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Republic of Ghana


FLAG: The national flag is a tricolor of red, yellow, and green horizontal stripes, with a five-pointed black star in the center of the yellow stripe.

ANTHEM: Hail the Name of Ghana.

MONETARY UNIT: The cedi ( ) is a paper currency of 100 pesewas. There are coins of ½, 1, 2½, 5, 10, 20, and 50 pesewas and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 cedis, and notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 cedis. 1 = $0.00011 (or $1 = 127.42) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Anniversary of the Inauguration of the Fourth Republic, 7 January; Independence Day, 6 March; Labor Day, 1 May; Republic Day, 1 July; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday and Easter Monday.



Situated on the southern coast of the West African bulge, Ghana has an area of 238,540 sq km (92,100 sq mi), extending 458 km (284 mi) nnessw and 297 km (184 mi) esewnw. Bordered on the e by Togo, on the s by the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Guinea), on the w by Côte d'Ivoire, and on the nw and n by Burkina Faso, Ghana has a total boundary length of 2,633 km (1,635mi), of which 539 km (334 mi) is coastline. Comparatively, the area occupied by Ghana is slightly smaller than the state of Oregon. Ghana's capital city, Accra, is located on the Gulf of Guinea coast.


The coastline consists mostly of a low sandy shore behind which stretches the coastal plain, except in the west, where the forest comes down to the sea. The forest belt, which extends northward from the western coast about 320 km (200 mi) and eastward for a maximum of about 270 km (170 mi), is broken up into heavily wooded hills and steep ridges. North of the forest is undulating savanna drained by the Black Volta and White Volta rivers, which join and flow south to the sea through a narrow gap in the hills. Ghana's highest point is Mount Afadjato at 880 m (2,887 ft) in a range of hills on the eastern border.

Apart from the Volta, only the Pra and the Ankobra rivers permanently pierce the sand dunes, most of the other rivers terminating in brackish lagoons. There are no natural harbors. Lake Volta, formed by the impoundment of the Volta behind Akosombo Dam, is the world's largest manmade lake (8,485 sq km/3,276 sq mi).


The climate is tropical but relatively mild for the latitude. Climatic differences between various parts of the country are affected by the sun's journey north or south of the equator and the corresponding position of the intertropical convergence zone, the boundary between the moist southwesterly winds and the dry northeasterly winds. Except in the north, there are two rainy seasons, from April through June and from September to November. Squalls occur in the north during March and April, followed by occasional rain until August and September, when the rainfall reaches its peak. Average temperatures range between 2132°c (7090°f), with relative humidity between 50% and 80%. Rainfall ranges from 83220 cm (3387 in) a year.

The harmattan, a dry desert wind, blows from the northeast from December to March, lowering the humidity and causing hot days and cool nights in the north; the effect of this wind is felt in the south during January. In most areas, temperatures are highest in March and lowest in August. Variation between day and night temperatures is relatively small, but greater in the north, especially in January, because of the harmattan. No temperature lower than 10°c (50°f) has ever been recorded in Ghana.


Plants and animals are mainly those common to tropical regions, but because of human encroachment, Ghana has fewer large and wild mammals than in other parts of Africa. Most of the forest is in the south and in a strip along the border with Togo. Except for coastal scrub and grassland, the rest of Ghana is savanna. As of 2002, there were at least 222 species of mammals, 206 species of birds, and over 3,700 species of plants throughout the country.


Slash-and-burn agriculture and overcultivation of cleared land have resulted in widespread soil erosion and exhaustion. Over-grazing, heavy logging, overcutting of firewood, and mining have taken a toll on forests and woodland. About one-third of Ghana's land area is threatened by desertification. Industrial pollutants include arsenic from gold mining and noxious fumes from smelters. Water pollution results from a combination of industrial sources, agricultural chemicals, and inadequate waste treatment facilities.

The nation has 30 cu km of renewable water resource with 52% used for farming activity and 13% used for industrial purposes; about 93% of all urban dwellers and 68% of the rural population have access to pure water.

Ghana has five national parks and four other protected areas; there are six Ramsar wetland sites. In 2003, 5.6% of the country's total land area was protected. The ban on hunting in closed reserves is only sporadically enforced, and the nation's wildlife is threatened by poaching and habitat destruction. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 15 types of mammals, 8 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 10 species of amphibians, 8 species of fish, and 117 species of plants. Threatened species included the white-breasted guinea fowl, the hartebeest, Pel's flying squirrel, the black crowned crane, the red-capped monkey, and the great white shark.


The population of Ghana in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 22,019,000, which placed it at number 49 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 40% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 102 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.3%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The government has become involved in programs aimed at slowing population growth, especially by educating adolescents about reproductive health. The projected population for the year 2025 was 32,846,000. The population density was 92 per sq km (239 per sq mi), with approximately 80% of the population residing in the south or in the far northeast and northwest.

The UN estimated that 44% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 3%. The capital city, Accra, had a population of 1,847,000 in that year. Other large cities and their estimated populations were Kumasi (862,000) and Tema (209,000).


For generations, immigrants from Burkina Faso and Togo did much of the manual work, including mining, in Ghana; immigrant traders from Nigeria conducted much of the petty trade; and Lebanese and Syrians were important as intermediaries. In 1969, when many foreigners were expelled, Ghana's alien community was about 2,000,000 out of a population of about 8,400,000. In 1986, the government estimated that at least 500,000 aliens were residing in Ghana, mostly engaged in trading.

Ghanaians also work abroad, some as fishermen in neighboring coastal countries. Many Ghanaians were welcomed in the 1970s by Nigeria, which was in the midst of an oil boom and in need of cheap labor. In early 1983, as the oil boom faded, up to 700,000 Ghanaians were expelled from Nigeria; soon after, however, many deportees were reportedly being invited back by Nigerian employers unable to fill the vacant posts with indigenous labor. But in May 1985, an estimated 100,000 Ghanaians again were expelled from Nigeria.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) organized a plan for the voluntary repatriation of some 15,000 Liberian refugees; since June 1997, 3,342 have repatriated under the plan. Of those Liberian refugees remaining in Ghana, another 4,000 have expressed willingness to return to their homeland; however, the majority wish to stay in Ghana or be resettled in third countries. Repatriation efforts for both Liberian and Togolese refugees were ongoing in 1999. Also in 1999, both Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees were still arriving in Ghana in sizable numbers. In 2000 the number of migrants living in Ghana was 614,000.

In 2004, Ghana hosted some 42,053 refugees, almost all Liberians. Asylum seekers numbered 6,010, mainly from Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire.

The level of remittances in Ghana increased appreciably from $201.9 million in 1990 to $1,017 million in 2003. As a percentage of GDP this increase is even more significant, 2.24% in 1990 to 13.4% in 2003. In 2005 the net migration rate was estimated as 0.59 migrant per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


It is fairly certain that Ghana has been occupied by Negroid peoples since prehistoric times. Members of the Akan family, who make up about 44% of the population, include the Twi, or Ashanti, inhabiting the Ashanti Region and central Ghana, and the Fanti, inhabiting the coastal areas. In the southwest, the Nzima, Ahanta, Evalue, and other tribes speak languages related to Twi and Fanti. The Moshi-Dagomba constitute about 16% of the population, the Ewe 13%, the Ga 8%, the Gurma 3%, and the Yoruba 1%. The Accra plains are inhabited by tribes speaking variants of Ga, while east of the Volta River are the Ewe living in what used to be British-mandated Togoland. All these tribes are fairly recent arrivals in Ghana, the Akan having come between the 12th and 15th centuries, the Ga-Adangbe in the 16th century, and the Ewe in the 17th century. Most of the inhabitants of the Northern Region belong to the Mole-Dagbani group of Voltaic peoples or to the Gonja, who appear to bear some relation to the Akan. European and other groups account for only 1.5% of the population.


Of the 56 indigenous languages and dialects spoken in Ghana, 31 are used mainly in the northern part of the country. The languages follow the tribal divisions, with the related Akan languages of Twi and Fanti being most prominent. Also widely spoken are MoshiDagomba, Ewe, and Ga. English is the official language and is the universal medium of instruction in schools. It is officially supplemented by five local languages.


An estimated 69% of the population belong to various Christian denominations, 15.6% are Muslims (though Muslim leaders claim the number is closer to 30%), and about 15.4% of the population follow traditional indigenous beliefs or other religions, including the Baha'i Faith, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Ninchiren Shoshu Soka Gakkai, Sri Sathya Sai Baba Sera, Sat Sang, Eckanker, the Divine Light Mission, Hare Krishna, and Rastafarianism. Christian denominations include Roman Catholics, three branches of Methodists, Anglicans, Mennonites, two branches of Presbyterians, Evangelical Lutherans, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostals, Baptists, and Society of Friends. Some Christians also include elements of indigenous religions in their own practices, particularly magic and divination. There are three primary branches of Islam within the country: Ahlussuna, Tijanis, and Ahmadis. A small number of Muslims are Shia. Zetahil, a religion that is unique to Ghana, combines elements of both Islam and Christianity.

The indigenous religions generally involve a belief in a supreme being along with lesser gods. Veneration of ancestors is also common. The Afrikan Renaissance Mission, also known as Afrikania, is an organization which actively supports recognition and practice of these traditional religions.

In many areas of the country, there is still a strong belief in witchcraft. Those suspected of being witches (usually older women) have been beaten or lynched and occasionally banished to "witch camps," which are small villages in the north primarily populated by suspected witches. The law does provided protection for alleged witches. Among the Ewe in the Volta Region, there are still some who practice a form of religious servitude known as Trokosi (or Fiashidi). In this practice a virgin girl, usually in her early teens, is placed as a servant at a local shrine for a period of time that may extend from a few weeks to three years. The girl's service is meant to atone for crimes committed by a member of the girl's family. After the set period of service is completed, many girls continue to visit the shrine on a voluntary basis as a matter of maintaining family honor. Involuntary servitude is prohibited by law.

Although there is no state religion, attendance at assemblies or devotional services is required in public schools, with a service that is generally Christian in nature. However, this requirement is not always enforced.


The government's development program has been largely devoted to improving internal communications; nevertheless, both road and rail systems deteriorated in the 1980s. Rehabilitation began in the late 1980s, with priority being given to the western route, which is the export route for Ghana's manganese and bauxite production and also serves the major gold-producing area. Rail lines are also the main means of transportation for such products as cocoa, logs, and sawn timber; they are also widely used for passenger service. There were 953 km (592 mi) of narrow-gauge railway in 2004, with the main line linking Sekondi-Takoradi with Accra and Kumasi.

Ghana had about 47,787 km (29,723 mi) of roads in 2003, of which about 8,563 km (5,326 mi) were paved. Good roads link Accra with Tema, Kumasi, Takoradi, and Akosombo. In 2003, Ghana had 104,550 private automobiles and 53,450 commercial vehicles. The government transport department operates a cross-country bus service; municipal transport facilities are available in all main towns.

The Black Star Line, owned by the government, operates a cargo-passenger service to Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, and West Africa. In 2005, Ghana had a merchant shipping fleet comprising four vessels of 1,000 GRT or over, totaling 19,086 GRT. Lake transport service between Akosombo and Yapei is operated by Volta Lake Transport Co.

Ghana has no natural harbors. An artificial deepwater port was built at Sekondi-Takoradi in the 1920s and expanded after World War II. A second deepwater port, at Tema, was opened in 1962, and in 1963 further extensions were made. At a few smaller ports, freight is moved by surfboats and lighters. The major rivers and Lake Volta provide about 1,293 km (803 mi) of navigable waterways.

In 2004, there were an estimated 12 airports in Ghana, 7 of which had paved runways as of 2005. Accra's international airport serves intercontinental as well as local West African traffic. Smaller airports are located at Sekondi-Takoradi, Kumasi, Tamale, and Sunyani. Ghana Airways, owned by the government, operates domestic air services and flights to other African countries and to the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), London, and Rome. In 2003, approximately 241,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.


Oral traditions indicate that the tribes presently occupying the country migrated southward roughly over the period 12001600. The origins of the peoples of Ghana are still conjectural, although the name "Ghana" was adopted on independence in the belief that Ghanaians are descendants of the inhabitants of the empire of Ghana, which flourished in western Sudan (present-day Mali), hundreds of miles to the northwest, more than a thousand years ago.

The recorded history of Ghana begins in 1471, when Portuguese traders landed on the coast in search of gold, ivory, and spices. Following the Portuguese came the Dutch, the Danes, the Swedes, the Prussians, and the British. Commerce in gold gave way to the slave trade until the latter was outlawed by Great Britain in 1807. The 19th century brought a gradual adjustment to legitimate trade, the withdrawal of all European powers except the British, and many wars involving the Ashanti, who had welded themselves into a powerful military confederacy; their position as the principal captors of slaves for European traders had brought them into conflict with the coastal tribes. British troops fought seven wars with the Ashanti from 1806 to 1901, when their kingdom was annexed by the British crown.

In 1874, the coastal area settlements had become a crown colonythe Gold Coast Colonyand in 1901 the Northern Territories were declared a British protectorate. In 1922, part of the former German colony of Togoland was placed under British mandate by the League of Nations, and it passed to British trusteeship under the UN after World War II. Throughout this period, Togoland was administered as part of the Gold Coast.

After a measure of local participation in government was first granted in 1946, the growing demand for self-government led in 1949 to the appointment of an all-African committee to inquire into constitutional reform. Under the new constitution introduced as a result of the findings of this committee, elections were held in 1951, and for the first time an African majority was granted a considerable measure of governmental responsibility. In 1954, further constitutional amendments were adopted under which the Gold Coast became, for practical purposes, self-governing. Two years later, the newly elected legislature passed a resolution calling for independence, and on 6 March 1957 the Gold Coast, including Ashanti, the Northern Territories Protectorate, and the Trust Territory of British Togoland, attained full independent membership in the Commonwealth of Nations under the name of Ghana. The Gold Coast thus became the first country in colonial Africa to gain independence. The nation became a republic on 1 July 1960.

During the period 196065, Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah, steadily gained control over all aspects of Ghana's economic, political, cultural, and military affairs. His autocratic rule led to mounting but disorganized opposition. Following attempts on Nkrumah's life in August and September 1962, the political climate began to disintegrate, as government leaders accused of complicity in the assassination plots were executed or removed from office. A referendum in January 1964 established a one-party state and empowered the president to dismiss Supreme Court and High Court judges. Another attempt to assassinate Nkrumah occurred that month.

In February 1966, Nkrumah was overthrown. A military regime calling itself the National Liberation Council (NLC) established rule by decree, dismissing the civilian government and suspending the constitution. A three-year ban on political activities was lifted 1 May 1969, and after elections held in August, the Progressive Party, headed by KofiA. Busia, formed a civilian government under a new constitution. During his two years in office, Busia lost much of his public following, and Ghana's worsening economic condition was the pretext in January 1972 for a military takeover led by Lt. Col. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, who formed the National Redemption Council (NRC). Unlike the military rulers who came to power in 1966, however, the NRC made no plans for a rapid return to civilian rule. The NRC immediately repudiated part of the foreign debt remaining from the Nkrumah era and instituted an agricultural self-help program dubbed Operation Feed Yourself. By July 1973, the last 23 of some 2,000 persons arrested during the coup that brought the NRC to power had been released.

The NRC was restructured as the Supreme Military Council in 1976. A military coup on 5 July 1978 ousted Acheampong, who was replaced by Lt. Gen. Frederick Akuffo. Less than a year later, on 4 June 1979, a coup by enlisted men and junior officers brought the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council to power, led by a young flight lieutenant, Jerry Rawlings. Acheampong, Akuffo, and another former chief of state, A. A. Afrifa (who had engineered Nkrumah's overthrow in 1966), plus five others, were found guilty of corruption and executed in summary proceedings. Dozens of others were sentenced to long prison terms by secret courts. The new regime did, however, fulfill the pledge of the Akuffo government by handing over power to civilians on 24 September 1979, following nationwide elections. The Nkrumah-style People's National Party (PNP) won 71 of 140 parliamentary seats in the balloting, and PNP candidate Hilla Limann was elected president.

Ghana's economic condition continued to deteriorate, and on 31 December 1981 a new coup led by Rawlings overthrew the civilian regime. The constitution was suspended, all political parties were banned, and about 100 business leaders and government officials, including Limann, were arrested. Rawlings became chairman of the ruling Provisional National Defense Council. In the following 27 months there were at least five alleged coup attempts. Nine persons were executed in 1986 for attempting to overthrow the regime, and there remained concern over the activities of exile groups and military personnel.

A new constitution was approved by referendum on 28 April 1992 and Rawlings was elected with about 58% of the vote in a sharply contested multiparty election on 3 November 1993. The legislative elections in December, however, were boycotted by the opposition, and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) was able to capture 190 of the 200 seats.

On 4 January 1993, the Fourth Republic was proclaimed and Rawlings was inaugurated as president. Opposition parties, assembled as the Inter-Party Coordinating Committee (ICC), issued a joint statement announcing their acceptance of the "present institutional arrangements" on 7 January, and further stated that they would continue to act as an elected opposition even though they had won no seats in the assembly.

Throughout the 1990s, Ghana's Northern Region has been the site of ethnic/tribal strife. The Kankomba, a landless, impoverished people, began to fight for economic rights against the dominant Nanumbia. In 1995, a curfew was imposed on the region amid massive strife.

Legislative elections were again held in 1996. By maintaining power throughout his elected term (199296), Rawlings became the head of the first Ghanian government to serve a full term without being overthrown. In 1995, Rawlings set up an Electoral Commission charged with setting up and conducting free elections complete with international observers. The Commission enlisted the help of all registered opposition parties and conducted a massive drive to register voters. In the balloting, held 7 December 1996, 77% of the electorate turned out, a substantial improvement over the turnout in 1992. Most observers credited the increase with the Rawlings government's increased transparency.

1n 1996, Rawlings was reelected to a second four-year term, having received about 58% of the vote to the Great Alliance Party candidate John Kufour's 40%. The NDC took 133 seats in the 200-member assembly. The NPP emerged as the leading opposition, taking 60 of the remaining seats. The next presidential elections were held on 7 and 28 December 2000, with Rawlings barred by law from serving a third term. Kufour won the election, taking 57.4% of the vote to NDC candidate and Rawlings' vice president John Atta Mills's 42.6% in the second round of voting (Kufour won 48.4% of the vote in the first round, and Mills took 44.8%). Five other candidates contested the elections, and Rawlings relinquished power willingly. When Kufour took office in January 2001, he began investigations into alleged corruption and human rights violations during the time Rawlings was in power, which caused consternation on Rawlings' part. Also on 7 December, parliamentary elections were held; the second round of voting was held on 3 January 2001, and the NPP took 100 of the 200 seats, to the NDC's 92. The elections were judged by international observers to be generally free and fair, although there were reports of government pressure on the media and voter intimidation.

Tension between Kufour and Rawlings continued throughout 2001, and came to a head on 4 June when Rawlings, who was celebrating the anniversary of his 1979 takeover of power, gave a speech that implied Kufour did not have the confidence of the military. This was seen as a threat of another coup, and thousands marched in protest of Rawlings' statement. One of Kufour's first acts as president was to abolish the national holidays commemorating 4 June 1979 and the 31 December 1981 anniversary of the second coup that began the Rawlings era. Following Rawlings' speech, the military leadership stated its support of the Kufour government.

One of the most well-known Ghanaians is KofiAnnan, the seventh secretary general of the United Nations. Born in Kumasi, Ghana, on April 8, 1938, KoffiAnnan rose as a UN bureaucrat and was elected by the UN Security Council as Secretary General on 13 December 1996 and confirmed by the UN General Assembly four days later. Annan was the first black African to become Secretary General. Annan's tenure as Secretary General was renewed on 1 January 2002 for another five-year term. Annan and the United Nations jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize for "their work for a better organized and more peaceful world" on 10 December 2001.

In early 2003, Kufour was host to talks between Côte d'Ivoire's new prime minister, Seydou Diarra, and representatives of the country's northern-based rebels in an attempt to reach an accord on a power-sharing agreement with President Laurent Gbagbo's government, after the civil war that broke out in the country in September 2002.

Ghana's leaders and citizens face unprecedented social threats. The National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) in Accra expects that by 2014 AIDS will account for 35% of all deaths. In 1994, AIDS accounted for an estimated 3.5% of all deaths with some 200 people being infected daily. In February 2000, the estimated HIV prevalence was between 4% and 5% nationwide. HIV/AIDS affects the development of all sectors including health, education, the labor force, economy, transport and agriculture. To curb the pandemic, Ghana has launched a national crusade against it. In August 2005 Ghana started producing antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in the capital Accra as part of government plans to expand distribution of the life prolonging treatment for its HIV-positive citizens. This was achieved in a joint venture between Danpong Pharmaceuticals of Ghana and Adams Pharmaceuticals of China. The venture was expected to decrease the government bill for providing ARVs to some 2,600 patients by 45%, according to official sources.

Despite this setback to Ghana's development, in August 1999, representatives of Shell and Chevron signed a memorandum of understanding with representatives of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Ghana specifying that a gas pipeline traversing the four countries would be built. In February 2003, the heads of state of the four countries signed a treaty on establishing a legal and fiscal framework and a regulatory authority for the $500 million West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP). The pipeline will be designed to carry an initial volume of 195 million cubic feet of gas. In 2004 the US mining company Newmont entered Ghana's mining sector; it was projected they would invest up to $1 billion.

On 15 July 2004 the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) formally wrapped up public hearings after 18 months and over 2,000 accounts of human rights violations. Modeled on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Kufour's government set up the NRC on 3 September 2002 in order to foster national healing after human rights abuses and atrocities committed under Jerry Rawlings' and previous military regimes. Witnesses in the $5 million process included ordinary Ghanaians and high-profile individuals, such as former President Rawlings. Rawlings appeared before the commission in February to answer questions about his role in specific atrocities, including murder. The NRC submitted its final report and recommendations in October 2004. The government accepted many of the commission's recommendations through a White Paper that was produced in April 2005, including establishment of a Reparation and Rehabilitation Fund for victims of abuse, training and much-needed reform in operation of the security forces.

John Agyekum Kufour won a mandate for a second term at the polls held on 7 December 2004. Kufour defeated NDC's Atta Mills, winning 52.45% of the vote to Mills' 44.64%. Grand Coalition's Edward Mahama and the Convention People's Party (NPP) George Aggudey, polled 1.92 % and 1 %, respectively. Government claims of a coup attempt raised fears of unrest. One month before the elections the government arrested and questioned a group of people, including seven former soldiers, who were allegedly found with military helmets, body armor, a firearm and ammunition. However, the Electoral Commission reported a remarkable turnout of 85.1%, about 8.5 million Ghanaians, credited to an aggressive voter registration campaign mounted by the Electoral Commission. For the first time registration included issue of picture identity cards and sought to eliminate fraud and build confidence in the electoral process. Both domestic and international observers pronounced the elections generally free, fair, and peaceful. There were a few incidents of intimidation and violence in which three people were reported killed. Eight political parties contested parliamentary elections that were run concurrently and four fielded presidential candidates. The 2004 election saw 30 new parliamentary constituencies added to the 2000 election, making a 230-member parliament. In the parliamentary elections, the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) won 128 seats, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), 94; the People's National Convention (PNC), 4; the Convention People's Party (CPP), 3; and an independent won 1 seat.


Since independence, Ghana has experienced four military coups and ten changes of government. The military ruled Ghana by decree from 1972 to 1979, when an elected constituent assembly adopted a new constitution establishing a unicameral parliament and an executive branch headed by a president. On 31 December 1981, a military coup installed the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) as the supreme power; the constitution was suspended and the national assembly dissolved.

A consultative assembly, convened late in 1991 to draw up a new constitution, completed its work in March 1992. The government inserted a controversial amendment indemnifying officials of the PNDC from future prosecution for all acts of commission and omission during their term in office. In an April 1992 referendum, the constitution was approved by 92.5% of voters in a low turnout (58% of those eligible). It provides for a presidential system and a legislature (national assembly) of 200 members. Since the 1992 referendum, the government introduced multiparty competition, with the 1996 and 20002001 and 2004 elections receiving high marks for fairness from international observers. In March 2004 Kufour's government averted a crisis by shelving an attempt to fast-track a bill seeking to allow all Ghanaians living abroad to register for the 2004 general elections. This action followed an outcry from opposition, which claimed the amendment was designed and timed to give the NPP an unfair electoral advantage in the 2004 elections, and threatened street protests if the bill was rushed through parliament.

Rawlings was both chief of state and head of government until his second term expired in December 2000. The president is elected for a four-year term, and the constitution bars a third term. John Agyekum Kufour was elected president in 2000 over Rawlings's vice president and hand-picked would-be successor, John Atta Mills. Kufour defeated Mills again in the 2004 elections winning a second and final term based on the country's constitution. Earlier, the opposition had supported the move to increase the number of seats in the national assembly from 200 in the 2000 elections to 230 for the 2004 elections.


The United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) was established in 1947 with the declared aim of working for self-government at the earliest possible date. In 1949, as most of the UGCC leadership came to accept constitutional reform as an alternative to immediate self-government, the party secretary, Kwame Nkrumah, broke away and formed his own group, the Convention People's Party (CPP). In January 1950, Nkrumah announced a program of "positive action" for which he and the main leaders of the party were prosecuted and sentenced for sedition. At the first elections held in 1951 under a new constitution, the CPP obtained 71 of the 104 seats, and Nkrumah and his colleagues were released from prison to enter the new government. In May 1952, KofiA. Busia, of the University College, founded the Ghana Congress Party (GCP), which continued the UGCC position of trying to form alliances with traditional chiefs. The GCP's leadership was a mixture of dissatisfied former CPP members and the professional-oriented leadership of the UGCC. In 1953, Nkrumah was elected life chairman and leader of the CPP.

In 1954, the assembly and cabinet became all African. A new party, the Ashanti-based National Liberation Movement (NLM), was formed to fight the general centralizing tendencies of the CPP and also to maintain the position of the traditional rulers; the NLM leadership, except for Busia, consisted of former CPP members. In the elections held in 1956, however, the CPP retained its predominant position, winning 72 of 108 seats in the Legislative Assembly.

One of the first acts of independent Ghana under Nkrumah was the Avoidance of Discrimination Act (1957), prohibiting sectional parties based on racial, regional, or religious differences. This led the opposition parties to amalgamate into the new United Party (UP), opposing the government's centralization policies and the declining power of the traditional rulers. The effectiveness of the opposition was reduced following the 1960 election by the withdrawal of official recognition of the opposition as such and by the detention of several leading opposition members under the Preventive Detention Act (1958). In September 1962, the National Assembly passed by an overwhelming majority a resolution calling for the creation of a one-party state; this was approved by referendum in January 1964.

After the military takeover of February 1966, the National Liberation Council outlawed the CPP along with all other political organizations. The ban on political activities was lifted on 1 May 1969, and several parties participated in the August 1969 balloting. The two major parties contesting the election were the Progress Party (PP), led by Busia, which was perceived as an Akandominated party composed of former members of the opposition UP; and the National Alliance of Liberals (NAL), a Ewe- and CPPdominated group under the leadership of the former CPP minister Komla Gbedemah. The PP won 105 seats in the 140-member National Assembly; 29 seats were captured by the NAL, and 6 by the five minor parties. In October 1970, the NAL merged with two of the smaller groups to form the Justice Party.

All political parties in Ghana were again disbanded following the January 1972 military coup led by Col. Acheampong. When political activities resumed in 1979, five parties contested the elections. The People's National Party (PNP), which won 71 of 140 seats at stake, claimed to represent the Nkrumah heritage; the Popular Front Party (PFP) and the United National Convention (UNC), which traced their lineage back to Busia's Progress Party, won 43 and 13, respectively. The Action Congress Party (ACP), drawing primary support from the Fanti tribe, won 10 seats, while the leftist Social Democratic Front won 3. After the elections, the PNP formed an alliance with the UNC. In October 1980, however, the UNC left the governing coalition, and in June joined with three other parties to form the All People's Party. The coup of December 1981 brought yet another dissolution of Ghana's political party structure. Opposition to the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) was carried on by the Ghana Democratic Movement (organized in London in 1983) and a number of other groups.

With adoption of a new constitution in April 1992, the longstanding ban on political activity was lifted on 18 May 1992. Ghanaians prepared for the presidential and legislative elections to be held in November and December. The parties that emerged could be grouped into three clusters. The center-right group was the most cohesive and it consisted of followers of KofiBusia. They formed the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and chose Adu Boaheu as their presidential candidate. The center-left group was Nkrumahists. Ideological and leadership differences kept them divided into five separate parties, of which the People's National Convention, a party led by ex-President Limann, was best organized. PNDC supporters comprised the third grouping. They favored continuity and, after forming the National Democratic Congress (NDC), were able to draft Rawlings as their candidate.

Rawlings eventually defeated Boaheu (58% to 30%) for the presidency. Opposition parties boycotted the December 1992 legislation elections, and the NDC carried 190 of the 200 seats. But the fear of one-party control prompted a split in the NDC. The official opposition in parliament was a faction of the ruling NDC.

Meanwhile, the NPP provided the most serious challenge to the NDC. It sees itself as defender of the new constitution. The NPP broke away from the opposition, the Inter-Party Coordinating Committee, by announcing in August 1993 its recognition of the 1992 election results, which the ICC had refused to accept.

On 7 December 1996, parliamentary elections were again held and while Rawlings's NDC maintained a majority, it fell from 190 seats in 1992 to 133 seats. The NPP, leading the opposition, won 60 seats. The People's Convention held 5 seats and the People's National Convention held 1. The elections were preceded by a massive voter registration drive and judged to be free and fair by international observers.

Leading up to the 2000 elections, the four main opposition parties formed the Joint Action Committee (JAC) to monitor the electoral register and campaign activities to ensure transparency. The elections for the National Assembly were held on 7 December 2000 and 3 January 2001. The NPP emerged the winner by a slim margin, taking 100 seats to the NDC's 92. The socialist People's National Convention took three seats, the socialist Convention People's Party took one seat, and independents won four seats. In the 7 and 28 December 2000 presidential elections, in addition to the NPP's candidate John Kufour and the NDC's candidate John Atta Mills, the following five parties put presidential candidates forward: the People's National Convention, the Convention People's Party, the National Reform Party, the Great Consolidated Popular Party, and the United Ghana Movement.

On 7 December 2004, presidential and parliamentary elections were held simultaneously. Eight political parties competed in the parliamentary elections and four parties fielded candidates in the presidential elections. John Kufour won a second four-year term as president in elections which had an turnout of 85.1% of registered voters, and was judged to be generally free, fair, and peaceful by both domestic and international observers. For a second time, Kufour standing for the ruling NPP defeated his main challenger, NDC's Atta Mills. Kufour won 52.45% of the vote to Mills' 44.64%. Grand Coalition's Edward Mahama and the Convention People's Party (NPP) George Aggudey, won 1.92% and 1%, respectively.

In the parliamentary elections, only half of the eight parties contesting won seats in parliament. The ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) won 128 seats, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), 94; the People's National Convention (PNC), 4; the Convention People's Party (CPP), 3; and independent, 1. The next elections were scheduled for December 2008.


As of early 2003, Ghana was divided into 10 regions: Eastern, Western, Ashanti, Northern, Volta, Central, Upper East, Upper West, Brong-Ahafo, and Greater Accra. In 1994, the 10 regions were further subdivided into 267 local administrative units. Local government in Ghana has traditionally been subject to the central government because responsibilities between the two were not well-defined. In late 1982, the government announced that town and village councils, which had been dissolved after the 1981 coup, would be run by peopl's and workers' defense committees. They were replaced by Committees for the Defense of the Revolution in 1984. The Local Government Law of 1988 and the Local Government Act of 1993 further empowered local governments, and set the stage for efforts to assist them with development planning, working with civil society, and less dependence on central government for resources.

Elections for 103 district assemblies, 4 municipal assemblies, and 3 metropolitan assemblies were conducted in March 1994. In April 2000, the World Bank approved a us$11-million credit for infrastructure development in Ghana's smaller cities. The Urban 5 Project is intended to support Ghana's decentralization program through capacity building, improvement of urban infrastructure, and delivery of services at the levels of the district assemblies. The project is part of an 11-year program. Local assembly elections were held in August 2002; 14,079 candidates competed in the elections, which were peaceful but marked by low voter turnout. The next local assembly elections were scheduled for 2006.


The 1992 constitution established an independent judiciary and a number of autonomous institutions such as the Commission for Human Rights to investigate and take actions to remedy alleged violations of human rights. The new system is based largely on British legal procedures. The new court system consists of two levels: superior courts and lower courts. The superior courts include the Supreme Court, the Appeals Court, the High Court, and regional tribunals. Parliament has the authority to create a system of lower courts. The old public tribunals are being phased out as they clear their dockets.

The 1971 Chieftaincy Act gives the traditional courts powers to mediate local matters. Traditional courts in which village chiefs enforce customary tribal laws in resolving local divorce, child custody, and property disputes continue to operate alongside the new courts.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. However, in practice the judiciary is influenced on occasion by the executive branch, and is hampered by a lack of staff and financial resources. The government nominates any number beyond a minimum of nine members to the Supreme Court, subject to parliament's approval.

Defendants have the right to have a public trial, to be presumed innocent, to have an attorney, and to cross-examine witnesses. Under Kufour's office there were improvements in human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and independence of the judiciary from the executive.


In 2005, Ghana's active defense forces numbered 7,000 personnel. The Army had 5,000 members including the Presidential Guard. The 1,000-member Navy operated six patrol/coastal vessels. The Air Force had 1,000 personnel. Equipment included 19 combat capable aircraft, including 3 fighter ground attack aircraft and another 16 that were also used as training aircraft. The Ghanaian military provides support to UN and peacekeeping missions in eight countries or regions. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $49.5 million.


On 8 March 1957, Ghana was admitted to the United Nations; the nation belongs to ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies. Ghana is also a member of the African Development Bank, the ACP Group, Commonwealth of Nations, G-24, G-77, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and African Union. The nation is also a member of the WTO and holds observer status in the OAS.

In November 1974, Ghana was admitted as a member of the International Bauxite Association and in June 1975 it ratified the treaty creating ECOWAS. From 200305, President John Agyekum Kufuor served as the chairperson of ECOWAS heads of state. In this capacity, he lead the country in taking on a strong role in the Côte d'Ivoire and Liberian peace process. The government is participating in efforts to establish a West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) that would include The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

In 2003, Ghana sent troops to Côte d'Ivoire as part of the ECOWAS stabilization force. Ghana has also offered support to UN missions and operations in Kosovo (est. 1999), Lebanon (est. 1978), the Western Sahara (est. 1991), Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000), Liberia (est. 2003), Sierra Leone (est. 1999), Burundi (est. 2004), Côte d'Ivoire (est. 2004), and the DROC (est. 1999). Ghana is part of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, Ghana is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Ghana's economy is led by the agricultural sector, which accounted for about 35% of GDP and employed 65% of the labor force in 2001. Its key crops are cassava, coco-yams (taro), plantains, and yams. Maize, millet, sorghum, rice, and groundnuts are also important staple crops. Agricultural crops which are sold for export include coffee, bananas, palm nuts, copra, limes, kola nuts, shea nuts, rubber, cotton, and kenaf. Cocoa, however, is the dominant export crop; in 20002001, cocoa production was estimated to be around 400,000 metric tons. The civil war in Côte d'Ivoire that began in 2002 contributed to a marked rise in cocoa prices, but it was unknown if this development would result in a long-term shift in the cocoa market.

Ghana produces meat, but not enough to satisfy local demand. The fishing industry, likewise, produces only about half of local demand.

Ghana has significant deposits of gold, and important new investments were made in this sector in 1992. In that year, earnings from gold exports exceeded those of cocoa for the first time, and continued to do so as of 2003. Industrial diamonds are also produced. Ghana is a modest oil producer and refines petroleum products. Bauxite deposits are substantial but largely unexploited: the aluminum smelter at Tema uses bauxite imported from Jamaica. Significant manganese production occurs at Nsuta.

In addition, tourism and timber are growth areas. Timber reserves, however, are declining due to large-scale deforestation that is both legally approved and illegal. With respect to tourism, infrastructure and communications outside the main cities are poor, but tourism has become the country's third-largest source of foreign currency.

Prior to 1990, the economy was dominated by over 300 stateowned enterprises. Although over 150 of these firms had been privatized by 1996, the overall pace of privatization has been slow. The economy is also hampered by poor roads and an inadequate telecommunications sector. Inflation has also been a problem peaking at 70% in 1995 before receding to about 21% by the end of 2001. Inflation has been fueled by undisciplined spending by parastatals and large public sector wage increases, which have added substantially to the government's budget deficit. In an attempt to contain inflation, the government has pursued a high interest rate policy. The economy grew at 4.5% in 1995, up from 3.8% in 1994, due to increased gold production and a good cocoa harvest. The economy continued at a growth rate of 4.2% in 2001. Ghana remains heavily reliant on international assistance from the World Bank, its largest donor. Most aid is tied to progress in the privatization program. Ghana in 2001 applied for a debt reduction package under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative set up by the World Bank and the IMF; Ghana was to receive $875 million over three years.

The 600 km (373 mi) West Africa Gas Pipeline, for which Ghana will provide a supply point in Tema, was to be constructed in 2003, with an estimated capacity of 11 million cu m (400 million cu ft) a day.

The government under John Agyekum Kufuor that came to power in 2000 was dedicated to privatization and encouraging foreign investment. Kufuor declared his administration to usher in the "Golden Age of Business."

In 2004, the economy expanded by a significant 5.8%, up from 5.2% in 2003, and 4.5% in 2002; the GDP growth rate was expected to be 4.8% in 2005. This economic upsurge was sustained by a booming gold sector. Also there was a higher demand for cocoa as a result of political turmoil in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire (the world's biggest cocoa producer prior to 2002). Inflation, although on a downward spiral (it decreased from 26.7% in 2003 to 12.6% in 2004), remained a problem and was expected to grow again in coming years.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Ghana's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $51.8 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $2,500. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.3%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 15%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 35.5% of GDP, industry 25.6%, and services 39%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $65 million or about $3 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.9% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $907 million or about $44 per capita and accounted for approximately 12.2% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Ghana totaled $6.17 billion or about $298 per capita based on a GDP of $7.6 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1.7%. It was estimated that in 1999 about 39.5% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In 2005, Ghana's workforce was estimated at 10.62 million. As of 2000 (the latest year for which data was available), agriculture accounted for 55% of the workforce, with 14% in industry, and 31.1% in services. According to a survey conducted in 2000 (the latest year for which data was available), Ghana's unemployment rate was estimated at 8.2%.

