Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is a unitary presidential constitutional democracy, located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the sub-region of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km², Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. Ghana means “Warrior King” in the Soninke language.
There are over 70 ethnic groups living in Ghana. The biggest groups are Akan, Moshi-Dagbani, Ewe, and Ga. The Ashanti tribe of the Akan is the largest. With so many different ethnic groups there are many different languages spoken in the country and many Ghanaians will be multilingual. While English is the official language and taught in schools from an early age, of the languages indigenous to Ghana, Akan is the most widely spoken. The Akan languages appear in a diverse number of dialects with Twi the most spoken language in Ghana.
The majority of Ghana ‘s population of over 25 million live and work in rural areas. Only about a third of the population lives in urban areas. The capital, Accra, is home to over 2 million people and the region around Accra (Greater Accra) is the most densely populated in the country.
Akan trade with European states began after contact with Portuguese in the 15th century. Early European contact by the Portuguese people, who came to the Gold Coast region in the 15th century to trade and then established the Portuguese Gold Coast (Costa do Ouro), focused on the extensive availability of gold. The Portuguese built a trading lodge at a coastal settlement called Anomansah (the perpetual drink) which they renamed Elmina.
In 1481, King John II of Portugal commissioned Diogo d’Azambuja to build Elmina Castle, which was completed in three years. By 1598, the Dutch people had joined the Portuguese people in gold trading, establishing the Dutch Gold Coast (Nederlandse Bezittingen ter Kuste van Guinea) and building forts at Komenda and Kormantsi. In 1617, the Dutch captured the Olnini Castle from the Portuguese, and Axim in 1642 (Fort St Anthony).
Other European traders had joined in gold trading by the mid-17th century, most notably the Swedish people, establishing the Swedish Gold Coast (Svenska Guldkusten), and Denmark-Norway, establishing the Danish Gold Coast (Danske Guldkyst or Dansk Guinea). Portuguese merchants, impressed with the gold resources in the area, named it Costa do Ouro or Gold Coast.
The first Anglo-Ashanti war, 1823–31
More than thirty forts and castles were built by the Portuguese, Swedish, Dano-Norwegians, Dutch and German merchants; the latter German people establishing the German Gold Coast (Brandenburger Gold Coast or Groß Friedrichsburg). In 1874 Great Britain established control over some parts of the country assigning these areas the status of British Gold Coast. Many military engagements occurred between the British colonial powers and the various Akan nation-states and the Akan Kingdom of Ashanti defeated the British a few times in the Anglo-Ashanti wars against the United Kingdom that lasted for 100 years, but eventually lost with the War of the Golden Stool in the early 1900s.
In 1947, the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) by The Big Six called for “self-government within the shortest possible time” following the Gold Coast legislative election, 1946. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was the first Prime Minister of Ghana and President of Ghana and formed the Convention People’s Party (CPP) with the motto “self-government now”.
The first Prime Minister of Ghana and President of Ghana Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah won a majority in the Gold Coast legislative election, 1951 for the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly in 1952. Nkrumah was appointed leader of the Gold Coast’s government business. The Gold Coast region declared independence from the United Kingdom on 6 March 1957 and established the nation of Ghana.
On 6 March 1957 at 12 a.m. Kwame Nkrumah declared Ghana’s establishment and autonomy as the first Prime Minister of Ghana and on 1 July 1960, following the Ghanaian constitutional referendum, 1960 and Ghanaian presidential election, 1960 Nkrumah declared Ghana as a republic as the first President of Ghana.
The flag of Ghana, consisting of the colours red, gold, green, and a black star, became the new flag in 1957 when Gold Coast gained its name Ghana. It was designed by Theodosia Salome Okoh; the red represents the blood that was shed towards independence, the gold represents the industrial minerals wealth of Ghana, the green symbolizes the rich grasslands of Ghana, and the black star is the symbol of the Ghanaian people and African emancipation.
Kwame Nkrumah, first Prime Minister of Ghana, and then President of Ghana, was the first African head of state to promote the concept of Pan-Africanism, which he had been introduced to during his studies at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in the United States, at the time when Marcus Garvey was becoming famous for his “Back to Africa Movement”. Nkrumah merged the teachings of Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the naturalized Ghanaian scholar W. E. B. Du Bois into the formation of 1960s Ghana.
Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, as he became known, played an instrumental part in the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement, and in establishing the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute to teach his ideologies of communism and socialism. His life achievements were recognized by Ghanaians during his centenary birthday celebration, and the day was instituted as a public holiday in Ghana (Founder’s Day).
GHANA NATIONAL ANTHEM