total: 238,533 sq km
land: 227,533 sq km
water: 11,000 sq km
Total: 2,420 km
border countries (3):
Burkina Faso 602 km,
Cote d’Ivoire 720 km,
Togo 1,098 km,
Coastline: 539 km
Total: 2967 km
warm and comparatively dry along southeast coast;
hot and humid in southwest;
hot and dry in north.
mostly low plains with dissected plateau in south-central area
Mean elevation: 190 m
Lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Mount Afadjato 885 m
gold, timber, industrial diamonds, bauxite, manganese,
fish, rubber, hydropower, petroleum, silver, salt, limestone.
Agricultural land: 69.1%
arable land 20.7%; permanent crops 11.9%; permanent pasture 36.5%
Other: 9.7% (2011 est.)
340 sq km (2012)
Population – distribution:
the population is concentrated in the southern half of the country
with the highest concentrations being on or near the Atlantic coast.
northeastern harmattan winds from January to March;
People and Society
Ghana has a young age structure, with approximately 57% of the population under the age of 25. Its total fertility rate fell significantly during the 1980s and 1990s but has stalled at around four children per woman for the last few years. Fertility remains higher in the northern region than in the Greater Accra region. On average, desired fertility has remained stable for several years; urban dwellers want fewer children than rural residents. Increased life expectancy, due to better health care, nutrition, and hygiene, and reduced fertility have increased Ghana’s share of elderly persons; Ghana’s proportion of persons aged 60+ is among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty has declined in Ghana, but it remains pervasive in the northern region, which is susceptible to droughts and floods and has less access to transportation infrastructure, markets, fertile farming land, and industrial centers. The northern region also has lower school enrollment, higher illiteracy, and fewer opportunities for women.
Ethnically, the people of Ghana may be said to belong to one broad group within the African family, but there is a large variety of subgroups. On the basis of language, it is possible to distinguish at least 75 of these. Many of these are very small, and only 10 of them are numerically significant. The largest of these groups are the Akan (which includes the Anyi, Asante [Ashanti], Baule, Fante, and Guang), Mole-Dagbani, Ewe, Ga-Adangme, and Gurma. Despite the variety, there were no serious ethnic dissensions when Ghana became independent. Ethnic consciousness persists in many areas, however, and at times tensions have erupted—especially in northern Ghana—into violent clashes with many fatalities. At all levels in government and in public life, an effort has been made to play down ethnic differences, a policy that has been helped by the adoption of English as the official language.
Akan 47.5%, Mole-Dagbon 16.6%, Ewe 13.9%, Ga-Dangme 7.4%, Gurma 5.7%, Guan 3.7%, Grusi 2.5%, Mande 1.1%, other 1.4% (2010 est.)
Zulu 22.7%, Xhosa 16%, Afrikaans 13.5%, English 9.6%, Sepedi 9.1%, Setswana 8%, Sesotho 7.6%, Xitsonga 4.5%, Swati 2.5%, Tshivenda 2.4%, Ndebele 2.1%, sign language 0.5%, other 1.6% (2011 est.)
Christian 71.2% (Pentecostal/Charismatic 28.3%, Protestant 18.4%, Catholic 13.1%, other 11.4%), Muslim 17.6%, traditional 5.2%, other 0.8%, none 5.2% (2010 est.)
The inhabitants of Ghana possessing Ghanaian passports are 20 million persons, including an additional 3‒4 million persons abroad. Ghana has a diverse population that reflects its colorful history and the peoples who have populated the region from ancient times to the present, with the historic amalgam of the main groups forming the basis of Ghana’s current demographics. Native West Africans make up 98% percent of the population. There is also a new population of Asians, Middle Easterners, Europeans and other recent immigrants.
Ghana was a country of immigration in the early years after its 1957 independence, attracting labor migrants largely from Nigeria and other neighboring countries to mine minerals and harvest cocoa – immigrants composed about 12% of Ghana’s population in 1960. In the late 1960s, worsening economic and social conditions discouraged immigration, and hundreds of thousands of immigrants, mostly Nigerians, were expelled.
The 1970s, severe drought and an economic downturn of the West African economy also played a big role in the country emigration; neighboring Cote d’Ivoire was the initial destination. Later, hundreds of thousands of Ghanaian migrated to Nigeria to work in its booming oil industry, but most were deported in 1983 and 1985 as oil prices plummeted. Many Ghanaian then turned to more distant destinations, including other parts of Africa, Europe, and North America, but the majority continued to migrate within West Africa. Since the 1990s, increased emigration of skilled Ghanaian, especially to the US and the UK, drained the country of its health care and education professionals. Internally, poverty and other developmental disparities continue to drive Ghanaian from the north to the south, particularly to its urban centers.