Although freedom of association is provided by law, the government controls the right to unionize. Government has not, however, prevented the formation of unions. Less than 9% of workers in the formal economy are union members partially due to the weak economy. More workers, up to 86%, are entering the informal sector which is not organized. The law protects the right to strike after mandatory arbitration, but this has not been utilized. Workers are also permitted to engage in collective bargaining.

The minimum working age is 15, but local custom and economic necessity encourage many children to work at much younger ages. The government, labor, and employers set a daily minimum wage of $.78 which was still in effect in 2002. This amount does not provide a living wage for a family. The legal maximum workweek is set at 45 hours, but most collective bargaining agreements allow for a 40-hour week. Health and safety regulations are difficult to enforce due to lack of resources.


Agriculture, especially cocoa, forms the basis of Ghana's economy, accounting for 36% of GDP in 2003. Cocoa exports in 2004 contributed 35% ($812.6 million) to total exports. About 28% of the total area, or 6,385,000 hectares (15,777,000 acres), was cultivated in 2003. About 85% of all agricultural land holders in Ghana are small scale operators who primarily farm with hand tools.

Cocoa beans were first introduced to Ghana in 1878 by Tettah Quarshie. Thereafter, the cultivation of cocoa increased steadily until Ghana became the world's largest cocoa producer, supplying more than one-third of world production by the mid-1960s. By the early 1980s, production was less than half that of two decades before; market conditions were aggravated by a drop of nearly 75% in world cocoa prices between 1977 and 1982. In 1983/84, cocoa production totaled 158,000 tons, the lowest since independence; by 2004, production had rebounded to about 736,000 tons (second highest after Côte d'Ivoire). The Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board purchases and (at least in theory) exports the entire cocoa crop, as well as coffee and shea nuts. Cocoa smuggling was made punishable by death in 1982.

Ghana continued to be a net food importer. Ghana's Ministry of Food and Agriculture estimated that Ghanaian agriculture may be operating at just 20% of its potential. The grain harvest in 2004 included corn, 1,157,600 tons; paddy rice, 241,800 tons; sorghum, 399,000 tons; and millet, 144,000 tons. Other crops were cassava, 9,738,000 tons; plantains, 2,380,000 tons; coco-yams (taro), 1,800,000 tons; yams, 3,892,000 tons; peanuts, 389,000 tons; tomatoes, 200,000 tons; sugarcane, 140,000 tons; coconuts, 315,000 tons; chilies and peppers, 270,000 tons; oranges, 300,000 tons; palm kernels, 37,000 tons; and palm oil, 114,000 tons. Considerable potential exists for the development of agricultural exports including pineapples, tomatoes, soybeans, and cut flowers.


Livestock can be raised only in the tsetse-free areas, mainly in the Northern Region and along the coastal plains from Accra to the eastern frontier. Ghana's indigenous West African shorthorn is one of the oldest cattle breeds in Africa. Ghanaian livestock farms which can be termed ranches are few; average livestock population for these outfits is about 400 animals. The elimination of deadly epizootic diseases by prophylactic inoculation of cattle (especially with the help of mobile immunization centers) resulted in a rise of the cattle population from 100,000 head in 1930 to 662,000 in 1968 and 1,385,000 in 2005. There were also about 3,631,000 goats, 3,211,000 sheep, 305,000 hogs, and 30,000,000 poultry. Total meat production in 2005 was 177,450 tons. Many live animals and much meat are imported (mainly from Nigeria) to satisfy local demand. A serious problem for the livestock industry continues to be the provision of adequate feed for animals during the dry season. Almost every household in Ghana rears a few animals for home consumption and as capital saving in case of crop failures.


In 2003, the total marine fish catch was 315,756 tons, and the freshwater catch (not including subsistence fishing) about 75,938 tons. Round sardinella and European anchovies together accounted for 41% of the total catch. Exports of fish products amounted to $118.4 million in 2003. In 1973, an industrial fishing complex at Tema began production of canned pilchards and sardines. Lake Volta accounts for about half the freshwater catch. Considerable potential exists for the development of shrimp and fish exports.


The forest area (primarily in the south) covers about 28% of the country. Since October 1972, the government has acquired a majority share in a number of foreign-owned timber companies. The Timber Marketing Board has a monopoly on the export of timber and timber products.

Among the roughly 300 timber-producing species are the warwa obech, mahogany, utile, baku, and kokrodua; species such as avodire, sapale, and makuri are considered the best in Africa. A ban on the export of 21 species was established in 1979 in order to encourage the production of sawn timber and timber products. The total production of roundwood in 2004 was 22,078,000 cu m (779,353,000 cu ft), with 95% burned as fuel. Sawn wood production was 496,000 cu m (17,500,000 cu ft), with exports of $104.9 million. Total exports of forest products in 2004 amounted to $190.6 million. After cocoa and minerals, sawn timber and logs constitute the third-largest export item. The government is encouraging a shift to value-added timber exports in order to strengthen Ghana's position in the global market, create more employment, and bring in more foreign revenue.


Ghana's mining and quarrying sector in 2003, accounted for about 25% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and around 10% of the government's revenues. Employment in this sector is about 14,000 workers or under 1% of the country's labor force. Ghana was Africa's second-largest gold producer, behind South Africa, and was the continent's third-largest producer of aluminum metal and manganese ore. In 2003, exports of gold accounted for $830 million out of total exports valued at $2.471 billion. Extensive smuggling of gold, the top export of the Gold Coast, and of diamonds through the years has cut into government revenues, as well as high energy costs, which negated increased prices for gold and cocoa. In 2003, Ghana also produced hydraulic cement, salt, diamonds, silver, and bauxite.

Gold production in 2003, not including smuggled or undocumented production was 68,700 kg, down from 69,271 kg in 2002.

Production of processed manganese ore, all from the NsutaWassaw open-pit mine, was 1,509,000 metric tons in 2003, up from 1,136,000 metric tons in 2002. Only one relatively small bauxite deposit was worked, at Awaso. The site has been in production since 1941 by Ghana Bauxite Company (20% government owned); reserves have been estimated to last 30 years, and other ore reserves nearby were adequate to support mine life for a century. In 2003, production amounted to 495,000 metric tons, down from 684,000 metric tons in 2002. Akwatia, was the only formal operating diamond mine. However, over two-thirds of the diamonds produced were recovered by artisanal miners from alluvial and raised terrace gravel workings in the Birim Valley. Total production in 2003 (gem and industrial), and not including unreported artisanal production, amounted to 927,000 carats, down from 963,000 carats in 2002; total formal-sector production peaked in the 1970s at more than 2.5 million carats.


Output of electricity totaled 5.858 million kWh in 2002, of which 89% was from hydroelectric sources and 11% was from fossil fuels. As of 2002 total installed capacity was 1,200 MW. The greatest single source of power is the Volta River Project, begun in 1962 and based on a hydroelectric installation at Akosombo, about 100 km (60 mi) northeast of Accra. Work on the Akosombo (or Volta River) Dam was finished in 1965. The first stage of the electrification project was completed in mid-1967 and had a capacity of 512,000 kW; by 1990, the plant's capacity had been expanded to 912 MW. Ghana's other major hydroelectric plant is at Kpong (160 MW). The Volta River Authority supplies 99% of the total national electricity consumption, 5060% of which is absorbed by aluminum refining. Excess electricity is sold to Togo, Benin, and Côte d'Ivoire. A $150 million project to extend the main grid to northern Ghana was completed in 1991.

Beginning in the 1970s, oil exploration was conducted offshore and in the Volta River Basin. In 1979, an offshore field developed by Agri-Petco, a US company, began operations; it was later taken over by Primary Fuel, also a US company, but production ceased in 1986. The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, which was established in 1984, reported production of oil at the rate of 6,000 barrels per day at the South Tano Basin in 1991. By 1994, total Ghanaian crude oil production totaled only 1,400 barrels per day, but it rose to 7,000 barrels per day by 2002, compared with consumption totaling at 40,490 barrels per day in the same year. Nigerian oil accounts for the bulk of petroleum imports. Recoverable oil reserves were estimated at 16.2 million barrels, with refining capacity at 45,000 barrels per day, as of 1 January 2002. Refinery production in 2002 was put at 26,370 barrels per day. Natural gas reserves, located primarily in the Tano fields, were estimated as of 1 January 2003 at 23.7 billion cu m (840 billion cu ft).


Food, cocoa, and timber processing plants lead a list of industries that include an oil refinery, textiles, vehicles, cement, paper, chemicals, soap, beverages, and shoes. As part of its chemicals industry, Ghana produces rubber, aluminum, and pharmaceuticals. Much of Ghana's industrial base was nationalized over the years. Encouraged by the IMF, however, Ghana has largely ended its parastatal era. Between 1991 and 1999, more than two-thirds of the 300 public sector companies were divested, and the government decided to speed up privatization by contracting private consultants to manage the process.

In 2000, industry annually accounted for about 25% of GDP. Recent industrial activity has included a reopened glass factory, a new palm oil mill, a locally supplied cement plant, and facilities for milling rice, distilling citronella, and producing alcohol. Industry in Ghana is now oriented towards the fabrication of value-added semi-manufactured and finished products rather than just primary commodities for exportitems such as furniture, jewelry, beer bottles, aluminum cooking utensils, fruit juice, and chocolate bars. The Tema industrial estate includes the Tema Food Complex, comprised of a fish cannery, flour and feed mills, a tincan factory, and other facilities. The aluminum smelter at Tema is owned by Kaiser Aluminum and is one of Ghana's largest manufacturing enterprises.

The construction industry in 2002 included projects geared toward the building of roads, bridges, coastal works, and residential housing.

Ghana produces no oil or natural gas, but it has an oil refinery with a capacity of 45,000 barrels per day. The Tema refinery operates on crude oil imported from Nigeria. Ghana has natural gas reserves of 24 billion cu m (847 billion cu ft). The 600 km (373 mi) West African Gas Pipeline was due to be completed in 2003, with a supply point in Tema. The pipeline was to have an estimated capacity of 11.33 cu m (400 cu ft) a day.

In 2004, industry made up 24.2% of the economy and employed and estimated 15% of the working population; the service sector was the most important contributor to the GDP, while the agriculture sector was the biggest employer.


The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research founded in 1958 at Accra, advises the government on scientific matters, coordinates the national research effort, and disseminates research results. Attached to the council are 14 research institutes, many of which deal with land and water resources. Other learned societies and research institutions include the Ghana Institution of Engineers, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, and the Geological Survey of Ghana, all at Accra; and the Ghana Science Association, the Ghana Meteorological Services Department, and the West African Science Association, all at Legon; and the Cocoa Research Institute at Tafo-Akimo. The Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1959.

The University of Ghana, at Legon, has faculties of agriculture and science, a medical school, and institutes for medical research and for Volta River Basin studies. The University of Cape Coast has a faculty of science and a school of agriculture. The University of Science and Technology at Kumasim has faculties of agriculture, environmental and development studies, pharmacy and science, and schools of engineering and medical science. The country also has a computer science institute in Accra and eight technical institutes and polytechnics in various cities. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 32% of college and university enrollments.

In 2002, high technology exports totaled $3 million, or 3% of manufactured exports.


Subsistence farming is still the primary basis of the domestic economy, with nearly 60% of the work force employed in agriculture. Although there are retail stores in all towns and main trading centers, most retail trade, particularly of food products, is still carried on in local markets, mainly by women. Larger wholesale and retail outlets (including supermarkets) are primarily located in Accra. The overseas marketing of primary agricultural products is effected through governmental marketing boards, which use trading companies and cooperatives as agents to purchase commodities from the producers. A value added tax of 12.5% applies to all consumer goods and services. An excise tax applies for certain products such as cigarettes and alcohol.

Normal business hours are from 8 am to noon and 2 to 4:30 or 5 pm, Monday through Friday; some companies also open on Saturday morning. Banks are open from 8:30 am to 2 pm, Monday through Thursday, and to 3 pm on Friday. English is widely spoken.


Cocoa exports from Ghana produce almost a fifth of commodity export revenues (18%), and a competitive percentage of world cocoa exports (7.8%). The mining industry receives the largest percentage of export money, by selling gold, diamonds, base metals (37%), and aluminum (9.1%). Wood exports were also substantial (5.6%). Imports included capital equipment, petroleum, consumer goods, and foods, most notably rice.

In 2004, exports reached $3.01 billion (FOBfree on board), while imports grew to $3.7 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to Mexico (69.8%), the Netherlands (3.7%), and the United Kingdom (3%). Imports mainly came from Nigeria (12.6%), China (11.4%), the United Kingdom (6.6%), the United States (6.4%), France (4.9%), and the Netherlands (4.2%).

United Kingdom311.7239.372.4
United States120.8202.4-81.6
Italy-San Marino-Holy See83.3124.2-40.9
South Africa59.6101.6-42.0
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account254.9
     Balance on goods-713.7
     Balance on services-273.7
     Balance on income-156.9
     Current transfers1,399.2
Capital Account
Financial Account347.3
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Ghana136.7
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets68.0
     Other investment liabilities142.6
Net Errors and Omissions-46.9
Reserves and Related Items-555.3
() data not available or not significant.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of Ghana's exports was $1.94 billion while imports totaled $2.83 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $890 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2000 Ghana had exports of goods totaling $1.9 billion and imports totaling $2.74 billion. The services credit totaled $504 million and debit $597 million.

Exports of goods and services reached $3.3 billion in 2004, up from $3.1 billion in 2003. Imports grew from $4 billion in 2003, to $5 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, reaching -$905 million in 2003, and -$1.6 billion in 2004. The current account balance was positive, slightly decreasing from $124 million in 2003, to $107 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) grew to $1.5 billion in 2004, covering less than four months of imports.


The Bank of Ghana, established in 1957, is the central bank. Commercial banking services are rendered mainly by the Commercial Bank of Ghana (worth approximately $30 million in 1999); and SSB Bank Limited (worth about $80 million in 1999). Two British banks, Barclays Bank of Ghana Ltd. and the Standard Chartered Bank of Ghana Africa Ltd. (both 40% state-owned), together had 67 branches in 1993. Other commercial banks include The Trust Bank Limited, The Agricultural Development Bank, Agricultural Bank Limited, Bank for Housing and Construction Limited, National Investment Bank Limited, Cooperative Bank Limited, Prudential Bank Limited, and International Commercial Bank Limited.

Merchant banks include the Merchant Bank of Ghana Limited, Ecobank Ghana Limited, CAL Merchant Bank Limited, First Atlantic Merchant Bank Limited, and Metropolitan and Allied Bank Limited.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2000, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $478.0 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $975.6 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 27%.

A stock exchange was opened in Accra in 1987. By 1994, the tiny exchange was up nearly 300%. International mutual fund managers and other foreign investors have shown increasing interest in Ghana, and in 1998, the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) was judged the best performing bourse in emerging markets. In 2004, a total of 29 companies were listed on the GSE, which had a market capitalization that same year of $2.644 billion. The GSE rose 91.3% from the previous year in 2004 to 6,798.5.


In 1962, the government set up the State Insurance Corp. (SIC) with the primary aims of tightening control over the activities of insurance companies (including their investment policies) and providing insurance coverage for the government and governmental bodies. In 1972, the SIC started a new subsidiary, the Ghana Reinsurance Organization, to curb the outflow of reinsurance premiums from the country. Insurance services were available as of 1997 through 16 companies, five of them classified as foreign (although a 1976 law required the latter to distribute 20% of equity to the government and 40% to Ghanaian partners). In 1999, there were 21 insurance companies operating in Ghana.


Ghana turned to the IMF as the economy approached bankruptcy in 1983. The IMF-sponsored stabilization program, known as the ERP (Economic Recovery Program), was pursued vigorously through its several phases, and borrowing from the IMF came to a temporary end in 1992. Many changes took place in the ten years of the program. The currency was devalued repeatedly; foreign exchange was auctioned. The cocoa sector was revamped, starting with higher producer prices, and privatized. Ghana's civil service was one of Africa's largest, therefore the number of civil service employees was reduced; and the state attempted to unburden itself of its parastatals. A systematic program removed government subsidies, and tax collection procedures were strengthened. From 1995 to 1997, another IMF-backed structural adjustment program continued privatization, but public sector wage increases and defense spending countered austerity measures. Ghana's budgets have habitually been in deficit, financed mainly through the domestic banking system, with consequent rapid increases in the money supply and the rate of inflation. The third phase of the IMF program began in 1998, focusing on financial transparency and macroeconomic stability. In 2001, Ghana sought debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) program and reached decision point in early 2002.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Ghana's central government took in revenues of approximately $3.2 billion and had expenditures of $3.5 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$290 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 80.1% of GDP. Total external debt was $7.084 billion.


The basic corporate tax rate is 30% for all companies. However, companies that are listed for the first time on the Ghana Stock Exchange are given a 25% rate for three years. The 25% rate also is applied to hotels. Income from nontraditional exports is taxed at an 8% rate. Dividends and capital-gains are each taxed at 10%. A personal income tax ranging from 5%, to 35% for foreign nationals and rich citizens is also levied. As of 30 December 1998, Ghana's sales tax of 15% was replaced by value-added tax (VAT) with a standard rate of 10%. As of 6 January 2000, the standard VAT rate was increased to 12.5%. Exempt from the VAT are vaccines, other specified drugs, and salt. A salary tax of 5% on employees and 12.5% on employers finances the Social Security and National Insurance Trust pension program. There are also property (.05%) and excise taxes, a 0-15% gift tax, and a 2.5% national Health Insurance levy on all goods and services except those that are exempted.


Ghana uses the Harmonized Commodity Coding System (HS) to classify goods. The ad valorem tax is assessed with the Customs Valuation Code (CVC) formulated by the World Trade Organization. In 1999, duty on most machinery and capital goods was 0%, the duty for raw materials and intermediate goods 10%, and the duty on most consumer goods 20%. The 12.5% VAT is also applied to imports on the basis of cost, insurance and freight (CIF) plus the duty. There are import restrictions on cigarettes, narcotics, mercuric medicated soap, toxic waste, contaminated goods, foreign soil, and counterfeit notes and coins of any country. The import license system was abolished in 1989, but a permit is still required for the import of drugs, communications equipment, mercury, gambling machines, handcuffs, arms and ammunition, and live plants and animals. There are no controls on exports.

Ghana is a member of ECOWAS. The country also created free zones in May 1996, one located in the Greater Accra Region and two other sites at Mpintsin and Ashiem. The seaports and airport also qualify as free zones, as do companies that export more than 70% of products. These companies receive a ten-year corporate tax holiday and zero import tax.


Before the 1983 Economic Recovery Program, nationalized enterprise was the cornerstone of Ghanaian investment policy. Under the supervision of the IMF and World Bank, the government styled its policies on the model of a number of Asian countries where encouragement of the private sector and foreign direct investment (FDI) are considered essential to sustained economic growth. The principal law on FDI is the Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) Law of 1994, which governs investments in all sectors except minerals and mining (under the Minerals and Mining Act of 1986 as amended in 1994 and administered by the Minerals Commission), oil and gas (under the Petroleum Exploration and Production Law of 1984 administered by the Ghana National Petroleum CorporationGNOC), and the free trade zones, established in 1996. The 1994 investment code guarantees the free transferability of dividends, loan repayments, licensing fees, and the repatriation of capital; provides guarantees against expropriation; and provides for dispute arbitration. Foreign investors are not subject to differential treatment on taxes, prices, or access to foreign exchange, imports, and credit.

The GIPC is responsible for promoting direct investment in Ghana. The only performance requirements are that a foreign investor must have at least $10,000 in capital for joint ventures, $50,000 for wholly foreign-owned ventures, and $300,000 for trading companies, and that the latter must employ at least 10 Ghanaians. The free trade zone consists of land near the seaports of Tema and Takoradi and the Kotoka Airport. To qualify for free zone incentivesa year corporate tax holiday and zero duty on importsthe business must export at least 70% of its output. Small enterprisespetty trading, taxi services with less than 10-car fleets, beauty and barber shops, small scale mining, pool betting businesses, and lotteries besides soccerare reserved for Ghanaians.

Since 2000, the government has transformed its general foreign investment promotion strategy to specific firm target promotion directed at production centers of Europe and Asia. The objectives of the program are to attract firms that seek to local and sub-regional markets and which contribute to value-added production using raw materials available in Ghana.

Because a number of different agencies are involved in the promotion and monitoring of FDI in Ghana, published statistics tend to be unreliable and unreconciled. For the period 2000 to 2002, the GIPC reported it had licensed 510 projects representing a total investment of $351.2 million, $297.9 million of which was FDI and $53.3 million local funds. Of these, 342 were joint ventures and 169 wholly foreign-owned. From 1997 to 1999, FDI averaged $66.7 million a year (UNCTAD estimates), compared to the $100 million a year 2000 to 2002. In the first quarter of 2003, FDI was reported at a record-setting pace of $56.7 million, $49.7 million of which was for projects in the service sector. By the end of the year, capital inflows reached $88 million. In the first three quarters of 2004, FDI levels jumped to $85 million.

The major foreign investment projects in Ghana have been in mining and manufacturing. The United Kingdom has been the largest foreign investor, with investments exceeding $750 million, primarily through Lonmin Plc's 32% stake in the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation, In 2003, Lonmin was in the process of selling its stake to Anglogold of South Africa, which was negotiating taking over the Ashanti Goldfields. The largest firm operating in Ghana is Valco, operated by the American company, Kaiser and Reynolds Aluminum, whose guaranteed use of electric power for aluminum refining made possible the building of the Volta Dam and its hydroelectric generating plant. In early 2003, a drought caused an energy crisis in Ghana and brought Valco's operations to a near standstill. Other American companies operating in Ghana include Teberebie Golfields Limited, CMS Generation (independent power producer), Affiliated Computer Services (since 2000, involved in developing offshore business process outsourcing projects), Regimanuel-Gray Limited (construction), CocaCola Company, Phyto-Riker (pharmaceuticals), Westel (ICT company formed by the partnership of Western Wireless International and Ghana National Petroleum Company), Pioneer Foods (Star-Kist Tuna), Union Carbide, Amoco, ChevronTexaco, and ExxonMobile.


Recent economic policy has aimed at correcting basic problems in every phase of the economy: unemployment (20% in 1997), low productivity, high production costs, the large foreign debt ($5.96 billion in 2001), low savings and investing, inflation (25% in 2001), and high private and government consumption. The country relies heavily on financial assistance from international lenders including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Conditions of the loans include progress in privatizing state-owned enterprises and achieving macroeconomic performance targets.

The government's recently launched Vision 2020 plan aims at making Ghana a middle-income country through free-market reforms over the course of the next 25 years. Key elements of the plan include increased privatization of parastatals, a friendlier environment for foreign investment, renewed efforts to facilitate private-sector growth, and improvements in infrastructure and social welfare. By 2003, about two-thirds of 300 state-owned enterprises had been sold to private owners. During 1999, Japan announced the donation of $16.5 million to import machinery, spare parts, and industrial materials. The US energy firm CMS announced planned to build a new electric generating unit, alleviating fears of further power outages.

In 2002, Ghana reached decision point on the IMF/World Bank's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and was to receive $3.7 billion in debt relief. The relief will allow Ghana to increase spending on education, health, programs to benefit rural areas, and improved governance. Ghana raised electricity, fuel, and municipal water rates, and raised taxes to stabilize its fiscal position, as part of the agreed-upon debt relief plan. In 2003, Ghana negotiated a three-year $258 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the IMF, to support the government's economic reform program for 200305.

The economic growth from previous years was expected to continue in coming years. Agricultural production was expected to pick up, particularly in cocoa and food crops. The service sector was also anticipated to expand with improvements in the telecommunications, transport, and tourist sectors. The mining sector will benefit from increased investments in the gold production. The manufacturing sector, on the other hand, will continue to suffer because of the high inflation, increasing imports, and the strong exchange rate.


A social insurance system, initiated in 1965, covers all employed persons, with a special system for the military. There is voluntary coverage for the self-employed. Pensions are funded by 5% contributions from employees and 12.5% contributions from employers. The minimum pension is set at 50% of the average annual salary. There are no sickness or maternity benefits provided, however, employed persons receive worker's compensation. Agricultural workers and subsistence farmers are excluded from coverage in these programs.

Women play a prominent role in agriculture and domestic trade, and are represented at the highest levels of political life. Traditional courts, however, often deny women inheritance or property rights. Traditional customs also violate the human rights of children, including facial scarring and female genital mutilation. Violence against women is common and seldom reported. Among the Ewe ethnic group, a traditional practice called trokosi allows an individual or family to enslave a virgin daughter to a local priest or shrine for as long as three years as a means of assuring atonement for crimes committed by members of the family. In 2004 there were reports of 100 girls enslaved in that tradition. Child labor and forced marriage continue.

Ethnic tensions and violence continue in the northern region. Some human right abuses continue, although significant improvements were made. Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS remains a problem, thus discouraging people from seeking testing.


Waterborne parasitic diseases are a widespread health hazard and the creation of Lake Volta and related irrigation systems has led to an increase in malaria, sleeping sickness, and schistosomiasis. The upper reaches of the Volta basin are seriously afflicted with onchocerciasis, a filarial worm disease transmitted by biting flies. Lymphatic filians in some remote villages of Ghana affect between 9.2 to 25.4% of the population. Control of filariasis in remote areas has been difficult. In 1997, efforts were made to vaccinate children up to one year old against tuberculosis, 72%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 60%; polio, 61%; and measles, 59%. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 4.7% of GDP. In 2000, 64 % of the population had access to safe drinking water and 63% had adequate sanitation.

As of 2004, there were an estimated 9 physicians, 64 nurses, and 20 midwives per 100,000 people. Approximately 60% of the population had access to health care services.

In 2002, Ghana's estimated birth rate was 28 per 1,000 people. About 22% of Ghana's married women (ages 15 to 49) used contraception as of 2000. The total fertility rate in 2000 was 4.2 children for each woman's childbearing years. An estimated 8% of all births in 1999 were low birth weight. In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 56.36 per 1,000 live births, and the overall death rate in 2002 was estimated at 10.3 per 1,000 people. Life expectancy in Ghana was estimated at 58.47 years in 2005.

Twenty-six percent of all children under five were malnourished in 2000. Goiter was present in 33% of school-age children. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 3.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 350,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 30,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003. Two other common diseases were tuberculosis and measles. Cholera is still prevalent.

Thirty percent of all women in Ghana have undergone female genital mutation. Currently, Ghana's government has prohibited this under specific laws.


About 72% of all housing in Ghana are traditional compound houses, which consist of a large U-shaped structure with a shared central courtyard. There are usually seven or more rooms per structure. There are some flats and other types of housing in urban areas. In rural areas, wood, mud, or cement huts with sheet iron or mud roofs are more common. Overcrowding, defined as 2.5 persons or more per room, affects about 44.5% of all households. In rural areas, about 52% of the population use latrine sewage systems; 47% have no specific sewage systems. About 51% of rural dwellings are owner occupied. These are typically mud or mud brick huts. In urban areas, less than 20% of all housing units are owner occupied. As of 2001, about 76% of urban and 46% of rural households had access to adequate water supplies. According to the latest available information, housing units in the 1980s numbered 2,458,000, with 5.2 people per dwelling.

Ghana's housing needs have been increasing as the main towns grow in population. In 1982, the government established the State Housing Construction Co. to help supply new low-cost dwelling units. The Bank for Housing and Construction finances private housing schemes on a mortgage basis. Under another housing ownership scheme, civil servants may acquire accommodations on purchase-lease terms. The Cocoa Marketing Board, the Social Security and National Insurance Trust, and other organizations have also invested in housing projects; nevertheless, most houses continue to be built without government assistance. Foreign mining companies provide housing for all their overseas employees and many of their African workers.

Recognizing that most private homes are too expensive for many citizens, the government has been working on programs addressing land and material costs and long-term financing for constructions. From 20012004, the government had planned to build about 20,000 housing units.


Most of the older schools, started by Christian missions, have received substantial financial help from the government, but the state is increasingly responsible for the construction and maintenance of new schools. Primary education has been free since 1952 and compulsory since 1961. Primary school lasts six years and is followed by six years of secondary schooling (at junior and senior levels). At the upper secondary level, students may choose to attend a three-year technical school. The academic year runs from September to June.

In 2001, about 41% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 63% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 33% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 62% of all students complete their primary education. The student-toteacher ratio for primary school was at about 32:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 19:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 18% of primary school enrollment and 11% of secondary enrollment.

Ghana has three main universities: the University of Ghana, in Legon, outside Accra; the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi; and the University of Cape Coast. In 2003, about 3% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 54%, with 62.9% for men and 45.7% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.1% of GDP.


The Ghana Library Board maintains the Accra Central Library, 13 regional libraries, 47 branch libraries, mobile units, and children's libraries, with combined holdings of over three million volumes in 2002. The University of Ghana (Balme Library) in Legon has holdings of around 362,000 volumes and is the largest research library in Ghana. The University of Science and Technology Library has 310,000 volumes. The Research Library on African Affairs (formerly the George Padmore Memorial Library), which opened in Accra in 1961, maintains a collection of publications on various aspects of Africa.

The Ghana National Museum, in Accra, founded by the University College of Ghana and now operated by the Museum and Monuments Board, contains hundreds of exhibits illustrating the culture, history, and arts and crafts of Ghana and West Africa. The West African Historical Museum at Cape Coast, sponsored by the Museum and Monuments Board and the University of Cape Coast, opened in 1971. The Ghana National Museum of Science and Technology is at Accra. There are regional museums at Ho and Kumasi, which is also home to the Ghana Armed Forces Museum. The University of Ghana has several museums in Legon, maintained by the departments of geology and archaeology, and a teaching museum run by the Institute of African Studies.


In 2003, there were an estimated 13 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 154,800 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 35 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

The National Communications Authority (NCA) is responsible for broadcast media licensing. The government-owned Ghana Broadcasting Corp. makes radio services available throughout the country in English and six other languages; an international radio service beams programs in English, French, and Hausa to all parts of Africa. A government-owned television service was established in 1965. In 2004, there was a total of 12 state-owned and 117 privately owned radio stations nationwide. There were 3 semiprivate television stations, 1 government station, and 3 cable networks. In 2003, there were an estimated 695 radios and 53 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 3.8 personal computers for every 1,000 people and eight of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There was one secure Internet server in the country in 2004.

In 2004, there were 50 newspapers throughout the country including 3 government-owned dailies, 2 government-owned weeklies, and many smaller privately owned newspapers. Most newspapers circulated only in regional capitals. The most prominent papers, with 2002 circulation figures, were The Daily Graphic (circulation 100,000) and Ghanaian Times (40,000), both government owned. The Daily Telegraph (10,000) is independent. Weeklies, with their 2002 circulation, include the Weekly Spectator (165,000), The Mirror (90,000), The Ghanaian Chronicle (60,000), Graphic Sports (60,000), Echo (40,000), and Evening News (30,000). All papers are printed in English.

The government dominates all media, and though it is said to tolerate the small independent print media, it is reported to repress dissenting opinions during election times. The constitution does provide for free speech and press.


Cooperatives have played an important role in marketing agricultural produce, especially cocoa. The Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana promotes growth and development in the national cocoa industry and sponsors research in techniques for processing cocoa, coffee, shea, and kola. Their work is extended through the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board. The National Chamber of Commerce, with headquarters in Accra, has 13 district chambers. The Ghana Employers' Association strives to promote better relations between workers and business owners. There are unions for a variety of occupations.

There are professional organizations for a number of careers and many of these are dedicated to research and education within their field, such as the Ghana Medical Association. National cultural associationsincluding associations of writers, musicians, artists, dancers, and dramatistshave been established. The Ghana Science Association was founded in 1958. The Ghana Academy of Arts and Science was founded in 1959.

National youth organizations include the Agricultural Youth Association, the Democratic Youth League of Ghana, the Ghana Scout Association, National Union of Ghanaian Students, Presbyterian Young People's Guild of Ghana, Student Christian Movement of Ghana, Green Earth Youth Organization, and groups of the YMCA/YWCA. There are several sports associations promoting amateur competition in such pastimes as tennis, squash, baseball and track and field.

Ghana Wildlife Society is active in matters of conservation and environmental protection. The Environmental Protection Association of Ghana supports conservation and resource management efforts, but also serves as an advocate for community health and rural development issues.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and Kiwanis International, are also present. Ghana has active chapters of the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and Amnesty International.


Tourism has become a leading industry in Ghana due to the support of the government. Attractions include casinos, fine beaches, game reserves, and old British, Dutch, and Portuguese trading forts and castles. Indigenous dance forms and folk music thrive in rural areas, and there are many cultural festivals. The National Cultural Center is in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region, an area rich in traditional Ghanaian crafts. There is an Arts Center in Accra, as well as the National Museum, the Alwri Botanical Gardens, and the burial place of W.E.B. Du Bois. Football (soccer) is the main sport of Ghana, although cricket, boxing, body building, golf, basketball, and track and field are also popular. Visas, proof of sufficient funds, and an onward/return ticket are required of all visitors, as well as proof of yellow fever vaccination. In 2002, about 483,000 tourists arrived in Ghana. There were 15,453 hotel rooms with 19,648 beds. Tourism expenditure receipts totaled $441 million in 2003.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Accra at $171 per day. Daily expenses in Kumasi and other areas were less at $132.


J. E. Casely Hayford (18671930), for 13 years a member of the Legislative Assembly, is remembered as a leading public-spirited citizen. Dr. J. E. K. Wegyir Aggrey (18751927), noted educational reformer, played a large part in the development of secondary education. Sir Henley Coussey (18911958) and Sir Emmanuel Quist (18821959) were distinguished jurists.

Persons from overseas who played a great part in the progress of Ghana were the Rev. Alexander Gordon Fraser (18731962), the first principal of Achimota School; Sir (Frederick) Gordon Guggisberg (18691930), who took the first steps toward Africanization of the public service and was instrumental in founding Achimota School; and Sir Charles Noble Arden-Clarke (18981962), who was governor of the Gold Coast during the preparatory years of independence (194857) and the first governor-general of Ghana. The writer, sociologist, and civil rights leader W(illiam) E(dward) B(urghardt) Du Bois (b.US, 18681963) settled in Ghana in 1961 and is buried in Accra.

Kwame Nkrumah (190972), the first president of the republic, served in that capacity until the military coup of February 1966; he died in exile in Guinea. J. B. Danquah (18951965), a lawyer, was named vice-president of the UGCC at the time of its founding in 1947. Detained along with Nkrumah after the Accra riots in 1948, he later helped to found the GCP. Arrested by Nkrumah in 1961, and again in 1964, he died in prison in 1965. KofiAbrefa Busia (191378), a noted sociologist, was prime minister from October 1969 to January 1972. Flight-Lieut. Jerry (John) Rawlings (b.1947), the son of a Scottish father and a Ghanaian mother, led successful military coups in 1979 and 1981. He was elected president in 1992, and reelected in 1996. John Kufuor (b.1938) became president in 2001. KofiAnnan (b.1938) became secretary general of the United Nations in 1996.


Ghana has no territories or colonies.


Bowditch, Nathaniel H. The Last Emerging Market: from Asian Tigers to African Lions?: The Ghana File. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1999.

Conrad, David C. Empires of Medieval West Africa: Ghana, Mali, and Songhay. New York: Facts On File, 2005.

Edgerton, Robert B. The Fall of the Asante Empire: The Hundredyear War for Africa's Gold Coast. New York: The Free Press, 1995.

Greene, Sandra E. Sacred Sites and the Colonial Encounter: A History of Meaning and Memory in Ghana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.

Kamoche, Ken M. (ed.). Managing Human Resources in Africa. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Lentz, Carola and Paul Nugent (eds.). Ethnicity in Ghana: The Limits of Invention. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Newell, Stephanie. Literary Culture in Colonial Ghana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.

Osei, Akwasi P. Ghana: Recurrence and Change in a Post-Independence African State. New York: P. Lang, 1999.

Owusu-Ansah, David. Historical Dictionary of Ghana. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

. Historical Dictionary of Ghana. [computer file] Boulder, Colo.: netLibrary, Inc., 2000.

Salm, Steven J. Culture and Customs of Ghana. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

Zuboff, Shoshana. The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism. New York: Viking, 2002.


views updated May 11 2018


Basic Data
Official Country Name:Republic of Ghana
Language(s):English, Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, Ga
Literacy Rate:64.5%
Number of Primary Schools:12,134
Compulsory Schooling:8 years
Public Expenditure on Education:4.2%
Educational Enrollment:Primary: 2,154,646
Educational Enrollment Rate:Primary: 79%
Teachers:Primary: 71,863
Student-Teacher Ratio:Primary: 30:1
Female Enrollment Rate:Primary: 74%

History & Background

An Introduction: Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast, was the first African country to the south of the Sahara to gain political independence from colonial rule in 1957. This former British colony of 92,000 square miles (about 238,000 square kilometers) shares boundaries with three French-speaking nations: the Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, and Togo to the east. The Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean is to the south of the country. Because much of the Precambrian rocks systems that composed most of the territories have been worn to almost a plain, the country is generally low in its physical relief. The major highlands of the country include the Kwahu Plateau, which lies in the middle section of the country. Several important rivers flow from the plateau. Located to the eastern sector of the country are the Akuampim-Togo Ranges. The Akuapim Range runs from the west of Accra and ends at the gorge at the Volta River, where the Akosombo Dam on the river has been constructed. The southern end of the Togo Range begins at the Volta Dam and runs along the country's border in a northeasterly direction.

