The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with their own independent governments and sovereignty, GNP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched, and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.
Ghana: First to shed colonial
rule, control own economy
Ghana is country of western Africa, situated on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Although relatively small in area and population, Ghana is one of the leading countries of Africa, partly because of its considerable natural wealth and partly because it was the first black African country south of the Sahara Desert to achieve independence from colonial rule.
In addition to being known for its lush forests, diverse animal life, and miles of sandy beaches along a picturesque coast, Ghana is also celebrated for its rich history—its habitation possibly dating from 10,000 BCE—and as a fascinating repository of cultural heritage. The country takes it name from the great medieval trading empire that was located northwest of the modern-day state until its demise in the 13th century. Direct sea trade with Europe, established in the 15th century, had much impact on the area’s inhabitants, many of whom actively traded with the Portuguese, Dutch, British, and other Europeans.
Forts and castles, many of which still dot the Ghanaian coast today, were constructed by Europeans to protect their trade interests. Although trading was originally centered on the gold that was readily available in the area (and from which the future British colony the Gold Coast would take its name), the focus shifted to the lucrative slave trade in the 17th century. The area later became known for growing cacao, the source of cocoa beans. Introduced there in the late 19th century, cacao continues to provide an important export for Ghana.
Modern-day Ghana, which gained its independence on March 6, 1957, comprises the former Gold Coast. The colony’s drive for independence was led by nationalist and Pan-African leader Kwame Nkrumah, who viewed Ghana’s sovereignty as being important not only for the Ghanaian people but for all of Africa, saying “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.”
Indeed, more than 30 other African countries, spurred by Ghana’s example, followed suit and declared their own independence within the next decade. Nkrumah quickly laid the groundwork for fiscal independence within the new country as well, embarking on many economic develop- ment projects. Unfortunately, decades of corruption, mismanagement, and military rule stymied growth and achievement. By the 1990s, though, the country’s state of affairs began showing signs of improvement, and Ghana is now held up as an example of successful economic recovery and political reform in Africa.
Ghana’s administrative capital is the coastal city of Accra. Originally founded on the site of several Ga settlements, Accra developed into a prosperous trading hub; today it serves as the commercial and educational center of the county. Kumasi, another prominent commercial center, is located in the south-central part of the country. Known as the “Garden City of West Africa,” Kumasi is also the seat of the king of the Asante people, the vestige of an empire that existed in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Land ,relief and drainage
Situated on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea in western Africa, Ghana is bordered to the northwest and north by Burkina Faso, to the east by Togo, to the south by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the west by Côte d’Ivoire. Relief throughout Ghana is generally low, with elevations not exceeding 3,000 feet. The southwestern, northwestern, and extreme northern parts of the country consist of a dissected peneplain (a land surface worn down by erosion to a nearly flat plain, later uplifted and again cut by erosion into hills and valleys or into flat uplands separated by valleys); it is made of Precambrian rocks (about 540 million to 4 billion years old). Most of the remainder of the country consists of Paleozoic deposits (about 250 to 540 million years old), which are thought to
Accra is the capital of Ghana, on the Atlantic coast of West Africa. Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park (below) honors Ghana’s first president, who helped lead the country to independence. The park contains Nkrumah’s mausoleum and a museum of his life.
Kumasi is the capital city of the Ashanti Region in southern Ghana. It is a bustling center of Ashanti culture boasting a population of 3.3 million. In the huge, open-air Kejetia Market, vendors sell everything from glass beads to Ashanti sandals. The Golden Tulip is a four-star hotel in Kumasi popular to many tourists from around that visit Ghana each year.
While Ghana's urban centers Accra and Kumasi, are the seat of business and government, the nation offers many idyllic places for sheer respite such as its opulent beaches and lakes affording tourists and residents alike the opportunity to merely sit back and exhale. Ghana’s coastline stretches 350 miles from Aflao in the Volta Region all the way to Cape Three Points in the Western Region. Along this coastline, many beautiful beaches with different sand and rock features hug the Atlantic Ocean. Ghana also offers 27 rivers for fishing, canoing, and recreation; among then Lake Volta, the Volta and Atagora Rivers.
