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Ghana was the first place in sub-Saharan Africa where Europeans arrived to trade – first in gold, later in slaves.
It was also the first black African nation in the region to achieve independence from a colonial power, in this instance Britain.
Despite being rich in mineral resources, and endowed with a good education system and efficient civil service, Ghana fell victim to corruption and mismanagement soon after independence in 1957.
In 1966 its first president and pan-African hero, Kwame Nkrumah, was deposed in a coup, heralding years of mostly-military rule. In 1981 Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings staged his second coup. The country began to move towards economic stability and democracy.
In April 1992 a constitution allowing for a multi-party system was approved in a referendum, ushering in a period of democracy.
A well-administered country by regional standards, Ghana is often seen as a model for political and economic reform in Africa.
Cocoa exports are an essential part of the economy; Ghana is the world’s second-largest producer.
At a glance
- Politics: Ghana is one of the more stable nations in the region, with a good record of power changing hands peacefully
- Economy: Ghana is the world’s second largest cocoa producer behind Ivory Coast, and Africa’s biggest gold miner after South Africa. It is one of the continent’s fastest growing economies, and newest oil producer
Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
The discovery of major offshore oil reserves was announced in June 2007, encouraging expectations of a major economic boost.
Production officially began at the end of 2010, but some analysts expressed concern over the country’s ability to manage its new industry, as laws governing the oil sector had not yet been passed.
The Ghanaian economy proved to be relatively resilient because to the world economic shock of 2008-9, mainly because of the high prices of cocoa and gold. It has continued to post some of Africa’s highest annual GDP growth rates.
Ghana has a high-profile peacekeeping role; troops have been deployed in Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and DR Congo.
Although Ghana has largely escaped the civil strife that has plagued other West African countries, in 1994-95 land disputes in the north erupted into ethnic violence, resulting in the deaths of 1,000 people and the displacement of a further 150,000.
- Full name: Republic of Ghana
- Population: 25.5 million (UN, 2012)
- Capital: Accra
- Area: 238,533 sq km (92,098 sq miles)
- Major languages: English, African languages including Akan, Ewe
- Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs, Islam
- Life expectancy: 64 years (men), 66 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: Cedi
- Main exports: Gold, cocoa, timber, tuna, bauxite, aluminium, manganese ore, diamonds
- GNI per capita: US $1,410 (World Bank, 2011)
- Internet domain: .gh
- International dialling code: +233
President: John Dramani Mahama
Vice-President John Dramani Mahama became interim head of state following the death of President John Atta Mills in July 2012.
Mr Mahama won his first full term in office in an extremely tight election a few months later in December, defeating Nana Akufo-Addo of the opposition New Patriotic Party with only 50.7% of the vote to Mr Addo’s 47.7%.
The NPP said he had won fraudulently, but its legal challenge to the result was rejected by the supreme court in August 2013.
Several foreign observer teams, including those of the African Union and regional body Ecowas, declared the election free and fair.
His first year as elected president was overshadowed by poor economic news, with sharp rises in inflation and the government deficit.
Mr Mahama is a respected historian, writer and communications specialist. Regarded as a champion of the underprivileged, he has a keen interest in environmental issues, particularly the problem of plastic pollution in Africa. His book, entitled “My First Coup d’Etat” was published in July 2012.
He studied in Ghana and Moscow. Between 1991 and 1995 he worked as an information officer at the Japanese embassy in Accra.
He joined the non-governmental organization PLAN International in 1995.
He was elected as a member of parliament in 1996, and served communications minister between 1998 and 2001.
In opposition from 2005 to 2011, Mr Mahama served as parliamentary spokesman for foreign affairs.
Mr Mahama was born at Bole-Bamboi in the Northern Region in 1958. He is married and has seven children.
Ghana enjoys a high degree of media freedom and the private press and broadcasters operate without significant restrictions.
The media are free to criticise the authorities without fear of reprisals, says Reporters Without Borders.
The private press is lively, and often carries criticism of government policy. Animated phone-in programmes are staple fare on many radio stations.
Radio is Ghana’s most popular medium, although it is being challenged by increased access to TV.
Scores of private FM stations crowd the dial; many of them are based in the main towns and cities. Most of them are chasing a limited amount of advertising revenue. State-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) runs national TV and radio networks.
The BBC broadcasts on 101.3 FM in Accra, and on 104.7 FM from Sekondi-Takoradi, the capital of Western Region.
By 2012, 17% of Ghanaians were using the internet (ITU). Mobile phones are widely used to access online content.
- The Ghanaian Chronicle – private daily
- Daily Graphic – state-owned
- Daily Guide – private
- The Ghanaian Times – state-owned daily
- The Mirror – weekly, sister paper of the Daily Graphic
- The Herald – weekly
- Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) – state-run, operates Ghana TV (GTV) and digital networks, including news channel GBC 24
- Metro TV – jointly owned by government and private company
- TV3 – private
- Viasat1 – private
- Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) – state-run, operates Radio 1 in English and Ghanaian vernaculars, commercial service Radio 2 and local services including Accra’s Uniiq FM
- Adom FM – private
- Peace FM – private
- Joy FM – private
- Choice FM – private
- Space FM – private
- Gold FM – private
- Happy FM – private
A chronology of key events:
1482 – Portuguese set up trading settlement.