Situated just above the equator, Ghana has a tropical climate of high temperatures and heavy rains. The vegetation in the northern third of the country and a small strip near the coast are classified as savanna, but a heavy forest covers the middle belt of the country. While timber and other forest products (including cocoa) are exported, the country was known as the British Gold Coast because of the county's gold supplies. Ghana continues to export gold in large quantities and it remains an importation foreign exchange earner.

The first post-independent census in 1960 recorded a population of 6.7 million inhabitants. The population grew in the next 10 years to 8.5 million, and in the last official count in 1984, some 12.3 million inhabitants were recorded. Since then, Ghana's population figures have been based on estimates17.2 million for 1990. At an estimated growth rate of 3 percent for the period 1980 to 1998, the population for 1998 was calculated at 18.5 million. Based on an expected slower rate of growth of 2.2 percent, a population of 26.8 million has been estimated for the year 2015. Of the estimated population, 42 percent are thought to be below 14 years of age, 54 percent are between the ages of 15 and 64, and 4 percent are aged 65 and above. Of this youthful population, about 60 percent of the total number of students are enrolled in primary schools, 35 percent in secondary schools, and only about 5 percent are in the postsecondary institutions including teacher training institutions. In fact, even though the government invested only 5 percent of the money spent during the 1980's Economic Recovery Programs on education, the total national expenditure on education for the same period was as high as one quarter of the total national budget. This national commitment to education is reflected in Ghana's long-standing tradition of demonstrating a commitment to education.

Early History of EducationAn Overview: The earliest history of formal, western-style education in Ghana is directly associated with the history of European activities on the Gold Coast. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive at the Guinea coast in 1471. Their intention to establish schools was expressed in imperial instructions that, in 1529, encouraged the Governor of the Portuguese Castle at Elmina to teach reading, writing, and the Catholic religion to the people. While there is no evidence to demonstrate their success, it is amply proven that Dutch, Danish, and English companies operated schools on the Gold Coast, and that instruction in reading, writing, and religious education took place within the castle walls.

The best known Castle Schools on the Gold Coast included the one operated by the Dutch at the former Portuguese fortress at Elmina, the British school at Cape Coast Castle, and the Danish school at Christiansborg, near Accra. In the late eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth century, children of wealthy African merchants on the coast and relatives of some of the important local chiefs were instructed at castle schools. The historian C. K. Graham has however observed that the majority of students were mulatto children of the European castle staff and their African women.

While pupils received religious instruction as part of their basic training, the primary purpose for educating young people was to prepare them for employment in the European commercial enterprises on the coast. It was, therefore, not unusual that the schools received some funding from the company secretariats overseas. For example, in his history of the Royal African Company, K. G. Davies presented evidence of company sponsorship of education in 1694 and again in 1794 through 1795. But such funding was irregular and, therefore, contributions from other sources were critical to the survival of the school system. Monthly contributions from the salaries of the European men at the Cape Coast Castle created the "Mulatto Fund," from which some financial support for children was drawn. Also, some of the chaplains who served as teachers of the castle schools experimented with imposing fines on the European staff that missed Sunday religious services without a good excuse for doing so. The Rev. Thomas Thompson, who ministered at Cape Coast from 1752 through 1756, was reported to have depended on such revenue to support his school.

Though irregular, overseas beneficiaries also sponsored the education of some African children who traveled to European centers of learning to be schooled. In a 1788 letter to the Privy Council in London, Mayor John Tarleton of Liverpool talked about the 50 or so "odd West African children, chiefly from the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone, whom parents and British traders had sent over to Liverpool to be educated." As much as this was impressive, overseas training for African students was limited to the very few. On the other hand, the castle schools provided only basic education. Company support was limited, and often times the chaplain-turned-teacher had to resort to innovative means of fund-raising to support themselves and the schools.

In comparison to the years before, the nineteenth century witnessed a redoubled effort to improve education on the Gold Coast. The Company of Merchants that took over the activities of the Royal African Company in 1752 appointed Colonel George Torrane in 1805 as its new president of the Cape Coast Castle. While it is not clear if Torrane made any recommendation for the improvement of castle education on the Gold Coast, there is information that the Company of Merchants voted money to hire one Charles Williams as master of the Cape Coast School. Mr. Williams arrived on the Gold Coast in 1815 and reopened the company school at Cape Coast the following year. Schools were also opened at Anomabo, Accra, and Dixcove, and a total of 70 students were attending classes at the facilities by 1822.

The 1820s was a period of conflict between the British and the dominant Asante (Ashanti) kingdom to the hinterland. Between 1815 and 1820, all the major European establishments sent emissaries to the Asante capital of Kumase to negotiate increased commercial relations. However, disagreements between Asante officials and the British led to the war of 1823-1824, in which the newly appointed Governor of the Cape Coast, Castle Sir Charles MacCarthy was killed. Later in 1826, the joint forces of the British, the Danes, and their local allies fought the Asante army in the plains of Accra. While trade into the interior certainly suffered from the conflict, historians are not specific on the extent to which the political instability affected the state of education at the castles. In the 1831 treaty that renegotiated relations among the warring parties, however, two Asante royal youthOwusu Ansa and Owusu Nkantabisawere sent to Cape Coast as a sign of the kingdom's commitment to peace. The boys were schooled at the castle school and were later sent to England for a Christian education. It is not surprising that the Dutch, who had competed against the British from their post at Elmina, also sent Akwasi Boakye and Kwamina Poku (also from the Asante royal house) to the Netherlands in the mid-1830s to be educated. In fact, by 1841 some 110 students were reported to be attending English schools on the Gold Coast.

The effort to provide Christian education on the Gold Coast took a decisive turn with the arrival of Wesleyan and Basel missionaries in 1835. The first Wesleyan (Methodist) school was at the Cape Coast Castle. The Rev Thomas B. Freeman reported that nine Wesleyan mission schools had been opened by 1841six for boys and three for girls. Despite the achievements on the coast, efforts to open schools in the Asante interior did not succeed. Even though Rev. Freeman returned the two royal youth to Kumase in 1841, the Europeans were prevented from opening schools in the territory. Apparently, some of the senior Kumase chiefs expressed fear that western-style education would negatively impact local values. Wesleyan efforts to conduct schools continued to be limited to the coast throughout the nineteenth century.

Unlike the Wesleyan, the Basel (Presbyterian) mission headed for the higher and healthier elevations of the Akuampim Ridge while keeping its headquarters at Christiansborg near Accra. By the 1850s, the Basel missionaries had boarding schools at Christiansborg and schools on the Akuapem Ridge, including one for girls at Aburi. At their school at Akropong (also on the ridge), the Basel missionaries trained teachers, used the schools as agency for the spread of Christianity, and published an elementary grammar book and dictionary in the local Akan language. To be sure, the popular linkage of western-style education to Christian conversion developed from these experiences.

The Administration of Education on the Gold Coast: 1840-1957: Government attempts to increase educational activities on the Gold Coast began with the signing of the Bond of 1844. This was a political, military agreement between the British and a number of coastal Fanti chiefs. In the agreement, the British were allowed to intervene in criminal cases, provide military protection for the region, and, above all, to collaborate with the chiefs to "mould the customs" of the coastal peoples along lines of the "general principles of English law." It was in accordance with the spirit of the bond that Governor Hill proposed his 1852 Ordinance. This recommended that a poll tax be imposed to finance the general improvement of the territoriesincluding the provision of education that could lead to the establishment of a bettereducated class of African.

Following the consolidation of the coastal region as the British Gold Coast Colony, the administration became more aggressive in pursuit of its educational policy. This was precipitated by the British purchase of the Danish property at Christiansborg in 1850 and the Dutch Elmina Castle in 1872. To help redress problems faced by the mission schoolssuch as training local teachers and improving the quality of educationthe administration made grants to both the Wesleyan and Basel missions in 1874. In the Educational Ordinance of 1882, government grants to denominational schools were made dependent on an assessment of the level of efficiency. The schools receiving grant-in-aid were defined as "government assisted schools," but their primary funding was to come from the missions themselves and from other private sources. There were also proposals for publicly funded government schools. Industrial schools were identified as important for the Gold Coast, and a Board of Education was recommended to monitor the school system. Rev. Sutter of the respected Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone was appointed to the position of Inspector of Schools in the Gold Coast Colony.

The administration's desire in the 1880s to provide funds in support of education was interesting, since at the same time it rejected calls to contribute to the construction of rail lines to the gold mines that made the Gold Coast Colony a worthy territory. The support for education must have received an indirect boost from the General Act of the Berlin Conference on Africa, in which education was described as an important European civilizing mission to Africa. Even more important was the fact that the conference gave international recognition to British colonies in Africa, including the Gold Coast. Like other Europeans that had consolidated parts of the African coast, aggressive expansion into the hinterlands was also defined as natural by the Neutrality Articles of the Berlin agreement. The government's renewed interest in education in the colony should therefore be evaluated in relation to the perceived benefits to be derived from the colony in the future. Thus, in an Education Ordinance of 1887, the government called for improvements in the school curriculum, teacher certification, and practical education for pupils. It also set the standards by which private schools might qualify for assistance. In F. Wright's 1905 essay on the "System of Education in the Gold Coast," a total of 132 mission schools were said to be in existence by 1901.

Improvements in Education: The First Half of the Twentieth Century: Despite the colonial efforts to assist and regulate schools, the provision of education in the Gold Coast was carried out primarily by Christian denominations. Mostly, the mission schools provided rudimentary teaching at the primary level. In fact, it was still traditional for students seeking higher education to travel to either Europe or the Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone. It is also significant to note that, because effective colonial authority could not be secured in the Asante interior until after 1904, the provision of education continued to be limited to the coastal areas of the colony and the Akuapem Ridge. Moreover, education for girls and practical training in the field of agriculture and in the crafts continued to be limited in scope.

The inadequacies inherent in the system were observed in the post-World War I appeal made by the Foreign Missions Conference of North America to the Phelps-Stokes Funds for a review of the state of education in Africa. The Phelps-Stokes Commission on Africa issued reports in 1922 and 1925 in which educators were criticized for inadequately catering to the social and economic needs of the continent. The commission called for instructions in the mechanical operations necessary for the improvement of the condition of the mass majority of the people. This included science education and character training.

Certainly, the commission saw the Tuskegee/Hampton program in America as more suitable for Africa than the program that was provided in the castle and mission schools. But the Phelps-Stokes report was not the only source of commentary on education in the colonies. In England, the Education Committee of the Conference of Missionary Societies in Great Britain and Ireland also submitted a memorandum on African education to the Secretary of State. In 1923, the Secretary of State for the Colonies responded with the appointment of an Advisory Committee to study and report on native education. Despite its advisory status, the committee made several major policy recommendations. Between 1925 and 1948, it issued four reports covering such topics as mass education, citizenship education, and guidelines for the overall development of education. Their list of recommendations included the following: greater government supervision of all educational institutions and the creation of local advisory committees, improved funding for education so as to attract the best caliber of people into the colonial education system, equal emphasis on religious and secular subjects, production and use of vernacular textbooks, technical education for natives, training of native teaching staff adequate in qualification and character needs of the territories, and education for girls. For all of the above to be coordinated, the appointment of an Inspector of Schools was deemed necessary.

On the Gold Coast, the appointment of Brigadier General Gordon Guggisberg as governor brought its own advantages. During his tenure from 1919 through 1927, Governor Guggisberg initiated several major developmental programs that included educational improvements as a critical ingredient in his construction of a modern Gold Coast. While the previous administration had seen the provision of elementary schools by the various Christian missions as adequate, Guggisberg was of the conviction that the current system could not sustain future developments. In fact, only a few months after his arrival, the governor presented a 10-year development plan for the Gold Coast. Among other things, funding was aggressively sought for postelementary education for boys and girls. Even though the administration proposed a technical college for Accra, the Prince of Wales College (now Achimota College) was the real trophy of the administration's educational program. This nondenominational school catered to students from kindergarten to the preuniversity level. Full teacher training and kindergarten programs opened at the school in January of 1928. The other programs came later, but by the outbreak of World War II, the college was offering a great variety of courses.

Historians have recognized Guggisberg's contributions as a critical government effort in constructing a firm foundation for the future manpower training of the people of the Gold Coast. But the Government College at Achimota was not the only important grammar school to be established before the country's independence in 1957. In fact, schools established by secular as well as the various Christian denominations included many prestigious institutions, such as Adisadel College, Aggrey Memorial College, Mfamtsipim School, Wesley Girls School, St. Augustine College, Prempeh College, Ghana National College, and several Presbyterian institutions in the Akuapem and Kwahu regions. The Catholic Church started missionary activities in the country's northern territories in 1910. Information from the "Gold Coast Report on Education for the Year 1951" indicated that a total of over 300,000 students were enrolled in schools. There were primary and middle schools, teacher colleges, and at least 60 secondary schools already in place, yet the numbers were still considered to be grossly inadequate for the needs of the country when it gained its independence in 1957.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Ghana gained political independence from Great Britain in 1957 but it was the Education Act of 1961 that can be pointed to as the legislative instrument that defined the organization and administration of the country's education. This legislation pertained to pre-university education, and separate legislative acts were passed to define and regulate the functions and administration of the nation's universities. Education was defined as the primary responsibility of the national government. The policy of centralization was consistent with the July 1960 Constitution that declared Ghana a republic. Under the new constitution, the ruling Convention Peoples' Party (CPP) was also designated as the only legal national political party. Consequently, the 1961 Education Act assigned to the Ministry of Education (headquartered in Accra) sole responsibility for pre-university education. It exercised power to make policies regarding planning and curriculum research and development, as well as school inspections. The positions addressed in the Education Act of 1961 have been reaffirmed by the various national constitutions enacted since then. In 2001, the Ministry of Education was assisted by its implementation agency, the Ghana Education Service (GES), which was in charge of pre-university education. Matters of higher education were under the supervision of the National Council on Tertiary Education (NCTC). The Education Ministry listed representative bodies of teachers and students, the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), and the National Union of Ghanaian Students (NUGS) as "Partners in Education."

The Education Act of 1961 was preceded by the 1951 Legislative Assembly approval of the Accelerated Development Plan for Education. Arguing that the demands on the soon-to-be independent nation required an educated population, the Accelerated Plan aimed at the rapid expansion of the pre-university educational system from 1951 through 1957. The Legislative Assembly declared basic education to be free and compulsory for school-aged children, and the Education Ministry was also empowered to monitor private institutions to ensure educational quality. In fact, by designating the private schools as "government approved" the government qualified these institutions for assisted funding.

The effort to expand basic education was also applied to secondary education. The state absorbed the previously "unassisted" secondary schools and 66 new secondary schools were added to the system by 1966. Ministry of Education figures showed a tremendous increase in enrollment: the total number of students in secondary schools rose from under 4,000 in 1951 to almost 48,000 in 1966. The number continued to rise to 82,821 in 1971 and to 734,811 in 1985. Following the mid-1980's education reforms that combined some years spent at middle school as part of secondary education, the number of students listed at the secondary level of education rose sharply to 864,300 by 1992.

The rapid expansion of education in the country brought its own problems. The obvious one was the need for the provision of adequately trained teachers. For example, figures from the Annual Report of the Education Department for the Year 1952 illustrate that over 180,000 new students enrolled in the nation's public primary schools that year alone. The rise continued, and by 1957 there were over 456,000 pupils receiving primary education in public schools. For this same period, there were fewer than 4000 teachers in training. The temporary solution to the teacher shortage was the recruitment of many untrained instructors as "pupil teachers"their only qualification to teach was their successful completion of elementary school. The government, through the establishment of many teacher training colleges, aggressively tackled the problem of staffing the schools with qualified teachers. The process continued at full speed, and in 1971 alone, 16,000 students were recorded as in training to become teachers. During the same time, however, there were 1,419,838 students enrolled in the primary and middle schools. The rise in the number of students at that level of education remained high, and by 1996, there were more than 2.3 million students enrolled in primary schools alone. At the secondary level, the need for teachers was first addressed through the recruitment of overseas experts and Peace Corp volunteers. But while some Peace Corp teachers continue to volunteer (especially to teach mathematics and science), trained Ghanaians instructors are available as of 2001.

The establishment of the University of Ghana at Legon (1948), the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumase (1952), and the University of Cape Coast (1961) were further indications of the new nation's commitment to meet its developmental needs. Yet, these three institutions could not admit all qualified applicants. In fact, as late as 1992, these universities and two new ones (the University of Developmental Studies at Tamale and the University College of Winneba) had a total enrollment of just above 10,000 students. In other words, as of 2001, there was still a great need for more tertiary institutions, and discussions by the major religious denominations to establish their own universities was consistent with the demand for such programs. Also, with the general increase in the nation's population, there is expected to be a need for more primary and secondary schools, as well as for more trained teachers.

Educational SystemOverview

The structure of basic education inherited from the missionaries and the British colonial administration is comprised of six years of primary school and four years of middle school. The official age at which pupils begin schooling is six. Until the introduction of educational reforms in 1987, the 10 years of elementary schooling constituted the first circle of education. All students completing the tenth grade wrote the Middle School Leaving Certificate Examination conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC). Established by a 1951 Ordinance, the Examination Council conducts all public examinations for the former British West African countries and Liberia.

The reforms of 1987 reduced the first circle of education to nine years, with the seventh through ninth grades designated as Junior Secondary School (JSS). Successful candidates are admitted to a four-year Senior Secondary School (SSS) system. The rational for reform was originally stated in the Dzobo Committee Report of the mid-1970s, which called for a new type of education that was consistent with national development. Similar to the observations of the Phelps-Stokes Report of 1923, the Dzobo Committee argued for the introduction of more vocational, science, and agricultural courses at the JSS level. Thus, while a general education was provided during the first six years of primary education, it was argued that students attending the JSS should be given the chance to test a variety of practical courses. Those who showed propensity for practical education were to be encouraged to enter vocational and technical institutions, while the others continued with the curriculum associated with the traditional secondary school system. The four-year SSS curriculum is tested in the standardized Senior Secondary School Examination, also conducted by the WAEC. Successful candidates are considered for admission to tertiary institutions for further education in specialized fields.

While some have praised the government's courage to implement reform policies, the new system has also been criticized. The main problem was that the national government called on local governments to provide for the workshop and labs anticipated for the JSS system. Critics feared the increased financial burden on the communities, and it was argued that children in well-to-do communities would fare better than those in the least endowed areas. The reality of the past 10 years, however, has been that many well-to-do parents have sent their wards to the private JSS institutions that opened in the wealthy communities. The rational was that the betterendowed private schools would better prepare children to gain admission to the prestigious secondary schools now designated as part of the new SSS system. On the one hand, it has been observed that the increased establishment of the private JSS was consistent with the privatization of the national economy that characterized the 1980s. On the other hand, critics see the trend in education as favoring the wealthy and widening the gap between haves and the have-nots, since in the end, better preparatory secondary education makes it easier to gain admission into the nation's universities. Ironically, it has also been argued in some quarters that those with influence have coveted the few government scholarships that are to go only to the very bright students.

There continue to be opportunities, however, for education expansion in Ghana. Advanced vocational and technical education is available through various polytechnic institutes. Nursing and teacher training are now offered exclusively to postsecondary candidates. Professional training in accounting and management courses can also be obtained outside the universities. In fact, the compression of the second circle of education resulting from the reforms has tremendously swollen the university application pool. In the past decade, it was typical for SSS graduates to wait for two years before gaining admission to university programs. The universities responded to the severe bottleneck by admitting more students than they normally would. With limited space available in the old facilities, larger classes and overcrowding in student residence halls occurred, thus creating tension between students, university administrators, and the government. The Ghana University Teachers' Association has also complained about salaries and work conditions. Given the gravity of the problems, it is not surprising that periodic disruptions in the academic year occurred as a result of strikes. These concerns, notwithstanding, Ghana has made great progress in the provision of schools in the past half century. This reality is reflected in the significant reduction in the national adult illiteracy rateit was 75 percent in 1960, approximately 60 percent in 1970, nearly 57 percent in 1980, about 43 percent in 1990, and almost 30 percent in 2000.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preprimary Education: Historically, formal education at the preschool level was not common on the Gold Coast. The inclusion of kindergarten facilities at the Prince of Wales School (Achimota) in the late 1920s as part of the formal education system was therefore innovative. While educators see advantages in kindergarten education for children, there is no formal mandate for the provision of preschool prior to beginning the first grade of primary education. However, some public facilities are available, as well as private nurseries and day care centers, but they have not spread to the rural communities, where close to 70 percent of the nation's population resides. According to The Education for All Year: 2000 Assessment for UNESCO, there was a rapid increase in establishing Early Childhood Education establishments in the form of nursery schools and day care centers since 1993. In 1996, there were 5,441 public kindergartens and 3,742 registered private preschool establishments. In 1997, more than 427,000 preschool children were enrolled in public kindergartens, while about 156,000 pupils attended the private preschools. It is important to note that since kindergarten and day care attendance has not been absorbed into the basic education system, it is therefore neither free nor compulsory.

Primary Education: Ministry of Education sources reported more than 2.65 million pupils enrolled in the primary school system in Ghana for the year 1999. The number represented 79.4 percent of the gross possible enrollment for the same yearapproximately 3.4 million children of possible primary school age were projected. Observers therefore felt that Ghana would have difficulty reaching its goal of universal primary education from the year 2000 to 2005.

Although the 1951 Accelerated Plan declared the first circle of education to be free and compulsory, some minimal fees were introduced in the 1980s to meet textbook costs. Also, even though the Education Act of 1961 called for universal primary education, this goal has not been met due to the harsh economic realities of the past decades. Despite such problems, all children in Ghana are entitled to primary education and all primary schools in the country are also organized as coeducational institutions. In fact, the female student population of the primary schools has remained at the 40th percentile since the 1970s. It is also important to mention that the number of female teachers in the general education system is highest at the primary levelranging from 27 percent of the teaching staff in 1970 to 34 percent in 1995.

Though English is the official national language of business, the local vernaculars are used for instruction during the early years of primary education. English, which is taught as a foreign language, rapidly assumes greater use by the third grade of education. This is particularly so because of the diverse linguistic character of both students and teachers. The curriculum at the primary level stresses reading, writing, and basic arithmetic. Sports, agriculture, arts and crafts, and civic education are also part of the primary school curriculum. Upon completing primary education in sixth grade, students enter the Junior Secondary School (JSS) in the seventh grade. JSS admission is based on student performance on curriculum-based examinations and not on any standardized national test. In February 2001, Ghanaian newspaper reports commented on parental concerns about the poor performance of primary school students, especially in mathematics, as reflected by scores on the occasional Performance Monitoring Test. This led to calls for an extension of the academic year. Others have asked that teachers be allowed more authority to discipline pupils as a way of improving performance. No consensus had been reached on the issue by mid-2001.

Secondary Education

The 1987 educational reforms compressed the four-year middle school and the traditional secondary system into the three-year Junior Secondary School (JSS) and four-year Senior Secondary School (SSS). The average age of JSS admissions is twelve. Formerly, student admissions to the secondary schools were based on results of the standardized Common Entrance Examination, which was taken during the middle school years. Successful candidates completed a five-year secondary school program and then wrote the WAEC-conducted examination for the General Certificate of Education at the Ordinary Levels (GCE O-level) in specialized subjects of study. From here, the most successful students gained admission to the few Upper Secondary Schools (Sixth Form) for two more years. Sixth form graduates wrote another standardized examination at the Advanced Levels (GCE A-level) in specialized courses. Admission to the various departments of the national universities then followed, but the majority of students from the old system, who did not continue to the universities, either joined the general workforce or sought admission to postsecondary teacher colleges.

Unlike the former middle schools, the objective for the creation of the JSS included the need to train students in skill development, with a special emphasis on vocational education, science, technology, and creativity. Furthermore, the JSS ensured that girls received greater access to postprimary education. The program called for the inculcation of a healthy appreciation of cultural heritage (history and geography) and the development of sound moral attitudes. The curriculum developed for the achievement of the set goals included courses in mathematics, social studies, cultural studies, Ghanaian languages and English, technical and vocational skills, agriculture, and physical education. The standardized examination conducted by the WAEC evaluates students' achievements at this level and makes it possible for admission into the senior secondary schools, technical institutes, or vocational schools (sometimes referred to as colleges).

For most students, graduation from the JSS marked the end of the formal education process. Students admitted to the post-JSS institutions enter either the academically oriented SSS or opt for entrance to the vocational and technical institutes. Statistical information on secondary education in Ghana in the past 30 years has shown steady increases. In 1970-1971, of the 92,821 students registered in secondary and vocational schools, 28 percent were female; of the 551,439 students at the same level of education in 1980-1981, about 24 percent were female. Student numbers greatly increased to 768,603 (39 percent female) in 1990-1991 and 864,300 (38 percent female) in 1991-1992.

Even though the UNESCO Statistical Yearbook (2000) still showed 1992 figures as the most current official numbers for secondary schools, there is no reason to suspect that there has been a decrease in student admissions. Also, it is important to mention that while a small number of Peace Corp teachers still volunteer to teach in Ghana, the schools are almost 100 percent staffed by Ghanaian teachers. Students completing the SSS level are evaluated by the WAEC-conducted Senior Secondary School exams in the core courses of English, mathematics, science, and social studies. The very successful candidates are evaluated for admission to the various departments of the national universities. Others can seek admission to the three-year post SSS teacher training colleges.

Higher Education

The attainment of university education is the ultimate goal of most Ghanaian students. However, the nation's five universities are able to admit only a small fraction of qualified applicants because of limited facilities and faculty. It is also relevant to mention that even though a number of the social science and humanities courses taught at the universities overlap, there is a degree of specialization regarding the courses that each university offers. For example, students seeking degrees in law, medicine, and public administration are most likely to seek admission to the University of Ghana at Legon, while those with interests in architecture, pharmacy, agricultural science, engineering, and the fine art prefer the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumase. Both the University of Cape Coast and the University College at Winneba are known for training graduates to teach in the nation's secondary schools. The University of Developmental Studies at Tamale in the Northern Region has courses in rural and community development. These classifications notwithstanding, most graduates performing the compulsory National Service at the end of training are placed in the nation's secondary schools for at least the first two years of their postuniversity employment. The university academic year (two semesters) runs from late September through early July, and the majority of students spend four years working toward their first degree. Of course, the time needed for postgraduate studies and medical training vary. It is also important to mention that Ghana's tertiary education is respected for its quality and relatively peaceful academic environment. In fact, the University of Ghana is one of three sites on the continent where the New York-based Council for International Educational Exchange sends American students for semester studies. The University of Cape Town in South Africa and a summer field study in Tunisia are the other sites. In addition, several European and American universities run "study abroad" programs at various Ghanaian sites.

Until the early 1970s, Ghana provided free university education. Due to crisis in the national economy, the provision for free textbooks was revoked. Since then, a loan scheme has been introduced to address students' concerns. But the issue of university funding was revisited again in the 1980s, when the ruling Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) called for cost sharing in education. Supporters of the plan have reminded critics and protesters that the economic privatization and reforms that characterized the 1980s were consistent with the education policy. Students' protests notwithstanding, the universities announced admission fees for first-year students in the latter part of the 1990s. Many have equated the fees to tuition charges and therefore a revocation of the concept of free university education in Ghana. This, however, has not reduced the enthusiasm for seeking a university degree. The enrollment of 9,609 students in the country's universities in 1990-1991, for example, was almost double the number for 1975. Also, it should be noted that the 1990-1991 figures preceded the addition of Winneba and Tamale to the university system. But despite these enrollment increases, the female representation in the general university student population in Ghana was as low as 22 percent in 1991. Also, 1997 information shows that fewer than 5 percent of the gross national enrollments are at the tertiary level, including teacher training colleges. Certainly, the percentage of students receiving university education is much smaller.

Besides university education, the nation provides opportunities for public higher education through other avenues. For example, there are 7 diploma-granting institutions, 21 technical colleges, 6 polytechnics, and 38 teacher training colleges. Furthermore, a number of private computer-training schools have opened at the major urban centers in the country.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The Ministry of Education and its implementation agency, the Ghana Education Service, have responsibility for policy and curriculum development for the nation's pre-university education. Regional and District Education Officers represent the ministry in the provinces and districts respectively. It is from these offices that education inspectors visit the schools. As it was mandated in the 1961 Education Act, local authorities (i.e., local government) had educational responsibilities. They approved the opening of new public schools, and, as a result of inadequate national funding, were responsible for maintaining school infrastructures. Teacher training remains the duty of the national government, but the religious denominations that have had long histories in the provision of schools also continue to maintain affiliations with their former institutions. They influence the selection of headmasters for these schools and colleges.

The legislation that established the nation's public universities also approved the creation of internal self-governing boards, or University Councils. Representatives from the institutions constituted the various university boards but others, including the council chairs, were appointed by the central government. The universities have broad powers in research and curriculum development.

In the first two decades following independence, a division within the Ministry of Education handled matters concerning higher education. This changed in 1969 when a government decree created the National Council for Higher Education as the advisory body on "the development of university institutions of Ghana." In performing its functions, the councilwhich included representatives from the universities, some members from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and others appointed by the central governmentwas to take into account "the total national resources, needs and development" programs. Following the educational reforms of 1987, the monitoring of higher education has come under the Ministry of Education agency called the National Council for Tertiary Education. The day-to-day administration of the universities rests with the various vice-chancellors while principals administer the nation's polytechnics.

Research that informs the educational system in Ghana takes place at different levels. The Curriculum Research and Development Division of the Ministry of Education, the National Advisory Committee on Curriculum for Pre-University Education (including representatives of the Ghana National Association of Teachers), and the Bureau of Ghana Languages have all contributed to educational improvements in the country. Also important are the various studies conducted on education at the institutes, centers, and university departments.

In the nation's long history, there has been periodic concern expressed about the adequacy and quality of schools. A consistent complaint, however, has been inadequate educational funding. Ever since the 1951 Accelerated Plan, central government expenditures on education have remained high. In the past 30 years, the average expenditure on education was equal to 25 percent of the total national budget. In 1985, when the government was preparing to introduce educational reforms, the amount of the national budget spent on education rose to as high as 31.5 percent. In 1996, approximately 24 percent of total national expenditures was on education. A considerable portion of this total spending on education has been spent on basic education. Between 1990 and 1998, for example, an average of 67 percent of the total expenditures on education went to support basic education. How much of national funding on education should continue to support primary and secondary education over tertiary institutions has been a subject of national debate. Some have called on tertiary institutions to improve their financial situations by considering commercializationthat is, by establishing consulting services. In the wake of limited government assistance, a number of "Educational Funds" have been created by private organizationsthe most advertised is the Asanteman Fund organized by Asantehene Osei Tutu II to assist pre-university institutions. Such support notwithstanding, it should be noted that parents are increasingly called upon to assume more financial responsibility for their children's education in Ghanaian schools. The long-term ramifications of this change are unknown.

Nonformal Education

The Institute of Adult Education was established in 1949 as a department of the University College of the Gold Coast with the responsibility of providing university-based adult education to the nation. The institute opened branch offices in major regional centers to supervise night classes that prepared participants to write the various examinations that qualified them for university admission. It has also conducted correspondence courses for its audience. Another well known institute that conducts correspondence courses in Ghana is the London-based Rapid Result College. Covering courses in all fields that are examined at the GCE O and A levels, participating students receive instructional packages, are assigned exercises, and are graded and prepared for the examinations. Due to the higher foreign exchange cost, more and more Ghanaians seeking preparatory training are likely to use the night class system. With the increase of computer services available in the country, online education opportunities are emerging. For example, it was announced in the late 1990s that Clarke Atlanta University in America now allows students in Ghana to register for its online MBA degree. Also in the 1990s, the University of Cape Coast posted African studies courses online, mostly targeting students in overseas countries.

Another form of nonformal education is the adult literacy program conducted through the Peoples' Education Association. This volunteer organization was first organized in 1949 to teach illiterate adults to read in their local languages. Churches and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were the main program supporter, but the government became an active participant in adult literacy education following the 1989 launching of the National Functional Literacy Program (NFLP). The attractiveness of the program is attributed to its combination of skill training with literacy education and, according to the UNESCO 2000 Assessment, about 900,000 students graduated from the program between 1992 and 1997. On the whole, however, because of the low availability of technical and vocational training opportunities, informal apprenticeship thrives in Ghana. Traditionally, this is the private nonformal system of providing people with training that allows them to gain the skills necessary for the job market.

Teaching Profession

According to Ghana Ministry of Education statistical information for 1996, approximately 72 percent of all teachers in the nation's first circle of education are certified. This represents a 34.7 percent increase over the 1990 ratio of 53.2 percent. Of the 1996 total, approximately 86 percent of all female teachers were certified compared to about 64 percent of their male counterparts. This information notwithstanding, 1994-1995 figures showed that, of the 71,863 teachers in public primary schools, only 34 percent were female. However, this was a great improvement over figures from the 1970s, when the average percentage of female teachers employed in the primary school system was in the mid-teens.

Female teaching staff representation at the secondary and tertiary levels of education is comparatively smaller than at the primary school level. In 1970-1971 for example, 17 percent of female teachers were teaching at secondary schools. The number increased to 21 percent in 1980-1981, and 26 percent in 1985-1986. While the percentage for the 1990s was not available in the UNESCO Statistical Yearbook (1999), it was still interesting to note that the female student population at the nation's universities was averaging only in the twentieth percentile. Since it was from this pool that secondary school teachers were drawn, there is no reason to believe that the percentages of female teachers in the secondary school system increased significantly during the decade of the 1990s. The percentage of women teachers at the nation's tertiary institutions is much smaller.

Teacher training in Ghana has a history of its own. Historians agree that during the colonial era, teacher training was closely associated with the work of the various religious denominations. In many cases, the headmasters of the schools also acted as caretakers of the village church. The secularization of the teaching profession occurred with the introduction of the 1951 Accelerated Education Plan. Also, because of the rapid expansion of the school system, the need for teachers increased to the extent that many persons whose only qualification was a tenth grade education were recruited as "pupil-teachers." Even as late as 1966, around 63 percent of the nation's primary school teachers were uncertified.

The rapid expansion of teacher training facilities throughout the country took place in the decade of the 1960s. The goal was to provide four-year "Certificate A" training for teachers. But until it was phased out in 1963, two-year "Certificate B" colleges also operated to provide a quick turnover of certified teachers. Students who have completed the traditional five-year secondary education could also be certified to teach in the elementary school system by attending specialized two-year postsecondary teacher institutions.

The rapid expansion of teacher education yielded results, and by 1971, approximately 71 percent of all primary school teachers were certified. Confident that the nation's teacher supply could be met in the near future, many of the teacher training institutions were converted to secondary schools. Of course, this was prior to the severe economic crisis of the late 1970s through the early 1980s that forced many to seek better paying jobs in Nigeria. Furthermore, the educational reforms that began in 1987 have brought further changes in teacher training. All of the remaining 38 teacher training colleges in the country are operated as postsecondary institutions. To address the need for practical training for students in the JSS, more science education has been incorporated into the teacher education curriculum. It has also been proposed that teachers-in-training be required to spend considerable hours doing in-field practice teaching. The plan is to make them more aware of the changing conditions of the communities in which they are to be employed. Teachers for the secondary and teacher training colleges are prepared at the nation's universities.


The perennial problem facing education in Ghana is the issue of funding. Since the early period when the Europeans opened the castle schools until the present, the question of how much financial support the dominant institutions should bear has been argued. In the 1750s, Rev. Thomas Thompson's school in Cape Coast raised funds from fees imposed on non-Sunday School attendance, but student fees were definitely part of his financial pool. When the Accelerated Education Plan of 1951 was put in place, the fact that the modern state would assume a large portion of the cost of education was seen as necessary. This was due to the fact that national development and the training of an educated population seem to go hand in hand. However, at the same time, the government tradition of making education free and compulsory and of bearing the cost of teacher training and salaries has created the impression that the government should continue to meet those responsibilities. Others have argued that, in a society such as Ghana, where a good portion of the population still faces economic difficulties, the idea of cost sharing in education is untimely.

Progress has, however, been made in Ghana's education development. The rapid expansion of schools under the free and compulsory policy was aimed at an ultimate provision of universal education. While this lofty goal has still not be attained, it is impressive to note that, according to 1999 figures, almost 80 percent of the approximately 3.4 million children of basic education age were actually attending school. Day care and kindergarten programs, while not widespread, are beginning to take shape in the early child education system.

Since the mid-1980s, much of the national attention has been focused on postprimary education, with a greater emphasis on the reformed JSS/SSS programs that reduced the traditional middle schooling and secondary education by four years. While all agree that a strong emphasis on practical training in science and on technical and vocational training is as important as the old system's traditional academic programs, critics have expressed concerns about the availability of appropriate facilities for all schools. As government funding is debated, and as the public questions the quality of available schools, more and more private JSS facilities are being opened as alternatives to public intermediate education. There is every indication that the trend will continue.

At the university level, the nation's five universities are still not able to adequately absorb all qualified applicants. There are efforts on the part of the major religious denominations to expand their tradition of providing schools to the establishment of universities. The success of those efforts means that the private sector will have entered a sphere in the educational system that was traditionally thought to belong strictly to the public sector. Of course that could make it possible for the public universities to impose higher fees to supplement operating costs. As of now, the government continues to bear the full cost of teacher training, and with a pupil-teacher ratio of almost 33:1 in 1996 (an increase of 13.5 percent since 1990), there is no doubt that more teachers need to be trained. Overall, the state bears more than 80 percent of the total cost of education, but the trend shows that parents and communities will be asked in the future to shoulder more of the cost if the nation's quality education system is to be sustained.

In 2001, the government approved the highest budget allocation to the educational sector. It explained this high amount by indicating that it wished to improve school facilities and support the development and maintenance of academic facilities, as well as to supplement funding for scholarship grants to gifted but needy students.


Apter, David. Ghana in Transition. New York: Princeton University Press, 1963.

George, Betty Stein. Education in Ghana. Washington, DC: United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1976.

Government of Ghana. National Council for Higher Education Decree, 1969. National Liberation Council Decree 401, Accra-Tema, Ghana: Ghana Publishing Corporation, 1969.

Graham, C. K. The History of Education in Ghana. London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1971.

Kinsey, David C., and John W. Bing, eds. Nonformal Education in Ghana: A Project Report. Amherst, MA.: University of Massachusetts, 1978.

