The Republic of Ghana is a country in West Africa. It borders Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. The word Ghana means “Warrior King,” and was the source of the name “Guinea” (via French Guinoye) that is used to refer to the West African coast (as in Gulf of Guinea).
Ghana is only a few degrees north of the Equator, therefore giving it a warm climate. It is said that Ghana is geographically closer to the “centre” of the world than any other country. The coastline is mostly a low, sandy shore backed by plains and scrub and intersected by several rivers and streams. Formerly, a tropical rainforest belt, broken by heavily forested hills and many streams and rivers, extended northward from the coast, but most of the rainforest was felled in the twentieth century, leaving scattered remnants, principally in the southwest, some of which are under protection. North of this belt, the land is covered by low bush, park-like savannah, and grassy plains.
The climate is tropical. The eastern coastal belt is warm and comparatively dry (see Dahomey Gap); the southwest corner, hot and humid; and the north, hot and dry. Lake Volta, the world’s largest artificial lake, extends through large portions of eastern Ghana.
Formed from the merger of the British colony Gold Coast, The Empire of Ashanti and the British Togoland trust territory, Ghana was the first Sub-Saharan African nation to achieve independence from the United Kingdom in 1957, the name Ghana was chosen for the new nation to reflect the ancient Empire of Ghana that once extended throughout much of western Africa. In the Ashanti language it is spelled Gaana.
Regions and districts:
Government and politics:
Government: Ghana was created as a parliamentary democracy at independence in 1957, followed by alternating military and civilian governments. In January 1993, military government gave way to Fourth Republic after presidential and parliamentary elections in late 1992. The 1992 constitution divides powers among a president, parliament, cabinet, Council of State, and an independent judiciary. The Government is elected by universal suffrage.Administrative Divisions: There are ten administrative regions which are divided into 110 districts, each with its own District Assembly. Below districts are various types of councils, including fifty eight town or area councils, 108 zonal councils, and 626 area councils. 16,000 unit committees on lowest level.
Judicial System: The legal system is based on Ghanaian common law, customary (traditional) law, and the 1992 constitution. Court hierarchy consists of Supreme Court of Ghana (highest court), Court of Appeal, and High Court of Justice. Beneath these bodies are district, traditional, and local courts. Extrajudicial institutions include public tribunals. Since independence, courts are relatively independent; this independence continues under Fourth Republic. Lower courts are being redefined and reorganized under the Fourth Republic.
Politics: Political parties became legal in mid-1992 after ten-year hiatus. Under the Fourth Republic, major parties are National Democratic Congress, which won presidential and parliamentary elections in 1992; New Patriotic Party, major opposition party; People’s National Convention; and (new) People’s Convention Party.
Foreign Relations: Since independence, Ghana has been fervently devoted to ideals of nonalignment and Pan-Africanism. Ghana favors international and regional political and economic cooperation, and is an active member of United Nations and Organization of African Unity. Ghanaian politician Kofi Annan was elected UN Secretary General in 1997 and left office on the 1st of January 2007.
Well endowed with natural resources, Ghana has twice the per capita output of the poorer countries in West Africa. Even so, Ghana remains somewhat dependent on international financial and technical assistance as well as the activities of the extensive Ghanaian diaspora. Gold, timber, cocoa, diamond, bauxite, and manganese exports are major sources of foreign exchange. An oilfield which is reported to contain up to 3 billion barrels (480,000,000 m3) of light oil was discovered in 2007. Oil exploration is ongoing and, the amount of oil continues to increase.
The domestic economy continues to revolve around subsistence agriculture, which accounts for 50% of GDP and employs 85% of the work force, mainly small landholders. On the negative side, public sector wage increases and regional peacekeeping commitments have led to continued inflationary deficit financing, depreciation of the Cedi, and rising public discontent with Ghana’s austerity measures. Even so, Ghana remains one of the more economically sound countries in all of Africa.
The country has since July, 2007, embarked on a currency re-denomination exercise, from Cedi (¢) to the new currency, the Ghana Cedi (GH¢). The transfer rate is 1 Ghana Cedi for every 10,000 Cedis. The Bank of Ghana has embarked upon an aggressive media campaign to educate the public about what re-denomination entails.
The major ethnic groups are Akan 49.3%, Mole–Dagbon 15.2%, Ewe 11.7%, Ga-Dangme 7.3%, Guan 4%, Gurma 3.6%, Gurunsi 2.6%, Mande-Busanga 1%, other tribes 1.4%, other (Hausa, Zabarema, Fulani) 1.8% (2000 census).
According to the 2000 government census, religious divisions are as follows: Christian 69%, Muslim 16%, African beliefs 15%.The Christianity and Islam practiced in Ghana has many aspects of tribal African spirituality integrated into it.
Population of major cities
More than 250 languages and dialects are spoken in Ghana. English is the country’s official language and predominates government and business affairs. It is also the standard language used for educational instruction. Native Ghanaian languages are divided into two linguistic subfamilies of the Niger-Congo language family. Languages belonging to the Kwa subfamily are found predominantly to the south of the Volta River, while those belonging to the Gur subfamily are found predominantly to the north. The Kwa group, which is spoken by about 75% of the country’s population, includes the Akan, Ga-Dangme, and Ewe languages. The Gur group includes the Gurma, Grusi, and Dagbani languages.
Nine languages have the status of government-sponsored languages: Akan, Dagaare/Wale, Dagbani, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem, and Nzema. Though not an official language, Hausa is the lingua-franca spoken among Ghana’s Muslims, who comprise about 14% of the population.[citation needed