Ghana, in West Africa, independent country bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Guinea) on the south, by the Ivory Coast on the west, by Togo on the east, and by Burkina Faso on the north. Accra, on the coast, is the capital and largest city.
Land and climate
Ghana is generally a low-lying country. Beyond the narrow coastal plain, the Kwahu Plateau extends inland, giving way to rolling savanna in the north. A belt of tropical rainforest covers much of the plateau. The Volta River system with its tributaries, the Black and White Voltas and the Oti, covers much of the country and forms a delta with lagoons and swamps at its mouth, east of Accra. With the completion of Akosombo Dam in 1965, about 70 mi (113 km) from the sea, the Volta formed a lake of over 3,000 sq mi (7,770 sq km) for hydroelectric power and irrigation.
Ghana has many ethnic groups, the most numerous being the Akan family, which includes the Fanti and Ashanti tribes. Other large groups are the Ga, the Ewe, and the Mole-Dagbani. The official language is English, though tribal languages are also used. About 40% of the people are Christian and about 15% are Muslim. The rest practice traditional African religions. The education system is highly developed. Institutions of higher learning include the University of Ghana, the University of Science and Technology at Kumasi, the University College of Cape Coast, and many technical schools. Though most of the population still depend directly on agriculture, urbanization is developing rapidly.
Cocoa is Ghana's biggest export, but coffee and tobacco are also grown, and there are mineral exports of gold, industrial diamonds, manganese, and bauxite. Local industries include aluminum, timber, and food processing.
Before colonialism, Ghana had a number of independent kingdoms, mainly the Ashanti Federation and Fanti states along the coast. The first European colonizers were the Portuguese, who arrived in 1482. The French, Danes, Dutch, and British all competed in the slave and gold trade, and in the 19th century the Ashanti organized a resistance. They were defeated by the British in 1874, and in 1901 Ghana formally became a British colony, called the Gold Coast. Ghana was a center of African nationalism, and it was one of the first African countries to win independence, in 1957. Kwame Nkrumah became premier. In 1960 he declared the country a republic, with himself as president for life. While he made reforms in education, transportation, and other social services, during his rule many political opponents were jailed, and government became increasingly inefficient and corrupt. In 1966 Nkrumah was deposed. After political instability throughout the 1970s, civilian rule was restored in 1979. But economic conditions did not improve, and at the end of 1981 the military, under Jerry Rawlings, again took control. In 1996 his party achieved a two-third majority in parliament.