Owusu-Ansah, David. "The Society and Its Environment." In Ghana: A Country Study. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1995.

Owusu-Ansah, David, and Daniel Miles McFarland. Historical Dictionary of Ghana. Metuchen, NJ, and London: Scarecrow Press, 1995.

Quist Hubert O. "Secondary Education in Ghana at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century: Profile, Problems, Prospects." Prospects XXIX, 3 (1999): 425-442.

Scanlon, David, ed. Traditions of African Education. New York: Bureau of Publications of the Teachers College at Columbia University, 1964.

UNESCO. Statistical Yearbook. Paris: 1999.

. The Education for All Year: 2000 Assessment (EFA). Paris: 2000.

David Owusu-Ansah


views updated May 18 2018


Republic of Ghana



The Republic of Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, is a West African country lying on the Gulf of Guinea. It has a total border of 2,093 kilometers (1,300 miles), including 548 kilometers (341 miles) with Burkina Faso to the north, 688 kilometers (428 miles) with Côte d'Ivoire to the west, and 877 kilometers (545 miles) with Togo to the east. It has a coastline on the Gulf of Guinea, part of the Atlantic Ocean, measuring 539 kilometers (335 miles). It has an area of 239,540 square kilometers (92,486 square miles), making it about the size of the state of Oregon. Water occupies 8,520 square kilometers (3,290 square miles) of the country, primarily Lake Volta. The capital of Accra is located along the southeastern coast.

Ghana has a tropical climate, warm and comparatively dry along the southeast coast, hot and humid in the southwest, and hot and dry in the north. Its terrain is mostly low plains with a plateau in the south-central area. Its highest point is Mount Afadjato, which rises to 880 meters (2,887 feet). Lake Volta, its largest lake, is the world's largest artificial lake. Ghana has 10 regions: the Northern, Upper West, Upper East, Volta, Ashanti, Western, Eastern, Central, Brong-Ahafo, and Greater Accra.


The population of Ghana was estimated at 19,533,560 in July 2000, an estimate that takes into account the impact of HIV/AIDS. It was estimated at 17,832,000 in 1996, with a density of 81 people per square kilometer (210 per square mile). About 37 percent of the population lived in urban areas and 10 percent in urban agglomerations of more than a million people. The population grew at 2.8 percent a year between 1970 and 1990, and 2.9 percent between 1990 and 1997. The fertility rate in 1997 was 4.9 children per woman.

Ghana has a young population, with more than 42 percent of the people below 15 years of age in 2000 and 55 percent in the 15-65 year bracket. Those over 65 constitute only 3 percent of the population. Life expectancy was estimated at 57 years overall, with 56 and 58 years for men and women, respectively.

The population is predominantly of African origin, with the Akan tribe comprising 44 percent of the population, the Moshi-Dagomba 16 percent, the Ewe 13 percent, the Ga-Adangbe 8 percent, the Yoruba 1.3 percent, and European and other nationalities less than 1 percent. Most people (38 percent) hold traditional beliefs, while 30 percent follow the Islamic faith, 24 percent are Christians, and 8 percent have other beliefs. English is the official language, with the other main languages being Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, and Ga.


Ghana's formerly strong economy has been the victim of instability resulting from a series of military coups and economic mismanagement in the period from independence in 1958 to 1983. A highly protected economyand substantial government investment created a largebut inefficient manufacturing sector by the mid-1980s.Over the last 15 years, economic reforms, including substantial privatizations , have resulted in a small but viable industrial sector.

Ghana has a considerable endowment of natural resources (timber, fertile agricultural land and fishing grounds, and minerals). Agriculture constituted about 40 percent of GDP in 1999 and employed 60 percent of the labor force . The main export crop is cocoa. Coffee, palm products, and tropical fruits are exported in smaller quantities. Other crops include cassava, yams, corn, sorghum, and rice, while goats and sheep are the principal livestock reared. Timber is also an important export. Fishing is important to the domestic market, with some exports of tuna.

Industry contributes about 30 percent of the GDP and employs 15 percent of the labor force. Ghana's industries include mining, lumbering, light manufacturing, aluminum, and food processing. Mineral exports mainly gold, manganese, diamonds, and bauxiteaccount for a large part of the country's earnings. Petroleum is extracted in small quantities offshore between Saltpond and Cape Coast, and exploration in other areas is under way. Manufacturing is dominated by import substitution industries, producing food products, beverages, tobacco, textiles, timber and wood products, refined petroleum, vehicles, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, cement, and metals. Electricity is generated almost entirely from hydroelectric plants, mainly the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River.

Services contribute 30 percent of GDP and employ only 25 percent of the labor force. Trade, transportation, financial services, and public administration are the main activities.


Ghana is a former British colony. Kwame Nkrumah set up the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) to campaign for independence in 1949. Elections took place in 1951 and the following year Nkrumah became the leader of the executive council and the legislature. Full independence followed in 1957, with Ghana becoming the first country in Africa to achieve this feat. Ghana became a republic on 1 July 1960, with Nkrumah as president.

In 1964 Nkrumah introduced legislation to make Ghana a one-party state. In 1966 Nkrumah was removed by military coup, making way for army leadership under the umbrella of the National Liberation Council (NLC), headed by 3 army officers. Political activity was permitted again in 1969, elections were held, and the Progress Party (PP) won a majority of seats. The leader of the PP, Dr. Kofi Busia, was invited to form a government and became prime minister. A 3-man commission of Emanuel Kotoka, Akwasi Arifa, and John Harley from the NLC acted as head of state.

In 1972 there was another military coup led by Col. Ignatius Acheampong, and he set up a National Redemption Council (NDC). In 1978 Gen. Fredrick Akuffo replaced Acheampong as head of what was now the Supreme Military Council (SMC), and in 1979 political activity began in preparation for elections scheduled for June. Two weeks before the election, however, a military coup led by Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings ushered in the leadership of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Elections were held as scheduled, and Dr. Hilla Limann of the Peoples National Party (PNP) took office as president in September 1979.

Another coup, in 1981, put Rawlings back in power. He suspended the constitution and banned political activity. From December 1981 to November 1992 a Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), with secretaries in charge of the ministries and the regions, ruled Ghana. A new constitution was approved by a national referendum in April 1992, based on the U.S. model. The PNDC formed a new party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and successfully contested the elections in December 1992 with Rawlings emerging as the president. In the 1996 elections, NDC and Rawlings were again returned to office. Rawlings stood down for the 2000 elections, and the New Patriotic Party, with John Kufuor as presidential candidate, was victorious.

The 1992 constitution makes Ghana a unitary republic with an executive president and a multiparty political system. The national legislature is the unicameral parliament, whose 200 members are elected by universal adult suffrage every 4 years. The president, who is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, is elected by universal adult suffrage for a maximum of 2 4-year terms.

The president appoints the vice president and nominates a council of ministers, subject to approval by parliament. The constitution also provides for 2 advisory bodies to the president: a 25-member Council of State and a 20-member National Security Council. There are 110 administrative districts, each having a District Assembly.

In 1996 government revenues amounted to 21 percent of GDP and expenditures were 22 percent of GDP. The budget deficit was 1.2 percent of GDP, well within the 3 percent guidelines. The most recent year for which tax revenue data is available is 1993, when taxes in income, profits, and capital gains generated 17 percent of government revenue, domestic taxes on goods and services 40 percent, export levies and import duties 27 percent, and non-tax revenue 23 percent.

The general rate of corporation tax is 35 percent, and there is a capital gains tax of 5 percent. Hotels are subject to a 25 percent corporation tax, manufacturing companies in the regional capitals are subject to 26.25 percent, elsewhere at 17.5 percent. Interest and dividends are subject to a 10 percent withholding tax. Non-agricultural exports are subject to an 8 percent levy.


There are 39,409 kilometers (24,490 miles) of roads, of which 11,653 kilometers (7,241 miles) were paved in 1997. In 1997 there was a 953-kilometer (592-mile) railway network (currently undergoing major rehabilitation) of narrow gauge. The railway connects Accra, Kumasi, and Takoradi, the major mining areas, to the sea ports. The railway network also provides passenger services from the interior of Ghana to the main sea ports at Tema (near Accra) and Takoradi.

The main waterways include the Volta, Ankobra, and Tano Rivers, which provide 168 kilometers (104 miles) of year-round navigation, and Lake Volta, which provides 1,125 kilometers (699 miles) of arterial and feeder waterways. The main ports are at Takoradi and Tema. There were 12 airports in 1999, 6 of which had paved runways.

Growth in electricity production averaged 4.2 percent a year between 1980 and 1996. In 1998 electricity production was 6.206 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), 99.9 percent of which was from hydroelectric sources. In the same year, electricity consumption was 5.437 billion kWh and exports were 400 million kWh, while 65 kWh of electricity were imported. Hydroelectricity is generated at the Akasombo and Kpong power plants, which traditionally supply virtually all of the country's electricity needs, as well as provide exports to Benin and Togo.

Total dependence on hydroelectricity makes Ghana vulnerable to variations in rainfall, and power shortages reached crisis-point in 1998. This has stiffened resolve to provide alternative sources of electric power, including a recently built oil-and gas-fired power station. There are also plans for a number of gas-fired plants, using imported gas and gas from the Tano fields. The Tama oil refinery was being expanded and prepared for privatization in 1997-99. The U.S. Export-Import Bank is to provide guarantees to cover drilling in the Tano off-shore natural gas fields and construction of pipelines, plus loan financing for operations and maintenance work.

The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation provides radio services, supplemented by 36 private companies which were granted authorization to operate radios and TV networks in 1999. Broadcasters comprised 3 shortwave, 18 FM radio stations, and 11 television stations in 1999. There were 238 radios, 109 TV sets, and 1.6 PCs per 1,000 people in 1999.

Ghana has a modest telephone system which is Internet accessible, and although many rural communities are not yet connected, expansion of the services is underway. There were 200,000 main lines in use in 1998 and an estimated 30,000 cellular phones in use. Domestically the telephone system comprises a microwave radio relay, and a local wireless loop has also been installed. International communication is through 4 Intelsat satellite earth stations, and a micro-wave radio relay which links to the Panaftel system connecting Ghana to its neighbors.

International direct dialling is available to major cities. Fax facilities are available around the clock in Accra. There are also several privately-owned and operated cellular phone networks with 1 mobile phone per 1,000 people. There were 2 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in 1999.


In 1995 agriculture (including forestry and fishing) was the largest sector and the biggest employer of the working population. The chief agricultural export is cocoa, and it occupies more than half of the country's cultivated land.

Mining contributes a big proportion of foreign exchange earnings through the export of gold, diamonds, and bauxite (used in the production of aluminum). The

CountryNewspapersRadiosTV Sets aCable subscribers aMobile Phones aFax Machines aPersonal Computers aInternet Hosts bInternet Users b
United States2152,146847244.325678.4458.61,508.7774,100
Cote d'Ivoire17164700.06N/A3.60.2520
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

country is among the world's largest producers of manganese. Manufacturing contributed 9 percent of GDP in 1998. However, the economic recovery program of the late 1990s hit the industry through high interest rates and the lifting of restrictions on some imports.

The tourist sector, while so far not rated amongst the main economic sectors, is the fastest growing sector in the economy. The government's main priority is to privatize the state-owned enterprises to relieve government of the heavy burden on national resources. The government, with the help of the IMF, plans to diversify its exports to avoid its vulnerability to the fluctuating prices

of cocoa on the world market. The government also plans to attract more investment to achieve the diversification of exports as well as to meet local needs.


Agriculture accounted for more than 40 percent of GDP in 1999 and employed three-fifths of the workforce. However, despite its importance, sectoral growth has lagged behind other sectors of the economy and has been unpredictable, as most farming is reliant upon rainwater. Agricultural output (including forestry and fishing) grew at just 1.0 percent per year between 1980 and 1990, and 2.7 percent between 1990 and 1997. Agricultural growth increased to 5.3 percent in 1998. Ghana is one of the world's leading producers of cocoa, mostly grown on small farms. In 1998-99 cocoa production reached 400,000 metric tons.

Although most of the year-to-year trends are attributable to weather patterns, the longer term improvement in performance can be attributed to public policy changes. As part of the broader macroeconomic reforms (reforms which affect the whole economy, such as changing the exchange rate , altering controls on interest rates, and adjusting the money supply) the government has removed food price controls , raised cocoa prices paid to producers, and boosted extension services, which help increase farmer productivity.

Other cash crops are coffee, bananas, palm oil, coconuts, and kola nuts. The chief food crops are cassava, maize, yams, coco yams, plantain, millet, corn, fruit, rice, and vegetables. Cattle are raised in the north. Yields of food crops, however, have shown disappointing growth with only cassava and millet yields improving in the past decade. This seems to be a result of low investment and poor technology. The removal of subsidies on fertilizers and other agricultural inputs has also had an effect on several crops.

Cocoa is Ghana's most important agricultural export crop, normally accounting for 30-40 percent of total exports. Most cocoa is produced by around 1.6 million small farmers on plots of less than 3 hectares in the forest areas of the Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Western, and Volta regions. In the 1960s Ghana was the world's largest producer of cocoa but it has since been overtaken by neighboring Côte d'Ivoire.

Livestock farming is restricted to the Northern region and the Accra plains. Production of meat is, however, insufficient to meet local annual demand of about 200,000 tons. The shortfall has been met by imports of livestock from neighboring countries, although imports have been constrained by dwindling foreign exchange reserves . As part of the revitalization effort, the government undertook to rehabilitate and restock the 6 cattle stations at Pong-Tamale, Ejura, Babile, Kintampo, Amrahia, and Nungua, but these efforts have yet to bear fruit.

More than one-third of Ghana's total land area is covered by forest, although not all of it is suitable for commercial exploitation. Commercial forestry is concentrated in the Western region in Southern Ghana, and has been the third largest foreign exchange earner in recent years (accounting for about 10 percent of exports).

Since 1983, the forestry industry has undergone substantial changes, attracting aid and commercial credits which have focused on forestry management, research and equipment for logging, saw-milling, and manufacture. Since 1989 the government has banned the export of certain timbers to avoid deforestation. River and sea fishing are important, although domestic fisheries (in the ocean and Lake Volta) supply only about one-half of the country's total annual demand of 600,000 tons.


Industry contributed about 30 percent of the GDP in 1999, when it employed about 15 percent of the work-force. A policy of industrialization has resulted in the establishment of a wide range of manufacturing industries, producing food products, beverages, tobacco, textiles, clothes, footwear, timber and wood products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and metals, including steel and steel products. Almost all of them began as state-owned enterprises, but now are mostly privatized.

Ghana possesses substantial bauxite reserves, though the output, all of which is exported, is less than half of capacity. High-quality sand in the Tarkwa mining area provides the basis for a small but important glass industry. Cement factories have been developed at Tema and Takoradi. The development of export zones (areas where raw materials can be imported without customs duties, provided the products are for export) and industrial estates (areas with good transport links, electricity, and water supplies, for groups of enterprises able to provide services for each other) is underway.

Apart from traditional industries such as food processing, Ghana also has a large number of long-established large and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises. The large-scale manufacturing sector includes textiles, drinks, food, plastics, vehicle assembly, and aluminum processing. Much of it is owned and managed by the Lebanese community, but multinational companies such as Unilever and Valco also run factories. Various state-owned enterprises also used to be involved in manufacturing, but since liberalization opened up the market to foreign competition in the 1980s, many factories have been closed, leading to substantial job losses.

Gold remains central to the Ghanaian economy, although diamonds, manganese, and bauxite are also mined. The privatization of the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation, the largest producer of gold in the country, has been regarded as a great African success story, as it has been managed by Ghanaians and was one of the first indigenous companies to be listed on the international stock market. From a 15 percent share of export earnings in the mid-1980s, gold now vies with cocoa as the largest source of Ghana's export earnings.

Ghana's diamond sector is smaller and has struggled to survive its legacy of corruption. Production is mainly industrial grade. Structural adjustment ended the state's control over large-scale extraction but the private businesses now involved have not been able to restore official production to even a quarter of the 1970s level. Smuggling is rife, and the official figures do not reflect the actual level of output.

Ghana is also one of the world's largest exporters of manganese. There is considerable potential for expansion of bauxite extraction in conjunction with Ghana's relatively abundant supply of cheap hydro-electricity for aluminum smelting.


Financial services have improved in recent years with the introduction of a stock market, the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) in 1990, and several new financial institutions. Since 1992, privatization and the arrival of 4 new commercial banks have brought increased dynamism to the sector. The government has sold off equity in several wholly or partly state-owned banks. After some difficulty finding an active investor for the Social Security Bank (SSB), a consortium of fund managers led by the UK-based Blakeney Asset Management built up a controlling 51 percent stake in 1997 and hired a technical partner, Allied Irish Bank, to enhance SSB's management and services.

Competition has brought some benefits, with commercial banks introducing new products, including automatic telling machines and credit-card services, and a significant turnaround in check-clearing and cashing. However, the banks still have little appetite for lending to small and medium-sized local businesses, which has caused some concern.

The rest of the financial sector is growing and diversifying, although it remains relatively small. Ghana has 2 discount houses, and since the setting up of the stock exchange, several stock brokers have set up shop. Legislation introduced in 1999 is expected to open way for unit trusts and more varied financial instruments. There are now 17 insurance companies, up from fewer than 9 in 1993, although the industry remains dominated by 2 state firms. There are mortgage companies, building societies, at least 1 venture capital company, and 3 leasing companies.

Although retail facilities remain limited, urban areas are served by a range of outlets, and there are a growing number of foreign-owned stores in Accra with many more new investments expected in the coming years. Rural areas typically have mainly informal markets or modest general stores.

The tourist sector is the fastest growing sector and it has overtaken timber as a foreign exchange earner. Revenue from tourism has increased gradually, with most of the tourists coming from Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Côte d'Ivoire, the United States, and Germany. The Ghana Tourist Board and the Ghana Tourist Development Company supervise the regulation, financing, and development of the tourist industry. Tourism is being revamped through up-grading of hotels and the rehabilitating of tourist attractions. Hotels are located at Accra, Tema, Takoradi, and Kumasi, and there is a hotel at Akosombo overlooking Lake Volta. There were 325,438 tourist arrivals in 1997, including some 83,000 Ghanaians who live abroad, generating receipts of US$266 million, comprising 16 percent of foreign exchange earnings.


Ghana is essentially an exporter of primary products, mainly gold, cocoa, and timber, and an importer of capital goods , foodstuffs, and fuels. Merchandise exports amounted to $1.7 billion in 1999, of which cocoa contributed the largest share. The other main exports were aluminum, gold, timber, diamonds, and manganese. Imports were $2.5 billion in 1999. Export partners included the United Kingdom, Togo, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United States, and France. Import partners were Nigeria (supplying most of Ghana's oil requirement), the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, the United States, Spain, France, Côte d'Ivoire, and the Netherlands.


The unit of currency, the cedi, was valued at ¢7,325:US$1 in mid-2001. Under the Economic Recovery

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Ghana
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.
Exchange rates: Ghana
new cedis per US$1
Jan 20016,895.77
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

Program (ERP) Phase One (1983-86), backed by the IMF and the World Bank, the cedi was allowed to depreciate rapidly from October 1983 to March 1986. Valued at ¢2.75 to the dollar in 1982, it fell to ¢90 to the dollar by 1986. Market forces currently determine the exchange rate and the depreciation has continued, making it easier for Ghana to export its goods. Travellers to Ghana are allowed to bring with them any amount of foreign exchange into the country which can be changed into cedis in commercial banks or the foreign bureau. Previously travellers were required to declare the amount of foreign currency they were carrying, and forced to exchange it at highly unfavorable rates with official foreign exchange dealers, and this served to provide a significant discouragement to tourists.

Inflation has been a persistent problem in Ghana, thanks in part to its depreciating currency. Over the period from 1997 to 1999, however, inflation declined from 20.8 percent to 15.7 percent to 9.5 percent. In 1999 the inflation rate rebounded to 12.8 percent.


It was estimated in 1992 that 31 percent of the population of Ghana was below the poverty line of US$1 a day. People below this line do not have enough income to meet the barest minimums of food, clothing, and shelter. Almost all those in poverty were located in the rural areas, and rely on agricultural production from small family farms or herding family-based livestock for their

GDP per Capita (US$)
United States19,36421,52923,20025,36329,683
Burkina Faso196207224225259
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Ghana
Lowest 10%3.6
Lowest 20%8.4
Second 20%12.2
Third 20%15.8
Fourth 20%21.9
Highest 20%41.7
Highest 10%26.1
Survey year: 1997
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

livelihood. Income in 1992 was very unevenly distributed, with the poorest 10 percent of the population receiving only 3.4 percent of total household income while the richest 10 percent received 27.3 percent.

While Ghana is considered to be among the least developed countries in the world, it is rated as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. It is a low-income economy; using the purchasing power parity conversion (which allows for the low price of many basic commodities in Ghana) GDP per head was US$1,900 in 1999. The rate of per capita income growth during the years between 1985 and 1995 averaged 1.4 percent per year, rising to 1.7 percent per year between 1996 and 1997, and this performance has brought about a significant increase in living standards. The growth in GDP per head experienced by Ghana is vitally important in reducing poverty, with every 1 percent of GDP per head growth reducing those in poverty by 2 percent. Thus the 1.7 percent per year rate of GDP per head growth shifts over 200,000 people out of poverty each year.

The UN Human Development Index, which combines indicators for income, health, and education, placed Ghana at 129 out of 174 countries in 1998, making Ghana one of the few African countries to achieve a medium level of human development. This means that Ghana is placed among those countries with levels of income, health provision, and educational facilities that are midway between the high human development countries of Europe, North America, and Australasia, and the very poorest and most deprived countries, mostly in Africa, where many people do not have enough food to meet minimum nutritional levels, and have no access to health or educational services.


It was estimated in 1999 that the labor force comprised 4 million people, of which 60 percent worked in agriculture, 15 percent in industry, and 25 percent in services. The unemployment rate was estimated at 20 percent in 1997. However, the unemployment rate has little meaning in Africa. Many people work in some form of subsistence farming , which is not counted in employment figures. There are no social security provisions, and those without work or support from families or charities cannot survive. For much of the year in subsistence farming there is relatively little work to do, and this work is shared among family members. During planting and harvesting, there is more work to be done, and everyone is more fully occupied, but even in these periods, there may be more than enough labor to do the tasks, and the work is again shared. Everyone sharing the work appears to have an occupation in agriculture, but because workers are not engaged full-time the whole year, there is some "disguised unemployment."

Trade unions are governed by the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) of 1958, as amended in 1965 and 1972. Organized labor is represented by the Trades and Union Congress (TUC), which was established in 1958. The IRA provides a framework for collective bargaining and protection against anti-union discrimination.

The law prohibits civil servants from joining or organizing a trade union. However, in December 1992, the government enacted legislation allowing each branch of the civil service to establish a negotiating committee to engage in collective bargaining for wages and benefits in the same fashion as trade unions in the private sector . While the right to strike is recognized in law and practice, the government has on occasion taken strong action to end strikes, especially in cases involving vital government interests or public order. The IRA provides mechanisms for conciliation and arbitration before unions can resort to industrial actions or strikes.

The law prohibits forced labor and it has not been reported to be in practice. There is a minimum employment age of 15 and night work and certain types of hazardous labor are prohibited for those under 18. The violation of this law, however, is common, and young children of school-going age can often be found during the day performing menial tasks in the agricultural sector or in the markets.

In 1991 a Tripartite Commission comprising representatives of government, organized labor, and employers established minimum standards for wages and working conditions. The daily minimum wage combines wages with customary benefits such as a transportation allowance. The current daily minimum wage, ¢2,900 about US$0.40however, does not permit a single-wage earner to support a family and frequently results in multiple-wage earners and other family-based commercial activities. By law the maximum working week is 45 hours but collective bargaining has established a 40-hour week for most unionized workers.


1470. Portuguese traders arrive on the coast of what is now Ghana, then known as the Gold Coast, and begin to establish trading settlements.

1553. The British begin trading along the coast, to be joined in due course by German, Danish, and Dutch traders.

1821. The British take control of all the forts along the coast.

1844. Britain signs agreement with local chiefs, which enables Britain to establish the colony of the Gold Coast.

1868. Dutch possessions are transferred to the British, and the British begin conquest of the interior. British occupation is fiercely resisted, particularly by the Fante Confederation (an alliance of coastal kingdoms) and the Ashanti.

1900. The British finally defeat the Ashanti and war ends.

1920. A number of political parties begin to emerge, dedicated to regaining African independence. Representing different regions, these parties are not nationally based.

1947. The United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) is formed, but without representatives from some key areas in the north.

1948. Kwame Nkrumah, general secretary of the UGCC, breaks away to found the Convention People's Party (CPP), which quickly becomes a voice for the nation and for the first time draws the northern people into politics.

1949. Exasperated by the slow progress towards self-government, Nkrumah calls for a national strike. Seeking to contain the situation, the British haul Nkrumah before the courts and sentence him to jail.

1951. The CPP wins elections for Legislative Assembly while Nkrumah is in jail. He is released to become leader of the Executive Council and the Legislature.

1957. On March 6, Ghana becomes the first African country to gain independence from European control, with Nkrumah as prime minister.

1958. The Constitution Act and the Preventative Detention Act are passed, giving Nkrumah wide extra-constitutional powers to suppress opposition. Regional assemblies are dissolved.

1960. Ghana approves a republican constitution with Nkrumah as president.

1961. Ghana becomes a one-party state, with the CPP as the sole political party.

1965. The cedi is introduced as a unit of currency, replacing the Ghana pound. In the first elections, the CPP wins all parliamentary seats with an unchallenged slate.

1966. The Akosombo dam, built over the Volta river at a cost of US$414 million, is completed. Nkrumah is overthrown while on a visit to Peking by a military coup led by Emanuel Kotoka, Akwasi Arifa, and John Harley. The National Liberation Council (NLC) assumes power.

1967. The new cedi is introduced with a devalued rate of exchange. Kotoka is killed in an abortive counter-coup. Ghana joins the West African Economic Community.

1969. The constitution of the second republic is adopted. In national elections, the Progress Party (PP) led by K.A. Busia wins absolute majority; a 3-man presidential commission consisting of Harley, Arifa, and A.K. Okran is appointed to serve as head of state.

1970. The presidential troika is abolished; Edward Akufo-Addo is elected president.

1972. The Busia government is overthrown by military coup under Ignatius Acheampong. The National Redemption Council (NRC) assumes supreme power and nationalizes mining and textile firms.

1974. Agreement is reached with creditor nations, giving Ghana a liberal repayment schedule.

1975. The Supreme Military Council (SMC) is created as the highest legislative and administrative body in the state, with a reconstituted NRC as a subordinate cabinet.

1977. Acheampong promises return to civilian rule by 1979.

1978. Fredrick Akuffo, Acheampong's deputy, assumes power in a bloodless coup. Local assembly elections are held and the National Assembly is established.

1979. A 6-year ban on political parties is lifted. Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings leads a coup of junior officers, and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) takes power. A new constitution is adopted as a prelude to return to civilian rule. In presidential elections Hilla Limann, candidate of the People's National Party (PNP), is elected.

1981. Rawlings seizes power for second time in a bloodless coup, suspends the National Assembly, political parties, and Council of State. He sets up a Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) with himself as chairman.

1983. Nigeria expels over 1.5 million Ghanaian residents. The government devalues the cedi by over 1,400 percent in line with IMF requirements.

1990. A pro-democracy organization, the Movement for Freedom and Justice, demands a national referendum to establish a multi-party system.

1992. A draft constitution is approved in a referendum. Political associations are allowed and 6 opposition movements are granted recognition. In November, presidential elections return Rawlings with 58.3 percent of the vote. The December parliamentary elections return the NDC with 189 out of 200 seats.

1995. Riots in Accra in February over the introduction of value-added tax (VAT) lead to 4 deaths and the withdrawal of the tax.

1996. Rawlings wins re-election and the NDC retains a majority in parliament.

1999. Fall in gold prices upsets Ghana's economic recovery.

2000. John Agyekum Kufour of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is elected as president, and the NPP gains a majority in parliament.


Well endowed with natural resources, Ghana has twice the per capita output of the poorest countries in West Africa. Even so, Ghana remains heavily dependent on aid and foreign investment.

Gold, timber, and cocoa production will continue as the major sources of foreign exchange. The domestic economy continues to revolve around agriculture, which accounts for 40 percent of GDP and employs 60 percent of the workforce, mainly small landholders, most of whom are very poor. It is difficult to envisage anything other than very slow progress in the agricultural sector, where so much of the work is devoted simply to providing for subsistence.

Between 1995 and 1997, Ghana made steady progress under a 3-year structural adjustment program in cooperation with the IMF. On the minus side, public sector wage increases and regional peacekeeping commitments have led to continued inflationary deficit financing, depreciation of the cedi, and rising public discontent with Ghana's austerity measures. A rebound in gold prices will provide a substantial boost to the economy.


Ghana has no territories or colonies.


Commonwealth Secretariat. "Ghana." The Commonwealth Yearbook 2000. Birmingham: Stationery Office, 2000.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Ghana. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

"Ghana." Africa South of the Sahara. London: Europa, 2000.

Ghana Embassy. <>. AccessedSeptember 2001.

Hodd, Michael. "Ghana." The Economies of Africa. Aldershot:Dartmouth, 1991.

Leite, Sérgio Pereira, et al. Ghana: Economic Development in a Democratic Environment. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 2000.

The Republic of Ghana. <>. AccessedSeptember 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Ghana. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Allan C.K. Mukungu




The cedi (¢). One cedi equals 100 pesewas. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 pesewas, and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 cedis. There are notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 cedis. By the end of 2001, US$1 was worth more than ¢7,500. With the decline in the value of the cedi, use of the pesewa has ceased.


Gold, cocoa, timber, tuna, bauxite, aluminum, manganese ore, diamonds.


Capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs.


US$7.932 billion (1999 est.). [ CIA World Factbook lists GDP as US$35.5 billion in 1999, using the purchasing power parity conversion.]


Exports: US$1.7 billion (f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$2.5 billion (f.o.b., 1999).


views updated May 17 2018


Culture Name


Alternative Name

Formally known as the Republic of Ghana


Identification. Ghana, formerly the British colony of the Gold Coast, assumes a special prominence as the first African country to acquire independence from European rule. Ghanaian politicians marked this important transition by replacing the territory's colonial label with the name of a great indigenous civilization of the past. While somewhat mythical, these evocations of noble origins, in combination with a rich cultural heritage and a militant nationalist movement, have provided this ethnically diverse country with unifying symbols and a sense of common identity and destiny. Over forty years of political and economic setbacks since independence have tempered national pride and optimism. Yet, the Ghanaian people have maintained a society free from serious internal conflict and continue to develop their considerable natural, human, and cultural resources.

Location and Geography. Ghana is located on the west coast of Africa, approximately midway between Senegal and Cameroon. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Burkina Faso, Togo, and the Atlantic Ocean. The land surface of 92,100 square miles (238,540 square kilometers) is dominated by the ancient Precambrian shield, which is rich in mineral resources, such as gold and diamonds. The land rises gradually to the north and does not reach an altitude of more than 3,000 feet (915 meters). The Volta River and its basin forms the major drainage feature; it originates in the north along two widely dispersed branches and flows into the sea in the eastern part of the country near the Togolese border. The Volta has been dammed at Akosombo, in the south, as part of a major hydroelectric project, to form the Lake Volta. Several smaller rivers, including the Pra and the Tano, drain the regions to the west. Highland areas occur as river escarpments, the most extensive of which are the Akwapim-Togo ranges in the east, the Kwahu escarpment in the Ashanti region, and the Gambaga escarpment in the north.

Ghana's subequatorial climate is warm and humid, with distinct alternations between rainy summer and dry winters. The duration and amount of rainfall decreases toward the north, resulting in a broad differentiation between two regions southern rain forest and northern savannawhich form distinct environmental, economic, and cultural zones. The southern forest is interrupted by a low-rainfall coastal savanna that extends from Accra eastward into Togo.

Demography. The population in 2000 was approximately 20 million and was growing at a rate of 3 percent per year. Approximately two-thirds of the people live in the rural regions and are involved in agriculture. Settlement is concentrated within the "golden triangle," defined by the major southern cities of Accra (the capital), Kumasi, and Sekondi-Takoradi. Additional concentrations occur in the northernmost districts, especially in the northeast. The population is almost exclusively African, as Ghana has no history of intensive European settlement. There is a small Lebanese community, whose members settled in the country as traders. Immigration from other African countries, notably Burkina Faso, Togo, Liberia, and Nigeria, is significant. Some of the better established immigrant groups include many Ghanaian-born members, who are nevertheless classified as "foreign" according to Ghana's citizenship laws.

Linguistic Affiliation. Ghana's national language is English, a heritage of its former colonial status. It is the main language of government and instruction. Ghanaians speak a distinctive West African version of English as a standard form, involving such usages as chop (eat) and dash (gift). English is invariably a second language. Mother tongues include over sixty indigenous languages. Akan is the most widely spoken and has acquired informal national language status. In addition to the large number of native speakers, many members of other groups learn Akan as a second language and use it fluently for intergroup communication. Ga-Adangme and Ewe are the next major languages. Hausa, a Nigerian language, is spoken as a trade language among peoples from the north. Many Ghanaians are multilingual, speaking one or two indigenous languages beside their native dialects and English. Although Ghana is bounded by francophone nations on all sides, few Ghanaians are proficient in French.

Symbolism. As a relatively new nation, Ghana has not developed an extensive tradition of collective symbols. Its most distinctive emblems originated in the nationalist movement. The most prominent is the black star, which evokes black pride and power and a commitment to pan-African unity, which were central themes for mobilizing resistance against British rule. It is featured on the flag and the national coat of arms, and in the national anthem. It is also the name of Ghana's soccer team and is proudly displayed in Black Star Square, a central meeting point in the capital. Other important symbols derive from Akan traditions that have become incorporated into the national culture. These include the ceremonial sword, the linguist's staff, the chief's stool, and the talking drum. Ghanaian national dress, kente cloth, is another source of common identity and pride. It is handwoven into intricate patterns from brilliantly colored silk. Men drape it around their bodies and women wear it as a two-pieced outfit. The main exportsgold and cocoaalso stand as identifying symbols.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Ghana is a colonial creation, pieced together from numerous indigenous societies arbitrarily consolidated, and sometimes divided, according to European interests. There is no written documentation of the region's past prior to European contact. By the time the Portuguese first established themselves on the coast in the fifteenth century, kingdoms had developed among various Akan-speaking and neighboring groups and were expanding their wealth, size, and power. The Portuguese quickly opened a sea route for the gold trade, and the emergence of the "Gold Coast" quickly attracted competition from Holland, England, France, and other European countries. With the development of American plantation systems, slaves were added to the list of exports and the volume of trade expanded. The Ashanti kingdom emerged as the preeminent Akan political force and established its rule over several neighboring groups and into the northern savanna. Some indigenous states on the margins of Ashanti expansion, such as Akim and Akwapem, retained their independence. Coastal peoples were able to resist conquest through alliances with European powers.

In the nineteenth century, England assumed dominance on the coast and developed a protectorate over the local African communities. England came into conflict with Ashanti over coastal expansion and the continuation of the slave trade. At the end of the nineteenth century, it defeated Ashanti and established the colony of the Gold Coast, including the coastal regions, Ashanti, and the Northern Territories beyond. The boundaries of this consolidation, which included many previously separate and independent kingdoms and tribal communities, were negotiated by the European powers to suit their strategic and economic interests. After 1918, England further complicated this arrangement by annexing the trans-Volta region from German Togoland as a spoil of World War I.

The colony was administered under the system of indirect rule, in which the British controlled affairs at the national level but organized local control through indigenous rulers under the supervision of colonial district commissioners. Western investment, infrastructure, and institutional development were concentrated in the urban complexes that emerged within the coastal ports. Educational and employment opportunities were created for Africans, mostly from coastal communities, but only for the purpose of staffing the lower echelons of the public and commercial sectors. The rural masses were disadvantaged by the colonial regime and the exactions of their chiefs but gained some degree of wealth and local development through the growth of a lucrative export trade in cocoa, especially in the forest zone. The north received little attention.

Resistance to British rule and calls for independence were initiated from the onset of colonial rule. Indigenous rulers formed the initial core of opposition, but were soon co-opted. The educated Westernized coastal elite soon took up the cause, and the independence movement remained under their control until the end of World War II. After the war, nationalists formed the United Gold Coast Convention and tried to broaden their base and take advantage of mass unrest that was fed by demobilization, unemployment, and poor commodity prices. They brought in Kwame Nkrumah, a former student activist, to lead this campaign. Nkrumah soon broke ranks with his associates and formed a more radical movement though the Convention People's Party. He gained mass support from all parts of the colony and initiated strikes and public demonstrations that landed him in jail but finally forced the British to grant independence. The Gold Coast achieved home rule in 1951. On 6 March 1957 it became the self-governing country of Ghana, the first sub-Saharan colony to gain independence. In the succeeding decades, Ghana experienced a lot of political instability, with a series of coups and an alternation between civilian and military regimes.

National Identity. In spite of its disparate origins and arbitrary boundaries, Ghana has developed a modest degree of national coherence. British rule in itself provided a number of unifying influences, such as the use of English as a national language and a core of political, economic, and service institutions. Since independence, Ghanaian leaders have strengthened national integration, especially through the expansion of the educational system and the reduction of regional inequalities. They have also introduced new goals and values through the rhetoric of the independence movement, opposition to "neo-colonialist" forces, and advocacy of pan-Africanism. A second set of common traditions stem from indigenous cultures, especially from the diffusion of Akan institutions and symbols to neighboring groups.

Ethnic Relations. Ghana contains great diversity of ethnic groups. The Akan are the most numerous, consisting of over 40 percent of the population. They are followed by the Ewe, Ga, Adangme, Guan, and Kyerepong in the south. The largest northern groups are the Gonja, Dagomba, and Mamprussi, but the region contains many small decentralized communities, such as the Talensi, Konkomba, and Lowiili. In addition, significant numbers of Mossi from Burkina Faso have immigrated as agricultural and municipal workers. Nigerian Hausa are widely present as traders.

