Our history stretches back almost 2000 years to the riches of the ancient Ghana Empire, where trade in gold, ivory, salt and kola nuts created one of the most wealthy nations in Africa, and attracted kinsmen from all over the continent. Europeans, drawn by the abundance of our land came to trade, and left behind their legacy of the many forts and castles that are found along Ghana's coast.
Until its independence from British colonial rule on March 6, 1957, Ghana was called the "Gold Coast", a name given to it by early Portuguese explorers who first set foot on the shores of the country in the fifteenth century. 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 tropical hardwoods.
- A wide variety of agricultural products, including the important export crop cocoa, and rich fishing resources.
- Unique tourist attractions, including beautiful landscapes, inviting sunshine, golden beaches, wildlife parks, the countryside with its rich cultural heritage, and the proverbial warmth and hospitality of the people.
During various periods from the time the Portuguese discovered gold in 1471 to independence in 1957, the monarchs of several European kingdoms, notably Denmark, England, Holland, Prussia and Sweden, sent hordes of explorers and merchants to the country for its abundant wealth, both natural and human. They battled for supremacy and control over the land, and built forts and castles, which also served as trading posts. Vestiges of the extent of European colonial presence and concentration of activity in the country are evidenced by the fact that 29 of the 32 European colonial forts and castles dotted along the coast of West Africa are in Ghana (the most in any sub-Saharan African country).
Ghana is located on the west coast of Africa, about 750 km north of the equator on the Gulf of Guinea, between latitudes 4-11.5°C north. The capital, Accra, is on the Greenwich meridian (zero line of longitude). The country has a total land area of 238,305 km2 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 672 km north-south and 536 km 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 8,480 km2 Lake Volta, the largest artificial lake in the world, formed behind the Akosombo hydroelectric dam. In the north, the predominant vegetation is savanna and shrub, while the south has an extensive rain forest.
Ghana has a tropical climate, characterised most of the year by moderate temperatures (generally 21-30°C or 70-90F), constant breezes and sunshine. There are two rainy seasons, from March to July and from September to October, separated by a short dry season in August and a relatively long dry season in the south from 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.
Ghana's principal ethnic groups are the Akans (Twi- and Fante-speaking), the Guans, Ewe, Dagombas, Walas and Frafra. Twi, Fante, Ga, Hausa, Dagbani, Ewe and Nzema are the major languages, but the official language of the country is English.
There are numerous grammar, secondary, basic, commercial, technical and vocational educational institutions throughout Ghana. The major state universities are: University of Ghana at Legon-Accra, University of Cape Coast, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology at Kumasi and the University of Development Studies at Tamale, as well as, one University College of Education at Winneba. There are also a number of private universities primarily clustered around the Greater Accra Region. In addition, there are numerous specialised tertiary institutions in the country. A functional literacy programme has been initiated in Ghana, targeting illiterate adults.
Ghana has a reasonably good health service. All regional capitals and most districts have hospitals and clinics, and two 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.
Each of Ghana's ten administrative regions is headed by Regional Ministers appointed by Government from both within and outside the country's elected parliament. Locally elected "Assembly-men and -women" also head each of the country's "District Assemblies".