Ghana is a republic in West Africa situated on the Gulf of Guinea. The country borders on the west to the Ivory Coast, on the north to Burkina Faso, on the east to Togo and on the south to the Gulf of Guinea.
Ghana, which was the British colony of the Gold Coast, became independent in 1957. Democratization and political reforms were introduced in the 1990s. The country is somewhat larger than southern Norway. The capital is Accra.
One theory is that Ghana (the name) means “war chief”, which in the Middle Ages was a title of kings in the border area of today’s Mali, Mauritania and Senegal.
The national anthem is ‘God Bless Our Homeland Ghana’ (‘God Bless Our Fatherland Ghana’).
Geography and environment
The 539 kilometer long coastal strip consists mainly of sandy beaches with lagoons outside the estuaries in the east and west, and lacks ports. There are cliffs on the central coastal plain. The terrain is relatively flat with scattered shrubs. To the north, the terrain rises in terraces. The farthest north reaches the Ashanti and Kwahu plateaus up to about 800 meters altitude. Ghana’s highest point is Afadja (Afadjato), 885 meters above sea level, on the border with Togo in the southeast.
The terrain slopes to the east towards the large Volta pool, which mainly consists of the river Volta with the two main approaches White Volta (Nakambe) and Black Volta (Mouhoun). In the Volta Basin, Lake Volta, the world’s largest man-made lake, is located at approximately 8500 square kilometers. It was formed by damming the Akosombo Dam and has one of Africa’s largest hydropower plants.
The country is located in the tropical climate zone with high and slightly varying temperatures and high rainfall. The annual average temperature on the coast is approximately 26 degrees on the coast and closer to 29 degrees inland. The highest temperatures occur most often in February-April. The annual rainfall varies between 700 and 2500 millimeters, mostly in the southwest and least in the southeast. In southern Ghana there are two rainy seasons, in April-June and September-November. In northern parts there is one rainy season in May-August. During the 4-6 month long dry season in the north, the ‘hamattan’ (dry wind) blows from the Sahara.
The coastal area has extremely mangrove marshes and further in grassland and scrub forest. Large areas of southern Ghana have tropical rainforests. The central and northern regions have savanna vegetation.
The wildlife is very rich with many species of mammals, birds, fish and insects. The mammals include several monkeys, including chimpanzees and cat cats, half- monkeys, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, sneakers and otters. There are more than 700 bird species, and in rivers and lakes, among others, hippos, crocodiles, lungfish and the marine species Senegal Manatees live. There are several snake species, including pythons, mambas and cobras. Among the insects there are several disease-transmitting species.
People and society
There are close to 75 peoples with different languages and traditions; 65 of these constitute only about one percent of Ghana’s total population. In the south, among others, ashanti, anyi and fanti abron make up 44 per cent of the population. The Gadangas in and around Accra make up about eight percent and even further east 13 percent. In the north, there are people groups like dagari, dagomba, konkomba and mamprusi.
Ghana is densely populated and most live in the central coastal areas. The urbanization rate is 54 per cent as of 2016.
The official language is English, but the Yiddish language and the Kwa language are most common. 23.4 percent of the population is illiterate.
Life expectancy at birth is 69.1 years for women and 64.1 years for men. As of 2016, about 57 per cent of the population is under 25.
71.2 percent of the population is Christian, 17.6 percent are Muslims and 5.2 percent are traditional religions. It is a Muslim population in the north and Christians and animists in the south.
Very common are diseases such as diarrhea, hepatitis, typhoid fever, malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, meningitis and AIDS.
State and politics
Ghana is a presidential republic with a multi-party system. The president is both head of state, head of government and military commander-in-chief, and is elected in general elections for four years with the possibility of re-election once. Parliament has a chamber with 275 seats.
The country is divided into ten regions.
Founded by the Portuguese in the 1400s, Elmina became an important center for European trade on the Gold Coast early. Today, the city is one of the country’s most important fishing ports.
The defense consists of army, navy and air force. Military service is voluntary. The country participates in UN peacekeeping operations.
Ghana is a member of the United Nations and the United Nations Special Organizations, the World Trade Organization, G 24, ECOWAS (Economic Community of the West African States), the Cotonou Agreement, the African Union (AU) and the Commonwealth.
Arable farming originated around 1400 before our time calculation. About 400 according to our times, there was extensive settlement in present-day Ghana. In the 700-1000s, Ghana included a kingdom (the Ghanaian kingdom ) that was further west than today’s Ghana. The period around 1100–1900 was characterized by a number of small states in conflict and the development of a few large states. The first centralized of these was established in northern Ghana.