The interior rainforest of Ghana adds to the country's allure with its tropical splendor pro- viding habitat to an array of life from mammals, reptiles, amphi- bians, birds, and insects that supports the ever-growing eco-tourism sector. Species thrive in different habitats mostly in Ghanaian natural forests and protected areas. Mammals include elephants, leopards, hippos, gorillas, monkeys, and hyenas. Snakes are common while marine creatures such as crocodiles and hundreds of fish species live along the coast with the Atlantic Ocean and in Lake Volta, Lake Bosumtwi, and 25 other lakes in the country. Hundreds of insects and bird species thrive in the beautiful scenery of Ghana. Major wildlife parks are Mole and Kakum National Parks, Wechiau Sanctuary, and Atome conservancy
Touted as having as much as 70 percent of West Africa's gold deposits, Ghana has, for centuries, attracted numerous for- eigners seeking to trade and invest in its mineral riches. About one-sixth of the country contains extractable gold, and certain regions hold rich diamond reserves. (Below) about 52 percent
of the labor force is engaged in agriculture. Approximately, 39 percent of farm labor force are women. Agriculture contributes to 54 percent of Ghana's GDP, and accounts for over 40 percent of export earnings, while at the same time providing over 90 percent of the food needs of the country.
It is said that beauty is the eye of the beholder. Beauty down through the years has been largely determined by what White culture has seen as beautiful backed by Madison Avenue, Hollywood, television, beauty pageants, the "Runway," and magazines. The concept of what is beauty has changed much in recent years. What was once the standard has changed. As African women have entered more and more into the main- stream, international beauty standards have changed with darker-hued women consistently impressing judges with striking beauty and poise. The result has been crowning as beauty queens with titles like Miss World and Miss Universe. Ghanaian women like the beauties seen here, have played a significant role in this change.
rest on older rocks. The Paleozoic sediments are composed mostly of beds of shales (laminated sediments consisting mostly of particles of clay) and sandstones in which strata of limestone occur in places. The sediments occupy a large area called the Voltaian Basin in the north-central part of the country where the elevation rarely exceeds 500 feet. The basin is dominated by Lake Volta, an artificial lake that extends far into the central part of the country behind the Akosombo Dam and covers about 3,275 square miles. Along the north and south, and to some extent along the west, the uplifted edges of the basin give rise to narrow plateaus between 1,000 and 2,000 feet high, bordered by impressive scarps. The most outstanding are the Kwahu Scarp in the north. Surrounding the basin on all of its sides, except in the east, is the dissected Precambrian peneplain, which rises to elevations of 500 to 1,000 feet above sea level and contains several distinct ranges as high as 2,000 feet.
Along the eastern edge of the Voltaian Basin, and extending from the Togo border to the sea immediately west of Accra, is a narrow zone of folded Precambrian rocks running northeast to southwest, forming the Akwapim-Togo Ranges, which vary in elevation from 1,000 to 3,000 feet. The highest points in Ghana are found there, including Mt. Afadjato, 2,903 feet; Mt. Djebobo, 2,874; and Mt. Torogbani, 2,861 feet, all situated east of the Volta River near the Togo border. These ranges are part of the Togo-Atakora Mountains, which extend northward into Togo and Benin.
The southeastern corner of the country, between the Akwapim-Togo Ranges and the sea, consists of the gently rolling Accra Plains, which are underlain by some of the oldest Precambrian rocks known—mostly gneisses (coarse-grained rocks in which bands containing granular minerals alternate with bands containing micaceous minerals); in places they rise above the surface to form inselbergs (prominent steep-sided hills left after erosion). The only extensive areas of young rocks less than about 136 million years old are in the wide, lagoon-fringed delta of the Volta, about 50 miles east of Accra, and in the extreme southwest of the country, along the Axim coast.
In the east the predominant rocks are less than 65 million years old, though there is a patch of Cretaceous sediments (about 65 to 145 million years old) near the Ghana-Togo border. To the west of Axim, near the Côte d’Ivoire frontier, the rocks date to the Cretaceous Period. The intervening coastal zone between eastern and western extremes contains patches of Devonian sediments (about 360 to 415 million years old). With the older and more resistant rocks of the Precambrian peneplain, these form a low, picturesque coastline of sandy bays and rocky promontories.