After Ghana’s Independence in 1957, Ghana’s first prime minister Dr. Kwame Nkrumah led Ghana into rapid industrialization which led to a lesser emphasis on agriculture and other subsistence economic activities in Ghana. The rapid industrialization in Ghana was however centered in the Southern part of Ghana ( Accra, Takoradi, Tema) therefore making most of the manufacturing and service activities centered around the southern part of Ghana. The rapid industrialization in Ghana saw high waves of migrations of people from rural areas that used to be actively engaged in agriculture to cities in the Southern part of Ghana in search for service and manufacturing industrial employment.
Ghana’s rapid shift from an informal economy to the formal economy made education an important political objective in Ghana. The magnitude of the task, as well as economic difficulties and political instabilities, have slowed down attempted reforms. The Education Act of 1987, followed by the Constitution of 1992, gave a new impulse to educational policies in the country. In 2011, the primary school net enrollment rate was 84%, described by UNICEF as “far ahead” of the Sub-Saharan average. In its 2013-14 report, the World Economic Forum ranked Ghana 46th out of 148 countries for education system quality. In 2010, Ghana’s literacy rate was 71.5%, with a notable gap between men (78.3%) and women (65.3%).
Ghanaian education system is divided into three parts: “Basic Education”, secondary cycle and tertiary education. “Basic Education” lasts 11 years. It is divided into Kindergarten (2 years), Primary School (2 module of 3 years) and Junior High (3 years). Junior High School (JHS) ends with the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE). Once the BECE achieved, the pupil can pursue into the second cycle. Hence, the pupil has the choice between general education (assumed by Senior High School) and vocational education (assumed by technical Senior High School, Technical and Vocational Institutes, completed by a massive private and informal offer). Senior High School lasts three years and ends on the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). The WASSCE is needed to join a university bachelor’s degree program.
University education is provided at institutions such as the University of Ghana, with campuses at Legon and Accra (established 1948), the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology at Kumasi (1951), the University of Cape Coast (1962), and the University for Development Studies at Tamale (1992). In addition, there are many technical and training colleges in the country, and Accra is home to the National Film and Television Institute (1978).
With over 95% of its children in school, Ghana currently has one of the highest school enrollment rates in all of Africa. The ratio of females to males in the total education system was 0.98, in 2014.
Ghana has a market-based economy with relatively few policy barriers to trade and investment in comparison with other countries in the region, and Ghana is well-endowed with natural resources. Ghana’s economy was strengthened by a quarter century of relatively sound management, a competitive business environment, and sustained reductions in poverty levels, but in recent years has suffered the consequences of loose fiscal policy, high budget and current account deficits, and a depreciating currency.
Before independence, the government’s role was confined mainly to the provision of such basic utilities as water, electricity, railways, roads, and postal services. Agriculture, commerce, banking, and industry were almost entirely in private hands, with foreign interests controlling the greater share in all of them except agriculture.
Shortly after independence, the government set out to extend its control over the economy by establishing a large number of state-owned enterprises in agriculture and industry. In order to make up for the local shortage of capital and entrepreneurial skills, measures were adopted to attract foreign investors to operate independently or in partnership with the government. These policies did not achieve the desired results because of poor planning and corrupt administration. By 1966, when the administration of Pres. Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown, the heavy overseas borrowing upon which the government had relied to support its economic programs had dissipated almost all of the country’s overseas reserves and had produced external and internal debts totaling some $1 billion.
Since it is an emerging designated digital economy with mixed economy hybridization and an emerging market with 5.9% GDP growth in 2017. It has an economic plan target known as the “Ghana Vision 2020”. This plan envisions Ghana as the first African country to become a developed country between 2020 and 2029 and a newly industrialized country between 2030 and 2039. This excludes fellow Group of 24 member and Sub-Saharan African country South Africa, which is a newly industrialized country. Ghana’s economy also has ties to the Chinese yuan renminbi along with Ghana’s vast gold reserves. In 2013, the Bank of Ghana began circulating the renminbi throughout Ghanaian state-owned banks and to the Ghana public as hard currency along with the national Ghana cedi for second national trade currency.
