The history of Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) before the last quarter of the 15th century is derived primarily from oral tradition that refers to migrations from the ancient kingdoms of the western Soudan (the area of Mauritania and Mali). The Gold Coast was renamed Ghana upon independence in 1957 because of indications that present-day inhabitants descended from migrants who moved south from the ancient kingdom of Ghana.
The first contact between Europe and the Gold Coast dates from 1470, when a party of Portuguese landed. In 1482, the Portuguese built Elmina Castle as a permanent trading base. Thomas Windham made the first recorded English trading voyage to the coast in 1553. During the next three centuries, the English, Danes, Dutch, Germans and Portuguese controlled various parts of the coastal areas.
In 1821, the British Government took control of the British trading forts on the Gold Coast. In 1844, Fanti chiefs in the area signed an agreement with the British that became the legal steppingstone to colonial status for the coastal area.
From 1826 to 1900, the British fought a series of campaigns against the Ashantis, whose kingdom was located inland. In 1902, they succeeded in establishing firm control over the Ashanti region and making the northern territories a protectorate. British Togoland, the fourth territorial element eventually to form the nation, was part of a former German colony administered by the United Kingdom from Accra as a League of Nations mandate after 1922. In December 1946, British Togoland became a UN Trust Territory, and in 1957, following a 1956 plebiscite, the United Nations agreed that the territory would become part of Ghana when the Gold Coast achieved independence.
The four territorial divisions were administered separately until 1946, when the British Government ruled them as a single unit. In 1951, a constitution was promulgated that called for a greatly enlarged legislature composed principally of members elected by popular vote directly or indirectly. An executive council was responsible for formulating policy, with most African members drawn from the legislature and including three ex officio members appointed by the governor.
A new constitution, approved on April 29, 1954, established a cabinet comprising African ministers drawn from an all-African legislature chosen by direct election. In the elections that followed, the Convention People's Party (CPP), led by Kwame Nkrumah, won the majority of seats in the new Legislative Assembly.
In May 1956, Prime Minister Nkrumah's Gold Coast government issued a white paper containing proposals for Gold Coast independence. The British Government stated it would agree to a firm date for independence if a reasonable majority for such a step were obtained in the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly after a general election. This election, held in 1956, returned the CPP to power with 71 of the 104 seats in the Legislative Assembly. Ghana became an independent state on March 6, 1957, when the United Kingdom relinquished its control over the Colony of the Gold Coast and Ashanti, the Northern Territories Protectorate, and British Togoland.
In subsequent reorganizations, the country was divided into 10 regions, which currently are subdivided into 138 districts. The original Gold Coast Colony now comprises the Western, Central, Eastern, and Greater Accra Regions, with a small portion at the mouth of the Volta River assigned to the Volta Region; the Ashanti area was divided into the Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo Regions; the Northern Territories into the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West Regions; and British Togoland essentially is the same area as the Volta Region.
Ghana endured a long series of coups before Lt. Jerry Rawlings took power in 1981 and banned political parties. Multiparty politics were restored in 1992.
Source: The World Factbook, 2014.
Primary and junior secondary school education is tuition-free and mandatory. The Government of Ghana's support for basic education is unequivocal. Article 39 of the constitution mandates the major tenets of the free, compulsory, universal basic education (FCUBE) initiative. Launched in 1996, it is one of the most ambitious pre-tertiary education programs in West Africa. Since the early 1980s, Government of Ghana expenditures on education have risen from 1.5 percent to over 5 percent of GDP. Since 1987, the share of basic education in total education spending has averaged around 67 percent.
Since 1986, pre-tertiary education in Ghana includes six years of primary education, three years at the junior secondary school level, and three years at the senior secondary school level. Successful completion of senior secondary school leads to admission eligibility at training colleges, polytechnics, and universities. In 2002, there were approximately 3.7 million students attending schools at these three levels: 70 percent at the primary level, 24 percent at the junior secondary level, and 6 percent at the senior secondary level. There are more than 500 public senior secondary schools in Ghana that graduated a total of 90,000 students in 2004, representing a huge expansion over the old system (transformed in 1987), which consisted of 300 institutions graduating 27,000 students a year.
Access to each successive level of education remains severely limited by lack of facilities. Only about 30 percent of junior secondary school graduates are able to gain admission to senior secondary schools, and only about 35 percent of senior secondary school graduates are able to gain admission to universities and polytechnics, plus up to 20 percent to diploma-level post-secondary education. Private secondary schools play a small role in Ghana, with only a handful of institutions offering international curricula.
Entrance to one of the five Ghanaian public universities is by examination following completion of senior secondary school. There are five public and nine private degree-granting universities in Ghana, along with 10 public polytechnics, a three-year tertiary system in applied fields of study. Ghana's first private Catholic university opened in 2003 in Sunyani. The polytechnics also offer vocational, non-tertiary diploma programs. In addition, there are approximately 40 teacher training colleges and 15 nurses' training colleges. Private tertiary education is rapidly developing in Ghana, regulated by the National Accreditation Board.
In 2004, new enrollments in public universities totaled more than 18,000; new enrollments in private universities 1,380; and new enrollments in polytechnics 8,700, representing an increase of 30 percent over the previous five years. Total enrollment in tertiary education has surpassed 100,000 for the first time in Ghana's history.
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and the government generally respects this right in practice. The government at all levels strives to protect this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private sectors.
