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World of Wonders Project:
The West Africa Expedition






Click on either map to see it in detail
Origin of the name Ghana Official name is Republic of Ghana.  The country is named after the Medieval Empire of Ghana to symbolize its historic place as the first black African nation to gain political independence from European colonial rule.  Ghana was formerly a British colony known as the Gold Coast. 



Click on each link below to learn more about the symbols.
  • Capital - Accra
  • National Animal - 
  • National Flag -
  • National Anthem - God Bless Our Homeland Ghana
  • Coat of Arms -  
  • Independence: March 6, 1957
  • Motto: Freedom and Justice



Regions and districts
Ghana is a divided into 10 regions, subdivided into a total of 138 districts.
Brong Ahafo
Greater Accra
Upper East
Upper West


Language Official language is English.  More than 250 languages and dialects are spoken in Ghana.  Native Ghanaian languages are divided into two linguistic subfamilies of the Niger-Congo language family. Tamale Languages belonging to the Kwa subfamily are found predominantly to the south of the Volta River, while those belonging to the Gur subfamily are found predominantly to the north. The Kwa group, which is spoken by about 75% of the country's population, includes the Akan, Ga-Dangme, and Ewe languages. The Gur group includes the Gurma, Grusi, and Dagbani languages.

Nine languages have the status of government-sponsored languages: Akan, Dagaare/Wale, Dagbani, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem, and Nzema. Though not an official language, Hausa is the lingua-franca spoken among Ghana's Muslims, who comprise about 14% of the population.

Source: Wikipedia





There is no evidence that any of the powerful kingdoms that dominated the Upper Niger River ever dominated the area that is now Ghana.  However, upheaval in the kingdoms contributed to population migrations into the region.  Muslim traders influenced the affairs of northern peoples such as the Gonja and Dagomba, most significantly was their introduction of Islam.

The second half of the 15th century when the first Europeans arrived in the area, the ancestors of most of today’s ethnic groups were already established in the present territories. In this period, the various groups began organizing into states. Over the years, trade contacts with the Islamic states of the north and, later, with the Europeans on the coast contributed to the rise and fall of these local states. The Ga people of the coastal plains organized into an effective political unit in approximately 1500. Islamic trade networks stimulated the development of Akan states, and the Akan-speaking Denkyira people of the southwest rose to become a dominant power by the 1650s. In the northern regions of the country, the Gonja, Dagomba, and Mamprusi contested for political power in the 1620s. However, it was the Ashanti Kingdom, located in south central Ghana, that was the most influential. By 1820 Ashanti held some degree of military and political influence over all of its neighbors.

European Influence and the Slave Trade
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in what is now Ghana, landing on the shores in 1471. Aware that the source of the rich trans-Saharan gold trade was inland, the Portuguese named the region the Gold Coast. At a coastal village that they named Elmina (Portuguese for “the mine”), they established a commercial mecca, trading firearms and slaves from other parts of Africa for gold dust. Competition with Portugal’s gold trade monopoly soon came from Spanish, Italian, and British traders, among others. To protect their commercial interests, the Portuguese constructed several fortresses. Saint George’s Castle, the most impressive of the Portuguese strongholds, was begun in 1482 at Elmina.

Competition among European merchants on the Gold Coast intensified in the 17th century. In 1637 the Dutch invaded and took control of the Portuguese fortress at Elmina. Farther west, the Dutch seized another Portuguese castle at Axim in 1642. At Cape Coast, the British captured a Dutch stronghold in 1665. Ultimately, the British, Danish, and Dutch emerged as the dominant European powers on the coast. The aggressiveness with which European merchants competed on the coast was not due solely to a profitable gold trade. By the 18th century the Atlantic slave trade, supplying African slaves to European plantation colonies in North America, South America, and the Caribbean, had become a vast enterprise. The slave trade subsequently came to dominate commercial activities in the Gold Coast, as more than 40 European slave-trading fortresses dotted the coast.

