Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivered
the 3rd Annual Commonwealth Lecture, on ‘Africa Wants to Trade its Way
out of Poverty’, in 2000.
Four Ghanaians have been regional winners in the Commonwealth Writers’
Prize: Ama Ata Aidoo (1992), Lawrence Darmani (1992), Lucy Safo (1994)
and Benjamin Kwakye (1999 and 2006).
Abédi Pelé, born in Accra, Ghana, in 1964, was voted African Footballer
of the Year in 1991, 1992 and 1993.
Joined Commonwealth: 1957
Population: 25,905,000 (2013)
GDP: 3.2% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: world ranking 138
Official language: English
Currency: cedi (¢)
Area: 238,537 sq km
Capital city: Accra
Population density (per sq. km): 109
The Republic of Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, is a West African
country lying on the Gulf of Guinea. It is surrounded (clockwise, from
the west) by Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Togo.
Ghana has ten regions: Greater Accra, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Central,
Eastern, Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Volta and Western. After
Greater Accra, Ashanti is the most populated region; Upper West, the
Accra (capital, pop. 2.45m in 2010), Kumasi (Ashanti, 1.93m), Tamale
(Northern, 466,700), Ashiaman (Greater Accra, 289,100), Takoradi
(Western, 273,900), Cape Coast (Central, 182,900), Teshie (Greater
Accra, 182,100), Tema (Greater Accra, 178,800), Obuasi (Ashanti,
173,100), Sekondi (Western, 156,200), Madina (Greater Accra, 140,800),
Koforidua (Eastern, 111,700), Wa (Upper West, 96,500), Techiman (Brong
Ahafo, 91,400), Nungua (Greater Accra, 89,100), Tema New Town (Greater
Accra, 87,400), Ho (Volta, 83,700), Sunyani (Brong Ahafo, 83,600), Bawku
(Upper East, 66,200) and Bolgatanga (Upper East, 63,500).
There are 109,520 km of roads, 13 per cent paved, and a 953-km railway
network, connecting Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, originally built mainly
to link mining centres to the ports but also provides passenger
Main ports are at Tema, near Accra, and Takoradi, and the main
international airport is at Accra (Kotoka), 10 km to the north of the
city; other airports are at Takoradi, Kumasi, Sunyani and Tamale.
Ghana is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States,
African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Non-Aligned
Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, United Nations
and World Trade Organization.
The Black Volta, Red Volta and White Volta rivers merge into one river
Volta, which has been dammed at Akosombo to form Lake Volta
(approximately 8,482 sq km). There are hills to the north (averaging 500
metres), but the country is generally flat. The central forest area is
broken up into ridges and valleys. There are lagoons on the coast, and
many sandy beaches with coconut trees.
Tropical; warm and fairly dry in northern areas, hot and humid on the
coastal belt. Temperatures usually range between 21°C and 32°C. Annual
rainfall varies from 700 mm to 2,150 mm. In 2007, large parts of West
Africa were the subject of severe flooding. Ghana was the worst hit with
more than 300,000 of its people made homeless.
The most significant environmental issues are deforestation,
overgrazing, soil erosion; drought in the north; poaching and habitat
destruction threatening wildlife populations; and water pollution and
inadequate supplies of drinking water.
Grass occurs on much of the central plain, dense rainforest in the south
and west; woodland and dry savannah to the north. Forest covers 21 per
cent of the land area, having declined at 2.0 per cent p.a. 1990–2010.
Arable land comprises 21 per cent and permanent cropland 12 per cent of
the total land area.
Ghana is rich in animal life and in 2003 had protected areas comprising
5.6 per cent of the total land area. The Mole National Park comprises
some 736 sq km in the western part of the northern region of Damonoyo
and has many species including elephants, hippos, eagles, kites and
hornbills. The Digya National Park on the shores of Lake Volta has
hippos, water bucks, crocodiles and manatees. There are 222 species of
mammals, 16 of which are endangered, and 206 species of birds, 16
According to oral traditions, the ancestors of the Akan people, today
the largest ethnic group, entered the country from the north and spread
southwards between CE 1200 and 1600. The Fanti State of Denkyira was at
that period already established on the coast. By 1400 the Akan had
established their Bono and Buida kingdoms in the forested central
Their highly developed culture was centred on the city-state, surrounded
by vassal villages, and rule by a court where the queen mother was often
a more powerful figure than the king who, being sacred, was hidden from
the people and consequently often politically isolated. The Akan traded
gold and kola nuts for salt and cloth, in the west and north, and were
also involved in the slave trade. In the 15th century, the Ashanti
people waged war against the Denkyira Kingdom and by 1700 had gained
control of the slave trade. They developed a powerful army and a
centralised state, ruled by the Asantehene (king of the Ashanti nation).