Religious institutions that wish to have formal government recognition are required to register with the Registrar General's Department. The registration requirement for religious bodies at the Office of the Registrar General is the same for any NGO. The organization pays for the application form, for the registration form, and for the registration. Applicants are required to renew their registration annually. Registration is a formality only, and there were no reports that the Government denied registration to any group. Most traditional religions, with the exception of the Afrikania Mission, do not register. Formally registered religions are exempt from paying taxes on ecclesiastical, charitable and educational activities that do not generate income from trade or business; however, religious organizations are required to pay taxes on business activities that generate income.
Government employees, including the president, are required to swear an oath upon taking office; however, this oath can be either religious or secular, depending on the wishes of the individual.
The government often takes steps to promote interfaith understanding. At government meetings and receptions, there generally is a multidenominational invocation usually led by religious leaders from various faiths. The government recognizes Christian, Muslim and secular holidays throughout the calendar year.
Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released in 2012 by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Holidays and Festivals
Ghana has hand-woven colorful fabric called Kente. It is worn by chiefs and others for important and special occasions.
Folklore and pop music are popular in Ghana. Highlife, a dance with a strong, syncopated beat, is also popular. Instruments used in music are drums, trumpets, flutes and other percussion instruments.
Sports and Games
Holidays and Festivals
New Year's Day, Jan. 1
Eid-Al-Adha, February, follows lunar calendar
Independence Day, March 6
Good Friday, March or April
May Day, May 1
African Union Day, May 25
Republic Day, July 1
Eid-Al-Fitr, November, follows lunar calendar
Farmer's Day, Dec. 3
Christmas Day, Dec. 25: Children travel from house to house, singing songs that use imagery from local folklore.
Boxing Day, Dec. 26
Visit the Compassion blog to read posts about Christmas in Ghana and Easter in Ghana.
There are as many festivals as the number of tribes in Ghana. Some of the most celebrated ones are:
Deer Hunting Festival
Celebrated by the people of Winneba in the southern part of the country. Local warring troops hunt in the forest and the first to bring back a live deer is the winner. This is followed by feasting of the entire community. The belief is that the catch helps to bring good luck and abundance of food to the people in the area.
Another festival by the Ga tribal people takes place in the southern part of the country. Homowo literally means "hooting at hunger." Celebrated soon after the lean farming season and at the beginning of the food harvest, people usually eat cornmeal with palm nut soup and fish during this time.
Football (soccer) is a favorite game of most Ghanaians. Volleyball, basketball tennis, ludo, golf and handball are also popular.
Fufu: Cassava and plantain pounded together into a sticky paste. It is eaten with soup.
Kenkey: Fermented corn dough boiled in plantain or banana leaves. Eaten with soup or sauce.
Red: Fried ripe plantains eaten with bean sauce.
Chicken With Chilies
This traditional Ghanaian dish is typically served with yams and fruits such as papaya or mango.
3 or 4 green chilies
1 three-pound chicken cut into 8 pieces
3 Tb. butter
1 onion, sliced into rings
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Brown the chicken in melted butter. Add the onion rings and sauté until soft.
Add the broth, nutmeg, salt, pepper and chilies and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 35 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked.
Compassion in Ghana
Twi (most commonly spoken tribal language)
Medasse (Thank you)
Wo ho te sen? (How are you?)
Maakye (Good morning)
Maaha (Good afternoon)
Maadwo (Good evening)
Ghana Facts and Figures
Compassion International Ghana was incorporated on July 28, 2004, and started operations in July 2005. The Child Survival Program began in 2012.
Child Sponsorship Program
Children 14 and younger meet at the child development center for 8 hours on Saturdays. Older children meet for 4 hours.
Children are given new age-appropriate Bibles within one year of being registered into the program, and new Bibles are given as children grow older until they leave the program.
Each child receives breakfast, lunch and dessert at the child development center once a week. Typical breakfast consists of maize porridge, milk, sugar and bread. Lunch consists of rice with sauce and either chicken, fish or meat. Dessert is an orange, banana, pineapple or other fruit in season. Parents are educated to provide nutritious food for their children, and highly malnourished children are given a package of nutritious foods including eggs, milk, beans, rice and oil once a month.
Children participate in a variety of extracurricular activities including sports, bead making, batik making, going for excursions, communal cleaning of hospitals/health centers, markets, etc.
Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about Ghana and its traditions and our work in Ghana.
25,758,108 (2014 estimate)
Note: Estimates for this country take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS, which results in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, and lower population growth rates than otherwise expected.
||Asante 14.8%, Ewe 12.7%, Fante 9.9%, Boron (Brong) 4.6%, Dagomba 4.3%, Dangme 4.3%, Dagarte (Dagaba) 3.7%, Akyem 3.4%, Ga 3.4%, Akuapem 2.9%, other (includes English official) 36.1% (2000 census)
Christian 71.2% (Pentecostal/Charismatic 28.3%, Protestant 18.4%, Catholic 13.1%, other 11.4%), Muslim 17.6%, traditional 5.2%, other 0.8%, none 5.2% (2010 census)
(Definition: age 15 and over can read and write)
Female: 65.3% (2010 estimate)
|Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources
|Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities
Rural: 7.7% (2011 estimate)
||Tropical; warm and comparatively dry along southeast coast; hot and humid in southwest; hot and dry in north.
|Percentage of population urbanized
||51.9% (2011 estimate)
||Male: 63.38 years
Female: 68.19 years (2014 estimate)
|Under-5 mortality rate
||72/1,000 (2012 estimate)
|GDP per capita
||$3,500 (2013 estimate)
|Number of people living with HIV/AIDS
||235,800 (2012 estimate)
|Percentage of population living below $1.25 a day
||29% (2007-11 study)
Sources for facts: The World Factbook, 2014; The State of the World's Children, 2014.