Since achieving independence (earlier than many other countries in the region we might add) Ghana has grown into one of the most stable and successful African countries.
Want to learn more about Ghana?
- Capital (and Largest City): Accra
- Population (2017): 28,956,587 (46th)
- Total Area: 238,535 km² (80th)
- Official Language: English (+ numerous national languages)
- Currency: Ghanaian cedi (GH₵) (GHS)
History of Ghana
Our story begins in the 11th century, when the Akans from nearby regions began to settle in what is now Ghana. By the 13th century, numerous Akan states existed in Ghana, predominantly living off the plentiful gold trade. The civilizations of this era were advanced for their time both in trade and innovation.
Centuries of Colonization
The first Europeans to come into contact with the Akans were the Portuguese (15th century). Establishing the ‘Gold Coast’, the Portuguese (then a large seafaring power) began trading heavily in Ghana. Soon after, the Dutch followed the Portuguese in founding their own ‘Gold Coast’ – with the Swedes, Danes, and Germans jumping on the bandwagon later. Regrettably, Ghana became the epicentre of the West African slave trade during the colonial era.
In 1874, the British arrived and began to claim swathes of land. They came into conflict with the Akans (namely the kingdom of Ashanti) and eventually defeated the indigenous population. The Ashanti managed to maintain a degree of independence, but the Brits officially owned what is now Ghana.
Ghana declared independence in 1957, under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. Unfortunately for him, he was overthrown in a coup while away in China in 1966. A period of military and civilian rule followed. This period of fluctuating fortunes ended in 1981 when Jerry John Rawlings took over. After ruling unilaterally for years, a multi-party system was restored and elections held in 1992 (Rawlings won in 1992 and 1996).
In 2000 elections were held peacefully, with term limits always since honored. With a new president taking the office earlier this year, Ghana has now cemented its reputation as a stable democratic country.
Ghana is a diverse country thanks to the many different indigenous groups that have called the region home (in addition to European/British influences). Music, dance, and fashion are all key tools of cultural expression in the land, with traditional styles commonly mixing with a more modern outlook. The Ghanaian film industry is also thriving, and works in close cooperation with ‘Nollywood’ – the large film industry in nearby Nigeria.
The flag of Ghana is recognized by its use of the Pan-African colors (red, yellow, and green) in three horizontal stripes. Red represents blood shed in the struggle against Britain, gold/yellow represents the….well, the gold, and green exemplifies the country’s natural regions and forests. A black five-pointed star is in the middle, which represents the Black Star shipping line.
Food is very diverse throughout Ghana, though soups and stews are the most common types of dishes. Seafood is very popular, but other meats are enjoyed throughout. Corn is a staple of many meals, particularly in the popular dish known as banku. Fufu is a common dish both in Ghana and in diasporic communities, and is made from cassava and plantain flour.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Ghana, with the men’s national team referred to as the ‘Black Stars’ in reference to the black star on the country’s flag. They are considered one of the top teams in Africa, often competing for the continental championship as well as challenging in the World Cup. In South Africa 2010, the team was eliminated in the quarterfinals via penalties (after missing a separate penalty with the last kick of extra time).
Geography of Ghana
Ghana is located just north of the equator on the Gulf of Guinea. Grasslands, shrubs, and forests dominate the landscape, while rivers and lakes are also found throughout. The country has long been well known for its mineral wealth.
Cities and Towns
Accra is the largest city in Ghana as well as the capital. Located on the coast, it is a hub of trade, governance and culture, and is home to over 2.2 million people. Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana, also numbers over 2 million. Located inland, it is often known as ‘The Garden City’.
Did you know?
- Ghana was the first Sub-Saharan country to gain independence from a colonial power
- Polygamy is legal though not often practiced except by those wealthy enough to support a large family
- Kofi Annan (former UN secretary-general) is from Ghana
- Kumasi is home to the largest open air market in West Africa
- Lake Volta is a massive artificial lake in Ghana
- Ghana produces a lot of cocoa beans
- Christianity is the leading religion in Ghana
- Elmina Castle, built by the Portuguese in 1482, is the oldest European construction in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Ghana roughly translates as ‘warrior king’
While not always easy, Ghana can now proudly claim its place as a fairly stable and wholly democratic nation.
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