The drainage system is dominated by the Volta River basin, which includes Lake Volta and the Black Volta, White Volta, and Oti rivers. Most of the other rivers, such as the Pra, the Ankobra, the Tano, and a number of smaller ones, flow directly south into the ocean from the watershed formed by the Kwahu Plateau, which separates them from the Volta drainage system. South of Kumasi, in the south-central part of the country, is Ghana’s only true natural lake—Bosumtwi—lying in a meteorite impact crater and without any outlet to the sea. Along the coast are numerous lagoons, most of them formed at the mouths of small streams.
Over much of the surface of Ghana, the rocks are weathered, and great spreads of laterite (red, leached, iron-bearing soil) and lesser spreads of bauxite and manganese are found on the flat tops of hills and mountains. Although the movements of Earth’s crust that produced the basic geologic structure of the country have now virtually ceased, periodic earthquakes occur, especially near Accra along the eastern foot of the Akwapim-Togo Ranges, where there is a major fault line.
Soils of Ghana
Throughout the country, weathering, leaching, and the formation of laterite hardpans (hard, impervious layers composed chiefly of iron and aluminum oxides cemented by relatively insoluble materials) by capillary movement (the movement of water containing mineral salts to the surface) and evaporation are common processes that vary in importance according to the characteristics of each locality. Leaching is more pronounced in the wet south, while the formation of laterite is more widespread in the drier north. In general, most soils are formed in place from parent rock material that has been subjected to prolonged erosion and consequently has limited fertility.
In the forest zone the soils are mostly lateritic. They are subdivided into relatively fertile and less-acidic ochrosols (red, brown, and yellow-brown, relatively well-drained soils) in areas of moderate precipitation and into more-acidic and less-fertile oxisols in the extreme southwest, where annual precipitation exceeds 65 inches. Ochrosols occur over considerable areas in the coastal and northern savanna zones. As in the forest zone, they are the best soils for agriculture.
The coastal savanna zone has an abundance of soil types, including tropical black earths, tropical gray earths, acid vleisols, and sodium vleisols. Except for the tropical black earths, known locally as Akuse clays, most of these soils are of little importance agriculturally. The Akuse clays fill a broad zone across the coastal savanna plains; although heavy and intractable, they respond well to cropping under irrigation and mechanical cultivation. Because
of their intrinsic poverty in nutrients, most of the soils are heavily dependent upon the humus supplied by the vegetation cover. There is thus a delicate balance between vegetation and soil fertility, which may be upset by uncontrolled burning or overuse.
Ghana’s climate, like that of the rest of the Guinea Coast, is determined largely by the interplay of two air masses: a hot, dry continental air mass that forms over the Sahara and a warm, humid maritime tropical air mass that forms over the South Atlantic. Both air masses move toward the Equator with their hemispheric winds and meet at the Guinea Coast for several months each year. Continental air moves southward with the northeast trade winds, known in western Africa as the harmattan, and maritime tropical air moves northward with the southwest trades. The zone where these air masses converge is characterized by seasonal line squall precipitation.
The convergence zone itself oscillates north and south, following the seasonal movements of the overhead sun and the thermal equator; it reaches its most northerly position in the central Sahara, about latitude 21 degrees N, in August, and its most southerly position about 7 degrees N, a few miles north of the Ghana coastline, in January. Rains occur when the dominant air mass is maritime tropical, and drought prevails when continental air and the harmattan dominate.
In the savanna country north of the Kwahu Plateau, there are two seasons—a dry season from November to March, with hot days and cool nights under clear skies, and a wet season that reaches its peak in August and September. The mean annual precipitation is between 40 and 55 inches, but there is a marked moisture deficit because of the long, intensely dry season that follows.
In the southern forest country, where the annual mean precipitation from north to south has a range of about 50 to 86 inches, there are two rainy seasons—one from April to July and a lesser one from September to November—and two relatively dry periods that occur during the harmattan season, from December to February, and in August, which is a cool, misty month along the coast. In the Accra Plains, anomalously low annual mean precipitation figures vary from 40 inches to less than 30 inches, and the precipitation variability and the vegetation bear close resemblance to conditions in the northern savanna zone.