As of 2017, key economic concerns facing the government include the lack of reliable electricity and the high debt burden. The AKUFO-ADDO administration has made some progress by committing to fiscal consolidation, but much work is still to be done in 2018. Ghana signed a $920 million extended credit facility with the IMF in April 2015 to help it address its growing economic crisis. The IMF fiscal targets require Ghana to reduce the deficit by cutting subsidies, decreasing the bloated public sector wage bill, strengthening revenue administration, and boosting tax revenues. Priorities for the new administration include rescheduling some of Ghana’s $31 billion debt, stimulating economic growth, reducing inflation, and stabilizing the currency. Prospects for new oil and gas production and follow through on tighter fiscal management are likely to help Ghana’s economy in 2018
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$130.2 billion (2017 est.)
$123 billion (2016 est.)
$118.8 billion (2015 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$45.46 billion (2017 est.)
GDP – real growth rate:
5.9% (2017 est.)
3.5% (2016 est.)
3.8% (2015 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP):
$4,600 (2017 est.)
$4,500 (2016 est.)
$4,400 (2015 est.
Gross national saving:
7.9% of GDP (2017 est.)
7.8% of GDP (2016 est.)
9% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
services: 57.2% (2017 est.)
Agriculture – products:
cocoa, rice, cassava (manioc, tapioca), peanuts, corn, shea nuts, bananas; timber
mining, lumbering, light manufacturing, aluminum smelting, food processing, cement, small commercial shipbuilding, petroleum
Population below poverty line:
24.2% (2013 est.)
revenues: $9.236 billion
expenditures: $12.38 billion (2017 est.)
Agriculture is an important contributor to Ghana’s export earnings and a major source of inputs for the manufacturing sector. Agriculture in Ghana consists of a variety of agricultural products and is an established economic sector, and provides employment on a formal and informal basis. Ghana produces a variety of crops in various climatic zones which range from dry savanna to wet forest and which run in east-west bands across Ghana. Agricultural crops, including yams, grains, cocoa, oil palms, kola nuts, and timber, form the base of agriculture in Ghana’s economy In the year of As of 2013, agriculture employed 53.6% of the total labor force in Ghana.
The first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah attempted to use agricultural wealth as a springboard for the country’s overall economic development, Ghanaian agricultural output has consistently fallen since the 1960s. Beginning with the drop in commodity prices in the late 1960s, farmers were faced with fewer incentives to produce as well as with a general deterioration of necessary infrastructure and services.
When the Rawlings government initiated the first phase of the Economic Recovery Program (ERP) in 1984, agriculture was identified as the economic sector that could rescue Ghana from a financial ruin. Accordingly, since that time, the government has invested significant funds in the rehabilitation of agriculture. The government had directed capital toward repairing and improving the transportation and distribution infrastructure serving export crops. In addition, specific projects aimed at increasing cocoa yields and at developing the timber industry had been initiated. Except for specific development programs, however, the government had tried to allow the free market to promote higher producer prices and to increase efficiency.
After a difficult 2016, Ghana’s macroeconomic performance improved in 2017, with the country’s economy expanding for the fifth successive quarter in September 2017, at a rate almost double the 3.7% in 2016, according to the update. The external position has improved as the trade balance has shifted to a surplus. The economic update notes that Ghana has also made good progress in macro-stabilization in 2017, and recommends that it sustain the fiscal consolidation efforts. Inflation is likely to fall within or be close to the Bank of Ghana’s medium-term target range of 6-10% in 2018.
Commercial crops:- For over 81 years Agriculture in Ghana has been regulated by one of its highest yielding exports-Cocoa. Cocoa is Ghana’s principal agricultural export. Cocoa production occurs in the forested areas of Ghana: Ashanti Region, Brong-Ahafo Region, Central Region, Eastern Region, Western Region, and Volta Region. The other commercial crops are palm oil, cotton, rubber, sugar cane, tobacco, and kenaf. The main food crops are corn, yams, cassava and other root crops.
population without electricity: 7,300,000
electrification – total population: 72%
electrification – urban areas: 92%
electrification – rural areas: 50% (2013)
Electricity – production:
11.09 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
8.377 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
552 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – imports:
223 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
2.839 million kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
44.1% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 251,490
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 139 (July 2016 est.)
Internet country code:
percent of population: 34.7% (July 2016 est.)
