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Republic of Ghana
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem:  God Bless Our Homeland Ghana
Location of  Ghana  (dark red)in Western Africa  (light yellow)
Location of  Ghana  (dark red)

in Western Africa  (light yellow)

and largest city
5°33′N 0°15′W
Official languages English
Akan, specifically Ashanti Twi, Fanti, Akuapem Twi, Akyem, Kwahu, Nzema; Dagaare/Wale, Dagbani, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, Gonja and Kasem
Demonym Ghanaian
Government Constitutional presidential republic
 -  President John Atta Mills
 -  Vice-President John Dramani Mahama
 -  Speaker of Parliament Joyce Bamford-Addo
 -  Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood
Independence from the United Kingdom
 -  Declared 6 March 1957 
 -  Republic 1 July 1960 
 -  Current Constitution 28 April 1992 
 -  Total 238,535 km2 ( 81st)
92,098 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 3.5
 -  2010 estimate 23,837,000 ( 48th)
 -  Density 99.9/km2 ( 103rd)
258.8/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $38.143 billion
 -  Per capita $1,600
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $31.2 billion
 -  Per capita $1,318.36
Currency Ghanaian cedi ( GHS)
Time zone GMT ( UTC0)
 -  Summer ( DST) GMT ( UTC0)
Drives on the right
Calling code 233
ISO 3166 code GH
Internet TLD .gh

The Republic of Ghana ( / ˈ ɡ ɑː n ə /) is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. The word Ghana means "Warrior King" and is derived from the ancient Ghana Empire.

Ghana was inhabited in pre-colonial times by a number of ancient predominantly Akan kingdoms, including the Akwamu on the eastern coast, the inland Ashanti Empire and various Fante and non-Akan states, like the Ga and Ewe, along the coast and inland. Trade with European states flourished after contact with the Portuguese in the 15th century, and the British established the Gold Coast Crown colony in 1874.

The Gold Coast achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1957, becoming the first sub-Saharan African nation to do so, and the name Ghana was chosen for the new nation to reflect the ancient Empire of Ghana, which once extended throughout much of west Africa. Ghana is a member of the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, and an associate member of La Francophonie. Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa in the world and is home to Lake Volta, the largest artificial lake in the world by surface area.


Map of Ghana

The word Ghana means Warrior King and was the title accorded to the kings of the medieval West African Ghana Empire. Geographically, the Ghana Empire was approximately 500 miles (800 km) north and west of modern Ghana, and it ruled territories in the area of the Sénégal River and east towards the Niger River, in modern Senegal, Mauritania and Mali.

Ghana was adopted as the legal name for the Gold Coast combined with British Togoland upon gaining autonomy on March 6, 1957. It was not until July 1, 1960, however, that Ghana asserted its complete independence from Britain and became known as the Republic of Ghana.


There is archaeological evidence which shows that humans have lived in present day Ghana from about 1500 BC. Nonetheless, there is no proof that those early dwellers are related to the current inhabitants of the area. Oral tradition states that many of Ghana's current ethnic groups such as the multi-ethnic Akan, the Ga and the Ewe arrived around the 13th century AD. However, the Mamprusi are believed to be the first settlers, having been fully established by 1210 AD, before the arrival of the other ethnic groups.

Ashanti yam ceremony, 19th century by Thomas E. Bowdich
Cape Coast Castle

Modern Ghanaian territory includes what was the Empire of Ashanti, one of the most influential states in sub-Saharan Africa before colonial rule. Akan migrants moved southward and founded several nation-states including the first great Akan empire of the Bono, which is now known as the Brong-Ahafo Region. Much of the area of modern day south central Ghana was united under the Empire of Ashanti of the Ashanti people, a branch of the Akan people, by the 16th century. The Ashanti government operated first as a loose network and eventually as a centralized kingdom with an advanced highly specialized bureaucracy centered in Kumasi. It is said that at its peak, the Asantehene could field 500,000 troops and had some degree of military influence over all of its neighbors. The Ga people developed an effective unit around 1500, and the Gonja, Dagomba and Mamprusi fought for political power in the 1620s.

Early European contact by the Portuguese, who came to Ghana in the 15th century, focused on the extensive availability of gold. The Portuguese first landed at a coastal city inhabited by the Fante nation-state and named the place Elmina, which means "the mine" in Portuguese. In 1481, King John II of Portugal commissioned Diogo d'Azambuja to build Elmina Castle, which was completed in 3 years. Their aim was to trade in gold, ivory and slaves, consolidating their burgeoning political and economic power in the region.

