|OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Ghana
Area: 238,538 sq. km. (92,100 sq. mi.); about the size of Illinois and Indiana combined. Cities: Capital--Accra (metropolitan area pop. 3 million est.). Other cities--Kumasi (1 million est.), Tema (500,000 est.), Sekondi-Takoradi (370,000 est.).
Terrain: Plains and scrubland, rainforest, savanna.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Ghanaian(s).
Population (2007 est.): 23 million.
Density: 88/sq. km. (247/sq. mi.).
Annual growth rate (2007 est.): 2.7%.
Ethnic groups: Akan, Ewe, Ga, Moshi-Dagomba.
Religions: Christian 69%, Muslim 15.6%, traditional and indigenous beliefs 8.5%.
Languages: English (official), Akan (which includes Asante Twi, Akwapim Twi, Akyem, and Fanti) 49%, Mole-Dagbani 16%, Ewe 13%, Ga-Adangbe 8%, Guan 4%, others 10%.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Literacy--53.7%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2003 est.)--64/1,000. Life expectancy--59.2 yrs. for women, 55.5 yrs. for men
Work force (11.1 million): Agriculture and fishing--47.9%; industry and transport--16.2%; sales and clerical--19.3%; services--5.9%; professional--8.9%; other--1.8%.
Independence: March 6, 1957.
Constitution: Entered into force January 7, 1993.
Branches: Executive--president popularly elected for a maximum of two 4-year terms; Council of State, a presidential appointed consultative body of 25 members required by the constitution. Legislative--unicameral Parliament popularly elected for 4-year terms. Judicial--independent Supreme Court justices nominated by president with approval of Parliament.
Subdivisions: Ten regions.
Political parties: New Patriotic Party, National Democratic Congress, Convention People's Party, People's National Convention, others.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2006): $12.5 billion.
Real GDP growth rate (2006): 6.2%.
Per capita GDP (2006): $540.
Inflation rate (consumer prices) (2006): 11%.
Natural resources: Gold, timber, diamonds, bauxite, manganese, fish.
Agriculture: Products--cocoa, coconuts, coffee, pineapples, cashews, pepper, other food crops, rubber. Land--70% arable and forested.
Business and industry: Types--mining, lumber, light manufacturing, fishing, aluminum, tourism.
Trade (2006): Exports--$3.9 billion: cocoa ($1.26 billion), gold, timber, diamonds, manganese. Imports--$6.8 billion: petroleum ($1.3 billion), food, industrial raw materials, machinery, equipment. Major trade partners--Nigeria, China, U.S., U.K., Germany, Togo, France, Netherlands, Spain.
Fiscal year: Calendar year.
Ghana is located on West Africa's Gulf of Guinea only a few degrees north of the Equator. Half of the country lies less than 152 meters (500 ft.) above sea level, and the highest point is 883 meters (2,900 ft.). The 537-kilometer (334-mi.) coastline is mostly a low, sandy shore backed by plains and scrub and intersected by several rivers and streams, most of which are 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 Cote d'Ivoire frontier. This area produces most of the country's cocoa, minerals, and timber. North of this belt, the country varies from 91 to 396 meters (300 ft.-1,300 ft.) above sea level and is covered by low bush, park-like savanna, and grassy plains.
The climate is tropical. The eastern coastal belt is warm and comparatively dry; the southwest corner, hot and humid; and the north, hot and dry. There are two distinct rainy seasons in the south--May-June and August-September; in the north, the rainy seasons tend to merge. A dry, northeasterly wind, the Harmattan, blows in January and February. Annual rainfall in the coastal zone averages 83 centimeters (33 in.).
Volta Lake, the largest manmade lake in the world, extends from the Akosombo Dam in southeastern Ghana to the town of Yapei, 520 kilometers (325 mi.) to the north. The lake generates electricity, provides inland transportation, and is a potentially valuable resource for irrigation and fish farming.
Ghana's population is concentrated along the coast and in the principal cities of Accra and Kumasi. Most Ghanaians descended from migrating tribes that probably came down the Volta River valley at the beginning of the 13th century. Ethnically, Ghana is divided into small groups speaking more than 50 languages and dialects. Among the more important linguistic groups are the Akans, which include the Fantis along the coast and the Ashantis in the forest region north of the coast; the Guans, on the plains of the Volta River; the Ga- and Ewe-speaking peoples of the south and southeast; and the Moshi-Dagomba-speaking tribes of the northern and upper regions. English, the official and commercial language, is taught in all the schools.
Primary and junior secondary school education is tuition-free and mandatory. The Government of Ghana's support for basic education is unequivocal. Article 39 of the constitution mandates the major tenets of the free, compulsory, universal basic education (FCUBE) initiative. Launched in 1996, it is one of the most ambitious pre-tertiary education programs in West Africa. Since the early 1980s, Government of Ghana expenditures on education have risen from 1.5% to nearly 3.5% of GDP. Since 1987, the share of basic education in total education spending has averaged around 67%. The units of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports (MOESS) responsible for education are: the Ghana Education Service (GES), which administers pre-university education; the National Council on Tertiary Education; the National Accreditation Board; and the National Board for Professional and Technician Examinations (NABPTEX). The West African Examinations Council (WAEC), a consortium of five Anglophone West African Countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Liberia) is responsible for developing, administering, and grading school-leaving examinations at the secondary level.