Temperatures show much more regional uniformity. The annual mean temperature is from 78 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit and the daily range only some 10 to 15 degrees along the coast and some 13 to 30 degrees in the north. Average relative humidities range from nearly 100 percent in the south to 65 percent in the north, although, during the harmattan season, figures as low as 12 percent have been recorded in the north and around Accra. Enervating conditions produced locally by the combination of high temperatures and high humidities are mod- erated by altitude in the higher parts and by land and sea breezes along the coast. In general, the hottest months are February and March, just before the rains, and the lowest temperatures occur in January or—along the coast—in August.
Plant and wildlife
Although soils and biotic factors (i.e., those pertaining to living organisms, including humans) are important, vegetation is primarily determined by precipitation. There are three principal types of vegetation from south to north occurring in the coastal savanna, in the forest zone, and in the northern savanna zone. The coastal savanna in the southeastern plains around Accra consists of a mixture of scrub and tall grass (mostly Guinea grass), with giant anthills, often 10 to 14 feet high, providing an anchorage for thicket clumps that often include Elaeophorbia (a fleshy-leaved plant containing caustic latex) and other drought- and fire-resistant species such as the baobab (Adansonia digitata).
In the forest zone (the southern third of the country and the area along the Akwapim-Togo Ranges, where the mean annual precipitation exceeds 45 inches and is well distributed throughout the year without a pronounced dry season), the predominant vegetation is evergreen and tropical semi-deciduous forest. There are tall trees of varying heights, forming a closed canopy at the top, above which tower a few forest giants, such as the silk cotton tree, the wawa tree (African whitewood, a hardwood), and the African mahogany. The evergreen forest is in the extreme southwest, where the precipitation exceeds 65 inches a year, while there is a semi-deciduous forest farther north.
The dense forest zone formerly covered an area of about 30,000 square miles, but farming activities and timber exploitation have reduced it to less than 8,000 square miles, including about 6,000 square miles of reserved forest. To ensure the sustainable use of the country’s rapidly diminishing forest resources, the government has embarked on a forestry policy involving the compulsory reforestation of cutover areas and more-accurate measurements of exploitable timber and rates of extraction and regeneration, as well as a ban on the export of round logs.
The third vegetation type, the northern savanna, is found in the northern two-thirds of the country, where the low annual precipitation, between 30 and 45 inches, occurs in a single season and is followed by a period of intense drought. There the vegetation consists mostly of tall Guinea grass, together with a scattering of low trees, such as the shea butter tree, various species of acacia, and baobabs. Along the northern border the savanna gives way to a more open type of grassland that has developed largely as a result of prolonged human interference.
Ghana is relatively rich in animal life, although it has been reduced by hunting and the spread of human settle- ment. Large mammals include lions, leopards, hyenas, antelope, elephants, buffalo, wild hogs, chimpanzees, and many kinds of monkeys. Among the snakes are pythons, cobras, horned and puff adders, and green mambas. Crocodiles, the endangered manatees, and otters are found in the rivers and lagoons. Hippopotamuses are found in the Volta River. There are many species of lizards, tortoises, and giant snails. Among the numerous birds are parrots, hornbills, kingfishers, eagles, kites, herons, cuckoos, nightjars, sunbirds, egrets, vultures, snakebirds, and plantain eaters.
The ocean, rivers, and inland lakes are rich in fish and other forms of life. Sardines, locally called herring, arrive seasonally in the coastal waters in large shoals; other fish include anchovy, tuna, mackerel, soles, skates, mullet, bonitos, flying fish, lungfish, elephant fish, sea bream, and sharks. Edible turtles, barracuda, and stingrays are fairly common; mussels, crabs, lobsters, and prawns also are found.
Insect life is particularly abundant. There are beetles, fireflies, ants, termites, butterflies, crickets, and bugs. Among the most dangerous insects are mosquitoes, tsetse flies, and blackflies (Simuliidae), which are responsible for transmitting the endemic diseases of malaria and yellow fever, trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), and onchocerciasis (river blindness, a parasitic disease), respectively.
The Mole National Park near Damongo extends 1,900 square miles and has an abundant game population including elephants, monkeys, and crocodiles. Kakum National Park, which is located about 14 miles north of Cape Coast and opened to the public in 1994, had originally been established as a timber reserve in 1932. It comprises about 140 square miles of rainforest and contains many endangered mammals, reptiles, birds, and butterflies, as well as a large variety of tropical trees and plants. Other reserves have been developed farther south, notably on the western side of Lake Volta.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
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 (see Dagomba), Ewe, Ga-Adangme, and Gurma.