By 1548, the Dutch had joined them and built forts at Komenda and Kormantsi. In 1617, they captured the Olnini Castle from the Portuguese and Axim in 1642 (Fort St Anthony). Other European traders joined in by the mid-17th century, largely English, Danes and Swedes. British merchants, impressed with the gold resources in the area, named it the Gold Coast, while French merchants, impressed with the trinkets worn by the coastal people, named the area to the west "Côte d'Ivoire", or Ivory Coast.

Elmina Castle

More than thirty forts and castles were built by the Portuguese, Dutch, British and Spanish merchants. The Gold Coast was known for centuries as 'The White Man's Grave' because many of the Europeans who went there died of malaria and other tropical diseases. After the Dutch withdrew in 1874, Britain made the Gold Coast a protectorate. Following conquest by the British in 1896 until independence in March 1957, the territory of modern Ghana excluding the Volta Region ( British Togoland), was known as the Gold Coast.

Many wars occurred between the colonial powers and the various nation-states in the area including the 1806 Ashanti-Fante War and the continuous struggle by the Ashanti against the British, which ended in 1901 with the Third Ashanti-British War (1900–1901). Even under colonial rule the chiefs and people often resisted the policies of the British; however, moves toward de-colonization intensified after World War II. In 1947 the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) called for "self-government within the shortest possible time." After rioting increased in 1948, the members of the United Gold Coast Convention were arrested, including future prime minister and president Kwame Nkrumah. Later Nkrumah formed his own party, the Convention People's Party (CPP) with the motto "self government now." He began a 'Positive Action' campaign and gained the support of rural and working class people. He was again imprisoned for being the leader of a party that caused boycotts, strikes and other forms of civil disobedience. After winning a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly in 1952, Nkrumah was released and appointed leader of government business. After further negotiations with Britain, on March 6, 1957 at 12 a.m. Nkrumah declared Ghana "free forever".

The flag which consists of the colours red, gold, green and the black star became the new flag in 1957. Designed by Theodosia Salome Okoh, the red represents the blood that was shed towards independence, the gold represents the mineral wealth of Ghana, the green symbolises the rich agriculture and the black star is the symbol of African emancipation. Formed from the merger of the Gold Coast and British Togoland by a United Nations sponsored plebiscite in 1956, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to gain its independence in 1957.

Kwame Nkrumah, first prime minister and then president of the modern Ghanaian state, was an anti-colonial leader sought a united Africa which would not drift into neo-colonialism. He was the first African head of state to promote Pan-Africanism, an idea he came into contact with during his studies at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (United States), at the time when Marcus Garvey was becoming famous for his "Back to Africa Movement." He merged the teachings of Garvey and the African-American scholar W. E. B. Du Bois into the formation of the modern day Ghana. Ghana's principles of freedom and justice, equity and free education for all, irrespective of ethnic background, religion or creed, borrow from Nkrumah's implementation of Pan-Africanism.

Independence Arch, Ghana

Although his goal of African unity never realised, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, as he is now known, played an instrumental part in the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, which was succeeded in 2002 by the African Union. His achievements were recognised by Ghanaians during his centenary birthday celebrations, and the day was instituted as a public holiday in Ghana. Dr. Nkrumah's government was subsequently overthrown by the military while abroad in February 1966. It has been demonstrated that the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had an effective hand in forcing the coup, and this has been substantiated by the testimonies of former CIA officers (CIA-backed coup). Documents, declassified in 1999, only recently made public, reveal that then-US Secretary of State Dean Rusk and then-CIA director John McCone had met and shared secret correspondence with General J.A. Ankrah, and had specified that he would be the man to lead Ghana after the coup.

A series of subsequent coups from 1966 to 1981 ended with the ascension to power of Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings in 1981. These changes resulted in the suspension of the constitution in 1981 and the banning of political parties. The economy suffered a severe decline soon after, and many Ghanaians migrated to other countries. Although most migrating Ghanaians went to Nigeria, the Nigerian government deported about a million Ghanaians back to Ghana in 1983.

Rawlings negotiated a structural adjustment plan with the International Monetary Fund and changed many old economic policies, and the economy began to recover. A new constitution restoring multi-party politics was promulgated in 1992, and Rawlings was elected as president then and again in 1996. The Constitution of 1992 prohibited him from running for a third term, so his party, the National Democratic Congress, chose his Vice President, John Atta Mills, to run against the opposition parties. Winning the 2000 elections, John Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party was sworn into office as president in January 2001 and beat Mills again in 2004, thus also serving two terms as president.