In 1483, the Portuguese built the Ehnina Castle. In the centuries that followed, European traders came to the area, which became known as the Gold Coast. Gold, ivory and slaves were traded. Among other things, six Danish-Norwegian trading forts were built on the coast from the 1600s. During the 19th century, the British reached agreements with local chiefs to control the coast. The British also gained control of the interior, including the defeat of several Ashanti kingdoms.
In 1957, the Gold Coast, as the first sub-Saharan colony, became independent under Kwame Nkrumah. The country was named after the former Ghana kingdom. One party system was introduced in 1964. Since independence there have been several coups and coup attempts in Ghana. In 1982, a million Ghanaians were expelled from Nigeria. Civilian government was implemented with a new constitution in 1993. From 1996 to 2006, Ghanaian Kofi Annan was UN Secretary-General.
Economy and business
Agriculture and forestry are important industrial routes and employ about half of the working people. Ghana is the world’s second largest exporter of cocoa beans. It produces coffee, bananas, rice, palm kernels, copra, yams, cassava, taro and cotton. Due to the tsetse fly, livestock (including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens ) are concentrated to the northern part of the country and the coastal plain at Accra.
Forestry is of great importance; mainly exported obeche and mahogany. There is plenty of fishing on the coast and in Lake Volta. Agriculture, forestry and fishing account for 20.7 per cent of gross domestic product ( GDP ) as of 2015.
Ghana has major mineral deposits. Among other things, gold is extracted, which after cocoa is the second largest export commodity, diamonds, bauxite and manganese. There is also some offshore production of oil and natural gas.
The largest industrial company is the aluminum plant in Tema. Among other things, it exports semi-finished products from cocoa production and forestry. There is also the production of food, textiles, transport and cement. Most of the industry is located at Accra-Tema, Kumasi and Sekondi-Takoradi. Industry accounts for 27.7 per cent of GDP per 2015.
The most important export products other than cocoa and gold are timber and wood. Important products include food and oil.
The service industries comprise 51.6 per cent of GDP. More than a million tourists visit Ghana annually. There is some Norwegian tourism in the country.
Knowledge and culture
There is an eight-year compulsory schooling for all children from the age of six. More than 95 percent of children receive education. High school is three years. The school system is one of the best developed in tropical Africa. Ghana has eight national public universities, a number of private universities and several colleges and polytechnic institutions.
There are two major daily newspapers, both in English and state owned, and several major weekly newspapers. Private newspapers often criticize the government’s policies. Ghana’s media is today among the freest in Africa.
The state broadcaster, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, GBC, has radio and television broadcasts in several languages. There are a number of private radio and television channels in the country.
Prominent Ghanaian novelists are Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford (1866–1930), Ayi Kwei Armah (1939–), Ama Ata Aidoo (1942–) and Nii Ayikwei Parkes (1974–). Important playwrights and poets are Joe de Graft (1924–1978) and Efua Sutherland (1924–1996). The author and visual artist Meshack Asare (1945–) has contributed greatly to giving children’s books a prominent position.
Ghana’s varied folk music can be traced back to the 9th century. The main instruments include drum, rattle, xylophone, bells, horns, flute, harp lute and sites. Drum music expresses mastery and power. Traditional Ghanaian music was transmitted through oral tradition where rhythm is central and language and dance closely linked to the music. The audience is not separated from the artists and the melodies are often short and the music repetitive. Each folk group has its own music.
Highlife especially with guitar-based bands and large stage shows have drawn inspiration from traditional music, jazz, blues and swing. In Accra, highlife, local reggae and American black pop are most prevalent, and guitar-based highlife is popular in rural areas. The genre hiplife is a mix of highlife and western hip hop, and is danced to.
Ghanaian artists such as singer and songwriter Rocky Dawuni (1969–) and hip hop artist Sarkodie alias Michael Owusu Addo (1988–) have had international success.
One of the first internationally known Ghanaian films was ‘I Told You So’ from 1970. Many Ghanaian films are co-produced with Nollywood (Nigerian film industry).
Ghana has many art forms that are typically handmade with simple tools and various adinkras symbols with their own meanings. These are sewn clothes or cut into wood. Much of the art is made of wood, such as face masks, animal figures and artistically designed furniture. Jewelry with glass, clay or stone beads is used around the neck, wrist, ankle or hip or as an earring.