Despite the variety, there were no serious ethnic dissensions when Ghana became independent. Ethnic cons- ciousness 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.
Practically all the present peoples are believed to have moved into the country within the last 700 to 1,000 years in a series of migrations from the north, with the Ewe and Ga-Adangme, who occupy the southeastern corner of the country, entering from the east and southeast.
More than 50 percent of the population is Christian, about 20 percent is Muslim, and a small segment adheres to the traditional indigenous religions. Indigenous religions, while widespread and deep-rooted, lack a systematic body of doctrines. Though they are based, in general, on belief in the existence of a supreme being, a number of lesser deities associated with various natural phenomena are recognized. Considerable prominence is given to dead ancestors, who are considered to be ever-present, capable of influencing the course of events for the living and capable of serving as intermediaries between the living and the gods.
In the first half of the 20th century, Christianity steadily gained ground at the expense of the indigenous religions, but the trend slowed following independence. Beginning in the late 20th century, the number of adherents of Islam began to increase. Christian influence is most dominant in the southern part of the country, while Islam is strongest in the extreme north and in the larger urban centers, which contain some immigrant populations from Muslim regions of western Africa. Many spiritualist and syncretistic churches claiming some adherence to Christianity combined with traditional African beliefs in magic and divination have appeared and grown in popularity since the 1950s. Other divisions of the Christian church are the Protestant and Roman Catholic denominations.
Ghana has three major geographic regions—coastal, forest, and northern savanna—the boundaries of which are not always clearly defined. By far the smallest of the regions, the coastal zone is traditionally a region of fishermen and small-scale farmers. This region was formerly occupied by a series of small kingdoms, the inhabitants of which were the first people from what would become Ghana to be exposed to European contact—from the 15th century onward, perhaps even earlier. From east to west the principal ethnic groups are the Ewe, Adangme (Adangbe), Ga, Efutu, Fante, Ahanta, and Nzima. The seaboard has made the region an important hub of commerce, resulting in the growth of such urban centers as Accra, Cape Coast, and Sekondi-Takoradi. The coastal zone has more urban centers than any other region in Ghana.
Farther inland, occupying about 33 percent of the country, is the forest region with its relatively large and pros- perous traditional states and rich agricultural lands. West of the Volta these states consist mostly of Akan peoples; to the east the Ewe predominate. The forest environment and the economic activities and modes of life engen- dered by it, especially since the introduction of the farming of cacao (source of cocoa beans) in 1879, have served to give the region a common stamp.
Apart from the Ewe, the major ethnic groups are the Akwapim and Kwahu in the east, the Akim in the south, the Asante and Brong in the centre and north, and the Wasaw and Sefwi in the west. While all the peoples in the region have a relatively long history of settlement and political activity, those with the most impressive record are the Asante, who from the 17th to the late 19th century built a political empire centered on Kumasi that included a large number of subject and satellite states spread throughout the forest region and in both the coastal and northern savanna zones.
Almost all the timber, cacao, and exploited mineral wealth, as well as a number of other minor cash crops grown for export and a large part of the foodstuffs consumed in Ghana, come from the forest region. Population density is relatively high, especially in the cacao-growing areas. Except for Kumasi, there are few really large urban centers, although other administrative centers—Ho, Koforidua, and Sunyani—form significant population concentrations.
The northern savanna covers 40 percent of the country but is economically the least developed of the three regions. There, the largest ethnic groups are the Dagomba and the Guang (Gonja), related to the Mossi people of Burkina Faso. The region has a harsh environment because of its low precipitation. The southern area, which immediately adjoins the forest zone, forms part of the disease-ridden “middle belt” of western Africa that combines the worst features of both the forest and the savanna environments; it is especially unattractive for settlement. In the past it was subject to extensive slave raiding from both the north and south. Distance from the sea and consequent insulation from active European contact over a long period retarded the development of this region.