In 2009, John Atta Mills took office as President of Ghana with a difference of about 40,000 votes (0.46%) between his party, the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party, marking the second time that power had been transferred from one legitimately elected leader to another and securing Ghana's status as a stable democracy.

Regions and districts

Regions of Ghana

Ghana is divided into 10 administrative regions, subdivided into a total of 138 districts. The regions are:

  • Ashanti, capital Kumasi
  • Brong Ahafo, capital Sunyani
  • Central, capital Cape Coast
  • Eastern, capital Koforidua
  • Greater Accra, capital Accra
  • Northern, capital Tamale
  • Upper East, capital Bolgatanga
  • Upper West, capital Wa
  • Volta, capital Ho
  • Western, capital Sekondi-Takoradi

Population of major cities

City Population
Accra 3,963,264
Kumasi 2,604,909
Tamale 360,579
Takoradi 360,651
Tema 229,106
Teshie 154,513
Sekondi 153,900
Cape Coast 200,204
Obuasi 147,613
Dunkwa-On-Offin 108,482
Bolgatanga 72,000

Government and politics

The Supreme Court Building, Accra
Ghana at 50 celebrations

According to the 2009 Failed States Index, Ghana is ranked the 53rd least failed state in the world and the second least failed state in Africa after Mauritius. Ghana ranked 124th out of 177 countries on the index. Ghana also was placed 7th out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries in the 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance which was based on data from 2006. The Ibrahim Index is a comprehensive measure of African government, based on a number of different variables which reflect the success with which governments deliver essential political goods to its citizens.


Ghana was created as a parliamentary democracy at independence in 1957, followed by alternating military and civilian governments. In January 1993, military government gave way to the Fourth Republic after presidential and parliamentary elections in late 1992. The 1992 constitution divides powers among a president, parliament, cabinet, council of state, and an independent judiciary. The government is elected by universal suffrage; however, the legislature is malapportioned, with low-population districts receiving more representatives per person than those with high populations.

Administrative divisions

There are ten administrative regions which are divided into 138 districts, each with its own district assembly. Below districts are various types of councils, including 58 town or area councils, 108 zonal councils, and 626 area councils. Sixteen thousand unit committees exist on the lowest level.

Judicial system

The legal system is based on British common law, customary (traditional) law, and the 1992 constitution. Court hierarchy consists of Supreme Court of Ghana (highest court), courts of appeal, and high courts of justice. Beneath these bodies are circuit, magisterial, and traditional courts. Extrajudicial institutions include public tribunals. Since independence, courts are relatively independent; this independence continues under Fourth Republic. Lower courts are being redefined and reorganized under the Fourth Republic.


Political parties became legal in mid-1992 after a ten-year hiatus. There are many political parties under the Fourth Republic; the major ones are the National Democratic Congress which won presidential and parliamentary elections in 1992, 1996 and 2008; the New Patriotic Party, the major opposition party which won elections in 2000 and 2004; the People's National Convention, and the Convention People's Party, successor to Kwame Nkrumah's original party of the same name.

Foreign relations

Since independence, Ghana has been devoted to ideals of nonalignment and Pan-Africanism, both closely identified with Nkrumah. Ghana favours international and regional political and economic co-operation, and is an active member of the United Nations and the African Union.

Many Ghanaian diplomats and politicians hold positions in international organisations. These include Ghanaian diplomat and former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, International Criminal Court Judge Akua Kuenyehia, former President Jerry Rawlings and former President John Agyekum Kuffour who have both been elected chairmen of the Economic Community of West African States. before.


Ghana is a Middle Income Economy. Well endowed with natural resources, Ghana has more than twice the per capita output of the poorer countries in West Africa. Known for its gold in colonial times, Ghana remains one of the world's top gold producers. Other exports such as cocoa, Oil, timber, electricity, diamond, bauxite, and manganese are major sources of foreign exchange monitored, operated and managed by the Presidential Ministry Agricultural Arm headed by Antoinette Efua-Addo.

An oilfield which is reported to contain up to 3 billion barrels (480,000,000 m3) of light oil was discovered in 2007. Oil exploration is ongoing, and the amount of oil continues to increase. There is expected to be a tremendous inflow of capital into the economy beginning from the first quarter of 2011 when the country starts producing oil to be sold through overseas licensed counter-part GAZPROM in commercial quantities. Also the refining and sale of oil resources discovered off the Ghana coast licensed to oil giant GAZPROM has begun being monitored by the Ghana National Petroleum Company. The oil is expected to account for 6% of the revenue for 2011.