Ghana’s manufacturing industry got a boost in 1957 when the government launched an industrialization drive. The drive resulted in the creation of a range of industrial enterprises including aluminum processing, oil refining, timber processing, cocoa processing, breweries, cement manufacturing and textile manufacturing. As a result of this industrialization, the manufacturing industry’s share of GDP grew from 10% in 1960 to 14% in 1970.
After 1970, harsh economic conditions, poor management, and the shortage of resources made it difficult for businesses to stay afloat in the industry, ultimately leading to a decline through the 70’s and 80’s. Liberalization of trade further added to the difficulties by flooding markets with cheap imports (mostly from China) with which local companies could not compete. As many as 120 manufacturing facilities have closed their doors since the liberalization of trade, eliminating many jobs.
In 1986, the government stepped in again and established the Ghana Investment Center which supported the creation of new enterprises in the manufacturing and other industries. In 1989, the government allocated over $100 million in investment capital to approved projects, two-thirds of which were joint ventures in the manufacturing sector. By 1999 manufacturing was contributing about 30% of GDP and 15% of employment in the country.
The Ghana economy is an emerging digital-based mixed economy hybrid similarly to that of Taiwan with an increasing primary manufacturing and exportation of digital technology goods along with assembling and exporting automobiles and ships, diverse resource-rich exportation of industrial minerals, agricultural products primarily cocoa, petroleum and natural gas, and industries such as information and communications technology primarily via Ghana’s state digital technology corporation Rlg Communications which manufactures tablet computers with smartphones and various consumer electronics.
Petroleum and natural gas production:- Ghana produces and exports an abundance of hydrocarbons such as sweet crude oil and natural gas. The 100% state-owned filling station company of Ghana, Ghana Oil Company (GOIL) is the number 1 petroleum and gas filling station of Ghana.
Industrial minerals mining:- Known for its industrial minerals, Ghana is the world’s 7th largest producer of gold; producing over 102 metric tons of gold and the 10th largest producer of gold in the world in 2012; producing 89 metric tons of gold. Ghana is the 2nd largest producer of gold on the Africa continent behind South Africa. Ghana has the 9th largest reserves of diamonds in the world. Industrial minerals and exports from South Ghana are gold, silver, timber, diamonds, bauxite, and manganese; South Ghana also has a great deposit of barites; basalts; clays; dolomites; feldspars; granites; gravels; gypsums; iron ores; kaolin’s; laterites; limestones; magnetite’s; marbles; micas; phosphates; phosphorus; rocks; salts; sands; sandstones; silver; slates; talcs; and uranium that are yet to be fully exploited.
Ghana has a long and prosperous mining history. More than 100 years ago, it was one of the first countries in West Africa to explore gold mining. Today, Ghana produces over 2 million ounces of gold per year. Minerals make up 35% of the country’s export income. Gold is the major money-maker, with other minerals including manganese, bauxite, and diamonds. Quarrying in Ghana consists mostly of smaller-scale operations that produce sand, gravel, cement, limestone, and granite. Large and small-scale mining operations provide an estimated 524,000 jobs for Ghanaians.
Although Ghana has a wide range of minerals, only a few—gold, diamonds, manganese, and bauxite—are exploited. These minerals are found mostly in the southern part of the country. Gold mining, with an unbroken history dating from the 15th century, is the oldest of these extraction industries; the others are of 20th-century origin—the working of manganese dating from 1916, diamonds from 1919, and bauxite from 1942. There are reserves of limestone and iron ore, although they are not exploited.
In 1970 oil was discovered offshore between Saltpond and Cape Coast. Although this discovery was initially classified as noncommercial, the steep world oil price increases of 1973–74 caused the government to reclassify it as commercial in 1974 and to undertake development. In 1974 and 1980 substantial amounts of natural gas were discovered offshore to the south and west of Cape Three Points. Oil production in the Saltpond area began in 1978, but it has proved disappointing; all crude oil is exported in order to reduce the country’s foreign-trade deficit. Further explorations of a more comprehensive nature have continued into the 21st century, resulting in the 2002 discovery of oil reserves off the coast near the border of Côte d’Ivoire, which have a potential for exploitation. Salt, in which the country is self-sufficient with a surplus for export, is obtained from the sea and lagoons. There are also extensive supplies of building stone, gravel, and sand.