Independence leader was an advocate of Pan-Africanism
1874 – British proclaim coastal area a crown colony.
1925 – First legislative council elections take place.
1957 March – Ghana becomes independent with Kwame Nkrumah as prime minister.
1960 – Ghana proclaimed a republic; Nkrumah elected president.
1964 – Ghana becomes a one-party state.
1966 – Nkrumah overthrown in military coup; Russian and Chinese technicians expelled.
1969 – New constitution facilitates transfer of power to civilian government led by Kofi Busia.
1972 – Busia ousted in military coup led by Colonel Ignatius Acheampong.
Kwame Nkrumah’s toppled statue symbolised his leadership of Ghana
1978 – Acheampong forced to resign; General Frederick Akuffo takes over.
1979 – Akuffo deposed in coup led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings. Acheampong and Akuffo executed.
1979 September – Rawlings hands over power to an elected president, Hilla Limann.
1981 – Limann ousted in military coup led by Rawlings after two years of weak government and economic stagnation.
1983 – Rawlings adopts conservative economic policies, abolishing subsidies and price controls, privatising many state enterprises and devaluing the currency.
1992 – Referendum approves new constitution introducing a multiparty system. Rawlings elected president.
1994 – One thousand people are killed and a further 150,000 are displaced in the Northern Region following ethnic clashes between the Konkomba and the Nanumba over land ownership.
1994 June – Seven ethnic groups involved in violence in Northern Region sign peace agreement.
1995 – Government imposes curfew in Northern Region as renewed ethnic violence results in a further 100 deaths.
1996 – Jerry Rawlings re-elected president.
2000 – December – John Kufuor beats Vice-President John Atta Mills in the presidential election.
2001 February – Petrol prices rise by 60% following the government’s decision to remove fuel subsidies.
2001 April – Ghana accepts debt relief under a scheme designed by the World Bank and the IMF.
2001 May – National day of mourning after football stadium stampede leaves 126 dead. Inquiry blames police for overreacting to crowd trouble.
2001 June – Government scraps public holiday celebrating Rawling’s military coup in an effort to wipe out the legacy of his rule.
2001 June – Floods hit Accra, causing 10 deaths and forcing 100,000 to flee their homes.
2002 April – State of emergency is declared in the north after a tribal chief and more than 30 others are killed in clan violence. State of emergency is lifted in August 2004.
2002 May – President Kufuor inaugurates reconciliation commission to look into human rights violations during military rule.
2003 October – Government approves merger of two gold-mining firms, creating new gold-mining giant.
2004 February – Former President Jerry Rawlings testifies at commission investigating human rights offences during the early years of his rule.
2004 October – Group of current and former military personnel detained on suspicion of planning to destabilise government ahead of elections.
2004 December – Presidential poll: Incumbent John Kufuor wins a second term.
2005 April-May – Thousands of Togolese refugees arrive, fleeing political violence in their home country.
2006 April – A boat capsizes on Lake Volta reservoir; more than 100 passengers are feared drowned.
2006 June – Visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao promises to lend Ghana about $66m to fund development projects. He is on an African tour aimed at opening new export markets for China’s booming economy and at securing energy and mineral supplies.
2007 March – Ghana celebrates 50 years of independence from Britain.
2007 June – Major off-shore oil discovery announced. President Kufuor says oil will turn Ghana into an “African tiger”.
2007 September – The worst floods for more than 30 years cause widespread devastation, destroying much of the annual harvest.
2007 December – President Kufuor says off-shore oil reserves total 3 billion barrels.
2008 December – John Atta Mills elected president.
2009 July – US President Barack Obama visits.
Ghana secures a $600m three-year loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
2009 October – Controversy over sale of national communications network Ghana Telecom, allegedly for less that it was worth.
2010 December – Offshore oil production begins.
2011 July – President John Atta Mills chosen as ruling National Democratic Congress party’s candidate for the 2012 presidential election, defeating Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings, wife of former President Jerry Rawlings.
2011 August – UK-based oil exploration company Tullow Oil, says it will spend at least $4bn to develop oil fields off the coast of Ghana.
2012 June – Thousands are displaced by communal violence in the east, sparked by the exhumation of the body of a Muslim cleric.
2012 July – President Mills dies. John Mahama becomes interim head of state.
Ghana’s gold rush
The rising price of gold has drawn thousands of Chinese to Ghana. Many work in unlicensed mines, which the government says damage the economy and the environment, and involve many deaths.
2012 September-October – Ivory Coast closes its borders with Ghana for two weeks after a deadly attack on an army checkpoint blamed on exiled supporters of ousted President Laurent Gbagbo.
2012 October – Ghana becomes embroiled in a row with Argentina after impounding an Argentine naval training vessel on behalf of creditors.
A Chinese boy is killed and some 100 Chinese are detained in an operation against illegal gold mining.
2012 December – President John Mahama wins re-election.
2013 Authorities arrest hundreds of Chinese and other migrants working in unlicensed gold mines. The government says around 4,700 illegal miners, most of them Chinese, were deported in 2013.
2013 August – The supreme court rejects an appeal by the main opposition NPP against President Mahama’s 2012 election victory.
2013 December – Ghana says Ivory Coast sent hit squads into the country to try to kidnap or kill exiled supporters of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. Ivory Coast denies the accusation.