Sunyani Cocoa House

The Akosombo Dam, which was built on the Volta River in 1965 provides hydro-electricity for Ghana and its neighboring countries.

Ghana’s labor force in 2008 totalled 11.5 million people. The economy continues to rely heavily on agriculture which accounts for 37.3% of GDP and provides employment for 56% of the work force, mainly small landholders. Manufacturing is only a small part of the Ghanaian economy totalling 7.9% of Gross Domestic Product in 2007.

Ineffective economic policies of past military governments and regional peacekeeping commitments have led to continued inflationary deficit financing, depreciation of the Cedi, and rising public discontent with Ghana's austerity measures. Even so, Ghana remains one of the more economically sound countries in all of Africa. In July 2007, the Bank of Ghana embarked on a currency re-denomination exercise, from the Cedi (¢) to the new currency, the Ghana Cedi (GH¢). The transfer rate is 1 Ghana Cedi for every 10,000 Cedis. The Bank of Ghana employed aggressive media campaigns to educate the public about the re-denomination. The new Ghana Cedi is relatively stable and in 2009 generally exchanged at a rate of $1 USD =Gh¢ 1.4 The Value Added Tax is a consumption tax administered in Ghana. The tax regime which started in 1998 had a single rate but since September 2007 entered into a multiple rate regime. In 1998, the rate of tax was 10% and amended in 2000 to 12.5%. However with the passage of Act 734 of 2007, a 3% VAT Flat Rate Scheme (VFRS) began to operate for the retail distribution sector. This allows retailers of taxable goods under Act 546 to charge a marginal 3% on their sales and account on same to the VAT Service. It is aimed at simplifying the tax system and increasing compliance.

Tourism is a rapidly growing sector particularly among Europeans, Americans, and other internationals connected to the Ghanain diaspora abroad. Ghana's political and economic stability, low crime rate, and wide use of English make the country an attractive entrypoint to West Africa for foreigners. UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle, national parks such as Kakum National Park and Mole National Park, as well as cultural celebrations such as Panafest are major centers of tourist activity.


Beach in Ghana
Elephants at Mole National Park

Ghana is a country located on the Gulf of Guinea, only a few degrees north of the Equator, therefore giving it a warm climate. The country spans an area of 238,500 km2 (92,085 sq mi). It is surrounded by Togo to the east, Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north and the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean) to the south. The Prime Meridian passes through Ghana, specifically through the industrial city of Tema. Ghana is geographically closer to the "centre" of the world than any other country even though the notional centre, (0°, 0°) is located in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 614 km (382 mi) south of Accra, Ghana, in the Gulf of Guinea.

The country encompasses flat plains, low hills and a few rivers. Ghana can be divided into five different geographical regions. The coastline is mostly a low, sandy shore backed by plains and scrub and intersected by several rivers and streams while the northern part of the country features high plains. Southwest and south central Ghana is made up of a forested plateau region consisting of the Ashanti uplands and the Kwahu Plateau; the hilly Akuapim-Togo ranges are found along the country's eastern border.

The Volta Basin also takes up most of central Ghana. Ghana's highest point is Mount Afadjato which is 885 m (2,904 ft) and is found in the Akwapim-Togo Ranges. The climate is tropical. The eastern coastal belt is warm and comparatively dry, the southwest corner is hot and humid, and the north is hot and dry. Lake Volta, the world's largest artificial lake, extends through large portions of eastern Ghana and is the main source of many tributary rivers such as the Oti and Afram rivers.

There are two main seasons in Ghana: the wet and the dry seasons. Northern Ghana experiences its rainy season from March to November while the south, including the capital Accra, experiences the season from April to mid-November. Southern Ghana contains evergreen and semideciduous forests consisting of trees such as mahogany, odum and ebony. It also contains much of Ghana's oil palms and mangroves. Shea trees, baobabs and acacias are usually found in the Volta region and the northern part of the country.


Ghana has a population of about 24 million people. Ghana's first post-independence population census in 1960 counted about 6.7 million inhabitants. It is home to more than 100 different ethnic groups. Ghana has not seen the kind of ethnic conflict that has created civil wars in many other African countries. The official language is English; however, most Ghanaians also speak at least one local language.