Many of Ghana’s rivers have the requisite regimes and rates of flow to permit exploitation for hydroelectric power, which is the country’s primary source of electricity and is supplied principally by the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River and by a second dam a few miles downstream at Kpong. Drought conditions, however, can negatively impact hydroelectricity production and cause power interruptions. Thermal plants at Tema and Takoradi also provide some power to the country.
Banking and Finance
Ghana has a well-developed banking system that was used extensively by previous governments to finance attempts to develop the local economy. By the late 1980s, the banks had suffered substantial losses from a number of bad loans in their portfolios. In addition, cedi depreciation had raised the banks’ external liabilities. In order to strengthen the banking sector, the government in 1988 initiated comprehensive reforms. In particular, the amended banking law of August 1989 required banks to maintain a minimum capital base equivalent to 6 percent of net assets adjusted for risk and to establish uniform accounting and auditing standards. The law also introduced limits on risk exposure to single borrowers and sectors. These measures strengthened central bank supervision, improved the regulatory framework, and gradually improved resource mobilization and credit allocation.
The banking system included the central bank (the Bank of Ghana), three large commercial banks (Ghana Commercial Bank, Barclays Bank of Ghana, and Standard Chartered Bank of Ghana), and seven secondary banks. Three merchant banks specialized in corporate finance, advisory services, and money and capital market activities: Merchant Bank, Ecobank Ghana, and Continental Acceptances; the latter two were both established in 1990.
Tourist arrivals to Ghana include South Americans (Latinos), Asians, Europeans. Ghana’s all year round tropical warm climate along with its many wildlife; exotic waterfalls such as Kintampo Waterfalls and the largest waterfall in West Africa, the Tagbo Falls; Ghana’s coastal palm-lined sandy beaches; caves; mountains, rivers; meteorite impact crater and reservoirs and lakes such as Lake Bosumtwi or Bosumtwi meteorite crater and the largest lake in the world by surface area, Lake Volta; dozens of castles and forts; UNESCO World Heritage Sites; nature reserves and national parks are major tourist destinations in Ghana.
The World Economic Forum statistics in 2010 showed that Ghana was 108th out of 139 countries as the world’s favorite tourism destinations. The country had moved two places up from the 2009 rankings. In 2011, Forbes Magazine published that Ghana was ranked the eleventh-most friendly country in the world. The assertion was based on a survey in 2010 of a cross-section of travelers. Of all the African countries that were included in the survey, Ghana ranked highest. Ghana ranks as the seventieth−most stable country in the world and as the 58th–most peaceful country in the world.
In 2011, Ghana raked in $2.19 billion ($2,019,000,000) from the tourism sector on the back of an estimated 1,087,000 million international tourist arrivals. In 2012, Ghana’s tourism sector raked-in $1.7 billion ($1,700,000,000) from 993,600 international tourists, providing employment for 359,000 people. Ghana will annually rake in US$8.3 billion ($8,300,000,000) from the tourism sector per year by the year 2027 on the back of an estimated 4.3 million international tourist arrivals. To enter Ghana, it is necessary to have a visa authorized by the Government of Ghana, except for certain business incubators and business magnates who are on business trip.
By the end of the sixteenth century, most ethnic groups constituting the modern Ghanaian population had settled in their present locations. Archaeological remains found in the coastal zone indicate that the area has been inhabited since the early Bronze Age (ca. 4000 B.C.), but these societies, based on fishing in the extensive lagoons and rivers, left few traces. Archaeological work also suggests that central Ghana north of the forest zone was inhabited as early as 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. Oral history and other sources suggest that the ancestors of some of Ghana ‘s residents entered this area at least as early as the tenth century A.D. and that migration from the north and east continued thereafter.
These migrations resulted in part from the formation and disintegration of a series of large states in western Sudan (the region north of modern Ghana drained by the Niger River). Prominent among these Sudanic states was the Soninke kingdom of Ghana. Strictly speaking, Ghana was the title of the king, but the Arabs, who left records of the kingdom, applied the term to the king, the capital, and the state. The ninth-century Arab writer, Al Yaqubi, described ancient Ghana as one of the three most organized states in the region (the others being Gao and Kanem in central Sudan). Its rulers were renowned for their wealth in gold, the opulence of their courts, and their warrior-hunting skills. They were also masters of the trade in gold, which drew North African merchants to western Sudan. The military achievements of these and later western Sudanic rulers and their control over the region ‘ s gold mines constituted the nexus of their historical relations with merchants and rulers of North Africa and the Mediterranean.