Intergroup relations are usually affable and Ghana has avoided major ethnic hostilities and pressure for regional secession. A small Ewe separatist movement is present and some localized ethnic skirmishes have occurred among small communities in the north, mostly over boundary issues. There is, however, a major cultural divide between north and south. The north is poorer and has received less educational and infrastructural investment. Migrants from the region, and from adjoining areas of Burkina Faso, Togo, and Nigeria typically take on menial employment or are involved in trading roles in the south, where they occupy segregated residential wards called zongos. Various forms of discrimination are apparent.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Although Ghana is primarily a rural country, urbanization has a long tradition within indigenous and modern society. In the south the traditional settlement was a nucleated townsite that served as a king's or a chief's administrative base and housed the agricultural population, political elite, and occupational specialists. In precolonial times, populations in these centers ranged from a few hundred to several thousand in a major royal capital, such as Kumasi, which is now Ghana's second largest city. Traditional political nodes also served economic functions concentrated in open-air marketplaces, which still constitute a central feature of traditional and modern towns. Housing consists of a one-story group of connected rooms arranged in a square around a central courtyard, which serves as the primary focus of domestic activity. The chief's or king's palace is an enlarged version of the basic household. Settlement in the north follows a very different pattern of dispersed farmsteads.

The British administration introduced Western urban infrastructures, mainly in the coastal ports, such as Accra, Takoradi, and Cape Coast, a pattern that postcolonial governments have followed. Thus central districts are dominated by European-style buildings, modified for tropical conditions. Neither regime devoted much attention to urban planning or beautification, and city parks or other public spaces are rare. Accra contains two notable monuments: Black Star Square and the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, symbols of Ghana's commitment to independence and African unity.

Much of the vibrancy of urban life is due to the incorporation of indigenous institutions, especially within the commercial sector. Commerce is dominated by open-air markets, such as the huge Markola market in Accra, where thousands of traders offer local and imported goods for sale. Although the very wealthy have adopted Western housing styles, most urban Ghanaians live in traditional dwellings, in which renters from a variety of backgrounds mingle in central courtyards in much the same way that family members do in traditional households. Accordingly, marketplaces and housing compounds provide the predominant settings for public interaction.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The basic diet consists of a starchy staple eaten with a soup or stew. Forest crops, such as plantain, cassava, cocoyam (taro), and tropical yams, predominate in the south. Corn is significant, especially among the Ga, and rice is also popular. The main dish is fufu, pounded plantain or tubers in combination with cassava. Soup ingredients include common vegetables and some animal protein, usually fish, and invariably, hot peppers. Palm nut and peanut soups are special favorites. The main cooking oil is locally produced red palm oil. The northern staple is millet, which is processed into a paste and eaten with a soup as well. Indigenous diets are eaten at all social levels, even by the Westernized elite. Bread is the only major European introduction and is often eaten at breakfast. Restaurants are not common outside of urban business districts, but most local "chop bars" offer a range of indigenous dishes to workers and bachelors. People frequently snack on goods offered for sale by street hawkers.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Most households raise chickens and dwarf goats, which are reserved for special occasions, such as christenings, weddings, traditional festivals, and Christmas. Among the Akan, the main indigenous celebration is odwira, a harvest rite, in which new yams are presented to the chief and eaten in public and domestic feasts. The Ga celebrate homowo, another harvest festival, which is marked by eating kpekpele, made from mashed corn and palm oil. Popular drinks include palm wine, made from the fermented sap of the oil palm, and home-brewed millet beer. Bottled European-style beer is widely consumed. Imported schnapps and whiskey have important ceremonial uses as libations for royal and family ancestors.

Basic Economy. Ghana's position in the international economy reflects a heavy dependence on primary product exports, especially cocoa, gold, and timber. International trade accounts for one-third of gross domestic product (GDP), and 70 percent of export income is still derived from the three major commodities. The domestic economy is primarily agricultural with a substantial service and trading sector. Industrial production comprises only 10 percent of national output, and consumers are heavily dependent upon imported manufactures as well as petroleum imports.

Land Tenure and Property. Traditional land use patterns were organized around a slash-and-burn system in which crops were grown for two or three years and then fallowed for much longer periods. This system fostered communal land tenure systems, in which a large group, usually the lineage, held the land in trust for its members and allocated usufruct rights on demand. In the south, reserved lands, known as stool lands, were held by the chief for the wider community. The stool also held residual rights in lineage-owned land, for instance a claim on any gold found. In the north, communal rights were invested in a ritual figure, the tendana, who assumed the ultimate responsibility for agriculture rituals and land allocation.

In modern times, land tenure has been widely affected by cocoa farming and other commercial uses, which involve a permanent use of the land and a substantial expansion in demand for new plots. Land sales and long-term leases have developed in some areas, often on stool reserves. Purchased lands are considered private rather than family or communal property and activate a different inheritance pattern, since they can be donated or willed without reference to the standard inheritance rule.

Government regulation of land title has normally deferred to traditional arrangements. Currently, a formally constituted Lands Commission manages government-owned lands and gold and timber reserve leases and theoretically has the right to approve all land transfers. Nevertheless, most transactions are still handled informally according to traditional practice.

Commercial Activities. While strongly export oriented, Ghanaian farmers also produce local foods for home consumption and for a marketing system that has developed around the main urban centers. Rural household activities also include some food processing, including palm oil production. The fishery is quite important. A modern trawler fleet organizes the offshore catch and supplies both the domestic and overseas markets. Small-scale indigenous canoe crews dominate the inshore harvest and supply the local markets. Traditional crafts have also had a long tradition of importance for items such as pottery, handwoven cloth, carved stools, raffia baskets, and gold jewelry. There are also many tailors and cabinetmakers.

Major Industries. Manufactured goods are dominated by foreign imports, but some local industries have developed, including palm oil milling, aluminum smelting, beer and soft drink bottling, and furniture manufacturing. The service sector is dominated by the government on the high end and the small-scale sector, sometimes referred to as the "informal sector," on the low end. Education and health care are the most important public services. Transport is organized by small-scale owner-operators. Construction is handled by the public, private, or small-scale sector depending upon the nature of the project.

Trade. Cocoa is grown by relatively small-scale indigenous farmers in the forest zone and is exclusively a commercial crop. It is locally marketed through private licensed traders and exported through a public marketing board. Gold is produced by international conglomerates with some Ghanaian partnership. Much of the income from this trade is invested outside the country. Timber is also a large-scale formal-sector enterprise, but there is a trend toward developing a furniture export industry among indigenous artisans. Other exports include fish, palm oil, rubber, manganese, aluminum, and fruits and vegetables. Internal trade and marketing is dominated by small-scale operations and provides a major source of employment, especially for women.

Division of Labor. Formal sector jobs, especially within the public service, are strictly allocated on the basis of educational attainment and paper qualifications. Nevertheless, some ethnic divisions are noticeable. Northerners, especially Mossi, and Togolese hold the more menial positions. Hausa are associated with trade. Kwahu are also heavily engaged in trade and also are the main shopkeepers. Ga and Fante form the main fishing communities, even along the lakes and rivers removed from their coastal homelands. Age divisions are of some importance in the rural economy. Extended family heads can expect their junior brothers, sons, and nephews to assume the major burdens of manual labor.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Ghana's stratification system follows both precolonial and modern patterns. Most traditional kingdoms were divided into three hereditary classes: royals, commoners, and slaves. The royals maintained exclusive rights to fill the central offices of king and, for Akan groups, queen mother. Incumbents acquired political and economic privileges, based on state control over foreign trade. Unlike European nobilities, however, special status was given only to office-holders and not their extended families, and no special monopoly over land was present. Moreover, royals regularly married commoners, a consequence of a rule of lineage out-marriage. Freemen held a wide variety of rights, including unhampered control over farm land and control over subordinate political positions. Slavery occurred mainly as domestic bondage, in which a slave could command some rights, including the ability to marry a nonslave and acquire property. Slaves were also used by the state for menial work such as porterage and mining.

Slavery is no longer significant. Traditional royalties are still recognized but have been superseded by Westernized elites. Contemporary stratification is based on education and, to a lesser degree, wealth, both of which have led to significant social mobility since independence. Marked wealth differences have also emerged, but have been moderated by extended family support obligations and the communal rights that most Ghanaians hold in land. Northerners, however, form a noticeable underclass, occupying low status jobs. Bukinabe and Togolese are especially disadvantaged because, as foreigners, they cannot acquire land.

Symbols of Social Stratification. In traditional practice, kings and other hereditary officials marked their status through the use of regalia, such as umbrellas and staves, and the exclusive right to wear expensive clothing, such as kente cloth, and to consume and distribute special imported goods. In modern times, expenditure on Western consumer items has become the dominant status marker. Clothing, both expensive Western and traditional items, is an important symbol of education and wealth. Luxury cars are also significanta Mercedes-Benz is the most dominant marker of high rank. Status must also be demonstrated in public display, especially in lavish funerals that acclaim both the deceased and their descendants.

Political Life

Government. Although Ghana's national government was originally founded on a British parliamentary model, the current constitution follows an American tricameral system. The country is a multiparty democracy organized under an elected president, a legislature, and an independent judiciary. It is divided into ten administrative regions, exclusively staffed from the central government. Regions are further subdivided into local districts, organized under district assemblies. The majority of assembly members are elected, but some seats are allocated to traditional hereditary rulers. Chiefs also assume the major responsibility for traditional affairs, including stool land transfers, and are significant actors in local political rituals. They are also represented in the National House of Chiefs, which formulates general policies on traditional issues.

Leadership and Political Officials. Indigenous leaders assume hereditary positions but still must cultivate family and popular support, since several candidates within a descent line normally compete for leadership positions. Chiefs can also be deposed. On the national level, Ghana has been under military rule for a good part of its history, and army leadership has been determined by both rank and internal politics. Civilian leaders have drawn support from a variety of fronts. The first president, Nkrumah, developed a dramatic charisma and gave voice to many unrepresented groups in colonial society. K. A. Busia, who followed him after a military interregnum, represented the old guard and also appealed to Ashanti nationalism. Hillal Limann, the third president, identified himself as an Nkrumahist, acquiring power mainly through the application of his professional diplomatic skills. Jerry Rawlings, who led Ghana for 19 years, acquired power initially through the military and was able to capitalize on his position to prevail in civil elections in 1992 and 1996. He stepped down in 2000, and his party was defeated by the opposition, led by John Kufuor.

Ghana has seven political parties. Rawlings National Democratic Party is philosophically leftist and advocates strong central government, nationalism and pan-Africanism. However, during the major portion of its rule it followed a cautious economic approach and initiated a World Bank structural adjustment, liberalization, and privatization program. The current ruling party (as of 2001) is the New Patriotic Party. It has assumed the mantle of the Busia regime and intends to pursue a more conservative political and economic agenda than the previous regime.

Secular politicians are dependent upon the electorate and are easily approachable without elaborate ceremony. Administrators in the public service, however, can be quite aloof. Traditional Akan chiefs and kings are formally invested with quasi-religious status. Their subjects must greet them by prostrating themselves and may talk to them only indirectly through the chief's "linguist."

Social Problems and Control. The Ghanaian legal system is a mixture of British law, applicable to criminal cases, and indigenous custom for civil cases. The formal system is organized under an independent judiciary headed by a supreme court. Its independence, however, has sometimes been compromised by political interference, and, during Rawling's military rule, by the establishment of separate public tribunals for special cases involving political figures. These excesses have since been moderated, although the tribunal system remains in place under the control of the Chief Justice. Civil cases that concern customary matters, such as land, inheritance, and marriage, are usually heard by a traditional chief. Both criminal and civil laws are enforced by a national police force.

People are generally wary of the judicial system, which can involve substantial costs and unpredictable outcomes. They usually attempt to handle infractions and resolve disputes informally through personal appeal and mediation. Strong extended family ties tend to exercise a restraint on deviant behavior, and family meetings are often called to settle problems before they become public. Marital disputes are normally resolved by having the couple meet with the wife's uncle or father, who will take on the role of a marriage counselor and reunite the parties.

Partially because of the effective informal controls, the level of violent crime is low. Theft is the most common infraction. Smuggling is also rampant, but is not often prosecuted since smugglers regularly bribe police or customs agents.

Military Activity. Ghana's military, composed of about eight thousand members, includes an army and a subordinate navy and air force. There is also the People's Militia, responsible for controlling civil disturbances, and a presidential guard. Government support for these services is maintained at approximately 1 percent of GDP. The army leadership has demonstrated a consistent history of coups and formed the national government for approximately half of the time that the country has been independent. Ghana has not been involved in any wars since World War II and has not suffered any civil violence except for a few localized ethnic and sectarian skirmishes. It has participated in peacekeeping operations, though the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity, and the West African Community. The most recent interventions have been in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Ghana is a low income country with a per capita GDP of only $400 (U.S.) per year. It has many economic and social problems especially in the areas of employment, housing, health, and sanitation. The major thrust of development policy since 1985 has the World Banksupported Economic Recovery Program, a structural adjustment strategy to liberalize macroeconomic policy. The core initiatives have been expansion and diversification of export production, reduction of government expenditures, especially in the public service, and privatization of state industries. As part of this program, the government instituted a special project to address the attendant social costs of these policies. It involved attempts to increase employment through public works and private-sector expansion, supported by business loans to small-scale entrepreneurs and laid-off public servants. Women were particularly targeted as beneficiaries.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Ghana has an active Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) sector, with over 900 registered organizations that participate in welfare and development projects in health, education, microfinancing, women's status, family planning, child care, and numerous other areas. The longest standing groups have been church-based organizations and the Red Cross. Most are supported by foreign donors. Urban voluntary associations, such as ethnic and occupational unions, also offer important social and economic assistance.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Gender division varies across different ethnic groups. Among the Akan, women assume the basic domestic and childcare roles. Both genders assume responsibility for basic agriculture production, although men undertake the more laborious tasks and women the more repetitive ones. Women will work on their husbands' farms but will also farm on their own. Traditional craft production is divided according to gender. Men are weavers, carvers, and metalworkers. Women make pottery and engage in food processing. Petty trade, which is a pervasive economic activity, is almost exclusively a woman's occupation. Women independently control any money that they receive from their own endeavors, even though their husbands normally provide the capital funding. Wives, however, assume the main work and financial responsibility for feeding their husbands and children and for other child-care expenses.

Akan women also assume important social, political, and ritual roles. Within the lineage and extended family, female elders assume authority, predominantly over other women. The oldest women are considered to be the ablest advisers and the repositories of family histories.

Among the Ga and Adangme, women are similarly responsible for domestic chores. They do not do any farmwork, however, and are heavily engaged in petty trade. Ga women are especially prominent traders as they control a major portion of the domestic fish industry and the general wholesale trade for Accra, a Ga homeland. Northern and Ewe women, on the other hand, have fewer commercial opportunities and assume heavier agricultural responsibilities in addition to their housekeeping chores.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. In traditional society, women had considerable economic and political powers which derived in part from their ability to control their own income and property without male oversight. Among the matrilineal Akan they also regularly assumed high statuses within the lineage and the kingdom, even though their authority was often confined to women's affairs. Colonialism and modernization has changed women's position in complex ways. Women have retained and expanded their trading opportunities and can sometimes acquire great wealth through their businesses. Men have received wider educational opportunities, however, and are better represented in government and formal sector employment. A modest women's movement has developed to address gender differences and advance women's causes.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Tradition dictates that family elders arrange the marriages of their dependents. People are not allow to marry within their lineages, or for the Akan, their wider clan groups. There is a preference, however, for marriage between cross-cousins (children of a brother and sister). The groom's family is expected to pay a bride-price. Polygyny is allowed and attests to the wealth and power of men who can support more than one wife. Chiefs mark their status by marrying dozens of women. Having children is the most important focus of marriage and a husband will normally divorce an infertile wife. Divorce is easily obtained and widespread, as is remarriage. Upon a husband's death, his wife is expected to marry his brother, who also assumes responsibility for any children.

The spread of Western values and a cash economy have modified customary marriage patterns. Christians are expected to have only one wife. Monogamy is further supported by the ability of men to marry earlier than they could in traditional society because of employment and income opportunities in the modern sector. Young men and women have also been granted greater latitude to choose whom they marry. Accordingly, the incidence of both polygyny and cousin marriage is low. There is, however, a preference for marriages within ethnic groups, especially between people from the same town of origin.

Domestic Unit. The basic household group is formed on a complex set of traditional and contemporary forces. Akan custom allows for a variety of forms. The standard seems to have been natalocal, a system in which each spouse remained with his or her family of origin after marriage. Children would remain with their mothers and residential units would consist of generations of brothers, sisters, and sisters' children. Wives, however, would be linked to their husbands economically. Men were supposed to provide support funds and women were supposed to cook for their husbands. Alternative forms were also present including avunculocal residence, in which a man would reside with his mother's brother upon adulthood, and patrilocality, in which children would simply remain with their fathers upon adulthood. In all of these arrangements men would assume the basic role of household head, but women had some power especially if they were elderly and had many younger women under their authority.

The Akan domestic arrangements are based on matrilineal principles. All other Ghanaian ethnic groups are patrilineal and tend toward patrilocal residence. The Ga, however, have developed an interesting pattern of gender separation. Men within a lineage would live in one structure, and their wives and unmarried female relatives would live in a nearby one. In the north, patrilocal forms were complicated by a high incidence of polygynous marriage. A man would assign a separate hut to each of his wives, and, after their sons married, to each of their wives. The man would act has household head but delegate much of the domestic management to his wives, especially senior wives with several daughters-in-law.

Modern forces have influenced changes in domestic forms. Western values, wage employment, and geographical mobility have led to smaller and more flexible households. Nuclear families are now more numerous. Extended family units are still the rule, but they tend to include relatives on an ad hoc basis rather than according to a fixed residence rule. Sibling bonds are strong, and household heads will often include younger brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews from either side of the family within their domestic units. They may also engage resident domestic help, who are often relatives but may come from other families. Important economic bonds continue to unite extended kin who live in separate physical dwellings but still share responsibilities to assist one another and sometimes engage in joint enterprises.

Inheritance. Most Ghanaian inheritance systems share two features: a distinction between family and individual property and a preference for siblings over children as heirs. Among the matrilineal Akan, family property is inherited without subdivision, in the first instance by the oldest surviving brother. When the whole generation of siblings dies out, the estate then goes to the eldest sister's eldest son. Women can also inherit, but there is a preference for men's property to pass on to other men and women's to other women. Private property can be passed on to wives and children of the deceased through an oral or written will. In most cases, it will be divided equally among wives, children, and matrilineal family members. Private property passed on to a child remains private. If it is inherited within the matrilineage, it becomes family property. Among patrilineal groups, sibling inheritance applies as well, but the heir will be expected to support the children of the deceased. If he assumes responsibility for several adult nephews he will invariably share the estate with them.

Kin Groups. Localized, corporate lineage groups are the basic units of settlement, resource ownership, and social control. Among the Akan, towns and villages are comprised of distinct wards in which matrilineal descendants (abusua ) of the same ancestress reside. Members of this group jointly own a block of farmland in which they hold hereditary tenure rights. They usually also own the rights to fill an office in the settlement's wider administration. The royal lineage holds title to the chief's and queen mother's position. Lineages have an internal authority structure under the male lineage elder (abusua panyin ), who decides on joint affairs with the assistance of other male and female elders. The lineage is also a ritual unit, holding observances and sacrifices for its important ancestors. Patrilineal groups in Ghana attach similar economic, political, and ritual importance to the lineage system.


Infant Care. Young children are treated with affection and indulgence. An infant is constantly with its mother, who carries it on her back wrapped in a shawl throughout the day. At night it sleeps with its parents. Breast-feeding occurs on demand and may continue until the age of two. Toilet training and early discipline are relaxed. Babies receive a good deal of stimulation, especially in social contexts. Siblings, aunts, uncles, and other relatives take a keen interest in the child and often assume caretaking responsibilities, sometimes on an extended basis.

Child Rearing and Education. Older children receive considerably less pampering and occupy the bottom of an age hierarchy. Both boys and girls are expected to be respectful and obedient and, more essentially, to take significant responsibilities for domestic chores, including tending their younger siblings. They are also expected to defer to adults in a variety of situations.

Coming of age is marked within many Ghanaian cultures by puberty ceremonies for girls that must be completed before marriage or childbirth. These are celebrated on an individual rather than a group basis. Boys have no corresponding initiation or puberty rites. Most children attend primary school, but secondary school places are in short supply. The secondary system is based mainly on boarding schools in the British tradition and resulting fees are inhibitive. Most adolescents are engaged in helping on the farm or in the family business in preparation for adult responsibilities. Many enter apprenticeships in small business operations in order to learn a trade. The less fortunate take on menial employment, such as portering, domestic service, or roadside hawking.

Higher Education. Only a tiny percentage of the population has the opportunity to enter a university or similar institution. University students occupy a high status and actively campaign, sometimes through strikes, to maintain their privileges. Graduates can normally expect high-paying jobs, especially in the public sector. Attendance at overseas institutions is considered particularly prestigious.


Ghanaians place great emphasis on politeness, hospitality, and formality. Upon meeting, acquaintances must shake hands and ask about each other's health and families. Visitors to a house must greet and shake hands with each family member. They are then seated and greeted in turn by all present. Hosts must normally provide their guests with something to eat and drink, even if the visit does not occur at a mealtime. If a person is returning from or undertaking a long journey, a libation to the ancestors is usually poured. If someone is eating, he or she must invite an unexpected visitor to join him or her. Normally, an invitation to eat cannot be refused.

Friends of the same age and gender hold hands while walking. Great respect is attached to age and social status. A younger person addresses a senior as father or mother and must show appropriate deference. It is rude to offer or take an object or wave with the left hand. It is also rude to stare or point at people in public. Such English words as "fool(ish)," "silly," or "nonsense," are highly offensive and are used only in extreme anger.


Religious Beliefs. Christianity, Islam, and traditional African religions claim a roughly equal number of adherents. Christians and Muslims, however, often follow some forms of indigenous practice, especially in areas that do not directly conflict with orthodox belief. Moreover, some Christian sects incorporate African elements, such as drumming, dancing, and possession.

Traditional supernatural belief differs according to ethnic group. Akan religion acknowledges many spiritual beings, including the supreme being, the earth goddess, the higher gods (abosom ), the ancestors, and a host of spirits and fetishes. The ancestors are perhaps the most significant spiritual force. Each lineage reveres its important deceased members both individually and collectively. They are believed to exist in the afterlife and benefit or punish their descendants, who must pray and sacrifice to them and lead virtuous lives. Ancestral beliefs are also built into political rites, as the ancestors of the royal lineage, especially deceased kings and chiefs, serve as major foci for general public observance.

Religious Practitioners. The abosom are served by priests and priestess (akomfo ), who become possessed by the god's spirit. In this state, they are able to divine the causes of illnesses and misfortunes and to recommend sacrifices and treatments to remedy them. They have also played an important role in Akan history. Okomfo Anokye was a priest who brought down the golden stool, the embodiment of the Ashanti nation, from heaven. Lesser priests and priestesses serve the shrines of fetishes, minor spirits, and focus on cures and magic charms. Family elders also assume religious functions in their capacity as organizers of ancestral rites. Chiefs form the focus of rituals for the royal ancestors and assume sacred importance in their own right as quasi-divine beings.

Other ethnic groups also worship through the intercession of priests and chiefs. Ga observances focus on the wulomei, the priests of the ocean, inlets, and lagoons. Their prayers and sacrifices are essential for successful fishing and they serve as advisers to Ga chiefs. In the modern context, the Nai Wulomo, the chief priest, assumes national importance because of his responsibility for traditional ritual in Accra, Ghana's capital. In the north, the tendana, priests of the earth shrines, have been the key figures of indigenous religion. They are responsible for making sacrifices for offenses against the earth, including murder, for rituals to maintain land productivity, and for allocating unowned land.

Rituals and Holy Places. The most important rituals revolve around the cycle of ancestral and royal observances. The main form is the adae ceremony, in which prayers are made to the ancestors through the medium of carved stools that they owned in their lifetimes. These objects are kept in a family stool house and brought out every six weeks, when libations are poured and animals sacrificed. Royal stools are afforded special attention. The adae sequence culminates in the annual odwira festival, when the first fruits of the harvest are given to the abosom and the royal ancestors in large public ceremonies lasting several days. Royal installations and funerals also assume special ritual importance and are marked by sacrifices, drumming, and dancing.

Death and the Afterlife. Death is one of the most important events in society and is marked by most ethnic groups and religions by elaborate and lengthy funeral observances that involve the whole community. People were traditionally buried beneath the floors of their houses, but this custom is now practiced only by traditional rulers, and most people are interred in cemeteries. After death, the soul joins the ancestors in the afterworld to be revered and fed by descendants within the family. Eventually the soul will be reborn within the same lineage to which it belonged in its past life. People sometimes see a resemblance to a former member in an infant and name it accordingly. They may even apply the relevant kinship term, such as mother or uncle, to the returnee.

Medicine and Health Care

Ghana has a modern medical system funded and administered by the government with some participation by church groups, international agencies, and NGOs. Facilities are scarce and are predominantly located in the cities and large towns. Some dispensaries staffed by nurses or pharmacists have been established in rural areas and have been effective in treating common diseases such as malaria.

Traditional medicine and medical practitioners remain important because of the dearth of public facilities and the tendency for Ghanaians to patronize indigenous and modern systems simultaneously. Customary treatments for disease focus equally on supernatural causes, the psychosociological environment, and medicinal plants. Abosom priests and priestesses deal with illness through prayer, sacrifice, divination, and herbal cures. Keepers of fetish shrines focus more heavily on magical charms and herbs, which are cultivated in a garden adjoining the god's inclosure. More secularly oriented herbalists focus primarily on medicinal plants that they grow, gather from the forest, or purchase in the marketplace. Some members of this profession specialize in a narrow range of conditions, for example, bonesetters, who make casts and medicines for broken limbs.

Some interconnections between the modern and traditional systems have developed. Western trained doctors generally adopt a preference for injections in response to the local belief that medicines for the most serious diseases must be introduced into the blood. They have also been investigating the possible curative efficacy of indigenous herbs, and several projects for developing new drugs from these sources have been initiated.

Secular Celebrations

Aside from the major Christian and Islamic holidays, Ghana celebrates New Year's Day, Independence Day (6 March), Worker's Day (1 May), Republic Day (1 July), and Revolution Day (31 December). New Year's Day follows the usually western pattern of partying. Independence Day is the main national holiday celebrating freedom from colonial rule and is marked by parades and political speeches. The remaining holidays are also highly politicized and provide forums for speeches by the major national leaders. Revolution Day is especially important for the ruling party as it marks the anniversary of Rawlings' coup.

The Arts and the Humanities

Support for the Arts. The arts are primarily self supporting, but there are some avenues of government financing and sponsorship. The publically funded University of Ghana, through the Institute for African Studies, provides a training ground for artists, especially in traditional music and dance, and hosts an annual series of public performances. The government also regularly hosts pan-African arts festivals, such as PANAFEST, and sends Ghanaian artists and performers to similar celebrations in other African countries.

Literature. While there is a small body of written literature in indigenous languages, Ghanaians maintain a rich oral tradition, both through glorification of past chiefs and folktales enjoyed by popular audiences. Kwaku Ananse, the spider, is an especially well-known folk character, and his clever and sometimes self-defeating exploits have been sources of delight across generations. Literature in English is well developed and at least three authors, Ayi Kwei Armah, and Efua Sutherland, and Ama Ata Aiddo, have reached international audiences.

Graphic Arts. Ghana is known for a rich tradition of graphic arts. Wood carving is perhaps the most important. The focus of the craft is on the production of stools that are carved whole from large logs to assume the form of abstract designs or animals. These motifs generally represent proverbial sayings. The stools are not merely mundane items, but become the repositories of the souls of their owners after death and objects of family veneration. Carving is also applied to the production of staves of traditional office, drums, dolls, and game boards. Sculpting in metal is also important and bronze and iron casting techniques are used to produce gold weights and ceremonial swords. Ghanaians do not make or use masks, but there are some funerary effigies in clay. Pottery is otherwise devoted to producing simple domestic items. Textiles are well developed, especially handwoven kente, and stamped adinkra cloths.

Most of the traditional crafts involve artists who work according to standardized motifs to produce practical or ceremonial items. Purely aesthetic art is a modern development and there is only a small community of sculptors and painters who follow Western models of artistic production.

Performance Arts. Most performances occur in the context of traditional religious and political rites, which involve intricate drumming and dancing. While these are organized by trained performers, a strong emphasis on audience participation prevails. Modern developments have encouraged the formation of professional troupes, who perform on public occasions, at international festivals, and in theaters and hotel lounges. The University of Ghana houses the Ghana Dance Ensemble, a national institution with an international reputation. More popular modern forms focus on high life music, a samba-like dance style, which is played in most urban nightclubs.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Ghana's economy is not able to support a robust research and development infrastructure. Scientific developments are modest and focus on the most critical practical concerns. The major research establishment is located in Ghana's three universities and in government departments and public corporations. Research in the physical sciences is heavily focused on agriculture, particularly cocoa. The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi concentrates on civil and industrial engineering and medicine. The Ministry of Health also has an active research agenda, which is complemented by World Health Organization activities. Social sciences focus on economic and development issues. The Institute for Statistical, Social, and Economic Research at the University of Ghana has conducted numerous surveys on rural and urban production and income patterns and on household economies and child welfare. The government statistical service carries out demographic and economic research into such areas as income distribution and poverty. Demographic issues are also investigated through the Population Impact Project at the University of Ghana. Education research and development forms another major concern and is the focus for activities at Ghana's third higher education facility, the University of Cape Coast.


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Web Sites

Aryeetey, Ernest. "A Diagnostic Study of Research and Technology Development in Ghana," 2000.

Brian Schwimmer


views updated May 29 2018


Republic of Ghana

Major City:

Other Cities:
Bolgatanga, Cape Coast, Ho, Kumasi, Obuasi, Sekondi-Takoradi, Tamale, Tema


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2001 for Ghana. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


On March 6, 1957, the former Gold Coast-a British colony-became the Republic of Ghana and the first African state south of the Sahara to win its independence. At the time, Ghana was economically strong and was believed to have a bright future under the leadership of its founding father and first president, Kwame Nkrumah. However, chronic political instability and financial mismanagement during the 1960s and 1970s left the country with a crumbling infrastructure and a largely bankrupt economy.

Over the past 10 years, Ghana has experienced something of a renaissance. Under a vigorous reform program, the economy has grown rapidly, the infrastructure is being repaired, the markets are full, and Accra once again has the appearance of a bustling coastal city.

Ghanaians are warm, hospitable, and polite, and have a strong traditional culture that they enjoy sharing with foreigners. Through shared history and a natural affinity, they are especially open to Americans.

Americans assigned here will enjoy the professional challenge of working in a developing country with a future. Those who make the effort will learn that a tour in Ghana is also a special opportunity to "discover" and experience an African culture and society.



With a population of 3.8 million, Accra is Ghana's capital and largest city, It has developed into the Greater Accra/Tema area and embraces several towns along the coast. Accra is Ghana's major commercial, education and transportation center. Formerly a fishing village, it became the capital of the Gold Coast in 1877 and remained the capital after Ghana's independence in 1957.

Some 3,000 Americans live in Ghana, including U.S. Government employees, business people, retirees, and missionaries and their families.


Most people rely on the local market for their fresh produce, seafood, poultry and eggs, meat, and a few other staples. Familiar American brands are scarce, but with some patience comparable items can be found for substitution. With some exceptions (such as some vegetables), prices are generally higher than U.S. prices. Common vegetables are cabbage, carrot, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, green pepper, lettuce, okra, onion, potato, squash, string beans, and tomatoes. Plantain, yams, potatoes, and several varieties of starchy tubers are on the market year round. Some excellent fruits are available year round or seasonally: avocado, banana, grapefruit, lemon, mango, orange, papaya, pineapple, and watermelon.

Certain seeds are available locally (e.g., cabbage, eggplant, okra, onion, hot pepper, and tomato), and some imported American seeds do well in Accra (e.g., lettuce, field peas, tomatoes, watermelon, lima beans, green peppers, and herbs such as basil, dill, parsley, thyme, and rosemary).

Local beer is good, and popular drinks such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Sprite are available locally.


Lightweight summer clothing is appropriate year round. Bring a good supply for all family members; underwear, clothes, and shoes wear out quickly and good quality clothing is unavailable in Ghana. Cottons and cotton blends are recommended; fabrics that must be drycleaned are not. For the occasional cool evening, a light jacket, sweater, or shawl will suffice. An umbrella is essential during the rainy seasons. A few people find light raincoats useful, but they are not necessary. Swimsuits are a must and sun hats are useful. Local tailors and dressmakers can make everyday clothes reasonably well and at good prices. Western-style fabric selections are fair, but African-style prints are plentiful. Many Americans shop by mail order.

Wearing any military apparel, such as camouflage jackets or trousers, or any clothing or items which may appear military in nature, is strictly prohibited

Men: In the office and at informal events, men wear business suits, "safari suits," or short-sleeved dress shirts. All types of shoes and sandals are worn. Hats are rarely worn except at the beach, on the golf course, and on the baseball field.

A lightweight dinner jacket (for white or black tie) and trousers with cummerbund are the only formal evening clothes required for officers.

Women: In the office and at most social events, women wear dresses, blouses and skirts, or lightweight suits. At informal evening functions, women sometimes wear dresses or skirts, or tunics over slacks, though short dresses are acceptable. All sleeve lengths are acceptable. For other women, one or two dressy gowns will suffice. Most women prefer low, open footwear. Stockings are worn by few American women in Accra and are not considered necessary even at formal functions.

Supplies and Services

Some items are harder to get here and should be brought. These include hobby supplies, sports equipment, beach and camping gear (ice chests and barbecue grills are particularly useful), shower curtains, dehumidifiers, anti-mildew preparations, lightweight blankets for air-conditioned bedrooms, baby supplies (diapers, clothing, food, and medications), toys, school supplies, and special-sized batteries, such as camera batteries.

Local tailoring and dressmaking are reasonably priced, but the quality of workmanship varies. Drycleaning is available at moderate to high prices, but outlets are inconvenient and results may not be satisfactory, except for one hotel, where results are excellent but prices are double those in Washington, D.C. Shoe repair facilities are inadequate. Film and developing and printing facilities are available in Accra. Barber and beauty shop prices are less than those in the U.S. and facilities are adequate. A full range of beauty treatments (i.e., pedicure, manicure, massage, sauna, etc.) is available at reasonable prices.

Some stereos, radios, TVs and computers can be repaired locally. However, spare parts are scarce and expensive. Parts are generally ordered from abroad. Computer supplies are available, but quality varies and prices are high.

The availability of a range of books is increasing. However, costs are high. The book shop at the University of Ghana at Legon (just outside Accra) has an extensive selection of pocketbooks, especially African fiction, at prices equivalent to or lower than those in the U.S. The British Council has a library that anyone can join. Some people join one or more book clubs in the U.S or order through the Internet. Because the mail system is slow, do not join a club that requires you to give prompt notice if you do not want its selection.

Religious Activities

Christians have no difficulty finding places of worship here. Churches in Accra include Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Christian Science, Baptist, Presbyterian, Seventh-Day Adventist, Assembly of God, and Lutheran. No synagogue is available. Mosques are numerous.

Domestic Help

Domestic help is readily available. Many expatriates employ at least one servant. Those with representational responsibilities or children usually employ two or more. Those living in houses may also hire a gardener.

The following types of domestics are available: cook/steward or housemaid (performs all household duties), cooks, stewards, nannies, gardeners, guards and drivers. The salary range is $75-$90 per month for a 5- or 6-day week, less for part-time work. Unfurnished servants' quarters are located in the homes. Employers usually provide at least one or two uniforms per tour, and many pay medical expenses. A bonus of 1 month's salary is normally given at Christmas. A "dash" (tip) is usually paid on special occasions and for extra duty.


The Lincoln Community School is a Department of State-supported school. The Director is American, and all teachers are certified to teach in the U.S. Roughly 20% of the students are American, less than 25% are Ghanaians, and more than half are citizens of other countries. Classes are offered from kindergarten through grade 12, 8:30 am - 2:30 pm.

The curriculum matches U.S. standard public elementary, junior high, and high schools using American textbooks and teaching materials. The school is housed in a 13-year-old facility with classrooms surrounding a central library, which has 8,000 volumes. There is a new open-air multipurpose building with a basketball court and stage. Playground space includes two grassy play areas and a large field. There is no cafeteria facility so lunch boxes or small coolers and water bottles are necessary; however, a lunch is offered each day, prepared through a local restaurant. Each classroom has a refrigerator to keep students' lunches cool. Extracurricular activities include PM Academy, offered through the school each marking period. Students sign up for various activities offered that term. Additionally, basketball, soccer, and taekwondo are available.

The Ghana International School (GIS) offers a British curriculum from the nursery level (3 years) through grade 12 and beyond, for those interested in studying for the British "A"-level exams. GIS offers an extensive extracurricular after-school program for the upper form (high school). Activities include a computer club, aerobics, swimming, a yearbook, a school newspaper, drama club, wilderness club, and art club. Libraries are small. Graduates from GIS have achieved good SAT scores and have been accepted at competitive American universities.


Ghanaians like sports and play most of the above. Commercial recreational facilities around Accra include an 18-hole golf course at Achimota (on the outskirts of town); a 9-hole course at Tema (30-minute drive from Accra); several tennis courts and a polo club. Horses can be boarded at the Accra Polo Club and at Burma Camp.

Many lovely beaches can be found around the city and along the coast, but the undertow can be dangerous. It is not wise to swim alone. Boating and sailing are practical only at Ada, a 90-minute drive east of Accra, at the mouth of the Volta River. Swimming in any freshwater area is unsafe due to the presence of schistosomiasis (bilharzia), a serious parasitic disease.

