Ghana, most of the lines are single tracked, and in 1997, it was estimated that 32 kilometres were double tracked.
Road transport is by far the dominant carrier of freight and passengers in Ghana’s land transport system. It carries over 95% of all passenger and freight traffic and reaches most communities, and is classified under three categories of trunk roads, urban roads, and feeder roads. The Ghana Highway Authority, established in 1974 is tasked with developing and maintaining the country’s trunk road network totaling 13,367 km, which makes up 33% of Ghana’s total road network of 40,186 km.
Trunk roads in Ghana are classified as National roads, Regional roads, and Inter-regional roads, all of which form the Ghana road network. National roads, designated with the letter N, link all the major population centers in Ghana. Regional roads, designated with the letter R, are a mix of primary and secondary routes, which serve as feeder roads to National roads; while Inter-Regional roads, designated with the prefix IR, connect major settlements across regional borders.
With respect to this mode of transport, many people prefer to use the public means. Many of the town and cities in the country can be reached by the use of urban buses known as “trotro” or taxis. For inter-regional transport bigger buses are normally used.
The Trans–West African Coastal Highway, part of the Trans-African Highway network crosses Ghana along the N1, connecting it to Abidjan, (Ivory Coast), Lomé, (Togo) and to Benin and Nigeria. Eventually the highway will connect to another seven Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) nations to the west. The N2, which connects Tema in the Greater Accra Region to Kulungugu in the Upper East Region; the N10, which connects Yamoransa in the Central Region to Paga in the Upper East Region; and the N12, which connects Elubo in the Western Region to Hamile in the Upper West Region; all connect Ghana to landlocked Burkina Faso, where it joins another highway in the Trans-African network, the Trans-Sahelian Highway.
On July 4, 1958, the Ghanaian government established Ghana Airways connecting Ghana with other countries. By the mid-1990s, Ghana Airways operated international scheduled passenger and cargo service to numerous European, Middle Eastern, and African destinations, including London, Düsseldorf, Rome, Abidjan, Dakar, Lagos, Lomé, and Johannesburg. As a result of persistent management and financial problems, Ghana Airways ceased all operations and entered into liquidation in 2004.
Ghana has twelve airports, six with hard surfaced runways. The most important are Kotoka International Airport at Accra and airports at Sekondi-Takoradi, Kumasi, and Tamale that serve domestic air traffic. In 1990, the government spent US$12 million to improve Accra’s facilities. Workmen resurfaced the runway, upgraded the lighting system and built a new freight terminal. Construction crews also extended and upgraded the terminal building at Kumasi. In early 1991, the government announced further plans to improve Accra’s international airport. The main runway was upgraded, improvements were made in freight landing and infrastructure, and the terminal building and the airport’s navigational aids were upgraded.
Flag of Ghana:
The national flag of Ghana was designed and adopted in 1957 and was flown until 1962. It was then reinstated in 1966. It consists of the Pan-African colors of red, gold, and green, in horizontal stripes, with a black five-pointed star in the center of the gold stripe. The Ghanaian flag was the second African flag after the flag of the Ethiopian Empire to feature these colors. The flag’s design influenced that of the flag of Guinea-Bissau (1973). The flag of Ghana was designed by Theodosia Okoh (1922–2015).
The red represents the blood of those who died in the country’s struggle for independence from Great Britain, the gold represents the mineral wealth of the country, the green symbolizes the country’s rich forests and natural wealth, and the black star is the symbol of African emancipation. The black star was adopted from the flag of the Black Star Line, a shipping line incorporated by Marcus Garvey that operated from 1919 to 1922. It is where the Ghana national football team derive their nickname, the “Black Stars”.