The growth of trade stimulated the development of early Akan states located on the trade route to the goldfields in the forest zone of the south. The forest itself was thinly populated, but Akan-speaking peoples began to move into it toward the end of the fifteenth century with the arrival of crops from Southeast Asia and the New World that could be adapted to forest conditions. These new crops included sorghum, bananas, and cassava. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, European sources noted the existence of the gold-rich states of Akan and Twifu in the Ofin River Valley.
By the mid-eighteenth century, Asante was a highly organized state. The wars of expansion that brought the northern states of Mamprusi, Dagomba, and Gonja under Asante influence were won during the reign of Asantehene Opoku Ware I (d. 1750), successor to Osei Tutu. By the 1820s, successive rulers had extended Asante boundaries southward. Although the northern expansions linked Asante with trade networks across the desert and in Hausaland to the east, movements into the south brought the Asante into contact, sometimes antagonistic, with the coastal Fante, GaAdangbe, and Ewe peoples, as well as with the various European merchants whose fortresses dotted the Gold Coast.
The arrival of the Portuguese
When the first Europeans arrived in the late fifteenth century, many inhabitants of the Gold Coast area were striving to consolidate their newly acquired territories and to settle into a secure and permanent environment. Several African immigrant groups had yet to establish firm ascendancy over earlier occupants of their territories, and considerable displacement and secondary migrations were in progress. Ivor Wilks, a leading historian of Ghana, has observed that Akan purchases of slaves from Portuguese traders operating from the Congo region augmented the labor needed for the state formation that was characteristic of this period. Unlike the Akan groups of the interior, the major coastal groups, such as the Fante, Ewe, and Ga, were, for the most part, settled in their homelands.
The Portuguese were the first to arrive. By 1471, under the patronage of Prince Henry the Navigator, they had reached the area that was to become known as the Gold Coast. Europeans knew the area as the source of gold that reached Muslim North Africa by way of trade routes across the Sahara. The initial Portuguese interest in trading for gold, ivory, and pepper increased so much that in 1482 the Portuguese built their first permanent trading post on the western coast of present-day Ghana. This fortress, Elmina Castle, constructed to protect Portuguese trade from European competitors and hostile Africans, still stands.
With the opening of European plantations in the New World during the 1500s, which suddenly expanded the demand for slaves in the Americas, slaves soon overshadowed gold as the principal export of the area. Indeed, the west coast of Africa became the principal source of slaves for the New World. The seemingly insatiable market and the substantial profits to be gained from the slave trade attracted adventurers from all over Europe. Much of the conflict that arose among European groups on the coast and among competing for African kingdoms was the result of rivalry for control of this trade.
The Portuguese position on the Gold Coast remained secure for almost a century. During that time, Lisbon leased the right to establish trading posts to individuals or companies that sought to align themselves with the local chiefs and to exchange trade goods both for rights to conduct commerce and for slaves provided by the chiefs. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, adventurers — first Dutch, and later English, Danish, and Swedish were granted licenses by their governments to trade overseas. On the Gold Coast, these European competitors built fortified trading stations and challenged the Portuguese. Sometimes they were also drawn into conflicts with local inhabitants as Europeans developed commercial alliances with local chiefs.
The Gold Coast Slave Trade
With the loss of Elmina in 1642 to the Dutch, the Portuguese left the Gold Coast permanently. Both the Dutch and the British formed companies to advance their African ventures and to protect their coastal establishments. The Dutch West India Company operated throughout most of the eighteenth century. The British African Company of Merchants, founded in 1750. These two companies were a ready supply of human captives available for trade. The pace of colonization in the Caribbean and the Americas soon became so fast, and the demand for slaves to work the plantations so great, that Dutch and English, together with a few French, Danish, Swedish and even Prussian traders. The Gold Coast slave trade was one segment, perhaps a tenth, of an African trade that also featured Senegambia, Sierra Leone, the “Windward Coast” (present-day Liberia), the “Slave Coast” (present-day Porto Novo to Lagos), the Niger Delta and Cameroons, the Congo and Angola.
In 1700, the population of what is now Ghana is estimated to have been about one million. During the course of the eighteenth century, the numbers of slaves from the Gold Coast forts sold into the Middle Passage (the central leg of the Europe–Africa–Americas–Europe trading triangle), rose from around 2,000 a year to perhaps 10,000, with up to two out of three were men and boys aged between 8 and 20. The majority of Gold Coast slaves were deported to the Caribbean, where they worked for the rest of their lives on British, Dutch, French or Spanish sugar plantations. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, there were relatively few slaves in the North American colonies. But by 1750, Charleston and other ports were starting to buy African slaves from Caribbean traders. By the end of the eighteenth century, the USA was importing slaves directly, to work the cotton and tobacco fields supplying European factories.