Since 1986, pre-tertiary education in Ghana includes six years of primary education, three years at the junior secondary school level and three years at the senior secondary school level. A new educational reform, beginning September 1, 2007, has introduced two years of kindergarten education beginning at age four and increased the three years senior secondary to four years. Successful completion of senior secondary school leads to admission eligibility at training colleges, polytechnics, and universities. In 2006 there were approximately 5.1 million students attending schools at these three levels: 68% at the primary level, 23% at the junior secondary level and 10% at the senior secondary level. There are over six hundred public senior secondary schools in Ghana that graduated a total of 90,000 students in 2004, representing a huge expansion over the old system (which was transformed in 1987), which consisted of three hundred institutions graduating 27,000 students a year. However, access to each successive level of education remains severely limited by lack of facilities. About 99.1% of junior secondary school graduates are able to gain admission to senior secondary schools, and only about 34.4% of senior secondary school graduates are able to gain admission to universities and polytechnics, plus another 10-20% to diploma-level postsecondary education. Private secondary schools play a very small role in Ghana, with only a handful of institutions offering international curricula such as the British-based A-levels, International Baccalaureate, and U.S. high school. Combined, they graduate fewer than 200 students a year.
Entrance to one of the five Ghanaian public universities is by examination following completion of senior secondary school. There are now five public and twelve private degree-granting universities in Ghana, along with ten public polytechnics offering the British Higher National Diploma (HND), a three-year tertiary system in applied fields of study. Ghana's first private Catholic university opened in 2003 in Sunyani. The polytechnics also offer vocational, non-tertiary diploma programs. In addition, there are approximately forty teacher-training colleges and fifteen nurses' training colleges. Private tertiary education is a recent but rapid development in Ghana, meticulously regulated by the National Accreditation Board. Over 84,078 undergraduates are now enrolled in secular degree-granting programs in seventeen public and private universities, 29,047 students enrolled in polytechnics, and 26,025 trainees enrolled in teacher training colleges.
The history of the Gold Coast before the last quarter of the 15th century is derived primarily from oral tradition that refers to migrations from the ancient kingdoms of the western Soudan (the area of Mauritania and Mali). The Gold Coast was renamed Ghana upon independence in 1957 because of indications that present-day inhabitants descended from migrants who moved south from the ancient kingdom of Ghana. The first contact between Europe and the Gold Coast dates from 1470, when a party of Portuguese landed. In 1482, the Portuguese built Elmina Castle as a permanent trading base. Thomas Windham made the first recorded English trading voyage to the coast in 1553. During the next three centuries, the English, Danes, Dutch, Germans, and Portuguese controlled various parts of the coastal areas.
In 1821, the British Government took control of the British trading forts on the Gold Coast. In 1844, Fanti chiefs in the area signed an agreement with the British that became the legal steppingstone to colonial status for the coastal area.
From 1826 to 1900, the British fought a series of campaigns against the Ashantis, whose kingdom was located inland. In 1902, they succeeded in establishing firm control over the Ashanti region and making the northern territories a protectorate. British Togoland, the fourth territorial element eventually to form the nation, was part of a former German colony administered by the United Kingdom from Accra as a League of Nations mandate after 1922. In December 1946, British Togoland became a UN Trust Territory, and in 1957, following a 1956 plebiscite, the United Nations agreed that the territory would become part of Ghana when the Gold Coast achieved independence.
The four territorial divisions were administered separately until 1946, when the British Government ruled them as a single unit. In 1951, a constitution was promulgated that called for a greatly enlarged legislature composed principally of members elected by popular vote directly or indirectly. An executive council was responsible for formulating policy, with most African members drawn from the legislature and including three ex officio members appointed by the governor. A new constitution, approved on April 29, 1954, established a cabinet comprising African ministers drawn from an all-African legislature chosen by direct election. In the elections that followed, the Convention People's Party (CPP), led by Kwame Nkrumah, won the majority of seats in the new Legislative Assembly. In May 1956, Prime Minister Nkrumah's Gold Coast government issued a white paper containing proposals for Gold Coast independence. The British Government stated it would agree to a firm date for independence if a reasonable majority for such a step were obtained in the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly after a general election. This election, held in 1956, returned the CPP to power with 71 of the 104 seats in the Legislative Assembly. Ghana became an independent state on March 6, 1957, when the United Kingdom relinquished its control over the Colony of the Gold Coast and Ashanti, the Northern Territories Protectorate, and British Togoland.
In subsequent reorganizations, the country was divided into 10 regions, which currently are subdivided into 138 districts. The original Gold Coast Colony now comprises the Western, Central, Eastern, and Greater Accra Regions, with a small portion at the mouth of the Volta River assigned to the Volta Region; the Ashanti area was divided into the Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo Regions; the Northern Territories into the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West Regions; and British Togoland essentially is the same area as the Volta Region.