This week, we’re taking a deep dive into another African country, Ghana! Ghana is located in West Africa, and the name Ghana translates to “warrior king” in the Soninke language. Its flag has three equal horizontal bands of red, yellow, and green from top to bottom. There is a black five-point star in the center of the yellow band. The red represents the people’s fight for independence, the yellow represents the gold and mineral wealth of the earth, and the green represents the vegetation. The black star represents the people.
Ghana, formally known as the Gold Coast under British rule, was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from colonialism in 1957. It was referred to as the Gold Coast because the Ghana Empire was known for trading in salt and gold. The fight for independence was led by Kwame Nkrumah, who famously said, “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa.” True to his words, in the following decade, more than 30 other countries followed Ghana’s example and declared their own independence.
More than one-half of the population is Christian, and approximately one-fifth is Muslim. A small percentage also adhere to traditional indigenous religions. The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and tolerance of various religions is taught in schools. There are a variety of ethnic subgroups in Ghana, the largest of which include the Akan, Mole-Dagbani, Ewe, Ga-Adangme, and Gurma. Ethnic tensions persist in areas of the country, and have occasionally erupted into violence. In the government and public life, the country works to reduce ethnic tensions. One of the methods was the adoption of English as the official language.
In Ghana, there are dry and dusty Harmattan winds from January through March, which bring frequent droughts. From July through August, high humidity and rains usher in the wet season.
The landscape is primarily low plains with a plateau towards the south. On more than one-half of Ghana’s arable land, Cacao is grown commercially for its seeds, cocoa beans. Cocoa has provided a huge boost to the economy. Ghana’s biggest exports today are cocoa, gold, and oil. Gold mining has a long history that dates back the 1400’s. Oil was more recently discovered in 2007 off the coast of Ghana.
Ghanaians take pride in having one of the largest open air markets, the Kejetia Market. It is located in Kumasi, the capital city of the Ashanti Region in southern Ghana. At Kejetia, you can buy local crafts such as cloth, sandals, and beads, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The handwoven kente cloth of the Akan and Ewe ethnic groups is known for its rich colors. Another notable attraction is the Elmina Castle, the oldest European building in sub-Saharan Africa. It was constructed by the Portuguese in 1482, and was named after the abundant gold mines found along the coast of Ghana. Unfortunately, historically the castle became a trading post during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Today, it is preserved as a national museum and a World Heritage Monument under UNESCO.
Sources: Britannica, Buzz Ghana, CIA World Factbook