It is estimated that for every 100 slaves who survived the crossing, 50 to 100 died, perishing during capture, while on the overland trek to the coast, while awaiting shipment in the dungeons, or at sea. The impact of removing so many of the fittest and most able young people – perhaps averaging ten percent each year from affected communities – was devastating, akin to a pandemic: every family suffered direct consequences as husbands, brothers, and sons, as well as wives, sisters, and daughters, were captured or disappeared. The population in the Gold Coast, which had been increasing by forty percent each century, hardly changed for more than 100 years. The best available estimate is that around a million slaves were transported from the Gold Coast to the Americas between 1600 and the mid-nineteenth century when the (by then illegal) trade finally dried up. The majority of slaves were taken from communities destroyed in wars or ruined in the aftermath of conflict.
From the 1760s, reformists lobbied for a ban, but it was the slave revolt on Haiti (1792–1804) that triggered moves toward an end to the trade. The trading nations, partly sensitized by the French revolution and the newly independent United States of America, partly terrified of what the future might bring if more slave revolts should occur, steadily turned against the trade. The first Europeans to outlaw the slave trade was the Danish, in 1804, followed by the British in 1807. Other trading nations followed suit, but it wasn’t until the British abolition of the institution of slavery itself, in 1833, that the trade began to decline rapidly, to be replaced by a burgeoning trade in ivory, hides and, later in the nineteenth century, palm oil for the soap and chemical industries. In the Gold Coast, palm oil was produced mostly on Asante and Fante palm plantations – worked partly with slave labor.
Scramble for Africa
Military confrontations between Asante and the Fante contributed to the growth of British influence on the Gold Coast. It was concern about Asante activities on the coast that had compelled the Fante states to sign the Bond of 1844. In theory, the bond allowed the British quite limited judicial powers the trying of murder and robbery cases only. Also, the British could not acquire further judicial rights without the consent of the kings, chiefs, and people of the protectorate. In practice, however, British efforts to usurp more and more judicial authority were so successful that in the 1850s they considered establishing European courts in place of traditional African ones.
As a result of the exercise of ever-expanding judicial powers on the coast and also to ensure that the coastal peoples remained firmly under control, the British, following their defeat of Asante in 1874, proclaimed the former coastal protectorate a crown colony. The Gold Coast Colony established on July 24, 1874, comprised the coastal areas and extended inland as far as the ill-defined borders of Asante.
The British sphere of influence was eventually extended to include Asante. Following the defeat of Asante in 1896, the British proclaimed a protectorate over the kingdom. Once the Asantehene and his council had been exiled, the British appointed a resident commissioner to Asante, who was given both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the territories. Each Asante state was administered from Kumasi as a separate entity and was ultimately responsible to the governor of the Gold Coast. As noted above, Asante became a colony following its final defeat in 1901.
As the country developed economically, the focus of government power gradually shifted from the hands of the governor and his officials into those of Ghanaian. The changes resulted from the gradual development of a strong spirit of nationalism and were to result eventually in independence. The development of national consciousness accelerated quickly after World War II, when, in addition to ex-servicemen, a substantial group of urban African workers and traders emerged to lend mass support to the aspirations of a small educated minority. Once the movement had begun, events moved rapidly — not always fast enough to satisfy the nationalist leaders, but still at a pace that surprised not only the colonial government but also many of the more conservative Africans.
Kwame Nkrumah was born in about 1909 in Nkroful, Gold Coast to a poor and illiterate family. Nkroful was a small village in the Nzema area, in the far southwest of the Gold Coast, close to the frontier with the French colony of the Ivory Coast. His father did not live with the family, but worked in Half Assini where he pursued his goldsmith business until his death. Kwame Nkrumah was raised by his mother and his extended family, who lived together in traditional fashion, with more distant relatives often visiting. He lived a carefree childhood, spent in the village, in the bush, and on the nearby sea. By the naming customs of the Akan people, he was given the name Kwame, the name given to males born on a Saturday. During his years as a student in the United States, though, he was known as Francis Nwia Kofi Nkrumah – Kofi is the name given to males born on Friday. He later changed his name to Kwame Nkrumah in 1945 in the UK, preferring the name “Kwame”.