Bush fowl are hunted a few kilometers from Accra. Bigger game, such as antelope and bush buck, are found in the northern region 500 kilometers away and in neighboring Burkina Faso. Hunting licenses must be purchased each year for the season (December to August). Surf and boat fishing are possible along the coast and Ada. No license is required for fishing.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Places of interest in Accra include Independence Square, which is used for ceremonial events; the National Museum, which houses a collection of Ghanaian and African cultural and historical artifacts; and the Makola Market, where hundreds of merchants carry on traditional commerce. Accra also has a small zoo and several parks, but they are in poor shape.

Several enjoyable day trips can be made in the Accra area. The beaches are popular, as is the 19th-century botanical garden in the Aburi hills, a 40-minute drive from Accra. Just 110 kilometers north-east of Accra is Akosombo Dam on the Volta River. Tours of the dam can be easily arranged. The many colonial forts and castles along the coast are not to be missed. One of the best is Elmina Castle, 2 hours west of Accra, where guided tours are held daily.

Trips farther afield are possible, but require some planning because roads are rough and tourist facilities are limited and usually of poor quality. Pack food, water, and sanitary supplies, and take a good first-aid kit, a spare tire, and even emergency spare parts for your car. You may also want to take sheets and towels.

Kumasi, capital of the Ashanti region, is a 3-1/2-hour drive north-west of Accra. It is the site of the National Cultural Center, where artisans make traditional Ghanaian cloth, woodcarvings, and brass weights. On Saturdays, the Center schedules music and dance performances.

Ho, about 3 hours from Accra in the Volta region, has a large market. Not far from Ho are the Wli Falls.

The adventurous may want to travel farther afield. Tourist facilities are less than satisfactory outside the main cities, but you will see a different way of life and find that Ghanaians are friendly and hospitable. Overland travel is rough and slow. It is possible to go to a few larger towns (Kumasi, Cape Coast, SekondiTakoradi, and Tamale) and rent a car with driver once you arrive.

Lome, the capital of neighboring Togo, is a 2-1/2-hour drive from Accra. It has good hotels and restaurants, and is popular for weekend trips. Côte d'Ivoire's capital city, Abidjan, is an 8-hour drive from Accra. Abidjan has good facilities and shops.

Photography buffs will find a wealth of interesting subject matter here. Ghanaians are generally happy to have their pictures taken, but ask permission first. You are not allowed to take any photographs of government buildings or castles. Be cautious when taking photographs in Accra.


Americans rarely go to local movie theaters. (They are rundown and tend to show kung fu adventures, B-grade Indian love stories, and 1-2-year old American movies.) The Marine House shows movies once or twice a month. Public Affairs and the British and German cultural centers occasionally show films. VHS tapes can also be rented from local video centers. (Bring multisystem [PAL/NTSC], multispeed equipment-see Radio and TV).

Music, drama, and dance performances are scheduled frequently by the Cultural Center, the University of Ghana, several other Ghanaian organizations, and a few foreign missions. Several popular clubs feature traditional music or dance groups as well as Western-style bands.

Restaurants are numerous in and around the Accra area. You will find a variety of Chinese, Lebanese, Italian, French, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, German, Mexican, and Ghanaian restaurants to choose from. Prices range from moderate to expensive. Several hotels and restaurants have casinos.

Food servers in the casual drinking bars or "chop bars" (which serve Ghanaian dishes) don't expect tips, but they appreciate them. Some restaurants add a service charge of 15% to the bill, which most Ghanaians consider an adequate tip. Few published sources of general information exist, so most people rely heavily on word-of-mouth for news on everything from where to shop to where to stay when traveling outside Accra.

Many traditional festivals are held during the year with colorful parades, dancing, and drumming. The festivals sometimes are built around a "durbar" in which the paramount chief sits in state to receive his chiefs, distinguished guests, and the homage of his people. Visitors are welcome on these occasions. Picture taking is welcome, but request permission first.

Social Activities

Accra is an informal city where friendships are formed easily. A good deal of casual entertaining is done within the American community as well as among Ghanaians, and people of other nationalities. Dinner parties are common. Other activities include cocktail parties, luncheons, beach picnics, and dart leagues.

The North American Women's Association of Accra is open to American and Canadian women and women married to Americans and Canadians. The Ghana International Women's Club is open to all nationalities, but membership is limited. Both clubs hold monthly meetings and sponsor social, cultural, and fund raising activities throughout the year.


BOLGATANGA is located in extreme northern Ghana. It is a town where agriculture and livestock raising are the chief occupations. The town is noted for its colorful basketry.

Several forts surrounding the city of CAPE COAST are stark reminders of colonial domination by the English and Dutch. Noted for a castle dating to the 1600s, the city, 75 miles southwest of Accra, is the heart of Ghana's educational system. Excellent secondary schools and a university are in Cape Coast. Several industries are located in Cape Coast. These include the production of soap, textiles, tobacco products, sugar, bricks and tiles, cocoa products, chemicals, and salt.

Located in southeastern Ghana, HO is a major commercial center. It is connected to Ghana's southern ports by the modern Volta Bridge. Cottons, cocoa, and palm oil are produced here. It lies on a main road from the coast leading northeast-ward to Togo.

KUMASI is a commercial center and market city about 115 miles north-west of Accra. The "Garden City of West Africa" is carefully planned, boasting one of the biggest central markets in West Africa. Originally the capital of the Ashanti Kingdom, Kumasi was taken by the British in 1874. It is now a highly developed modern city, with paved streets, parks, gardens, a modern hospital, schools, and colleges. Handicrafts, such as traditional kente cloth, are significant sources of income. The approximately 450,000 people (1995 est.) who live in Kumasi enjoy a museum, zoo, and a regional library.

OBUASI is a major mining center. The Obuasi gold mine is one of the world's richest gold mines in terms of yield per ton of ore. Some cocoa production also takes place on land surrounding the city. The population is estimated at 70,000.

SEKONDI-TAKORADI , 110 miles southwest of Accra, is a seaport formed from the merger of two cities in 1963. It became a main Gold Coast port after the British assumed control in the 1870s. It is well connected to other regions in Ghana by rail, road, and air. The city also has light industrial, agricultural, and fishing enterprises. The population has climbed to approximately 200,000.

In the north-central part of the country, TAMALE serves as the regional capital and educational center. Many training institutes, colleges, and secondary schools implement the government's mass literacy campaigns. Tamale is currently undergoing sanitation and road improvements; industry is being developed. The city is a focus for agricultural trade and has cotton-milling and shea nuts enterprises. The city has a population of about 151,000.

TEMA , located 20 miles east of Accra, represents one of Africa's most ambitious development projects. With the largest man-made harbor on the continent, the city is a bustling port and industrial center. Tema's population of about 250,000 is divided between the planned "New Town" of the 1960s and the Ashiaman shanty-towns containing large slums.


Ghana is situated on West Africa's Gulf of Guinea, and its capital, Accra, is 4 degrees north of the Equator. Ghana covers 238,540 square kilometers and is about the size of Oregon. Half of the country lies less than 152 meters above sea level and the highest point is 883 meters. The 537-kilometer coastline is mostly a low, sandy shore backed by a narrow coastal plain with scrub brush, and intersected by rivers and streams, navigable only by canoe. A tropical rain forest belt, broken by heavily forested hills and many streams and rivers, extends northward from the shore near the border with Côte d'Ivoire. This area, traditionally known as Ashanti, but now divided into several administrative regions, produces most of Ghana's cocoa, minerals, and timber. North of this belt the country varies from 91 to 396 meters above sea level and is covered by low bush, savanna, and grassy plains.

Ghana is bordered on the west by Côte d'Ivoire, on the north by Burkina Faso, and on the east by Togo. A major feature of the country's geography is the Volta Lake, the world's largest man-made lake (8,900 square kilometers), which extends from the Akosombo Dam (completed in 1966) in southeastern Ghana to the town of Yapei, 520 kilometers to the north. The dam generates electricity for all of Ghana as well as some exports to neighboring countries. The lake also serves as an inland waterway and is a potentially valuable resource for irrigation and fish farming.

Ghana's climate is tropical with temperatures between 21°C and 32°C (70°F and 90°F). Rainy seasons extend from April to July (heavy rains) and from September to November (light rains). Annual rainfall exceeds 200 centimeters on the coast, decreasing inland. Accra's annual rainfall averages about 76 centimeters, low for coastal West Africa. The southern part of the country is humid most of the year, but the north can be very dry.

It is coolest from May until October. In December the harmattan, a dry dusty wind from the Sahara, covers the country, and lasts through February. The desert wind reduces humidity, and early mornings and nights are relatively cool. Visibility during the harmattan can be poor, as the air is filled with fine dust.


Ghana's population numbers 18.8 million (est. 1999), with an annual growth rate of over 2.05%. Accra is the largest city with some 3.8 million inhabitants. Other major cities include Kumasi (1.3 million est.), Tema (250,000 est.), Sekondi/Takoradi (200,000 est.), and Tamale (105,000).

The majority of Ghanaians belong to one of four broad ethnic groups: Akan (44%), Mole-Dagbane (16%), Ewe (13%), and Ga-Adangbe (8%). Subgroups exist within each of these, along with many other smaller ethnic groups. A large number of Ghana's inhabitants have roots in neighboring countries or are citizens of those countries. A few communities of foreigners come from outside West Africa, including Lebanese, Syrian, Indian, and Chinese. English is the official language, but about 100 other languages and dialects are common. Most urban Ghanaians speak some English, and many Ghanaians speak Twi (an Akan language), an unofficial second language. Ga is also widely spoken in Accra.

All religious beliefs are accepted in Ghana. Approximately 24% of the population are Christians, and Christian holidays are celebrated nationally. Roughly 38% are traditional animists and 30% are Muslims. People in the south have been influenced by Western education and Christianity, and those in the north by Islam, but members of the three major religious groups are found throughout the country.

Even where Christianity and Islam have the greatest influence, traditional social structures and customs remain important. Ethnic identification and kinship, traced paternally among some peoples and maternally among others, are the basic building blocks of Ghanaian society. However, their impact has been reduced by internal migrations, contact with Western cultures, and urbanization. Since independence, the authority of traditional rulers has declined, but local and regional chiefs continue to play an extremely important role in day-to-day life, especially in rural areas. Traditional annual festivals are popular, and basic rituals-such as naming ceremonies for newborns, customary marriage and divorce rites, and elaborate funerals-are still performed.

The existence of many different ethnic traditions makes generalizing about Ghanaian cultural values and practices difficult. However, most Ghanaians consider their responsibilities to their extended families a guiding principle in their lives. This can create a heavy burden for those who have good, salaried jobs in the cities. Education is universally recognized as the key to economic and social advancement. Even the poorest families do all they can to educate their children and prosperous relatives often "adopt" young relatives, housing them and paying their school fees. Polygamy is rare among the educated elite, but is still practiced in much of the country, even by Christians. Economic pressures and official policies are discouraging it.

Public Institutions

Europeans first came into contact with the area known today as Ghana when Portuguese and Dutch merchants and slave traders landed on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea in the late 15th century. The British took control of the area, then called the Gold Coast, in the early 1800s. When the Gold Coast became the first sub-Saharan African colony to gain its independence in 1957, the name was changed to Ghana, after an ancient African empire (700-1200 B.C.E.) along the Niger River.

Under Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention People's Party (CPP), which had led the country to independence, Ghana began as a parliamentary democracy, but gradually evolved into a single party, socialist state. Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966 in a military coup, and the National Liberation Council ruled by decree until 1969, when a new constitution took effect and K.A. Busia was elected as President of the Second Republic. The Busia government compiled a reasonably good record in the human rights field but failed to solve Ghana's mounting economic problems. The government was overthrown in January 1972 by a military coup led by Army Colonel I.K. Acheampong.

Under Acheampong's National Redemption Council, the economy continued to decline and corruption flourished. Efforts to establish a nonparty "Union Government" created a backlash, which led to a take-over by Lt. General Frederick Akuffo on July 5, 1978. Akuffo moved to restore constitutional rule, naming a constituent assembly and restoring political rights and activity. However, his regime failed to reduce corruption or improve the economy. On June 4, 1979, Flight Lt. Jerry John Rawlings led a group of junior officers and enlisted men, called the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), in a successful coup against the Akuffo government.

The AFRC executed eight senior military officers, including several former heads of state, for corruption and abuse of power. The Council established "People's Courts" and other tribunals, where dozens of former government officials and others were sentenced to long prison terms and their property confiscated. It also permitted the previously scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections to take place in June and July of 1979. The People's National Party (PNP), the new name for Nkrumah's CPP, won both the Presidency and 71 of the 140 seats in parliament. A new constitution took effect in September 1979, and Dr. Hilla Limann became President. The Limann government had little success in solving Ghana's economic problems or in reducing corruption. It came to an early end when Flight Lt. Rawlings led a second coup on December 31, 1981, and established the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC).

At the outset, the PNDC took a radical direction, banning all political activities, confiscating property, placing the country under curfew for 2 years and imprisoning or even executing citizens for political or economic crimes. Gradually, the PNDC took a more pragmatic line, both economically and politically, although some of the radical rhetoric remains. Since 1983, Ghana has been implementing a successful IMF-sponsored Economic Recovery Program (ERP). Annual economic growth has averaged 5-6% since the inception of the plan, with the exception of 1990, when bad rains resulted in a growth of only 3%. In 1989, with the election of nonpartisan District Assemblies, the PNDC began a slow process of returning Ghana to constitutional rule.

In 1992, the voters in a nationwide referendum accepted a new constitution, and elections for President and Parliament late that same year ushered in Ghana's Fourth Republic. Jerry John Rawlings was elected President with nearly two-thirds of the vote, and was reelected in 1996. The major opposition party boycotted the 1992 Parliamentary elections, but took part in 1996; the present Parliament is made up of roughly two-thirds ruling party members and one-third opposition members. Presidential and parliamentary elections were held in December 2000.

Arts, Science, and Education

Ghana has a long tradition of formal education, dating back to the "Castle Schools" of the early 17th century. During the colonial period schools were established by both the British Government and missionary groups. The government at all levels has traditionally provided tuition. However, parents find themselves paying fees for a wide range of services, depending on the level of school. These can include annual fees for services and activities such as the use of textbooks, sports, arts and culture, electricity and water, and board and lodging. A student loan scheme has been introduced at Ghanaian universities and other institutions for tertiary education under which students are able to finance a substantial portion of the cost of tertiary education. Such loans are repaid when the students have graduated and are employed. Meals and some other on-campus services have been commercialized. University-level user fees for accommodations, electricity and water were started in 1997. The degree to which students should contribute to their own university education continues to be a very lively debate. Graduates from Ghana's universities and other institutions of higher education are required to complete a period of National Service ranging from 1 to 2 years.

A reform program was initiated in 1987 to help reduce the educational system's emphasis on academic subjects and university preparation. Under the reform program, the pre-university schooling period has been shortened from a maximum 17 years to 12 years (6 years primary, 3 years junior secondary, and 3 years senior secondary, vocational and technical). The reform program has introduced vocational and technical education at the junior secondary school level and seeks to make basic education more widely available.

In 1996, the government launched a major initiative in Basic Education (grades 1-9) called FCUBE (Free, Compulsory and Universal Basic Education). Donor assistance to this effort has been massive. The medium of instruction is a local language through primary grade 3 and English from primary 4 through university.

Ghana has five state-run universities. The University of Ghana at Legon (near Accra), the University of Cape Coast in the Central Region, and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi are well-established and have broad, comprehensive curricula (though UCC emphasizes training secondary teachers and KNUST emphasizes science and technical education). In addition, two new institutions of higher education were recently established in Ghana. The multi-campus University for Development Studies in the Northern Regions emphasizes agriculture and development of technology, and has a medical school. The University College of Education at Winneba (about midway between Accra and Cape Coast) is exclusively a teacher training institution, and also offers distance learning programs. Many faculty members have earned advanced degrees from abroad, including the U.S. Academic exchanges of lecturers, researchers, and students are increasingly common. All five universities currently operate on a semester system.

In the past few years, several private "universities" have been established. They are mostly affiliated with one or another Christian denomination and their general focuses are business and religious studies.

Salaries in Ghana have been severely eroded through a decade of economic reforms, which limited public expenditures. In addition to poor pay and working conditions for lecturers, other frequently cited challenges facing Ghanaian universities include pressures to provide residential accommodations for increased numbers of students; the need for more books, professional journals, computers, and scientific equipment despite rising costs; and the problems of maintaining the universities' generally attractive but deteriorating buildings, grounds, and equipment.

Commerce and Industry

Independent Ghana's economy, rich in natural and human resources, was among the most advanced and prosperous in West Africa. By 1982-83, two decades of instability and mismanagement had led to virtual economic collapse. A bloated public sector, neglected infrastructures and agriculture, and grossly over-valued currency spurred production declines. The slide, accelerated in the early 1980s by drought, bush fires, and the forced repatriation of about 1 million Ghanaians from Nigeria, left the country with virtually no foreign exchange and severe food shortages.

The Economic Recovery Program, adopted in 1983, drastically devalued the Ghanaian cedi, stabilized prices, improved fiscal and monetary discipline and public sector rationalization, reduced foreign debt arrears, and began the task of rehabilitating Ghana's infrastructure. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, the U.S., and other Western multilateral and bilateral donors have lent strong support. From 1993-1996, Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at an annual rate of 5%.

Inflation in 1999 was at an annual rate of about 13%. The cedi, which in 1983 traded at the rate of 2.75=US $1, by March 2001 had an exchange rate of about 7,195=US$1. Private foreign exchange bureaus operate throughout the country buying and selling cedis at free market rates. Agriculture dominates the economy, accounting for almost 60% of the workforce and 37% of the GDP Cocoa, the main cash crop, generates about 34% of export earnings and substantial tax revenues. Ghana is no longer the world's major cocoa producer, but its output has recovered after sliding to less than one-third of its peak. Other major crops, consumed internally, include cassavas, yams, cocoa, plantains, oil palms, and cereals (maize, millet, and rice). The Ashanti region around Kumasi is a center of cocoa, tobacco, and timber production.

The semiarid savanna of the north (covering nearly half the country) is the main livestock and cereal growing area. The southwest's humid forests produce timber, rubber, and plantains, while the drier southeast produces livestock, poultry, citrus fruits, and vegetables. The government is offering farmers greater incentives to diversify output in order to reduce heavy dependence on imported foodstuffs and provide domestic inputs for the nation's industry. Ghana has rich mineral resources, notably gold, manganese, diamonds, and bauxite. While its gold reserves are among the world's largest, output has been far below former and potential levels. Since the mid-80s, major foreign investments in the mining sector have resulted in large increases in gold production. Ghana's Ashanti Goldfields Company is the only African corporation listed in the New York Stock Exchange.

Ghana currently imports all its crude oil. The Akosombo Dam on the Volta River and the smaller Kpong Dam downstream supply virtually all the country's electricity, though a new thermal plant in Takoradi came on line in early 1998 to supplement the supply. In recent years, the power grid has gradually been extended to the northern two-thirds of the country.

Ghana has the natural resources, industrial capacity, skilled labor, and relatively inexpensive power necessary to be a successful producer of goods for both domestic consumption and export. While the situation has been improving, industry still is hampered by dilapidated plants and machinery, a high dependence on scarce imported replacement parts and raw materials, slowness in developing domestic supply sources, and rundown infrastructure.

Given the importance of agriculture, the economy remains dependent upon the variable rainfall patterns. These patterns are affected by significant environmental deterioration.

One of the largest foreign investments in Ghana (and Africa's largest aluminum smelter) is the Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO), owned by the U.S. companies Kaiser (90%) and Reynolds (10%). It processes imported bauxite into aluminum ingots, primarily for export. A U.S. company is majority owner of Ghana's second national telephone service provider. Other U.S. firms have invested in Ghana's information technology and communications sectors. Other significant U.S. investments involve tuna fishing and processing (Star-Kist), small-scale manufacture of pharmaceuticals and household products (Johnson Wax and Phyto-River), petroleum products distribution (Mobil), public accountancy (Deloitte & Touche and Price Water-houseCoopers), electronics products distribution and service (IBM, NCR, Motorola), and wood treatment (KIC International). Many more U.S. firms have active local agents and distributors.



Many find it advantageous to import a vehicle, although new and used vehicles may be obtained locally. Public transportation is unreliable, overcrowded, and generally inadequate. As in the U.S., driving is on the right side of the road. Importation of right-hand-drive vehicles into Ghana is not permitted. Street conditions are fair but strewn with potholes. Higher ground-clearance vehicles, while preferable, are not necessary. unless you plan to make excursions outside of Accra "off the beaten track." There are no safety, color, or emission restrictions related to imported vehicles. Vehicles over 10 years of age on the date of importation cannot be brought into Ghana.

All gasoline sold in Ghana is now unleaded. The catalytic converter need not be removed, but removal is recommended if traveling to other countries. Air-conditioning is strongly recommended, as are first-aid kits and car seats for small children.

Parts and service for most American-made cars are not readily available. Mitsubishi, Nissan. Toyota (both sedan and 4x4 types). Honda, Peugeot, or the European of South African versions of General Motors or Ford products are popular and the easiest to maintain. Duty-paid vehicles are widely available in all price ranges.

Unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel is available locally. The Government of Ghana sets the price. As of February 2000 it is about $1.25 per U.S. gallon. Fuel prices are expected to rise dramatically over the next few months due to the increase in crude oil prices that has occurred since late 1999.

CB radios are not permitted. Several private FM stations broadcast in Accra with AM stations broadcasting to their parts of the country, although coverage is not complete.

Americans patronize several repair facilities. Though the quality of work is mixed, labor costs are low with used parts common for vehicles widely available and reasonably priced. Dealer installed new parts and labor is high.

Driver expertise in Accra and outside Accra leaves much to be desired. Defensive driving techniques must be employed at all times. Driving outside of Accra after dark must be absolutely avoided. Plan any trip outside of Accra during daylight hours only. In addition to the almost total absence of any roadside lighting, many drivers drive at night without using headlights under the mistaken impression that they are saving electric power. Over-the-road heavy-duty truck drivers often drive at night in a totally sleep-deprived condition. Driving at night outside Accra is an open invitation to disaster. Most Americans killed in Ghana die by virtue of nighttime auto accidents.


Ghana has about 9,000 kilometers of hard surface roads, in varying degrees of upkeep. While the construction of improved laterite roads has been a major priority for several years, some roads are still not passable during the rainy seasons, especially in rural areas. It is possible to drive east to Lome, west to Abidjan, and north to Kumasi and Tamale. Once you leave the major routes, road conditions can become very rough. Many streets in Accra are narrow and bordered by hazardous open culverts without curbs.

Buses and "tro-tros" are always overcrowded, poorly maintained, odoriferous, and driven by incompetent, reckless and inattentive drivers. Taxis are abundant and cheap in Accra and generally available in other major cities. One must, however, negotiate the cost before entering the taxi. Most taxi drivers speak some English but it is wise to know where you are going before getting in the taxi. Addresses mean little in Accra with most taxi drivers operating by landmarks. Drivers tend to be reckless and do not obey traffic laws since the enforcement of traffic laws is almost nonexistent. Taxis can be hired for an entire day or for a long duration trip. Hiring a taxi for a trip out of town, however, is not recommended. Rental cars are available but tend to be expensive. It is not possible to rent a car without a driver.


Ghana Airways and Air Link, a domestic carrier operated by the Ghana Air force, fly between Accra, Kumasi, and Tamale. Ghana Airways and a number of international airlines provide service outside Ghana. At present no American carrier operates in Ghana. At the present time, official travelers are routed between the U.S. and Ghana via Amsterdam on North-west or KLM under a "code share" agreement. However, a recently signed "open skies" agreement will likely result in code shares with other U.S. carriers.


Telephone and Telegraph

The local Post and Ghana Telecommunications Office, Ghana Telecom (GT) and Westel (a U.S. majority-owned firm) provide local telephone service. The average monthly rental for a telephone is about $1.00 and this must be paid regardless of whether the telephone is working. Local calls cost approximately $0.10 for 3 minutes for Accra, $0.15 for 3 minutes to Tema, and $0.20 for 3 minutes for other regions. As of January 1998 there are cellular phone companies that offer mobile phone services (Celltel, Spacefon, and Mobitel).

Calls between the U.S. and Accra can be made easily using AT&T "USA Direct" service. You must obtain an AT&T international credit card before arrival as there is no direct-dialing service from your home phone unless you pay an additional fee of approximately $100. "USA Direct" connections are of excellent quality and you receive an AT&T itemized bill. Several companies offer a "call back" system, making phone calls to the U.S. more affordable.

It is possible to obtain Internet service in your home. There are a few local companies to choose from with prices ranging from approximately $25 to $35 a month. It is advisable to ship voltage regulators and an uninterruptible power source (UPS) along with quality power strips with surge protection.


Express, deliveries, Federal Express, DHL, and UPS are available. Services are reliable and expensive.

Radio and TV

Accra enjoys a variety of FM radio stations. The government-owned GAR and university-run Radio Univers aside, all are privately owned. Broadcasts are dominated by music, and more and more by lively public affairs programming, including popular call-in shows. GAR (95.7) is the first source for those eager for the government's take on current events. Radio GOLD (90.5) is the Voice of America (VOA) affiliate in Accra, and rebroadcasts several VOA news and other programming several times during the day. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Radio France Internationale (RFI) both broadcast their Africa-oriented programming full-time on FM rebroadcast stations in Accra (101.3 and 89.5, respectively).

The government-owned GTV dominates television in Ghana. A typical transmission day begins with some CNN news. From 10:00 am to 3:00 p.m. each weekday GTV broadcasts the U.S. Government's World Net programs, including "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer," which appears at 10:00 am.

Competing with GTV in Accra are two private TV broadcasters, METRO TV, which is primarily entertainment programs, and TV3, which screens news, entertainment, documentaries, and sports programs. Many affluent Ghanaians subscribe to cable television, the most popular of which is Multichoice, which offers a number of channels, including CNN and BBC World as well as cartoon, movie, and sports channels.

Ghana TV uses the European (625) PAL system, which is incompatible with American receivers. In order to pick up Ghana TV and watch videocassettes, you will need a multi-system, dual-voltage TV and VCR (NTSC, PAL-B, and PAL-G). Be sure your TV and recorder is the same type.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

During your first days in Ghana you will discover the Ghanaian media-government-owned and independent, print and electronic. To prepare you for the encounter, may we offer the following brief introduction to Accra's media scene:

You will find four government-owned newspapers on Accra's streets: The Daily Graphic, a Monday through Saturday tabloid. The Ghanaian Times, also published Monday through Saturday. The Mirror, a weekender published on Saturday by the Graphic. The Spectator, a weekender published on Saturday by the Times.

Accra also supports a lively collection of independent newspapers, which appear weekly, biweekly, or tri-weekly. Among them are The Business & Financial Times, a commercial weekly: The Free Press, an anti-government biweekly: The Ghana Palaver, a pro NDC biweekly: The Ghanaian Chronicle, an independent weekly: The Ghanaian Democrat, a pro-NDC weekly: The Guide and The Crusading Guide, both left-of-center biweeklies: The High Street Journal and The Financial Post, both commercial weeklies: The Independent, an independent weekly: and The Statesman, a pro-NPP biweekly.

The newest media sign of the current constitutional era is the flowering of electronic media. As of September 1999, there were a dozen FM radio stations broadcasting in Accra (only one of them government-owned), with another three dozen spread out throughout the country, and roughly a dozen TV stations (some on-air, and some cable) serving the three largest regional markets of Accra, Kumasi, and Takoradi.

Health and Medicine

Community Health

Communicable diseases found in tropical developing countries are endemic to Ghana. Take proper preventive measures to avoid serious diseases such as malaria, TB, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, HIV, endemic fevers, and parasitic diseases. Malaria, including dangerous chloroquine-resistant cerebral malaria, is an ever-present threat throughout Ghana, including Accra. Malaria suppressants must be taken regularly. The recommended regime is weekly Mefloquine, now deemed safe for children under thirty pounds and pregnant women.

Strict cleanliness in food and water preparation is important. All drinking water must be filtered and boiled. All government housing is equipped with water distillers. Vegetables and fruits must be peeled or scrubbed and soaked in an iodine or bleach solution if they are to be eaten raw. All food must be cooked thoroughly. Household help should undergo health examinations before hiring and periodically throughout employment.

Due to the warm, moist climate, skin infections are common. These can be avoided by scrupulous cleansing of even a minor injury. It is unsafe to swim in fresh water streams or lagoons. Schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease transmitted through the skin, is prevalent.

Rabies is prevalent in many animals in Ghana. If you decide to import a pet, make sure it is inoculated against rabies. Veterinary services are available and vaccine is periodically available.

HIV, the virus causing AIDS, is widespread. Transmission, as in the U.S., occurs through sexual contact, contaminated needles, or blood transfusion. Abstinence from new sexual contacts, use of latex condoms, and HIV testing of any blood used for transfusion remain the most reliable means of preventing HIV infection.

Preventive Measures

All travelers should have typhoid, tetanus, meningitis, rabies, hepatitis A and B vaccinations before coming. Yellow fever vaccination is required to enter Ghana. You will not be allowed to enter the country without proof of vaccination.

Bring a good supply of first-aid items, insect repellent, sunscreen, oral thermometer, and basic non-prescription medicines. If you use prescription drugs, bring several months' supply and a written prescription for ordering refills from the U.S. Only a very limited number of American and European drugs are available locally and are extremely costly.

Carry eyeglass and/or contact lens prescriptions with you in case you need to order replacements. Some expatriates have had eyeglasses reliably replaced in Accra.

Poor emergency facilities make seat belts and child/infant seats essential.

Minimal supplies of equipment and medications limit specialty care in Ghana. All of these factors may make diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of a chronic problem difficult or impossible.


Ghana Airways is the only carrier offering direct flights to and from the U.S. U.S. carriers across the north Atlantic connect with 12 flights a week to Accra from London, Amsterdam, Zurich, or Geneva.

A passport and visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination, to enter Ghana. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of Ghana, 3512 International Drive, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 686-4520, or via the Internet at, or the Ghanaian Consulate General at 19 East 47th Street, New York, N.Y. 10017, telephone (212) 832-1300. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Ghanaian embassy or consulate.

A Ghanaian drivers license is mandatory for operating a motor vehicle in Ghana. An international drivers license is recommended for anyone who intends to travel outside of Ghana. You may also obtain an international drivers license through AAA. If you have a valid international drivers license that was obtained outside Ghana, it can be used temporarily while your Ghanaian license is being processed.

Locally procured third-party liability insurance is required by law and covers only damage to a second party's car and its occupants. This coverage is good only in Ghana and payment is limited; the present minimum is 2,000,000 cedis and costs approximately $45 per year at 2000 exchange rates. Higher coverage can be obtained on request. Driving conditions are hazardous due to poorly maintained roads and vehicles.

Visitors entering or departing Ghana with more than 5,000 dollars (US) cash are required to declare the amount upon entry into Ghana. Currency exchange is available at most banks and at licensed foreign exchange bureaus. Currency transactions with private citizens are illegal.

Strict customs regulations govern temporary importation into or export from Ghana of items such as gold, diamonds and precious natural resources. Only agents licensed by the Precious Metals and Mining Commission, telephone (233)(21) 664-635 or 664-579, may handle import-export transactions of these natural resources. Any transaction lacking this Commission's endorsement is illegal and/or fraudulent. Attempts to evade regulations are punishable by imprisonment. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Ghana in Washington, DC or one of Ghana's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

In rare instances, visitors arriving in Ghana with sophisticated electronic equipment (video cameras and laptop computers) may have to deposit 17.5 per cent of the item's value with the Customs and Excise office at the airport. To get the deposit refunded, visitors must apply to the Customs and Excise Office in central Accra 48 hours before departure.

Americans living in or visiting Ghana are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ghana and obtain updated information on travel and security within Ghana. The U.S. Embassy is located on Ring Road East, P.O. Box 194, Accra, telephone (233-21) 775-347 or 48; fax number (233-21) 701-1813. The Embassy maintains a home page on the Internet at


Pets must have a recent certificate of vaccination against rabies and a certificate of good health signed by a veterinarian not more than 10 days before arrival. If the certificate does not have a block that can be checked to clear the pet for international travel, the words "international health certificate" must be typed onto the form itself. Except under the most unusual conditions, your pets should arrive with you on the same flight and be checked baggage. Should the pets be shipped by air-freight, they must be processed through customs and animal control at a remote location of the airport where clearance procedures are much more stringent and very time-consuming. When planning to bring along pets, avoid a stop or transfer in London, as Great Britain has very strict regulations regarding transit passage of animals.

Several veterinarians practice in Accra. Rabies is prevalent in Ghana: however, the local vets can administer the vaccine.

Firearms and Ammunition

Ghanaian law specifies that only single shot firearms, manually cycled repeating firearms (revolvers, bolt or pump action) and semi-automatic firearms can be imported. Fully automatic firearms are strictly prohibited.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The unit of currency used in Ghana is the cedi. Currency notes are available in denominations of 5,000, 2,000, and 1,000. Also available are 200, 100, 50, 20, and 10 cedi coins.

The exchange rate as of March 2001 was 7,195=US$1. Travelers' checks are not widely accepted, but can be cashed at the USDO bank or at a foreign exchange bureau for a reduced rate.

Credit cards are not widely accepted, except at some major hotels and restaurants. Only one bank currently offers cash advances on VISA cards only, both over the-counter and via automated teller machines.

Limits are set on the exportation of Ghanaian currency, but none on the importation of dollars, whether in currency or travelers checks.

Ghana changed to the metric system officially in 1975, but it is not in universal use. Many items continue to be measured in the British customary system.


Jan.1 New Year's Day

Mar. 6 Independence Day

Mar. (2nd Mon) Commonwealth Day*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 1 Labor Day

July 1 Republic Day

Dec. 6 Farmers Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Boxing Day

Dec. 31 Revolution Day


Id al-Fitr*

Id al-Adah*



The standard history of Ghana is W.E.F Ward's A History of the Gold Coast. Those interested in Ashanti history and customs may refer to works by K. A. Busia, R.S. Rattray, and Eva E. R. Mayerowitz. Perhaps the best account of more recent political events is Politics in Ghana, 1946-1960, by Dennis Austin. A book dealing with the same general period is David Apter's Ghana in Transition. Forts and Castles of Ghana, by Albert van Dantzig, is an interesting description of castles built by European colonial powers along the Gold Coast. Peggy Appiah, Efua Sutherland, Ama Ata Aidoo and Ayi Kwei Armah are Ghanaian novelists of repute. The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, by Ayi Kwei Armah, is a novel which gives a vivid picture of present day urban life in Ghana.

General Interest

Addae, Dr. Stephen. The History of Western Medicine in Ghana.

Assimeng, Max. Social Structure of Ghana.

Barker, Peter. Operation Cold Chop.

Bouret, F.M. Ghana, The Road to Independence 1919-1957.

Bretton, Henry. The Rise and Fall of Kwame Nkrumah: A Study of Personal Rule in Africa.

Crowder, Michael. West Africa, An Introduction to Its History.

Fitch, Robert and Mary Oppenheimer. Ghana, End of an Illusion.

Lystad, Robert A. The Ashanti: A Proud People.

Mahoney, Richard D. J.F.K.: Ordeal in Africa.

Markowitz, I. Ghana Without Nkrumah: The Winter of Discontent.

McLeod, David. The Ashanti.

Moxon, James. Volta, Man's Greatest Lake.

Nugent, Paul. Big Man, Small Boys, and Politics in Ghana

Opoku, A.A. Festivals of Ghana.

Page, John D. Ghana: A Historical Interpretation.

Ray, Donald. Ghana's Politics, Economics, and Society.

Thompson, W. Scott. Ghana's Foreign Policy, 1957-1966 (a standard work).


views updated Jun 08 2018


Basic Data

Official Country Name:Republic of Ghana
Region (Map name):Africa
Language(s):English (official), African languages
Literacy rate:64.5%
Area:238,540 sq km
GDP:5,190 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations:11
Number of Television Sets:1,730,000
Television Sets per 1,000:87.0
Number of Radio Stations:21
Number of Radio Receivers:4,400,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000:221.2
Number of Individuals with Computers:60,000
Computers per 1,000:3.0
Number of Individuals with Internet Access:30,000
Internet Access per 1,000:1.5

Background & General Characteristics

Ghana has a vibrant press that plays a key role in political discourse, national identity, and popular culture. Emerging in the nineteenth century, the news media have given voice to popular campaigns for independence, national unity, development, and democracy throughout the twentieth century, establishing a distinguished history of political activism for Ghanaian journalism.

The first newspaper, The Gold Coast Gazette and Commercial Intelligencer, was published from 1822-25 by Sir Charles MacCarthy, governor of the British Gold Coast settlements. As a semi-official organ of the colonial government, the central goal of this Cape Coast newspaper was to provide information to European merchants and civil servants in the colony. Recognizing the growing number of mission-educated Africans in the Gold Coast, the paper also aimed at promoting literacy, encouraging rural development, and quelling the political aspirations of this class of native elites by securing their loyalty and conformity with the colonial system.

The appropriation of print media by local African elites began in mid-century with the publication of The Accra Herald by Charles Bannerman, son of a British lieutenant governor and a princess from the Asante royal family. Handwritten like MacCarthy's former colonial paper, The Accra Herald was circulated to some 300 subscribers, two-thirds of them African. Enduring for 16 years, the success of Bannerman's paper stimulated a proliferation of African-owned newspapers in the late nineteenth century, among them Gold Coast Times, Western Echo, Gold Coast Assize, Gold Coast News, Gold Coast Aborigines, Gold Coast Chronicle, Gold Coast People, Gold Coast Independent, and Gold Coast Express.

Historians of the Gold Coast press tend to explain the indigenous enthusiasm for newspapers in terms of an overall strategy by native elites to gain political power. The early Gold Coast weeklies were critical of the colonial government, denouncing specific officials and opposing policies. While the editorial positions of these papers expressed an adversarial stance, the erudite English and ostentatious vocabulary so common to journalism in this period indicates a more complex and attenuated political desire to establish an exclusive class identity as African elites while striking up a gentlemanly conversation with British officials over conditions in the colony. With occasional exceptions, the British adopted a comparatively tolerant approach to the local press in the Gold Coast, as in other non-settler colonies, colonial territories that had no substantial population of European settlers. Discussing British policy in non-settler colonies, author Gunilla Faringer points out in Press Freedom in Africa that "the colonizers were more concerned with establishing trade bases and making a profit than with exercising political domination."