Among the advantages of the northern savanna region—especially in the most northerly part, which is relatively free from the tsetse fly so deadly to cattle—is an extensive savanna vegetation that is well suited to livestock breeding. Its relatively light soils and the precipitation regime favor the cultivation of yams and cereals. Although agriculture is mostly of the traditional subsistence type, the introduction of irrigation in the 1960s and mechanized cultivation in the 1980s opened up new prospects. Lake Volta, which extends far into the heart of the region, offers comparatively cheap access to the south and serves as a reservoir of water for agricultural and other uses, though periods of drought can affect its utility.
In the late 1980s only about 33 percent of Ghana’s population was estimated to be urban, but a steady increase in migration from rural areas into urban centers—some of which expanded at about double the national population growth rate—resulted in 50 percent of Ghana’s population residing in urban centers at the beginning of the 21st century. In the 2010s the proportion was slightly more than 50 percent. Most of the urban centers, despite their rapid expansion in size and population, remain small by world standards. The Accra-Tema agglomeration, with a population of more than one million, is the largest in the country, followed by Kumasi and Tamale.
Almost everywhere, agriculture is extensive, rather than intensive, and rural settlements form scattered nuclei surrounded by land that is either under crops or undergoing regeneration. Permanent or continuous cropping is encouraged throughout the country but is most common in the extreme northeast, where settlements consist of isolated compound houses, each surrounded by its own farm. Elsewhere, agriculture is based on a rotational system in which land is cropped for two or three years and then left fallow for four to seven years to allow it to regenerate. When cacao or other tree crops are grown, however, cultivation is usually permanent.
Since 1970 Ghana’s population has maintained an average annual growth rate above the world average. About 65 percent of Ghanaians are under age 30, which ensures that the country’s high growth rate will continue for some time. Life expectancy, although low by world standards, has improved considerably since 1960 and is among the highest in western Africa. Population fluctuations resulting from emigration became pronounced during the severe economic depression of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The expulsion of more than one million Ghanaian nationals, mostly young people without employable skills, from Nigeria in 1983 delivered a further shock to the economy when they returned to Ghana but failed to cause major sociopolitical upheavals, owing largely to the impressive absorptive capacity of Ghana’s indigenous social systems.
Economy of Ghana
The economy is a mixture of private and public enterprise. About 60 percent of the GDP is derived from the services sector, agriculture contributes almost 20 percent, and industry roughly 25 percent. Ghana is home to many financial institutions, including commercial, development, and foreign banks. The Bank of Ghana is the central bank and issues the national currency, the Ghana cedi. The Ghana Stock Exchange is located in Accra. Revenue from tourism became a major source of foreign exchange earnings for Ghana in the late 20th century, more than tripling in the 1990s in response to the rehabilitation of historic monuments and the development of ecotourism at Kakum National Park.
Ghana’s principal exports—cocao, gold, and sawn wood—are received primarily by the countries of the European Union, India, and the United Arab Emirates. Ghana’s principal imports include petroleum, equipment, and food products, originating primarily from China, the United Kingdom, and the US. Under the restructuring program sponsored by the World Bank in the late 1980s, foreign companies and private entrepreneurs were encouraged to invest in private or joint private and public ventures and to assist in the rehabilitation of the economy; in general, the trend was toward increased privatization of the economy.
The continued devaluation of the cedi over time (from 1.02 cedis to the US dollar in 1970 to 9,145 cedis to the US dollar in 2006) had mixed effects on both trade and the cost of living, but overall Ghana’s economy had begun to recover by the 1990s. Beginning in the late 1990s, the government concentrated on improving economic stability and transparency, and it continued with privatization efforts. In the 21st century, Ghana—considered a model of African economic recovery and political reform—qualified for substantial debt relief measures, including relief from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s Heavily Indebted Poor Country program in 2002 and the total debt forgiveness plan agreed upon by the Group of Eight country leaders in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005, but by 2015 Ghana was suffering from a high debt burden again.
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Apart from providing the bulk of national income, agriculture, forestry, and fishing employ more than half of the population. Cacao—grown commercially for its seeds and cocoa beans—is cultivated on more than one-half of Ghana’s arable land and is a significant source of the country’s export revenue. Consequently, the world price paid for cocoa beans directly determines Ghana’s economic fortunes. Cocoa bean production fell sharply during the 1970s, undermined by aging and diseased trees, drought, bush fires, poor transport facilities, lack of adequate price and other incentives to farmers, and widespread smuggling across Ghana’s borders.