The ethnic groups in Ghana are the Akan (which includes the Fante, Akyem, Ashanti, Kwahu, Akuapem, Nzema, Bono, Akwamu, Ahanta and others) 49.3%, Mole- Dagbon 15.2%, Ewe 11.7%, Ga-Dangme (comprising of the Ga, Adangbe, Ada, Krobo and others) 7.3%, Guan 4%, Gurma 3.6%, Gurunsi 2.6%, Mande-Busanga 1%, other tribes 1.4%, other ( Hausa, Zabarema, Fulani) 1.8% (2000 census). According to the CIA World Factbook, religious divisions are as follows: Christian 68.8%, Muslim 15.9%, Traditional African beliefs 8.5%.


As of 2009, life expectancy at birth is about 59 years for males and 60 years for females with infant mortality at 51 per 1000 live births. The birth rate is about 4 children per woman. There are about 15 physicians and 93 nurses per 100,000 persons. 4.5% of the country's GDP was spent on health in 2003.


Wesley Methodist Cathedral, Kumasi

There are 47 local languages in Ghana. English is the country's official language and predominates in government and business affairs. It is also the standard language used for educational instruction. Native Ghanaian languages are divided into two linguistic subfamilies of the Niger-Congo language family. Languages belonging to the Kwa subfamily are found predominantly to the south of the Volta River, while those belonging to the Gur subfamily are found predominantly to the north. The Kwa group, which is spoken by about 75% of the country's population, includes the Akan, Ga-Dangme, and Ewe languages. The Gur group includes the Gurma, Grusi, and Dagbani languages. Nine languages have the status of government-sponsored languages: Akan, specifically Ashanti Twi, Fanti, Akuapem Twi, Akyem, Kwahu, Nzema; Dagaare/Wale, Dagbani, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, Gonja and Kasem. Though not an official language, Hausa is the lingua-franca among Ghana's Muslims who comprise about 16% of the population.

Christianity is the majority religion in Ghana (68.8%). Minority religions include Islam (15.9%), and traditional African beliefs (8.5%).


Ghanaian school children

The adult literacy rate in Ghana was 65% in 2007, with males at 71.7% and females at 58.3%. Ghana has a 6-year primary education system beginning at age six, and, under the educational reforms implemented in 1987 and reformed in 2007, they pass on to a 3-year junior high school system. At the end of the 3rd year of junior high, there is a mandatory Basic Education Certificate Examination. Those continuing must complete the 3-year senior high school program and take an admission exam to enter any university or tertiary programme.

Presently, Ghana has 21,530 primary schools, 8,850 junior secondary schools, 900 senior secondary schools, 52 public training colleges, 5 private training colleges, 5 polytechnical institutions, 4 non-university public tertiary institutions, 8 public universities and over 45 private tertiary institutions. Most Ghanaians have relatively easy access to primary and secondary education. These numbers can be contrasted with the single university and handful of secondary and primary schools that existed at the time of independence in 1957. Ghana's spending on education has varied between 28-40% of its annual budget in the past decade. All teaching is done in English, mostly by qualified Ghanaian educators.

The courses taught at the primary or basic school level include English, Ghanaian language and culture, mathematics, environmental studies, social studies and French as a third language are added, integrated or general science, pre-vocational skills and pre-technical skills, religious and moral education, and physical activities such as music, dance and physical education. The senior high level school curriculum has core subjects and elective subjects of which students must take four the core subjects of English language, mathematics, integrated science (including science, agriculture and environmental studies) and social studies (economics, geography, history and government).

The high school students also choose 3 elective subjects from 5 available programmes: agriculture programme, general programme (arts or science option), business programme, vocational programme and technical programme. Apart from most primary and secondary schools which choose the Ghanaian system of schooling, there are also international schools such as the Ghana International school, Takoradi International School, Tema International School, Galaxy International School, The Roman Ridge School, the Lincoln Community School and the Gmeiner International College, which offer the International Baccalaureat, Advanced Level General Certificate of Education and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE).

With 83% of its children in school, Ghana currently has one of the highest school enrolment rates in West Africa. The ratio of girls to boys in the total education system is 1:0.96, which for a West African country is a considerable achievement. That said, some 500,000 children still remain out of school because of resource constraints in building schools, providing adequate textbooks and training new teachers. UNESCO reports that sixth-graders sitting a simple multiple-choice reading test scored on average the same mark that would be gained by random guessing.

The oldest university in Ghana, the University of Ghana, which was founded in 1948, had a total of about 29,754 students in 2008. Since Ghana's independence, the country has been one of the educational hot spots in sub-Saharan Africa and has played host to notables such as President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Alhaji Sir Dauda Jawara of The Gambia and Cyprian Ekwensi of Nigeria among others. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has been chancellor of the University of Ghana since 2008.

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, the second university to be established in Ghana, is the premier university of science and technology in Ghana and West Africa.

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