Frustrated in their attempts at exercising political power within the colonial order, indigenous elites became increasingly opposed to colonial authority in the early twentieth century. The gentlemanly dialogue of nineteenth century newspapers transformed into full-blown anticolonial protest in the newspapers of the 1930s. Newspapers demanded that citizens be given political rights, improved living standards, and self-government. As the political agenda of Gold Coast journalism radicalized, newspapers began reaching out beyond the circle of elites, appealing to rural leaders and the urban poor with a more accessible language and fiery oppositional outcry. In 1948, political activist Kwame Nkrumah started The Accra Evening News, a publication stating the views of the Convention People's Party (CPP). Largely written by party officials, this inflammatory newspaper incessantly repeated the popular demand for "Self-government Now!" while launching angry attacks against the colonial government.

In contrast, the London Daily Mirror Group, headed by British newspaper magnate Cecil King, established The Daily Graphic in 1950. The Graphic sought to maintain a policy of political neutrality, emphasizing objective reporting by local African reporters. With its Western origin, The Graphic sought to position itself as the most professional newspaper in the Gold Coast at the time.

Lead by the anticolonial press and Nkrumah's CPP, Ghana achieved independence in 1957, becoming the first colony in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from the British and win political autonomy. As the leader of independent Ghana, Nkrumah became president in 1960 when a new constitution established the nation as a republic. At independence, four newspapers were circulating in Ghana; within a few years Nkrumah had come to dominate them all. Crafting an African form of socialism, Nkrumah saw media as an instrument of state authority, using newspapers as propaganda tools to build national unity and popular support for the ambitious development projects of the new government. Influenced by Lenin, Nkrumah orchestrated a state information apparatus through a hierarchical network of institutions, including the Ministry of Information, Ghana News Agency, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, and his own press, Guinea Press, Ltd., that published two daily newspapers, one free weekly, and several specialized publications. One of these, Nkrumah's own Evening News, became a "kind of Pravda of the CPP," dominated by party news and adulations of Nkrumah.

Rejecting the commercialism of the private press as politically irresponsible, Nkrumah harassed the remaining private papers and eventually purchased The Daily Graphic in 1963, incorporating the paper into his state apparatus. The Kumasi-based Ashanti Pioneer, founded in 1939 by John and Nancy Tsiboe, remained defiant in the 1950s and early 1960s, animated by regional opposition to Nkrumah. After repeatedly subjecting the paper to censorship, eventually Nkrumah shut down the paper in 1962. The editor of the Pioneer was detained for seven months and the city editor spent four and half years in detention in Fort Ussher Prison for criticism against the government.

In 1966, Nkrumah was overthrown by a military coup lead by the National Liberation Council (NLC). In contrast to state domination under Nkrumah, the NLC took a more libertarian approach to the news media: releasing independent journalists from prison, closing down the more blatant instruments of state propaganda, and lifting forms of censorship and bans on foreign journalists. However, most media were then owned by the state and therefore obliged to change their editorial positions overnight, extolling the virtues of Nkrumah and African socialism one day, then lambasting the violence and corruption of his regime the next. While the president of the NLC publicly encouraged "constructive" criticism and the free flow of information, the main newspapers continued to experience indirect forms of state patronage and influence.

Ghana has been ruled by a series of military regimes and democratic republics since the late 1960s. In the midst of this political oscillation, the media have been subject to alternating policies of libertarian tolerance and revolutionary control. In 1981, Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings seized power from the democratically elected government of Hilla Limann. Following in the footsteps of Nkrumah, Rawlings summoned the media to actively promote revolutionary ideals of the ruling party PNDC (later NDC) while whipping up popular enthusiasm for the participatory projects of the state. The editorial staff of the state media were reshuffled or dismissed and the editorial policies of the state media were strategically shaped to suit the interests of the new regime. Throughout the 1980s, the state media apparatus applied a variety of techniques of official and unofficial censorship, including repressive laws, public intimidation and harassment, bans on oppositional publications, and arrest and detention of dissident journalists. In order to avoid state harassment, many newspapers avoided politics altogether and focused on sports reporting instead.

In 1992, Ghana returned to democratic rule with the ratification of a new constitution. Rawlings was twice elected President, first in 1992 and then again in 1996. In the democratic dispensation, Rawlings lifted the newspaper licensing law, allowing for the reemergence of the private press in the early 1990s. Newspapers such as The Independent, the Ghanaian Chronicle, The Free Press, and The Statesman gave voice to the angry opposition silenced in years of repression, prompting Rawlings to repeatedly denounce the private media as politically irresponsible and selfishly motivated by profit. Throughout the 1990s, the two state dailies, Ghanaian Times andDaily Graphic, continued to represent the interests of the ruling-party NDC government. In the 1996 presidential campaign, the premier state paper, the Daily Graphic, regularly featured a front page story celebrating the popu-list agenda of the state, accompanied by a large color photograph depicting the stately figure of Rawlings wielding a pickaxe or driving a bulldozer to launch a development project. These flattering portrayals were often countered in the private press by accusations of drug abuse and violent authoritarianism, featuring older photographs of a militant young Rawlings dressed in fatigues and mirrored sunglasses.

After nineteen years of Rawlings and the NDC, Ghanaians elected John Agyekum Kufour of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) as their new president in December 2000. While urging the media to be responsible, President Ku-four has advocated free expression, political pluralism, and an independent media as important elements of liberal democracya dramatic shift from Rawlings' furious condemnations of the private press. However, President Kufour's liberal policies were challenged by a national state of emergency in April 2002 involving the assassination of the Dagomba traditional ruler and twenty-eight others in the northern city of Yendi. The Minister of Information, Jake Kufour, who is also the President's brother, has come under criticism in the midst of the crisis for requesting that journalists clear their stories on the Yendi tragedy with the Ministry in the interests of "caution, circumspection, and wisdom."

Currently about 40 newspapers are published in Ghana. The state funds two daily newspapers and two weekly entertainment papers. Daily Graphic and its entertainment weekly, The Mirror, are produced in Accra by the state-funded Graphic Corporation. Ghanaian Times and its affiliate, Weekly Spectator, are produced by the state-funded Times Corporation, also in Accra. Daily Graphic boasts a circulation of 200,000 while Ghanaian Times reports 150,000. Graphic andoperate offices in all 10 regional capitals and both are distributed throughout the 10 regions via train, bus, and courier, though travel delays result in lag times of up to a week in more remote areas. In the 1970s, the government used the air force and Ghana Airways flights to minimize delays in delivery to the regions. Daily Graphic is the most common newspaper encountered outside Accra.

Around 16 independent newspapers provide national political coverage. The four most influential independent newspapers are The Ghanaian Chronicle, The Independent, The Free Press, and Public Agenda. In 1996, Maja-Pierce quoted the circulation figures for Chronicle at 40,000, Independent at 35,000, and Free Press at 70,000; though the editors for these newspapers more recently report higher numbers. With few exceptions, private newspapers are produced in Accra and circulation is concentrated there as well; though the major independents can regularly be found in Cape Coast, Kumasi, and Tamale. The commonality of English, higher literacy rates, and urban wealth all contribute to a reliable audience for independent papers in the capital. From the standpoint of production, journalists writing political stories in Accra regularly produce new stories of national relevance, while stories from the regions are more occasional and generally less sensational. However, a few independent papers regularly include coverage of regional news, following the example of the state press by maintaining offices and correspondents in the regions. The Ghanaian Chronicle has regional offices in Cape Coast, Kumasi, Takoradi, Koforidua, and Ho. The Independent maintains a regional office in Kumasi.

Despite the limitations, a few private newspapers are published outside the capital. These exceptions include Ashanti Pioneer in Kumasi and The New Ghanaian in Ta-male.

To capitalize on circulation, the major private papers tend to come out on different days of the week, i.e., Chronicle on Monday, Statesman on Tuesday, The Independent on Wednesday, etc. In addition to circulation, another reason stems from the production process: since many of the private political papers use the same printer, the major print jobs must be staggered throughout the week. While competing against one another journalists in the private press nonetheless express a sense of solidarity against the state press. Strung together throughout the week, the private newspapers together comprise a daily independent paper, they often say, within political and economic conditions that have prevented the maintenance of such a paper.

With the privatization of the economy and opening up to global markets, growing interest in economic matters has prompted the emergence of a number of weekly and fortnightly papers devoted to business and finance. Five newspapers specialize in this area: The Business Chronicle, Business and Financial Concord, Business and Financial Times, Business Eye, and Financial Guardian.

English is the language of state in Ghana and all newspapers are published in English. This has not always been the case. During the colonial period, missionaries published materials in local languages and a few indigenous entrepreneurs published newspapers in the Akan languages of southern Ghana. After independence, local-language newspapers were produced in literacy campaigns by the Bureau of Ghana Languages, or else by churches for evangelical purposes. These papers have had limited circulation and livelihood. While newspapers have neglected local languages, many FM radio stations have introduced very popular local-language programs in Accra and in the regions. Particularly popular are the callin programs, where disc jockeys and callers alternate between local languages and English in discussions of local, national, and global events.

Economic Framework

By far the most prosperous news organization in Ghana is Graphic Corporation, followed by Times Corporation; both are funded by the state. With a roomful of computers, several company vans, access to world news services, more sophisticated color printing, available newsprint, and a large, well-paid staff, Graphic Corporation is able to produce a newspaper that resembles the Western prototype. Since Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times consistently support the agenda of the state, the professional quality of the state media serves an ideological purpose, symbolizing the stability, reliability, and accumulation of the state.

The major private papers represent distinct ideological perspectives and social groups but all face similar adverse conditions, including high printing costs, lack of equipment, exclusion from state functions, hostile or fearful sources, and difficult access to timely world news. In the early 1990s economic conditions were so harsh that private newspapers could only afford to publish weekly, though many now appear biweekly and Ghanaian Chronicle comes out three or four times a week. Unable to break the daily news, the weekly private papers turned to political commentary and investigative stories in order to compete with the state dailies. In addition to state competition, the systematic exclusion of private journalists from state sources and assignments, combined with lack of access to wire services, has forced private journalists to design an alternative set of journalistic techniques, incorporating anonymous sources and popular rumor, resulting in a unified challenge to the conservative messages in the state media.

A copy of the premiere state paper, Daily Graphic, sells for 1,500 cedis or about 20 cents U.S., while most of the private papers, such as Ghanaian Chronicle andThe Independent, are priced at 1,000 cedis, roughly 13 cents U.S. Although this may seem quite reasonable by American standards, minimum wage in Ghana is 5,500 cedis a day so most urban working people and rural farmers cannot afford to buy newspapers on a regular basis. The purchasing audience for the press is the white-collar working class, a growing stratum of society since the early nineties. However, in recent years the economy has slipped into a precarious condition and often newspapers are considered discretionary expenditures by this class. Most government offices, diplomatic missions, and expatriate businesses subscribe to one or both state dailies.

Nevertheless, newspapers are a ubiquitous feature of everyday life in urban Ghana. At neighborhood markets and most major intersections, crowds gather every morning and afternoon to check out the lead stories of all the current newspapers that hang across the frames of the wooden kiosks. Top stories from the major newspapers are reported and analyzed on the morning shows of many television and radio stations. People who buy newspapers often read the stories to an audience on the bus or taxi, in the office or market. Once read, a paper is never thrown away but passed around for others to read, reaching as many as 10 readers who could relay the news to a network of hundreds. Newspapers are saved and resold for use as packaging for local street foods such as fried yam or roasted maize.

In Ghana, newsprint is purchased through a central government agency, with allocations made according to circulation. Editors of private newspapers have complained that the state media receive a preferential share of available newsprint when supplies are scarce. Since 1993 the price of newsprint has increased over 300 percent, making it extremely difficult for private papers to turn a profit and stay in business. As a result, the state-funded press endures comfortably, a few private papers with established readership struggle to stay in print, while the vast majority of private papers come and go.

The government supplies a substantial amount of advertising to the state press, providing revenue beyond official state provisions. Moreover, in an uncertain political environment, many local businesses are still somewhat wary of public association with the opposition, therefore avoiding the private press and cautiously placing their ads in the state press. Foreign businesses patronize the state press almost exclusively. Advertising in the state press is not merely political, but pragmatic as well, as the state papers are daily and printed on more advanced equipment, giving a more professional appearance. As editor-publisher Kabral Blay-Amihere notes, most private papers "rely on very primitive printing facilities and therefore appear irregularly and are not well-packaged."

Although the competition for readership is intense, the sense of solidarity among journalists is remarkably strong. Ghanaian journalists are not unionized, but the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), founded in 1949, brings all media practitioners in Ghana together for programs, lectures, and workshops designed to promote press freedom and professionalism. On the decline in the 1980s, the GJA was revitalized under the charismatic leadership of Kabral Blay-Amihere in the 1990s. Among many accomplishments, Blay-Amihere organized funding from the European Community in 1993 to house the GJA in a refurbished Ghana International Press Centre located near Kwame Nkrumah Circle. After two terms as president of GJA, Blay-Amihere was elected president of the West African Journalists Association and Mrs. Giftie Afenyi-Dadzie became the next GJA president, exemplifying the vigorous contribution of women to Ghanaian journalism. Among the most popular GJA events are the annual State of the Media conference and the Awards Dinner-Dance. A very prominent professional organization in Ghana, the work of the GJA is supported by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the British Council, Westminster Foundation, United States Information Agency, the German Embassy, UNESCO, M-NET, Ashanti Goldfields Company, UNILEVER, and the Ministry of Information of Ghana. Active both regionally and globally, the GJA is a member of the West African Journalists Association (WAJA), the Union of African Journalists, the Commonwealth Journalists Association, the International Organization of Journalists, and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

In the first few months of his administration, President Kufour donated a building to the GJA to be renovated as a new International Press Centre. In March 2002 GJA President Affenyi-Dadzie launched a fundraising effort to raise the 5 billion cedis ($600,000 U.S.) necessary to complete the project. The government has pledged 10 million cedis. The new venue would become the most advanced press center in the West African sub-region.

Press Laws

Chapter 12 of the 1992 Constitution guarantees the freedom and independence of the media. Article 2 explicitly prohibits censorship, while Article 3 preempts any licensing requirements for mass media. Editors and publishers are shielded from government control, interference, or harassment. When the content of mass media stigmatizes any particular individual or group, the media are obliged to publish any rejoinder from the stigmatized party.

Journalists welcomed the liberal provisions of the constitution, hailing the 1990s as a new era of free expression in Ghana. Many private newspapers that had been prohibited by Rawlings' own 1989 newspaper licensing law suddenly reappeared, full of antigovernment criticism and eager to exercise the new freedoms. Despite the letter of the law, the Rawlings government continued to pressure the state press and intimidate the private press, resorting to more indirect techniques of control. State journalists whose opinions or news stories diverged from the ruling party line were chastised, demoted, or sent away on "punitive transfer" to remote offices in the regions, often to places where they did not speak the local language. As the private press investigated corruption among Rawlings' own cabinet, many state officials retaliated with civil and criminal libel suits against private journalists. Since journalists are prohibited from reporting on a story once it has gone to court, such libel cases had the effect of stalling the investigation while channeling the controversy out of the public eye and into the court system where state officials might expect a more sympathetic audience.

The deployment of the legal system against the press dates back to the colonial period. Many specific laws used to silence and intimidate the press in recent years bear very close resemblance to those crafted by the British to squelch anticolonial criticism among indigenous elites in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Beginning in 1893 the British passed a series of Newspaper Registration Ordinances to keep track of all editors and publishers and prohibit any offensive publications. In the 1930s, the British responded to the rising tide of nationalist agitation by instituting the Criminal Code (Amendment) Ordinance, defining broad categories of sedition, including racial or class antagonism. The British were quick to bring cases of libel or sedition against journalists who criticized colonial officials or policies in print.

Signaling his commitment to free expression and independent media, President Kufour repealed the seditious criminal libel law in 2001. While commending the media for their important role in the democratic process, Kufour has nonetheless emphasized that journalists must write responsibly and "pursue objectives that can spearhead the development of the country." Denouncing the pressures of commercialism, Kufour has warned the press against falsely damaging the reputations of public figures. He has called on Ghana Journalists Association to "check any excesses" in the press. While President Ku-four is widely recognized as a friend of the media, such rhetoric is strikingly reminiscent of so many early warnings of previous Ghanaian leaders who subsequently turned to the legal system to intimidate and silence the press.


In 1979, the government established an independent Press Commission to insulate both state and private media from state control while serving as a buffer between the state and the state media, in particular. With the suspension of the Constitution in the 1981 military coup, the state again asserted control over the state media and harassed the private press to near extinction. In 1992 democratization reintroduced the Press Commission, renamed the National Media Commission (NMC) in the new Constitution. The NMC is charged with promoting freedom and independence of media, ensuring the maintenance of professional standards, protecting the state media from government control, appointing members to the Boards of Directors, or governing bodies of the state media, and regulating the registration of newspapers.

The Commission is comprised of fifteen members, including representatives of the following: the Ghana Bar Association, private press publishers, the Ghana Association of Writers and Ghana Library Association, the Christian Group (including the National Catholic Secretariat, the Christian Council, and the Ghana Pentecostal Council), the Federation of Muslim Councils and Ahmadiyya Mission, journalism and communications training institutions, the Ghana Advertising Association and the Institute of Public Relations, and the Ghana National Association of Teachers. In addition, two representatives are nominated by the Ghana Journalists Association, another two are appointed by the President, and three are nominated by Parliament. Following the elections of December 2000, parliament and the new president made their nominations to the NMC and the new members were subsequently sworn into office in May 2001.

Fulfilling their directive to uphold media standards, the National Media Commission issued a statement in April 2002 taking public exception to "obscene and explicit pornographic pictures" recently published in the Weekend News and Fun Time magazine. The Commission advised newspaper editors and publishers to be guided by public morality, decency, and professional ethics.

State-Press Relations

Since the establishment of the state media, state journalists have enjoyed a privileged relationship to government sources, information, documents, and resources. This privilege is both formal and informal. The government requests the presence of state journalists at daily "invited assignments" to state events and press conferences. At these events, state journalists are provided with official commentary as well as the printed speeches, facilitating the quick newswriting necessary for daily newspapers. The organizations of the state media post permanent correspondents to cover the president at the Castle Osu, the seat of the Ghanaian executive. Many state officials will only talk to state journalists, never private ones. Through daily involvement with government officials, state journalists develop very cordial and cooperative relationships with them. As journalists rely on these state sources for their daily supply of news stories, state journalists are quite concerned to protect these mutually rewarding relationships and hardly ever publish critical or oppositional stories about the government.

Journalists with the private press were systematically excluded from state sources and information throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Following the lead of Rawlings, who vehemently denounced the private press at any public opportunity, state officials in the Rawlings administration were quite hostile to private journalists, denying documents and refusing interviews. Lacking official sources, private journalists were forced to rely on anonymous tips and rumors for information about the state. Frequently, ordinary people were afraid to be quoted in the oppositional private press as well. Private journalists invented alternative forms of journalistic writing and news-gathering to accommodate these restraints, often mixing anonymous and rumored information with reports in the state media to generate alternative accounts of state activities.

Until very recently, private journalists were not welcome at the Castle. Not only were they not invited to cover state events, they would be turned away if they showed up to cover the story. Under President Kufour, things have changed dramatically. Private news organizations have been invited to post permanent representatives to the Castle and Kufour invites both state and private journalists to accompany him on official visits both nationally and internationally.

Attitude Towards Foreign Media

Ghana maintains a liberal approach to foreign media and correspondents. Resident in the capital are representatives of Agence France Presse, Associated Press (AP), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Bridge News, Cable News Network (CNN), Canale France Internationalle (CFI), Panafrican News Agency (PANA), Reuters, Union of Radio and Television Network of Africa (URTNA), and Voice of America (VOA). Most of these are local Ghanaians with distinguished reputations in Ghanaian journalism and strong global connections. In general they carry out their work without government interference or harassment. Outgoing information is not censored.

Incoming information is also free-flowing, though somewhat limited to elite audiences due to cost. Foreign publications such as Time and Newsweek are sold at the larger news kiosks. Foreign newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post can be purchased in major hotels. BBC News is broadcast on GTV and local radio stations. CNN is available to cable subscribers.

New Agencies

Lamenting the distorted images of Africa in the international media, Nkrumah set up the Ghana News Agency in 1957 to provide more balanced representation of local, national, and continental news. Reuters initially provided guidance and technical assistance but the Agency was fully Africanized in 1961. GNA was the first wire service to be established in Africa south of the Sahara and long considered the most efficient news agency in the region. As part of the information apparatus, GNA was central to Nkrumah's effort to monopolize the production and distribution of news at home while monitoring the flow of information and images from Ghana to the outside world.

GNA was originally situated within the Information Services Department but in 1960 became a statutory corporation with a board of directors chosen by the head of state. Since 1992 the National Media Commission selects the members of the board in order to prevent state control of the Agency.

GNA maintains offices throughout the regions and districts of Ghana, channeling news stories to the head office located in the Ministries neighborhood of Accra. The Agency used to have international bureaus in major cities in 10 countries, including Lagos, London, Moscow, Nairobi, and New York; however, funding cuts have forced all but the London office to close. Over 140 organizations and diplomatic missions subscribe to the news service, which provides home news, foreign news, African news, features, and advertising. GNA has news exchange agreements with Reuters, Agence France-Presse, TASS, PANA, Zinhua (Chinese News Agency) and DPA (German News Agency).

Broadcast Media

Radio was introduced into the Gold Coast in 1935 when the colonial governor set up a small wired relay station, ZOY, to transmit BBC programs to some three hundred colonial residents and privileged native elites. Service was subsequently extended to Kumasi, Sekondi, Koforidua, and Cape Coast. British radio not only provided information and entertainment but also a means of countering the anticolonial campaigns of the nationalist press. In 1954, Gold Coast Broadcasting System was established, later becoming Ghana Broadcast Corporation (GBC) after independence in 1957.

GBC provides two domestic radio services, Radio 1 and Radio 2, broadcasting from Accra. Radio 1 is devoted to local-language programs, broadcasting in Akan, Ga, Ewe, Nzema, Dagbani, Hausa, and English. Radio 2 transmits in English. Both stations operate for 15 and one-fifth hours on weekdays and 17 and a half hours on weekends. The wireless Radio 3 has been discontinued due to scarce resources. In 1986, GBC began broadcasting in VHF-FM in the Accra-Tema metropolitan area, assisted by the German government. Expanding FM service, GBC opened new FM stations in the regions and districts of Ghana in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Radio GAR operates in Accra, Garden City Radio in Kumasi, Twin City FM in Sekondi-Takoradi, and Volta Star Radio in Ho. There are around 2.5 million wireless sets in Ghana, in addition to over 64,000 wired loudspeaker boxes.

Though many thought the 1992 Constitution provided for liberalization of the airwaves, the Rawlings government refused to grant licenses or allocate frequencies to private radio stations until the mid-nineties, maintaining a monopoly on radio with the state-owned GBC. In 1994 opposition politician Charles Wereko-Brobby protested this policy with a series of pirate broadcasts, the infamous Radio Eye. Though the government pressed for criminal prosecution of Wereko-Brobby and confiscated his equipment, his provocative action ultimately pressured the government to allow private FM stations. In 1995, the government began allocating licenses and frequencies through the Frequency Registration and Control Board. The first FM license was granted to Radio Univers, the small college station produced at the University of Ghana at Legon. Radio licenses are awarded for seven years, for an initial fee of $5,500. In addition, an annual broadcast fee is collected and distributed to the Copyright Society of Ghana to remunerate artists and musicians. Twelve FM stations currently operate in Ghana, all in Accra or Kumasi. Although most stations focus on musical entertainment, many have news programs and talk shows for discussion of current events in English and Twi. The most popular FM radio stations in Accra are Joy FM, Groove, Vibe, Gold, and Radio Univers.

In 1961 Ghana launched the External Service of Radio Ghana to beam information, propaganda, and messages of support to peoples struggling for freedom and self-determination in all parts of Africa. Programs are broadcast in Arabic, English, French, Hausa, Portuguese, and Swahili. The system now relies on four 100-kilowatt transmitters located in Tema as well as two high-powered transmitters, 250 kilowatts each, in Ejura in the Ashanti Region. Beyond Africa, the service reaches North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia. After Rawlings' coup, the External Service was discontinued due to "technical and financial difficulties" and then reinitiated in 1987.

Television was established in Ghana in 1965 by the Nkrumah government in collaboration with Sanyo of Japan. Sanyo wished to promote television in Ghana to support its own television assembly plant in Tema, just outside Accra. Despite Sanyo's commercial impetus, Nkrumah stressed that television should educate citizens for national development rather than merely entertain or generate profit. Radio and television broadcasting were centralized in a single unit, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, housed in a sprawling compound in Accra. Targeted by coup leaders, GBC has frequently been seized for the public announcement of regime changes in so many "dawn broadcasts." Because of this, the GBC compound is surrounded by high walls and barbed wire and guests are obliged to remain in the small reception building outside the compound.

Currently, GBC-TV, or simply GTV, broadcasts from its central studios in Accra to transmitters at Ajankote near Accra, Kissi in the Central Region, Jamasi in the Ashanti Region, and a relay station in Tamale in the Northern Region. In 1986, another transmitter was added in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region and since then others have been added in Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region, Han in Upper West Region, Amajofe and Akatsi, both in the Volta Region. Transposers or boosters operate at Ho, Akosombo, Prestea, Sunyani, Oda, Tarkwa, Dunk-wa, and Mpraeso. The Ghana television transmission standard is PAL B-5 with five low power relays. Through these transmitters, 95 percent of Ghana has access to GTV broadcasts. On weekdays, television programming begins at 5:55 AM and concludes at 11 PM. In addition, GTV provides a two-hour education program for schools on weekday mornings. On weekends and public holidays, GTV broadcasts from 6:50 AM to 11:50 PM.

After the privatization of the airwaves, the government gave approval to the allocation of frequencies to private television stations as well. Two private channels, TV3 and Metro TV, went on the air in 1997. In the Greater Accra Region, Multichoice Satellite System offers subscribers access to BBC World Service Television, CNN, Supersports, and M-Net, a South African commercial network offering mostly western movies, music videos, and television serials.

Education & TRAINING

Three programs provide journalism training in Ghana. The majority of journalists in Ghana are trained at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) in Accra. GIJ was founded in 1958, offering two-year diploma programs in both Journalism and Public Relations/Advertising. GIJ also provides a number of short-term courses in advertising, public relations, writing skills, and photojournalism. GIJ has a library with 40,000 volumes for student research and a printing press for instructional purposes. While their first year emphasizes lectures and course work, GIJ students spend their second year on "practical attachments" to various media organizations in Accra, learning the application of journalism techniques on the job while making valuable connections for future employment.

Established in the Pan-African context of the Nkrumah period, GIJ still emphasizes that students should be trained to become "truly African in their professional outlook." GIJ has trained journalists from Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Swaziland, Namibia, and South Africa.

The second training institution, the School of Communication Studies, was founded in 1974 at the University of Ghana at Legon. The School offers a postgraduate training and a master's-level degree in journalism and mass communications. The School of Communications Studies publishes the quarterly journal, Media Monitor, dedicated to the discussion of media issues and promoting high professional standards.

In November 2001 the African Institute of Journalism and Communications (AIJC) announced a Distance Learning Scheme, providing diploma and certificate courses online in journalism, public relations, and marketing. Students throughout Ghana can enroll and access the courses via the Internet, according to Kojo Yankah, President of the Institute. For local students, the AIJC maintains an online center in Asylum Down, Accra.

In addition to formal training, journalists participate in frequent seminars on professional, political, and social issues. The German foundation, Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) is especially committed to educating Ghanaian media to contribute to democracy and development. Working closely with the Ghana Journalists Association and other local media organizations, FES has supported conferences, workshops, seminars, and publications on such topics as electoral coverage, private broadcasting, rural reporting, women in media, environmental reporting, professional ethics, and the state of the media in Ghana.


Ghana has a vigorous press with a distinguished political history. Journalism plays a crucial role in contemporary processes of democracy in Ghana, providing a common sphere of dialogue among diverse political and economic interests as well as the voices of popular culture. Journalists have enjoyed more freedom, cooperation, and respect in their dealings with the state with President Kufour in office. While seriously concerned about the economic viability of the private press, Ghana-ian journalists are nonetheless optimistic that the political liberalism of the current administration is laying a foundation for the maintenance of press freedom and professionalism in the future.

Significant Dates

  • 1995: Private newspapers The Independent, Ghanaian Chronicle, and The Free Press break a series of provocative front-page investigative stories alleging corruption among several government ministers. The Rawlings government directs the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to look into the allegations. Government allots licenses and frequencies to the first private FM radio stations in Ghana. Among the first on the air are Radio Univers and Joy FM.
  • 1996: In October, CHRAJ reports the interim findings of its eleven-month investigation into press accusations of corruption. The commission censures three government ministers for financial impropriety and/or negligence and further recommends that two pay refunds to the state. President Rawlings issues a White Paper rejecting much of the substance of these findings and refusing its recommendations for reprimand and repayment. Presidential and parliamentary elections held in December, with President Rawlings re-elected to a second term. Media analysts and political observers note that the state media, though insulated from state control, provides more coverage and advertising to the ruling party NDC throughout the campaign. Opposition candidates receive favorable coverage from private papers such as Free Press and Ghanaian Chronicle.
  • 1997: The first private television stations, TV 3 and Metro TV, begin operations in Accra.
  • 1999: In April, journalists for the state media report the death of the traditional ruler of Asante, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II before the death has been traditionally announced by the elders of Asante, the Asanteman Council. The news is picked up and carried in several newspapers. Outraged at this transgression of "tradition," the Asanteman Council summons all journalists in Kumasi to the Palace, grilling them for the source of the leak and chastising them for publicizing the death without the permission of the Council. Ghana Journalists Association issues an appeal to journalists to "respect time-honored institutions and practices." In June private newspaper editors Harruna Attah of The Statesman and Kweku Baako ofThe Guide found guilty of contempt of court, each fined the equivalent of five thousand US dollars and thrown in prison for thirty days for continuing to publish details on a story involving First Lady Nana Konadu Rawlings after she had launched a libel case against the papers. Journalists with the GJA form "The Friends of Free Expression" and march to the Supreme Court in protest.
  • 2000: Presidential and parliamentary elections held in December. In a run-off election, NPP candidate, John Agyekum Kufour of the New Patriotic Party, defeats former Vice-President John Atta Mills. Observers note more balanced coverage of ruling party and opposition candidates in the state media throughout the campaign. Many private newspapers rejoice at Kufour's victory.
  • 2001: Shortly after taking office, President J.A. Ku-four signals his commitment to free expression and independent media by repealing the seditious criminal libel law. The repeal is ratified in parliament with bipartisan support. Unlike his predecessor, President Kufour welcomes both state and private media to the Castle Osu, inviting the private press to send permanent representatives on assignment to the Castle. During the Rawlings period, Castle correspondents came exclusively from the state press. Demonstrating extraordinary support for independent journalism, Kufour donates a building to the Ghana Journalists Association. Parliament and President Kufour make their nominations to the National Media Commission and new members are sworn into office.
  • 2002: Ghana hosts the Annual General Meeting of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) in Accra.


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Jennifer Hasty


views updated May 17 2018



Yams........................................................................... 12
Jollof Rice .................................................................... 13
Fufu ............................................................................ 14
Kelewele (Fried Plantains)............................................ 15
Groundnut Toffee (Peanut Toffee)............................... 15
Gari Biscuits ................................................................ 17
Oto (Yams & Eggs) ..................................................... 17
Groundnut Stew ......................................................... 18
Kenkey (Ground Cornmeal)......................................... 19
Pepper Soup ............................................................... 19
Akara (Fritters)............................................................. 19


Situated on the southern coast of the West African bulge, Ghana has an area of 238,540 square kilometers (92,100 square miles), extending 672 kilometers (418 miles) from north to south and 536 kilometers (333 miles) from east to west. Comparatively, the area occupied by Ghana is slightly smaller than the state of Oregon. Ghana's capital city, Accra, is located on the Gulf of Guinea coast.

The climate is tropical but relatively mild with two rainy seasons (April through June and from September to November). A serious environmental problem in Ghana is desertification (land that once supported plant life changing into barren desert). This is caused by poor land management practices, such as overgrazing, heavy logging, and slash-and-burn agriculture (where the land is cleared by cutting down all plants and trees and then burning away the remaining brush and stumps).


Ghana's earliest inhabitants existed as long ago as 6000 B.C. Ancient stone tools and other artifacts have been discovered that suggest early hunter-gatherer communities, most of which lived by the ocean. These nomadic tribes (traveling from one place to another) roamed the land in search of berries and wild seeds, and followed herds of animals for meat.

Ancient trade routes existed long before the arrival of the first Europeans in 1471. Trade routes running north to south, and east to west, many of which ran through Ghana, existed throughout the continent of Africa. Modern-day Ghana imported dates, salt (for food preservation), tobacco, and copper from northern territories, while Ghana offered ostrich feathers, cloth, and cola nuts in return.

The Portuguese arrived in modern-day Ghana in 1471, the first Europeans to explore the land. Though they were searching for a sea route to the Far East, the explorers began building forts along the coast and trading with inland tribes for their gold. By 1600, the Dutch and English began exploring Ghana. One hundred years later, the Germans and Danes also built fortsall hoping for ivory and gold. In return, explorers brought rum, cotton, cloth, beads, and weapons to the tribesmen. Eventually the Europeans forcefully captured Ghanaians as slaves.

In addition to ivory and gold, Ghana was exporting palm oil, pepper, and corn by the mid-1800s. By 1902, the British had driven out all other European powers and named their new British colony the Gold Coast (it was later named Ghana in 1957). To continue the economic development of Ghana, the government distributed cocoa beans to local farmers to encourage the growth of a cocoa industry. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Ghana's economy continued to be largely reliant on the exports of gold and cocoa. Bananas, cola nuts (the basic ingredient of many cola drinks), coconuts, rice, palm fruit, and various citrus fruits have also flourished into profitable cash crops.


African yams taste slightly different than Western yams, but Western yams may be used.


  • 4 yams (a sweet potato may be substituted)
  • Salt, pepper, and butter, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Scrub yams. Wrap each in aluminum foil (or banana leaves, available at some specialty food stores), as one would wrap baking potatoes.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes, or until tender when pricked with a fork.
  4. Be very careful unwrapping foil from yams.
  5. Serve with salt, pepper, and butter.

Serves 4 (or more).


Ghanaians enjoy a rather simple, but flavorful cuisine. The majority of meals consist of thick, well-seasoned stews, usually accompanied by such staple foods as rice or boiled yams. Stews come in a variety of flavors, the most popular being okra, fish, bean leaf (or other greens), forowe (a fishy tomato stew), plava sauce (spinach stew with either fish or chicken), and groundnut (peanut), one of the country's national dishes.

Many spices are used to prepare stews and other popular dishes. Cayenne, allspice, curry, ginger, garlic, onions, and chili peppers are the most widely used seasonings. Onions and chili peppers (along with tomatoes, palm nuts, and broth) help to make up the basis for most stews.

Certain foods that make up the Ghanaian diet vary according to which region of the country people live in. In the north, millet (a type of grain), yams, and corn are eaten most frequently, while the south and west enjoy plantains (similar to bananas), cassava, and cocoyams (a root vegetable).

The people of the dry southeastern region eat mostly corn and cassava. Rice is a staple throughout most of the country. Jol lof rice, a spicy dish that includes tomato sauce and meat, is enjoyed by most of the population. Pito, a fermented beverage made from sorghum (a type of grain), is a popular drink in the north, while those living in the south prefer palm wine.

Jollof Rice


  • 1¼ cups white rice
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 can (6-ounce) tomato paste
  • 3 cups chicken broth


  1. In a saucepan sauté rice and onion in oil.
  2. Cover and cook until onion is translucent and soft.
  3. Cut chicken into ½-inch cubes and add to sauté mixture.
  4. Mix in tomato paste and then broth.
  5. Bring mixture to a boil.
  6. Cover pan and reduce heat to low.
  7. Cook until rice is tender, liquid is absorbed, and chicken is cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

A staple throughout West Africa, including Ghana, is fufu (boiled plantain, cassava, or rice that is pounded with a large mortar and pestle into a round ball). Other commonly eaten vegetables include spinach, okra, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, corn, and cocoyams. Some villagers eat bangu, a fermented corn dish, or corn on the cob with pieces of coconut.

Meat is considered a sign of wealth and luxury in Ghana and is seldom eaten. Fish, especially near the coast, is found more often in everyday dishes and stews. Kyemgbuma, crabs with cassava dough, meat, and potatoes, and gari foto (eggs, onions, dried shrimp, and tomatoes) accompanied by gari (coarse manioc flour) are popular seafood dishes.

There are many treats for Ghanaians to enjoy after meals. Surprisingly, not many of them include chocolate as an ingredient, despite Ghana being one of the world's leading producers of cocoa. Kelewele, a dessert or snack, is made of fried plantains seasoned with ginger and ground red pepper or fresh chili peppers. Another dish that may be served for dessert is a pancake made of mashed plantains, deep-fried in palm oil.



  • 6 cups water
  • 2½ cups instant baking mix (such as Bisquick or Jiffy Mix)
  • 2½ cups instant mashed potato flakes


  1. Boil the water in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the instant flour mix and potato flakes to the boiling water and mix well.
  3. Cook, stirring constantly for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. This is best accomplished by two people working together: one to hold the pot while the other stirs vigorously with a strong, wooden spoon.
  5. The mixture will become very thick and difficult to stir, but the mixture must continuously be stirred.
  6. Fill a medium-sized bowl with water to thoroughly wet its surface, then empty the water out.
  7. Gather a large mass of the mixture (about 1 cup) on the spoon and transfer it to the wet bowl.
  8. Shake the bowl vigorously until the dough forms into a smooth ball.
  9. Serve on a large platter with soup or stew.