The Cocoa Marketing Board (established 1947 to regulate cocoa prices) was abolished in 1979 following charges of corruption, but was reconstituted in 1985 as the Ghana Cocoa Board. In 1992 the government began allowing private traders to compete in domestic trading. By the late 1990s the farmers’ share of world market price was increased from 25 percent to 60 percent; the additional money directed to farmers stimulated production. Ghana is usually among the world’s leading producers of cocoa and is known for the high-grade quality of its sun-dried (rather than mechanically dried) cocoa.
Timber has also been an important source of foreign exchange earnings. Toward the end of the 20th century, however, the significance of timber exports dropped because of restrictions on cutting and exporting round logs. The government rations logging licenses.
The Ghanaian domestic market is important. The value of food produced for local consumption is considerable. The soil and climate favor a wide range of crops. Yams and cereals such as rice and millet are produced primarily in the northern savanna zone; cattle are also raised there. The forests yield shea nuts and kola nuts. Successive govern- ments have strongly supported diversification of food production to reduce reliance on a few crops and to cut the need for imported foodstuffs, but their measures have often been contradictory because of the emphasis on exports capable of earning foreign exchange. Besides cocoa beans and timber, other agricultural products that are exported include sugar, coffee, palm oil, palm kernels, copra, and various fruits and vegetables.
Ghana’s offshore waters are rich in fish, and the creation of Lake Volta added another important source of fish for the domestic market. The various types of fish caught include cape hake, grunt, sea bream, tilapia, herring, mackerel, barracuda, and tuna. Most of the catch is sun-dried or smoked and consumed locally, but an increasing proportion is refrigerated; certain fishes, especially tuna, are mainly directed toward the overseas market, and exports of canned and fresh tuna increased in the late 20th century.
Resources and power
Although Ghana has a wide range of minerals, only some—gold, diamonds, manganese, and bauxite (the principal ore of aluminum)—are exploited. 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 also reserves of limestone and iron ore. 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.
Ghana has oil and natural gas reserves. The state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) is involved in all aspects of the oil and gas industry in the country. 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. Modest oil production in the Saltpond area began in 1978. Further explorations of a more comprehensive nature have continued into the 21st century, resulting in the discoveries of more lucrative oil reserves off the coast near the border of Côte d’Ivoire. Oil production at the offshore Jubilee field began in 2010, and Ghana saw a significant increase in output. This was further supplemented by the start of production at the Tweneboa-Enyenra-Ntomme (TEN) field in 2016 and the Offshore Cape Three Points field in 2017. Natural gas is produced at the aforementioned fields as well.
Sixty percent of Ghana’s electricity is supplied by oil- or gas-fired plants, such as those at Kpone, Tema, and Takoradi. Many of Ghana’s rivers have the requisite regimes and rates of flow to permit exploitation for hydroelectric power, which provides 40 percent of the country’s electricity and is supplied principally by the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River. A second dam is located a few miles downstream at Kpong, and another dam, the Bui, is located on the Black Volta River. Drought conditions, however, can negatively impact hydroelectricity production and cause power interruptions.
The Ghanaian government’s various industrialization policies, initiated since independence, have resulted in the establishment of a wide range of manufacturing industries, notably the production of food, beverages, tobacco, textiles, clothes, footwear, timber and wood products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and metals, including steel and steel products. These are manufactured mostly for local consumption. Among the program directives of the five-year plan for 1975-80, however, was the maintenance of a reasonable balance of external trade, and a number of industrial projects were aimed at the export market in either the short or long term.
Ghana’s industrial development has been hampered by a lack of capital, and official industrial development policy in the early 1980s recognized the importance of attracting foreign capital for the purpose of an effective economic takeoff. A movement toward privatizing Ghana’s parastatals in the 1990s and 2000s helped increase production and export figures in some industries and succeeded in attracting foreign investment.
The development of Ghana’s mineral industry was hampered in the 1960s and ’70s by a shortage of equipment, skilled personnel, and foreign exchange capital. New investment codes and mining laws in 1985-86 removed duties on plant and equipment imports, stimulating production and growth. Gold mining in particular underwent a signifi- cant expansion as a result of renewed efforts at revitalization with massive foreign investments and encouragement for local and foreign entrepreneurs. More than half a dozen new mining companies opened in the 1990s, and Ghana’s gold production increased considerably. Following the discovery of additional oil reserves in the 2000s, Ghana’s oil and natural gas industry expanded.
