Until its independence from British colonial rule on 6 March, 1957, Ghana was called the "Gold Coast", a name given it by early Portuguese explorers who first set foot on the shores of the country in 1471. The name aptly described the country's wealth in gold and natural resources, which include to the present day:
- Rich mineral resources such as gold, diamonds, manganese, bauxite, iron ore and various clay and salt deposits.
- Extensive, rich forests with a wide range of fine tropical hardwoods.
- A wide variety of agricultural products and rich fishing resources.
- Unique tourist attractions, including beautiful landscapes, inviting sunshine, golden beaches, wildlife parks, the country-side with its rich cultural heritage, and the proverbial warmth and hospitality of the people.
Ghanais located on the west coast of Africa, about 750 km north of the equator on the Gulf of Guinea, between the latitudes of 4°-11°5' north. The capital, Accra, is on the Greenwich Meridian (zero line of longitude). The country has a total land area of 238,533 sq. km and is bounded on the north by Burkina Faso, on the west by Cote d'Ivoire, on the east by Togo and on the south by the Gulf of Guinea. The land area stretches for 672km north-south and 536km east-west.
The coastal area of Ghana consists of plains and numerous lagoons near the estuaries of rivers. The land is relatively flat and the altitude is generally below 500m, with more than half of the country below 200m. The Volta River basin dominates the country's river system and includes the 400km Lake Volta (the largest artificial lake in the world), formed behind the Akosombo Hydro-Electric Dam. In the north, the predominant vegetation is savannah and shrub, while the south has an extensive rain forest.
Ghanahas a tropical climate, characterised most of the year by moderate temperatures generally 21-32°C (70-90°F), constant breeze and sunshine. There are two rainy seasons, from March to July and from September to October, separated by a short cool dry season in August and a relatively long dry season in the south from mid-October to March. Annual rainfall in the south averages 2,030 mm but varies greatly throughout the country, with the heaviest rainfall in the western region and the lowest in the north.
The population of Ghana is 18,845,265 (Source: Ghana Statistical Service, January 2002). The country, with ten regions, has on average a population density of about 78.9 persons per square kilometre, with an annual growth rate of 2.6 per cent.
Most of the population is concentrated in the southern part of the country, with the highest densities occurring in urban areas and cocoa-producing areas.
Ghana's principal ethnic groups are the Akan (Asante, Twi and Fante speaking), the Guans, Ewes, Dagombas, Gas, Gonjas, Dagaabas, Walas and Fafras. There are 56 Ghanaian dialects of which Akwapim Twi, Asante Twi, Fante, Dangbe, Ewe, Kasem, Gonja, Dagare, Ga Dagbani and Nzema are the major languages. The official language of the country is English. French and Hausa are two major foreign languages spoken in the country.
There is complete freedom of religion in Ghana. Religious affiliation - Pentecostal / Charismatic (24.1%), Protestant (18.6%), Islam (15.6%), Catholic (15.3%), other Christian (11%), Traditional Religion (8.5%), no religion (6.2%) and other religion (0.7%).
Ghanahas a tradition of educational excellence, as the success of Ghanaian professionals, scientists, technicians and teachers throughout the world testifies.
The educational system was originally based on the English grammar school system. But this decade has seen radical changes focusing on the scientific, technical, vocational, managerial and entrepreneurial skills to meet Ghana's development needs. Proper attention is now also devoted to Ghanaian and African history, art, literature, languages and traditional skills and customs.
The public universities are: the University of Ghana, the University of Cape Coast, the University of Science and Technology at Kumasi and the new University of Development Studies at Tamale, as well as the University College of Education at Winneba. There are also private universities, numerous polytechnics and specialised institutions.
The tertiary education system is being enlarged and its facilities improved, with substantial funds being allocated every year to the provision of academic and residential infrastructure, journals, computers and other equipment.
Ghanahas a good health service system throughout the country. All regional capitals and most districts have hospitals, polyclinics and clinics. Two (2) teaching hospitals in Accra and Kumasi have facilities for treating special cases. Additionally, a number of religious organisations and private medical practitioners operate hospitals and clinics all over the country. Herbal medicine and psychic healing are also generally practised, and there is a special government Herbal Medicine Hospital and Research Centre at Akwapim-Mampong.
The civil law in force in Ghana is based on the Common Law, doctrines of equity and general statutes. Ghanaian customary law is, however, the basis of most personal, domestic and contractual relationships. Criminal Law is based on the Criminal Procedure Code, 1960, derived from English Criminal Law, and since amended. The Superior Court of Judicature comprises a Supreme Court, a Court of Appeal, a High Court and Regional Tribunals. Inferior Courts include Circuit Courts, Circuit Tribunals, Community Tribunals and such other Courts as may be designated by law.
Fast Track Courts have also been established to speed up court trials and overhaul justice delivery in the country.
The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice and not fewer than nine other Justices. It is the final court of appeal in Ghana and has jurisdiction in matters relating to enforcement or interpretation of the Constitution.
Ghana's foreign policy objectives, in a nutshell, continue to be directed towards the promotion and protection of the interests of Ghana, establishment of a just and equitable international economic policy and social order. The promotion of respect for international law and treaty obligations and settlement of international disputes by peaceful means as well as adherence to the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the African Union, the Commonwealth, the ECOWAS Treaty and other organisations of which Ghana is a member.
The Constitution of the Fourth Republic, approved by a national referendum on 28 April 1992, makes provision for a multi-party political system. Executive power is vested in the President, who is Head of State and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces. The President and the Vice President are elected by universal adult suffrage. The duration of the President's tenure of office is limited to two four-year terms. Legislative power is vested in a 200-member uni-cameral Parliament, which is elected by direct adult suffrage for a four-year term. Ministers are appointed by the President, subject to approval by the Parliament. The Constitution also provides for a 25-member Council of State, principally comprising presidential nominees and regional representatives.
There are approximately 30,000 km of classified roads in Ghana, 15,000 km of these are trunk roads, the remainder being feeder roads. There are also around 6000 km of unclassified tracks. Of the total road network approximately 6000 km are paved. There is a good road-network between Accra and the main towns.
There are approximately 1000 km of railways in Ghana, which connect the main centres of Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi.
Kotoka (Accra) is the main international airport. There are also airports at Takoradi, Kumasi, Sunyani and Tamale.
- Ports and Harbours
Ghana's two main ports are Tema (near Accra) and Takoradi, these are both relatively modern. Rail links exist from both these ports to Kumasi.
- Inland Waterways
The Volta Lake stretches 400 km inland from the Akosombo Dam. Lake transport is fairly modest