According to Ebenezer Obiri Addo in his study of the future president, the name “Nkrumah”, a name traditionally given to a ninth child, indicates that Kwame likely held that place in the house of his father, who had several wives. Kwame was the only child of his mother. Nkrumah’s mother sent him to the elementary school run by a Catholic mission at Half Assini, where he proved an adept student. A German Roman Catholic priest by the name of George Fischer was said to have profoundly influenced his elementary school education. He progressed through the ten-year elementary programme in eight years. By about 1925 he was a student-teacher in the school and had been baptized into the Catholic faith. While at the school, he was noticed by the Reverend Alec Garden Fraser, principal of the Government Training College in the Gold Coast’s capital, Accra.
After obtaining his Teacher’s Certificate from the Prince of Wales’ College at Achimota in 1930, Nkrumah was given a teaching post at the Roman Catholic primary school in Elmina in 1931, and after a year there, was made headmaster of the school at Axim. In Axim, he started to get involved in politics and founded the Nzima Literary Society. In 1933, he was appointed a teacher at the Catholic seminary at Amissa. Although the life there was strict, he liked it and considered becoming a Jesuit. Nkrumah had heard journalist and future Nigerian president Nnamdi Azikiwe speak while a student at Achimota; the two men met and Azikiwe’s influence increased Nkrumah’s interest in black nationalism. The young teacher decided to further his education. Azikiwe had attended Lincoln College, a historically black college in Chester County, Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia, and he advised Nkrumah to enroll there. Nkrumah, who had failed the entrance examination for London University, gained funds for the trip and his education from relatives. He traveled by way of Britain, where he learned, to his outrage, of Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, one of the few independent African nations. He arrived in the United States, in October 1935.
With increasing popular backing, The Convention People’s Party (CPP) in early 1950 initiated a campaign of ” positive action, ” intended to instigate widespread strikes and nonviolent resistance. When some violent disorders occurred, Nkrumah, along with his principal lieutenants, was promptly arrested and imprisoned for sedition. But this merely increased his prestige as leader and hero of the cause and gave him the status of martyr. In February 1951, the first elections were held for the Legislative Assembly under the new constitution. Nkrumah, still in jail, won a seat, and the CPP won an impressive victory with a two-thirds majority of the 104 seats.
The governor, Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, released Nkrumah and invited him to form a government as ” leader of government business, ” a position similar to that of prime minister. Nkrumah accepted. A major milestone had been passed on the road to independence and self-government. Nonetheless, although the CPP agreed to work within the new constitutional order, the structure of government that existed in 1951 was certainly not what the CPP preferred. The ministries of defense, external affairs, finance, and justice were still controlled by British officials who were not responsible to the legislature. Also, by providing for a sizable representation of traditional tribal chiefs in the Legislative Assembly, the constitution accentuated the cleavage between the modern political leaders and the traditional authorities of the councils of chiefs.
The CPP pursued a policy of political centralization, which encountered serious opposition. Shortly after the 1954 election, a new party, the Asante-based National Liberation Movement (NLM), was formed. The NLM advocated a federal form of government, with increased powers for the various regions. NLM leaders criticized the CPP for perceived dictatorial tendencies. The new party worked in cooperation with another regionalist group, the Northern People ‘s Party. When these two regional parties walked out of discussions on a new constitution, the CPP feared that London might consider such disunity an indication that the colony was not yet ready for the next phase of self-government. The British constitutional adviser, however, backed the CPP position. The governor dissolved the Legislative Assembly in order to test popular support for the CPP demand for immediate independence.
On August 3, 1956, the newly elected Legislative Assembly passed a motion authorizing the government to request independence within the British Commonwealth. The opposition did not attend the debate, and the vote was unanimous. The British government accepted this motion as clearly representing a reasonable majority. On March 6, 1957, the 113th anniversary of the Bond of 1844, the former British colony of the Gold Coast became the independent state of Ghana. The nation ‘s Legislative Assembly became the National Assembly, and Nkrumah continued as prime minister. According to an independence constitution also drafted in 1957, Queen Elizabeth II was to be represented in the former colony by a governor general, and Sir Arden-Clarke was appointed to that position. This special relationship between the British Crown and Ghana would continue until 1960 when the position of governor general was abolished under terms of a new constitution that declared the nation a republic.
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