The country of Ghana is located on the Gulf of Guinea in western Africa and is bordered by Côte d’Ivoire on the west, Burkina Faso on the north, and Togo on the east. Ghana was established in 1957 with the passage of an independence constitution uniting the British colony of the Gold Coast and the British-controlled UN Togoland trust territory. Plagued by over two decades of coups, the country remained destabilized until former air force lieutenant Jerry Rawlings secured lasting power through a military coup in 1981.
Under the Rawlings administration, Ghana gradually implemented a constitutional democracy that has attracted and maintained international investments primarily into their gold, cocoa, and agricultural sectors. Today, Ghana enjoys a stable and growing economy, with its 2007 gross domestic product (purchasing power parity) estimated to be $31.33 billion, growing at an annual rate of 6.45 percent.
Ghana’s present-day inhabitants are not believed to be the original inhabitants of the territory that now comprises Ghana, but to have descended from migrant groups that arrived via the Volta River around the 13th century. The arrival of European traders in the late 15th century brought the onset of several hundreds of years of competition (both economically and physically) between the Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English in the territory in and around Ghana. Initially these conflicts concerned trading rights to gold, ivory, and pepper and later shifted heavily to slave trading concurrent with the expansion of European plantations in the New World.
By the end of the 19th century, the British empire consolidated sole power over the entire region, quelled several uprisings by the Asante ethnic group of southern Ghana, and officially annexed the region as a protectorate under the exclusive control of the British empire.
Over the next century, the British ruled the region indirectly by administering investments and mediating intertribal disputes, while delegating most local decisions to village chiefs and elders. This period of colonial rule saw the majority of wealth exported from the country accumulated by the Europeans but also endowed the region with significant developments in transportation, sanitation, agricultural, and educational infrastructure.
By the conclusion of World War II, Africans were heavily embedded in the central government that controlled the territory of Ghana. After several failed attempts toward full self-governance, the country petitioned and successfully gained full independence from the British Commonwealth and the country of Ghana was established through the independence constitution of 1957. Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, set about to implement sweeping socialistic measures and to unify the African continent into a self-sufficient entity, breaking the pattern of neocolonialism present in much of the rest of the developing world.
These ambitious policies resulted in heavy financial burdens and ultimately resulted in a series of political coups, beginning in 1966 and ending with the 1981 coup led by Rawlings. After many decades of stifled political opposition and curtailed civil liberties, the Rawlings administration redrafted the country’s constitution in 1992, implementing term limits and reinstating multiparty elections.
Today, Ghana’s population (est. around 23.4 million) enjoys a relatively stable and growing emerging market economy, centered primarily on subsistence agriculture (56 percent of the labor force by occupation, 2005 est.). The 2006 Millennium Challenge Compact agreement between Ghana and the United States focuses an estimated half-billion dollars of investment into Ghana’s agricultural sector, seeking to both grow the economy and reduce poverty.
In addition to agriculture, Ghana’s 239,460 sq. km of land (roughly the size of the state of Oregon) is endowed with an abundance of natural resources including gold, timber, bauxite, aluminum, manganese, and diamonds that serve as the other primary source of exports for foreign exchange. Ghana continues to attempt to stabilize its currency and recently introduced the new Ghana cedi in 2007 (10,000 old cedis equals 1 new cedi). This move has contributed to the recent reduction of the county’s inflation rate to single digits (9.6 percent, 2007 est.).
While Ghana continues to carry large amounts of debt, its economy is seen as one of the most promising in west Africa for international investment. Ghana’s economy is now under the direction of its Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy, which outlines the country’s plans for macroeconomic stability, tax simplification, increased private sector competitiveness, human resource and agricultural development. Most recently, the discovery of large offshore oil reserves has prompted increased exploration and infrastructure development on the country’s west coast.
- Ernest Aryeetey and S. M. Ravi Kanbur, The Economy of Ghana: Analytical Perspectives on Stability, Growth & Poverty (James Currey, 2008);
- CIA, “Ghana,” World Factbook, www.cia.gov (cited March 2009);
- Ghana’s Economic History: Reflections on a Half-Century of Change (Lynne Rienner, 2008);
- Roger Gocking, The History of Ghana (Greenwood Press, 2005);
- Geeta Gandhi Kingdon and Måns Söderbom, Education, Skills, and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from Ghana, Education Working Paper Series, no. 11. (World Bank, 2008);
- Library of Congress Federal Research Division, “Ghana Country Study,” www. loc.gov (cited March 2009);
- Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Ghanaian Politics Today (Atumpan Publications, 2008);
- Department of State, “Millennium Challenge Corporation and Republic of Ghana to Sign $547 Million Millennium Challenge Compact,” www.state.gov (cited March 2009).
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