High-quality sand in the Tarkwa mining area provides the basis for a small but important glass industry. Cement factories have been developed at Tema, Takoradi, and other cities, and there is an aluminum smelter at Tema as
Government and politics
Ghana is a unitary presidential constitutional democracy with a parliamentary multi-party system that is dominated by two parties — the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP). Ghana alternated between civilian and military governments until January 1993, when the military government gave way to the Fourth Republic of Ghana after presidential and parliamentary elections in late 1992. The 1992 constitution of Ghana divides powers among a commander-in-chief of the Ghana Armed Forces (president), parliament (Parliament of Ghana), cabinet (Cabinet of Ghana), council of state (Ghanaian Council of State), and an independent judiciary (Judiciary of Ghana). The government of Ghana is elected by universal suffrage after every four years.
Military and police
In 1957, the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) consisted of its headquarters, support services, three battalions of infantry and a reconnaissance squadron with armored vehicles. Ghanaian Prime Minister and President Kwame Nkrumah aimed at rapidly expanding the GAF to support the US of Africa ambitions. Thus in 1961, 4th and 5th Battalions were established, and in 1964 6th Battalion was established, from a parachute airborne unit originally raised in 1963.
The Ghana Police Service (GPS) and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) are the main law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Ghana, and are responsible for the detection of crime, maintenance of law and order and the maintenance of internal peace and security. The Ghana Police Service has eleven specialized police units including a Militarized police Rapid deployment force (RDF) and Marine Police Unit (MPU). The Ghana Police Service operates in 12 divisions: 10 covering the ten regions of Ghana, one assigned specifically to the seaport and industrial hub of Tema, and the 12th being the Railways, Ports and Harbors Division. The Ghana Police Service's Marine Police Unit and Division handles issues that arise from the country's offshore oil and gas industry.
In 2011, 1.08 million tourists visited Ghana. Tourist arrivals to Ghana include South Americans, Asians, Europeans, and North Americans. The attractions and major tourist destinations of Ghana include a warm, tropical climate year-round, diverse wildlife, waterfalls such as Kintampo waterfalls and the largest waterfall in west Africa, Wli waterfalls, Ghana's coastal palm-lined sandy beaches, caves, mountains, rivers, and reservoirs and lakes such as Lake Bosumtwi and the largest man-made lake in the world by surface area, Lake Volta, dozens of forts and castles. World Heritage Sites, nature reserves and national parks.
In addition to the beautiful natural reserves which serve as tourist sites, there are some castles in Ghana that serve as tourist sites and attract many tourists from all over the world. Some of the notable castles are Cape Coast Cas- tle and the Elmina Castle all in the Central region of Ghana. Not only are the castles important for tourism, they also mark where blood was shed in the slave trade and preserve and promote the African heritage stolen and destroyed through the slave trade. As a result of this, the World Heritage Convention of UNESCO named Ghana's castles and forts as World Heritage Monuments.
The World Economic Forum statistics in 2010 showed that out of the world's favorite tourist destinations, Ghana was ranked 108th out of 139 countries. The country had moved two places up from the 2009 rankings. In 2011 2011, Forbes magazine published that Ghana was ranked the 11th 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. Tourism is the fourth highest earner of foreign exchange for the country.
A growing tourist attraction in Ghana is surfing. Up and down the coastline, several spots have been identified and cultivated by locals and internationals alike. Renowned surfers have made trips to the country to sample the waves. Suitable for beginners and seasoned surfers alike, there is a quality and consistency to the waves to suit all levels of skill. It is not unusual now to see surfers carrying their boards amid traditional Ghanaian fishing vessels. Busua, Kokrobite, and Muuston boast some of the country's best surf in warm, tropical waters.
To enter Ghana, it is necessary to have a visa authorized by the Government of Ghana. Travelers must apply for this visa at a Ghanaian embassy; this process can take approximately two weeks. By law, visitors entering Ghana must be able to produce a yellow fever vaccination certificate.