Portuguese traders, arriving after 1450 in search of gold and ivory,
named the country Gold Coast; appropriately since, by the end of the
16th century, it produced ten per cent of the world’s gold.
From the middle of the 16th century other Europeans began arriving; in
the mid-18th century there were Dutch, Danish and British settlements.
The British became involved in internal conflicts when they backed the
Fanti against the Ashanti who were extending their power into the
coastal areas. There were four wars in the 19th century.
The Bond of 1844, entered into by Britain and the Fanti chiefs, endorsed
British control of small pockets of settlement; six years later Britain
set up a legislative council to govern these areas. The British took
over abandoned Danish settlements in 1850 and the Dutch settlements in
1871. By Orders in Council (1901) Britain declared the southern
territory a colony by settlement, the northern territory a protectorate
and Ashanti a colony by conquest. In 1922 a part of the adjoining German
territory of Togoland was placed under British administration by a
League of Nations Mandate and after World War II it became a UN Trust
Territory. The principle of elections was introduced under the 1925
During the first half of the 20th century, there was growing national
pressure for self-determination, and the UK gradually surrendered
control. The 1946 constitution required the legislative council to have
an African majority. Following civic disturbances in 1948, the UK agreed
that a committee consisting entirely of Africans should examine the
structure of the country’s government.
In 1949, Kwame Nkrumah set up the Convention People’s Party (CPP) to
campaign for independence. Elections took place in 1951, and the
following year Nkrumah became the country’s first Premier. The 1954
constitution provided for a legislative assembly of 104 directly elected
members, and an all-African Cabinet; the UK kept responsibility for
foreign affairs and defence. The CPP campaigned for full independence.
The general election of 1956 returned the CPP with a big majority.
Modern-day Ghana was formed when the British-administered part of
Togoland voted to join the Gold Coast in an independent state, in a
UN-supervised plebiscite in May 1956. Ghana achieved independence within
the Commonwealth on 6 March 1957.
In 1960 Ghana became a republic, with Nkrumah as President, and in 1964
a one-party state, the CPP being the sole authorised party. However,
less than a year later, Nkrumah was removed by military coup, the first
of four coups.
The army and police set up a National Liberation Council, which
dissolved the legislative assembly and suspended the constitution while
a new one was drafted. Political activity was permitted again in 1969; a
general election followed in August. It returned the Progress Party; its
leader Dr Kofi Busia became Prime Minister, with the National Alliance
of Liberals as the opposition.
In 1972, another military coup led by Colonel Ignatius Acheampong
overthrew Busia’s government and set up a National Redemption Council.
In 1978 Acheampong was replaced by General Frederick Akuffo, who
promised civilian rule by the middle of the following year.
Two weeks before the elections were to be held in June 1979, a military
coup led by junior officers ousted the government. Flt-Lt Jerry J
Rawlings and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council declared that they
had assumed power, in order that an honest election could take place.
Elections were held as scheduled; they returned the People’s National
Party, whose leader Dr Hilla Limann took office as President in
Another coup, in 1981, put Rawlings back in power. He suspended the
constitution and banned political parties. From December 1981 until
November 1992 Ghana was ruled by a Provisional National Defence Council
In May 1991 the PNDC government set up a 260-member consultative
assembly to oversee the restoration of multiparty democracy. A committee
of constitutional experts was appointed to draft a new constitution for
submission to this assembly. In April 1992 the draft constitution was
overwhelmingly approved in a referendum; political associations were
unbanned; and six opposition movements were granted legal recognition.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) was formed to contest the
elections on behalf of the PNDC.
The November 1992 presidential election (witnessed by Commonwealth
observers, and considered ‘overall free and fair’) returned Jerry
Rawlings (with 58.3 per cent of the vote). The parliamentary elections
of December 1992 returned the NDC with 189 of 200 seats in the new
Parliament. The NDC united with the National Convention Party (NCP) and
the Every Ghanaian Living Everywhere Party to form the Progressive
Alliance. In January 1993 Rawlings was sworn in as President, and the
Fourth Republic was inaugurated. In May 1995, the NCP left the
In the December 1996 elections, President Rawlings was re-elected with
58 per cent of the votes. Turnout was 75 per cent. His party, the NDC,
won 133 seats. The opposition alliance of the New Patriotic Party and
the People’s Convention Party won 66 seats, just reaching the level at
which they could successfully oppose constitutional changes (which need
a two-thirds majority). The elections were seen as a step towards full
multiparty democracy; the opposition had boycotted the 1992
parliamentary elections, but accepted defeat the second time round.
Ghana thus acquired a significant legislative opposition for the first
time in 15 years.
After Rawlings was chosen as ‘life chairman’ of the party in December
1998, the NDC suffered a serious split in its ranks with the formation
by some of its founding members of the National Reform Party, which was
registered in July 1999.
Ghana's History / The Gold
Coast (Colonial Independence From Britain)
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