Makes about 6 servings.

Kelewele (Fried Plantains)


  • 6 large ripe plantains
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 3 cups oil or shortening


  1. Peel the plantain and cut crosswise into ½-inch slices, removing any woody parts from the center.
  2. Mix ginger, salt, and red pepper with water in a mixing bowl.
  3. Drop plantain slices into mixture and turn them to coat.
  4. Heat oil or shortening in a large skillet and fry the mixture-coated slices until golden brown.

Serves 6.

Groundnut Toffee (Peanut Toffee)


  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups roasted peanuts


  1. Measure sugar into a saucepan and heat over medium high heat.
  2. Heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. The sugar will melt and brown lightly.
  4. Add butter and mix well.
  5. Slowly stir in nuts until well-coated.
  6. Dampen a pastry board and pour the toffee mixture onto it. (Be careful because mixture will be hot.)
  7. Roll toffee into balls, using a metal or wooden spoon.
  8. Cool and store in a tight, plastic container.

Makes about 2 dozen toffee balls.


The government does not recognize any religion as Ghana's official national religion. This is because Ghanaians believe in several different religions. Roughly 60 percent are Christians, 15 percent are Muslims (believers in the Islamic religion), and the remainder of the population practices a form of indigenous religion that existed hundreds of years before the introduction of Christianity or Islam. Such beliefs are called animism, the belief that all objects possess a spirit that is capable of causing both harm and good to those who come in contact with it.

The Portuguese introduced Christianity to Ghana in the 1400s, though Christian missionaries in the 1800s were most responsible for spreading the faith. In modern-day Ghana, the majority of Christians live near the coastal regions and enjoy taking part in Christian holidays.

Christmas is a special time of year for all Christians, including the Ghanaians, who observe Christmas for up to eight days. It is a time when relatives and friends visit one another and children receive new clothes and toys. The most popular dish at Christmas dinner is chicken, though goat or sheep may also be prepared for the special occasion. Yams and stew or soup are popular accompaniments served with the main dish. Fresh fruits and sweet treats are often offered for dessert. Muslims celebrate Islamic holidays (such as Ramadan) with as much anticipated joy, though they rarely consume pork or alcohol.

More than 100 festivals take place throughout Ghana each year, many of which are based on animistic beliefs and revolve around times of harvest. They typically pay tribute to their ancestors. These vibrant festivals give the Ghanaians a feeling of spiritual and cultural connection. All festivals, even somber ones, involve dancing, singing, and feasting.

One of the most popular festivals is Odwira, the presentation of the new harvest of yams to their ancestors. The weeklong festival in either September or October (depending on the harvest) follows strict guidelines each year. One rule prohibits the consumption of new yams until the festival has ended. On the fourth day before the start of the festival, a huge feast is held in honor of the living and the dead and feasts are held at the center of many towns.

A Typical Ghanaian Christmas Menu

Chicken, goat, or sheep

Chicken stew

Cooked rice or jollof rice

Boiled soybeans, yams, or eggplant


Gari biscuits

Mangoes, oranges, or pawpaws (papayas)

Independence Day is joyously observed each year on March 6 in remembrance of Ghana's independence from Great Britain in 1957. Fireworks, sporting events, awards shows, and cultural displays are all a part of the festivities. As in most of West Africa, the yam or plantain (similar to the banana) dish called fufu is a favorite dish to eat on this special day. A yam dish called oto is served with hard-boiled eggs for breakfast on festival mornings.

Gari Biscuits


  • 5 cassavas
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon flour


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Peel, clean, and grate the cassavas.
  3. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, beat the eggs and milk together in a mixing bowl.
  4. Add the grated cassavas, sugar, nutmeg, and flour; mix well.
  5. Roll out with a rolling pin and cut into circular shapes.
  6. On a greased cookie sheet, bake for 15 minutes, or until a light, golden color.
  7. Watch them carefully so they do not burn.

Makes about 2 dozen biscuits.

Oto (Yams & Eggs)


  • 2 cups mashed yams, or mashed white potatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons onions, grated
  • ¾ cup palm oil (vegetable oil may be substituted)
  • 1 ripe tomato, peeled and diced (optional)
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Boil the yams or potatoes, then mash smoothly with a fork (or prepare the instant mashed potatoes using directions on package, but using water instead of milk).
  2. Prepare the sauce in a separate saucepan by frying the onions with salt and pepper in palm oil.
  3. Add the tomatoes, if desired, and remove the saucepan from heat.
  4. Mash the solid egg yolks from 2 of the hard-boiled eggs, and stir into the sauce mixture.
  5. Stir sauce into mashed yams and mix well until the color is even.
  6. Empty the oto into a bowl and decorate with remaining whole hard-boiled eggs.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Ghanaians traditionally consume three meals a day and each meal is usually only one course. The typical kitchen contains an open fire, a clay oven, a large pot for cooking large quantities of food (such as stew), and a large iron griddle for frying. Although each ethnic group has its own style of cooking, most Ghanaians typically cook by their own instincts, adding ingredients as necessary and determining preparation and cooking times simply by monitoring their meals.

Breakfast is occasionally more substantial than the light, midday snack that some groups consume. Ampesi (am-PEH-si ) is a popular dish eaten in the morning. It consists of a cassava, cocoyam, yam, and plantain mixture that is boiled with onion and fish, and then pounded and boiled a second time. Kenkey (ken-KAY) may be eaten morning, midday, or in the evening. Ground cornmeal is soaked in water and left to ferment for up to two full days before it is shaped into a ball, boiled, and wrapped in plantain leaves. It is a popular accompaniment to fish or stew. Pumpuka, a porridge made from ground millet, is another breakfast dish.

Dishes served for lunch and dinner are typically very similar. Fufu (cassava, plantain, or cocoyam dough), palm fruit, fish, beans, eggplant, and groundnuts are often eaten alone or combined and eaten over rice, or as ingredients in a stew. Pepper soup is hot and spicy, but loved by most Ghanaians. To offset the spicy pepper, drinks native to Ghana such as Refresh, a soft drink made with fresh fruit juice, are extremely popular, especially among children who enjoy its sweet taste. Fried bean cakes called kose (or akara ), boiled plantains, and koko, porridge made from corn or millet mixed with milk and sugar, are all popular meals for school children.

Sundays are often the day for wealthier Ghanaians to eat out, especially those living in the coastal regions. Cheaper café-like establishments called "chop houses" sell local food and are popular among locals and tourists alike. However, street stalls sell local dishes for the least amount of money. Most chop houses and street stalls are run by women. Stalls often sell fresh fruit, kelewele (fried plantains), and porridge.

Groundnut Stew


  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 can tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • 1 can black beans (14 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 teaspoons red pepper (to taste)
  • ¾ cup chunky peanut butter


  1. Measure oil into a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onions and carrots and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon, until vegetables are softened.
  3. Add green pepper and continue cooking a about 5 more minutes.
  4. Stir in canned tomatoes with liquid (do not drain them), canned black beans, salt, and red pepper. Lower heat, cover, and simmer about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in peanut butter and continue simmering, covered for 10 more minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 6.

Kenkey (Ground Cornmeal)


  • 6 to 8 cups cornmeal
  • Banana leaves or cornhusks, available at African, Asian, or Latino groceries (or aluminum foil may be substituted)
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 cup water (for boiling)


  1. In a large container, combine the cornmeal with just enough warm water to dampen all of it; mix well.
  2. Cover the container with a clean cloth and set it in a warm place for 6 hours (normal fermentation takes 2 to 3 days).
  3. After the time has passed, add vinegar to cornmeal and mix well.
  4. Knead the dough with your hands until it is thoroughly mixed and slightly stiffened. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts.
  5. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Slowly add half of the dough and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly and vigorously. Remove from heat.
  6. This half of the dough is called the aflata.
  7. Combine the aflata with the remaining uncooked dough half; mix well.
  8. Divide the entire dough mixture into serving-sized pieces and tightly wrap the pieces in the leaves, husks, or foil.
  9. Place the wrapped dough on a wire rack above water in a large pot.
  10. Bring to a boil and steam for 1 to 3 hours, depending on their size and thickness.
  11. Serve at room temperature.

Pepper Soup


  • 2 Tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 1 pound stew beef (chicken may be substituted)
  • 2 chili peppers, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large pot.
  2. Fry onions in a small amount of oil in a skillet for a few minutes.
  3. Add beef or chicken to pot and cover with water.
  4. Bring to a boil and allow to cook until meat begins to become tender.
  5. Reduce heat and add remaining ingredients and seasonings. Stir well.
  6. Simmer for ½ hour.

Makes 4 servings.

Akara (Fritters)


  • 2 to 3 cups dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 chili pepper or sweet green or red pepper, finely chopped, or to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Vegetable oil, for frying


  1. Rinse peas under running water and soak them in a bowl of water for a few hours or overnight.
  2. After they are soaked, rub them together between your hands to remove their skins.
  3. Rinse again to wash skins away. Drain them in a sieve.
  4. Crush, grind, or mash the peas into a thick paste.
  5. Add enough water to form a smooth, thick batter that will cling to a spoon.
  6. Add remaining ingredients (not including oil) and mix well.
  7. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  8. Make fritters by scooping up a spoonful of batter and using another spoon to quickly push the batter into the hot oil.
  9. Fry the fritters until they are golden brown. Turn them frequently to brown evenly.

Makes about 2 dozen fritters.


About 11 percent of the population of Ghana is classified as undernourished by the World Bank. This means they do not receive adequate nutrition in their diet. Of children under the age of five, about 27 percent are underweight, and more than one-quarter are stunted (short for their age). Goiter (a swelling of the thyroid gland) was present in one-third of all school children between 1990 and 1995. This is usually a sign of an iodine deficiency. However, Ghanaians consume a fairly large amount of yams, which contain Vitamin B1 (thiamin) and Vitamin C. Vitamin B1 helps the body use energy foods and Vitamin C helps to keep the body tissues strong and helps the body to use iron. Yams also provide some fiber, which helps keep the digestive system working properly.

Northern Ghana suffers harsher, more extreme weather conditions than the south, causing less food to be available during times of disaster. Floods during the wet season and droughts during the dry season can lead to serious health risks, including under-nourishment. Southern Ghana experiences more stable conditions and is located closer to seaports. Food in the south can also be more efficiently stored, and most people can afford to buy food from markets when weather conditions destroy their crops.



Levy, Patricia. Ghana: Cultures of the World. Tarrytown, N.Y.: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1999.

Webster, Cassandra Hughes. Mother Africa's Table: A Chronicle of Celebration through West African & African American Recipes and Cultural Traditions. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

Web Sites

African Food Recipes: The Congo Cookbook. [Online] Available (accessed April 18, 2001).

Christmas in Ghana. [Online] Available (accessed April 17, 2001).

Detroit Free Press ("FreeP"). [Online] Available (accessed April 18, 2001).

Ghanaian Food. [Online] Available (accessed April 17, 2001).


views updated Jun 08 2018


With a population of over eighteen million people, Ghana is the second largest country in West Africa. Since the 1960s, Ghana's population has been growing at an annual rate of about 2 to 3 percent (GSS 2000). This increase is a reflection of high birth rates at a time of declining mortality. One consequence of previous decades of high fertility of Ghanaians is that the country's population is quite young, with about 43 percent under fifteen years old (PRB 2000). These patterns of high birth rates, a youthful age structure, and declining mortality (the result of improvements in curative and preventive medicine, advances in sanitation, hygiene, and improved nutrition) indicate momentum for further population growth.

Culturally speaking, the people of modern Ghana comprise more than fifty different ethnic and linguistic groups. The largest of these groups are the Akans, who represent about 50 percent or more of the population and speak a variety of Twirelated dialects. Other major ethnic groups are the Ga-Adangbe, Ewe, and the Mossi-Dagbani. Alhough a variety of local languages are spoken throughout the country, English is the language used for official communication.

Ghana's contact with the outside world began in the late fifteenth century when the Portuguese arrived on the shores of the country. Over the years, the British ultimately became the dominant power in the area now called Ghana (Gold Coast). British colonial rule lasted more than a century until Ghana became politically independent in 1957, making it the first Black African nation to forgo centuries of British domination. At independence, Ghana was consolidated with the former British trust territory of Togoland, which before then was a German protectorate.

The social and political history of Ghana since its independence has been characterized by turmoil. First, the country's economy deteriorated over the years. Second, beginning in 1966 the country came under a succession of military regimes (briefly interrupted by two civilian administrations). As part of a new democratization process, the country reverted to civilian rule in the early 1990s. In January 2001, a newly elected civilian government was sworn in, making Ghana one of the few African nations with a Western-style democratic government. Although reliable data about the religious composition of the country are not readily available, it has been estimated that more than fifty percent of the people identify themselves as Christians (La Verle 1994) with the rest being either Muslims or believers of African traditional religions.

Family Structure, Family Formation, and Family Life

At the center of Ghanaian society is the institution of family. Sustained through a series of kinship networks and marriages, the family is acknowledged as the bedrock of all social life. The family is not only the basis of Ghanaian social organizations, but is also the main source of social security in old age (emotionally and financially) and the primary or sole caretaker for the young. The family is the basic unit of production and distribution and serves as the main agent for social control. More important, marriage continues to be the main locus of reproduction in a region where marriage is virtually universal (van de Walle and Meekers 1994).

Although the family may be the cornerstone of Ghanaian social life, very little consensus exists on its boundaries. The traditional Ghanaian family is more than the nuclear (conjugal) unit. In everyday usage, the term family is used to refer to both the nuclear unit and the extended family. In Ghana, the latter is often based on kinship or lineage ties. On the basis of lineage ties, two main family systems can be identified in Ghana: the matrilineal family and the patrilineal family. Among the matrilineal Akans, a man's immediate family would include his mother, his own brothers and sisters, and the children of his sisters (maternal nephews and nieces), and his mother's brothers and sisters (maternal uncles and aunts). For a woman, this includes her own children and grandchildren plus all those mentioned above. Apart from the wife's contribution to the household, members of this maternal family traditionally inherited the property of a deceased husband. In contrast to the patrilineal system, under the matrilineal kinship system, children belong to the mother and her family. Thus, kinship ties are more than a system of classification; they involve rights, obligations, and relationships.

As Matthew Lockwood (1995) points out, in many parts of Africa, lineage ties often determine a wide range of behavior, from marriage to the transmission of property. Given its centrality to the lives of many Ghanaians, some researchers have suggested that lineage ties tend to weaken the conjugal family unit (Caldwell and Caldwell 1987). Oppong (1983a, 1983b) has also noted that as a result of the various ways in which family is defined, members of the conjugal unit often do not pool their resources. Some researchers suggest that in Ghana, relatives look askance at a marriage in which the husband and wife develop a close relationship because such a practice tends to reduce the loyalty of the marriage partners to their respective lineage.

Marriage, Family Formation, and Childbearing

Studies of African societies generally indicate that within the whole subregion, men and women are expected to marry. As a result, some researchers indicate that in Africa, marriage is nearly universal. Married life is important to many Africans, including Ghanaians, because it is the basis for assigning reproductive, economic, and noneconomic roles to individuals. Voluntary celibacy is quite rare in traditional African societies. The pro-family and marriage ideology that exists in Ghana also has implications for social relations. Among the various ethnic and linguistic groups, unmarried women are often viewed differently from the married (Takyi and Oheneba-Sakyi 1994). This may explain why by age twenty, a significant proportion of women in Ghana are married (Cohen 1998; GSS, 1999).

As shown in Table 1, the proportion of women who have never been married (single) in Ghana ranged from a high of 24 percent in 1998 to a low of 17 percent in 1971. Although a higher proportion of Ghanaians marry, numbers also suggest a new development, changing family processes in the country. For example, since the 1970s, the proportion of women currently married has declined from 72 percent in 1971 to 52 percent by 1998. Accompanying the decline in the number of married people has been a corresponding increase in alternative or nontraditional family forms, especially consensual unions, and single status. Similarly, the proportion of women reporting a divorce or separation is also on the rise, a trend some researchers attribute to the disruptive effects of modernization and Westernization (Amoateng and Heaton 1989; Boateng 1995). Similarly, it has been reported that women headed about 29 percent of all households in Ghana during the mid-1980s (Bruce, Lloyd, and Leonard 1995).

Childbearing and Childrearing

Not only are Ghanaians expected to marry, but it is unthinkable for married couples to be childless (except for health reasons). In addition, studies show that because Africans value childbearing, they tend to have larger families (Caldwell 1982). Surveys conducted in Ghana indicate that women there bear many children. Between 1960 and the early 1990s, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) (number of children born per woman aged fifteen to forty-four) averaged six or more. Only during the late 1990s did researchers observe a reduction in fertility levels. Even so, the average family size of nearly five children is considerably higher than what is found in other parts of the world. However, family size varies considerably among women of different social groupings.

Several factors appear to explain why parents in Ghana have more children. One such interpretation is that marriage is nearly universal and also most women marry at an early age. Some also suggest that high fertility is the result of deep-rooted cultural values, norms, and practices that support the existence of large families. In this view, African parents receive more rewards from reproduction than do parents in any other society. Moreover, these upward-wealth flows are guaranteed by interwoven social and religious sanctions. Because children are the main source of old age support, labor, prestige, and marital stability, John Caldwell (1982) and Baffour K. Takyi (2001) suggest that it is suicidal for parents to have no children. Also, parents may want more children because it costs them very little to raise a child; other people help in the provision of childcare through fostering arrangements (Isiugo-Abanihe 1985). After analyzing data from the 1971 post-enumeration survey, Uche C. Isiugo-Abanihe (1985) found that about 20 percent of all children aged ten years and younger were not living with their biological parents. Similarly, the 1998-99 DHS found that about 16 percent of all households included a fostered child.

One important determinant of family size is contraceptive use. In Ghana, because women are

Percentage distribution of Ghanaians by marital status
     women         mena
a National level data on men is available since the 1990s.
source: U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base.
 1971 1979-80 1988 1993 1998    1993 1998
marital status
    single17.4 19.3 19.8 19.5 23.7    35.6 40.9
    married72 72.4 64.8 58.7 51.9    49.4 52.8
    consensualna na 5.5 11.6 12.7    8.1 3.4
    widowed2.9 1.5 1.5 1.7 1.9    0.8 0.6
    separated/divorce7.7 6.8 8.3 8.5 9.9    6.2 2.2
total100 100 100 100 100    100 100

expected to have many children, few use contraceptives, although this changed in the late twentieth century. Between 1979 and 1999, the proportion of married women using any form of contraceptives increased from 12 percent to about 18 percent for the period (GSS 1999). Some studies also point to the low status of women in the country, while others argue that men's influence and behavior reduce women's ability to make decisions about their reproductive behavior, including their use of contraceptives (Ezeh 1993; Takyi and Oheneba-Sakyi 1997; Dodoo 1993, 1998).

Marital Processes and Types of Marriage

The marriage process itself varies among ethnic groups. Also, the type of marriage consummated by a couple often depends on a host of factors, including their socioeconomic status (e.g., formal education, occupation, income, wealth, place of residence), and their family, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. Ghanaian family law recognizes a plurality of marital forms. Throughout the country, customary law marriages, consensual unions, marriages contracted under Islamic rules, and those contracted under the ordinance (civil or church) are all recognized as legal. Of these four types of marriages, marriage under customary or traditional law accounts for most marriage contracts in the country (Table 2).

Although national-level data on type of marriage are not readily available, evidence from small-scale surveys conducted throughout the country indicate that most marriages in Ghana are the traditional type (Gaisie and de Graft Johnson

Percentage distribution of Ghanaians by form of
marriage contract
 1969 a   1992/93 b
 women   couples 
source: (a) Gaisie and de Graft Johnson (1976). (b) Couples
data, Oheneba-Sakyi et al (1995).
form of union 
    customary only81.7   69.8
    ordinance only0.3   na
    ordinance/church/muslim5.8   18.0
    mutual consent11.0   12.2
    other0.1   na
    not reported1.1   na

1976; Awusabo-Asare 1990; Oheneba-Sakyi et al. 1992; Ardayfio-Schandorf 1995). As indicated in Table 2, although the number of marriages performed under traditional law is declining, they still account for the bulk of all marriages in Ghana. In part, customary law marriages are popular because they are based on traditional norms and beliefs and are often less expensive to contract. Also, unlike marriage under the law, traditional marriage does not have to be monogamous. As a marriage form, the incidence of polygyny varies from somewhere between 20 to 50 percent in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa (Timaues and Reynar 1998). In Ghana during the late 1970s, about one-third of all currently married women were in polygynous unions (Aryee 1985; Gage and Njogu 1994). By the late 1990s, the proportion of women in plural marriages had declined to about 23 percent (Table 3).

Percentage distribution of married Ghanaian women by
their type of union
  survey and year
 1979 a1988 b1993 b1998 b
source: GDHS (a) Aryee (1995, Table 1). (b) GDHS, 1988–1999.
monogamous unions
all women65.467.172.377.3
    urban residents68.271.478.584.3
    rural residents64.165.269.374.2
polygamous unions
all women34.632.927.722.6
    urban residents31.828.621.515.7
    rural residents35.934.730.625.8

Partner Choice

In traditional Ghanaian society, different ethnic and lineage groups built alliances through the institution of marriage. Marriage contracts were supposed to serve the needs of the larger extended family members as well. As a result, the choice of a marriage partner was not left to the bride and groom alone. In some cases, the marriage was arranged to satisfy the needs of the extended family. Arranged marriages in this context could take any form, including betrothals or marrying someone considered the preferred type. For example, among the matrilineal Akans, who tend to inherit property from the maternal line, marriage between cross-cousins (one's father's sister's child or mother's brother's child) was preferred because it reduced the conflict and tensions that often arose over the distribution of family property. The family's involvement in the marriage negotiations and decision making was also aimed at establishing a series of networks that were viewed as essential to the stability of the relationship. It was assumed that if the partners were compatible, they were less likely to divorce. The evidence on marital trends showed, though, that an increasing number of marriages were being dissolved (Takyi 2001; see Table 1). Similarly, in the urban areas and among the educated elite, parental involvement in mate selection is waning (Takyi et al. 2000; Aryee 1985).

Trends in Family and Marital Processes

Since the 1960s, the Ghanaian family has come under intense stress as a result of contact with the outside world. For example, with increasing levels of education and urbanization has come an increase in the nuclear form of marriage common in North America (Oppong 1983b). Takyi and colleagues (2000) also find that mate selection is increasingly becoming an individual, rather than a family, matter, as it used to be. In terms of property rights, legislation on Intestate Succession (PNDC III) has helped to challenge the existing status quo. Under the law passed in 1985, the majority of marital property (even in the absence of a will) now goes to the nuclear, rather than the extended, family. Increasing urbanization has also been followed by more marriage dissolutions, and it appears that divorce rates in Ghana are on the rise (see Table 1). In terms of household structure, studies increasingly point to an increase in the number of households headed or principally maintained by women (GSS 1989; Lloyd and Gage-Brandon 1993).


As with all institutions, families in Africa have undergone significant transformations over the years (Bledsoe 1990), and the family in Ghana has gone through a series of transformations. For example, HIV/AIDS posed a challenge to the working-age population and fostering and living arrangements. The infection also compromises the family support systems as young adults become afflicted and die before their parents. Also, economic hardship brought a rise in international migration, thus further destabilizing the family. More important, family size will continue to decline as the economy weakens and contraceptive use rises. These changing conditions all represent a challenge to which the Ghanaian family of the twenty-first century must respond.

See also:Extended Families; Kinship


Amoateng, Y., and Heaton, T. (1989). "The Socio-Demographic Correlates of the Timing of Divorce in Ghana." Journal of Comparative Family Studies 20:79–96.

Ardayfio-Schandorf, E., ed. (1995). The Changing Family in Ghana. Proceedings of the National Conference, Accra, Ghana, January 25–27. Ghana Universities Press.

Aryee, F. "Nuptiality Patterns in Ghana." In DemographicPatterns in Ghana: Evidence from the Ghana FertilitySurvey, ed. S. Singh, J. Owusu, and I. Shah. Voorburg, Netherlands: International Statistical Institute.

Bledsoe, C. (1990). "Transformations in Sub-Saharan African Marriage and Fertility." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 510:115–125.

Boateng, D. (1995). "The Changing Family and National Development in Ghana." In The Changing Family, ed. E. Ardayfio-Schandorf. Ghana Universities Press.

Bruce, J.; Lloyd, C.; and Leonard, A. (1995). Families inFocus: New Perspectives on Mothers, Fathers and Children. New York: The Population Council.

Caldwell, J. (1982). A Theory of Fertility Decline. Canberra: Australian National University Press.

Caldwell, J., and Caldwell, P. (1987). "The Cultural Context of High Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa." Population and Development Review 13(3):409–438.

Cohen, B. (1998). "The Emerging Fertility Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa." World Development 26(8):1431-1461.

Dodoo, F. (1993). "Insights into Spousal Differences in Reproductive Dis/agreement." Sociological Focus 26(3):257–270.

Dodoo, F. (1998). "Marriage Type and Reproductive Decisions: A Comparative Study in Sub-Saharan Africa." Journal of Marriage and the Family 60(1):232–242.

Ezeh, A. (1993). "The Influence of Spouses' Over Each Other's Contraceptive Attitudes in Ghana." Studies in Family Planning 24:163–174.

Gage, A., and Njogu, W. (1994). Gender Inequalities andDemographic Behavior. New York: The Population Council.

Gaisie, S., and de Graft Johnson, K. (1976). The Population of Ghana. Committee for International Coordination of National Research in Demography (CIRCRED) Series.

Ghana Statistical Service. (1999). Ghana: Demographic and Health Survey: A Summary Report, 1998. Accra, Ghana.

Ghana Statistical Service (2000). 2000 Population andHousing Census. Provisional Results. Accra, Ghana.

Ghana Statistical Service and Macro International, Inc. (1994). Ghana Demographic and Health Survey 1993. Accra, Ghana, and Calverton, MD.

Isiugo-Abanihe, U. (1985). "Child Fosterage in West Africa." Population and Development Review 11(1):53–73.

Lloyd, C., and Gage-Brandon, A. (1993). "Women's Role in Maintaining Households: Family Welfare and Sexual Inequality in Ghana." Population Studies 47(1):115–131.

Lockwood, M. (1995). "Structure and Behavior in the Social Demography of Africa." Population and Development Review 21(1):1–32.

Oheneba-Sakyi, Y.; Awusabo-Asare, K.; Gbortsu, E.; and Aryee, F. (1995). Female Autonomy, Decision Making, and Demographic Behavior Among Couples in Ghana. Potsdam, NY and Accra, Ghana.

Oheneba-Sakyi, Y., and Takyi, B. (1991). "Sociodemographic Correlates of Breastfeeding in Ghana." Human Biology 63(3):389-402. Oppong, C. (1983a). "Women's Roles, Opportunity Costs and Fertility." In Determinants of Fertility in Developing Countries, ed. R. Bulatao and R. Lee. New York: Academic Press.

Oppong, C., ed. (1983b). Female and Male in West Africa. London: George Allen and Unwin.

Takyi, B. (2001). "Marital Stability in an African Society: Exploring the Factors that Influence Divorce Processes in Ghana." Sociological Focus 34 (1):77–96.

Takyi, B.; Kitson, G.; Miller, N.; and Oheneba-Sakyi, Y. (2000). "Reconsidering the Mate Selection Processes in Ghana." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Council on Family Relations. Minneapolis, MN, November 11.

Takyi B., and Oheneba-Sakyi, Y. (1994). "Customs, Practices, Family Life and Marriage in Contemporary Ghana, West Africa." Family Perspectives 28(4):257–281.

Takyi, B., and Oheneba-Sakyi, Y. (1997). "Gender Differentials in Family Size among Ghanaian Couples." Journal of African and Asian Studies 32(3–4):1–11.

Timaeus, I., and Reynar, A. (1998). "Polygynists and Their Wives in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Analysis of Five Demographic and Health Surveys." Population Studies 52:(2)145-162.

van de Walle, E., and Meekers, D. (1994). "Marriage Drinks and Kola Nuts." In Nuptiality in Sub-Saharan Africa: Contemporary Anthropological and Demographic Perspectives, ed. C. Bledsoe and G. Pison. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

baffour k. takyi


views updated Jun 08 2018


Official name : Republic of Ghana

Area: 238,533 square kilometers (92,098 miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mt. Afadjato (885 meters/2,905 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: Noon = noon GMT

Longest distances: 458 kilometers (285 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest; 297 kilometers (178 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest

Land boundaries: 2,617 kilometers (1,626 miles) total boundary length; Togo 877 kilometers (545 miles); Côte d'Ivoire 668 kilometers (415 miles); Burkina Faso 544 kilometers (338 miles)

Coastline: 528 kilometers (328 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Slightly smaller than the state of Oregon, Ghana is in western Africa, situated between Togo on the east, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) on the west, and Burkina Faso on the north and northwest.


Ghana has no territories or dependencies.


Ghana has a tropical climate that is relatively mild for that latitude. The harmattan, a dry desert wind, blows from the northeast from December to March, lowering the humidity and causing hot days and cool nights in the north. Average temperatures range from 21°C to 31°C (70 to 90°F) with a relative humidity between 50 percent and 80 percent. Except in the north, there are two rainy seasons: April through June and September through November. Squalls occur in the north during March and April, followed by occasional rain until August and September, when the rainfall reaches its peak. Rainfall ranges from 83 to 220 centimeters (33 to 87 inches) a year.


Ghana faces the Gulf of Guinea in the great bulge of West Africa. Average elevation is relatively low, mostly between sea level and about 305 meters (1,000 feet).

Ghana has five major geographical regions. In the southern part of the country are the low plains, part of the belt that extends along the entire coastal area of the Gulf of Guinea. To the north of these plains are three distinct regions: the Ashanti Uplands, the Volta Basin, and the Akwapim-Togo Ranges. The fifth region, the high plains, occupies the northern and northwestern parts of the country. These plains also form part of a belt stretching generally from east to west through West Africa.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Ghana's coast stretches for 528 kilometers (328 miles) along the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. It is characterized by strong surfs, which make landing ships difficult, except at artificially constructed harbors.

Coastal Features

The coast consists mostly of a low sandy shore, behind which stretches the coastal plain. Except in the west, where the forest comes down to the sea, the plain is mostly flat and generally covered with grass and scattered fan palms. Most of Ghana's rivers terminate in brackish lagoons along the coast, but there are no natural harbors.

The Volta Delta projects out into the Gulf of Guinea in the extreme southeast. As this delta grew outward over the centuries, sand-bars developed across the mouth of the Volta River and also in some smaller rivers nearby, forming numerous large lagoons. Dense groves of coconut palms also grow here, and oil palms may be found at places inland in the drier, older section of the delta.


Ghana's one large natural lake, Lake Bosumtwi (46 square kilometers/18 square miles), is located about twenty miles southeast of Kumasi. It occupies the steep-sided caldera (crater) of a former volcano. Several small streams flow into this lake, but because there is no drainage, its level is gradually rising.


Streams and rivers run across the entire country. The largest river, the Volta, has three branches, all of which originate in Burkina Faso. The Black Volta forms the northwest border, then flows southeastward into Ghana to the east. The White Volta and the Red Volta both enter the country in the northeast. About 40 kilometers (25 miles) inside the border, the Red Volta joins the White Volta, which eventually flows into Lake Volta behind the Akosombo Dam.

Almost all streams and rivers north and east of the country's major drainage divide are part of the vast Volta drainage system, which covers some 157,989 square kilometers (61,000 square miles), or more than two-thirds of the country. To the south and southwest of the plateau several smaller independent river systems flow directly into the Gulf of Guinea. The most important of these are the Pra, the Ankobra, and the Tano. Only the Volta, Ankobra, and Tano Rivers are navigable, and only in their lower sections.

Small, seasonal waterfalls can be found in Boegoro and Huhunya.


Although Ghana has some dry lands and areas that may be subject to desertification, there are no notable deserts.


Grasslands dominate the south, mixed with coastal scrub. Ghana's forest belt extends northward from the western coast on the Gulf of Guinea about 320 kilometers (200 miles) and eastward for a maximum of about 270 kilometers (170 miles). It is broken up into heavily wooded hills and steep ridges. Cultivation, grazing, mining, and harvesting of timber and firewood have taken a heavy toll on forests and woodland; deforestation proceeds at an annual rate of 720 square kilometers (278 square miles).

The Ashanti Uplands lie just to the north of the Akan Lowlands area. They extend from the Ivory Coast border, through the western and part of the northern Brong-Ahafo Region and the Ashanti Region (excluding its eastern section), to the eastern end of the Kwahu Plateau. With the exception of the Kwahu Plateau, the uplands slope gently toward the south, gradually decreasing in elevation from about 304 to 152 meters (1,000 to 500 feet). In the southernmost part, their valleys become more open, and the region merges into the Akan Lowlands at an elevation between sea level and 152 meters (500 feet). These lowlands make up the greater part of the low plains. Several hill ranges also appear here. Although most high points do not top 304 meters (1,000 feet), a few hills exceed 609 meters (2,000 feet).

The Volta Basin region occupies the central part of the country and covers about 45 percent of the country's total area. Much of the southern and southwestern part of this basin is less than 152 meters (500 feet) in elevation; in the northern section, however, above the upper part of Lake Volta and the Black Volta, elevations are from about 152 to 228 meters (500 to 750 feet).


The Akwapim-Togo Ranges in the eastern part of the country have many prominent heights composed of volcanic rocks. The ranges begin west of Accra and cross the border into the Republic of Togo. The average elevation of the Akwapim section of the mountains is about 475 meters (1,500 feet). The Togo section has broader valleys and generally low ridges. Several peaks rise above 762 meters (2,500 feet). The country's highest point, Mount Afadjato (885 meters/2,905 feet), is located in this area.


Small caves can be found near the Kwahu Plateau and in the upland areas.


The northern and northwestern part of the country outside the Volta Basin region consists of a plateau, which averages between 152 and 304 meters (500 and 1,000 feet) in elevation.

The Kwahu Plateau, forming the northeastern and eastern part of the uplands, has an elevation that averages 457 meters (1,500 feet) and its high points rise to over 762 meters (2,500 feet). The greater height of the plateau gives it a comparatively cooler climate.


Lake Volta is the world's largest man-made lake (8,485 square kilometers/3,276 square miles), formed by the accumulation of water from the Volta River behind Akosombo Dam. Although the dam provides much of the country's hydroelectric power, it also contributes significantly to coastal erosion. It reduces the amount of water flowing in the river, and thus it also reduces the amount of sediment the river carries to its mouth along the coast. The coast continues to erode at its natural rate, and since less sediment is being deposited to replace it, the coast diminishes.



Barnett, Jeanie M. Ghana. New York: Chelsea House, 1999.

Boateng, E.A. Geography of Ghana. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.

Salm, Steven J. Culture and Customs of Ghana. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Web Sites

Ghana Home Page. (accessed April 10, 2003).

The Republic of Ghana. (accessed April 10, 2003).


views updated May 11 2018



238,540sq km (92,100sq mi)



capital (population):

Accra (1,605,400)



ethnic groups:

Akan 49%, Mole Dagbani 16.5%, Ewe 13%, Ga-Dangme 8%


English (official)


Christianity 62% (Protestant 28%, Roman Catholic 19%), traditional beliefs 21%, Islam 16%


Cedi = 100 pesewas

Republic in w Africa. The Republic of Ghana (formerly Gold Coast) faces the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. Lagoons line the densely populated s coastal plains, which include the capital, Accra. On the sw plateau lies the Ashanti region and its capital Kumasi. Ghana's major river is the Volta. The Aksombo Dam (built 1964) created one of the world's largest artificial lakes, Lake Volta. The dam generates hydroelectricity.

Climate and Vegetation

Accra has a tropical climate, yet is cooler than many equatorial areas. Rain falls throughout the year, especially heavily in the sw. The n is warmer than the s. The winter months (November–March) have a low average rainfall. Tropical savanna dominates the coastal region and the far n. Rainforest covers most of the central region.

History and Politics

Various African kingdoms existed in the region before the arrival of Portuguese explorers in 1471, who named it the Gold Coast after its precious mineral resource. In 1642, the Dutch gained control, and the Gold Coast became a centre of the 17th-century slave trade. Following the abolition of slavery (1860s), the European powers withdrew with the advance of Ashanti. In 1874, Britain colonized the region excluding Ashanti, which fell in 1901. The British began to develop the cacao plantations.

After World War II, nationalist demands intensified and Kwame Nkrumah became prime minister in 1951 elections. In 1957, Ghana became the first African colony to gain full independence. British Togoland was incorporated into the new state. The country was renamed Ghana after a powerful, medieval West African kingdom.

In 1960, Ghana became a republic with Nkrumah as its president. In 1964, it became a one-party state. The economy slumped, burdened by debt, corruption, and the falling cacao price. In 1966, a military coup deposed Nkrumah. From 1969 to 1972, Ghana briefly returned to civilian rule under Kufi Busa.

In 1972 Colonel Ignatius Acheampong overthrew Busa and re-established military rule. In 1978 General Frederick Akuffo replaced Acheampong. In 1979, Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings overthrew the NRC, and executed Acheampong and Akuffo on charges of corruption. Hilla Limann formed a civilian administration, but weak government and economic recession led Rawlings to overthrow Limann in 1981. Rawlings privatized many state industries.

Rawlings became president in multiparty elections in 1992. In 1994, more than 1000 people died in ethnic clashes between the Konkomba and Nanumba in Ghana's Northern Region. Rawlings was re-elected in 1996, but defeated in 2000 elections by John Kufuor, leader of the New Patriotic Party.


Ghana is a low-income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$1900). Agriculture employs 59% of the workforce and accounts for more than 66% of exports. Ghana is the world's fifth-largest producer of cocoa beans. Other cash crops include coffee, coconuts, and palm kernels. Minerals are the second-largest export. Ghana is the world's tenth-largest producer of manganese. The Ashanti Goldfields Corporation is one of the world's largest producers. Timber is also an important export. Ghana's economy grew significantly at the end of the 20th century.

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