The exact number of people taken as slaves from the Gold Coast cannot be estimated accurately. Numbers have been estimated as high as one million people transported from Ghana as slaves. The majority of individuals who were sold into slavery were prisoners from local wars, but others were the victims of systematic slave raids. Also, many local people were enslaved as punishment for acts classified as crimes, ranging from challenging political traditions to infringements of religious customs. In exchange for slaves, local rulers and traders typically received guns and gunpowder.

As a result of the slave trade, powerful states such as Ashanti were able to acquire enough weapons to sustain their dominance. Occasionally, however, coastal Fante states formed alliances to resist Ashanti threats. At times, European powers—the British in particular—were drawn into these local conflicts. Historians agree that the Atlantic slave trade was the cause of many wars in the region.

Britain abolished slave trading in 1807; other European nations followed suit, and the trade dwindled in the mid-19th century.

The British-Ashanti Wars

The Ashanti saw British interference in its conquered territories as infringement on its sovereignty and fought back.  During a confrontation in 1824, the Ashanti army routed a British force and killed its commander the colonial governor of Sierra Leone. In 1826 the Ashanti launched an offensive against British coastal positions butvwere turned back by an alliance of British and Danish troops in a fierce battle on the plains near Accra. The Ashanti signed a peace treaty with Britain in 1831.

The systematic consolidation of British power on the coast alarmed Ashanti leaders. Ashanti forces surrounded the British territory and then invaded in 1873. After initial successes, the Ashanti were forced to retreat. An attempt to negotiate a peaceful conclusion was rejected by the British who then fought their way into Ashanti territory, capturing Kumasi and then burning the Ashanti capital to the ground.

In a treaty that ended the war, the Ashanti recognized British sovereignty over the coast, agreed to pay war reparation costs, and renounced influence over all the territories under British protection. In 1896 Britain attacked and occupied Ashanti, declaring it a British protectorate. The asantehene and several Ashanti elders were taken prisoner and exiled to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. In 1899 British forces occupied the Northern Territories, the high plains region north of Ashanti.

A final Ashanti rebellion against the British occurred in 1900. The rebellion was put down in 1901, and Ashanti was proclaimed a British colony. In 1902 Ashanti and the Northern Territories were annexed to the Gold Coast Colony. Thus, Britain became the sole power in the political and economic affairs of what is now Ghana.

Colonialism and Independence

In the early 20th century, nationalists challenged the arbitrary nature of the colonial political system, which placed unlimited power in the hands of the governor and his appointed Legislative Council. Demands on the colonial government intensified after World War II. 


A new constitution was adopted in 1951, replacing the Legislative Council with a Legislative Assembly, designed to provide rural Africans greater representation.  Following intense constitutional negotiations and a hotly contested election, the CPP emerged on March 6, 1957, to lead the government of an independent Ghana.

Source: "Ghana," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2008

Government Government

Ghana's constitution was adopted in 1992.  Ghana is a multiparty democracy and all citizens aged 18 and older are entitled to vote.

The country is divided into ten administrative regions: Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Volta, and Western. Each region is led by a regional executive, who is appointed by the president. Below the regional level are district assemblies. Some district assembly members are appointed by the central government, but the majority are democratically elected. 

Source: "Ghana," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2008




Agriculture, forestry, and fishing form the traditional backbone of Ghana’s economy. Cattle are raised in the dry savanna regions of the north and in the plains region around Accra. Bananas, plantains, rice, corn, and cassava are produced as food crops in the southern half of the country. In the drier north, the major crops are yams, sorghum, and millet. The wet forest zones allow the cultivation of cash crops such as cacao, coffee, and palms and the harvesting of tropical timber. Freshwater fish are available in the rivers and Lake Volta, but the Atlantic Ocean provides the bulk of the nation’s fish supply.

Ghana is known historically for its gold mines, and the country is one of the world’s top gold producers. Ghana mined 60,000 kg (132,280 lb) of gold in 2004. The Ashanti Goldfields Corporation manages the richest deposit at Obuasi in the Ashanti uplands. Other mineral exports from Ghana include manganese, diamonds, and bauxite.

Locally produced goods include textiles, clothing, timber products, food, beverages, processed fish, and rubber products. In 2005 the manufacturing sector accounted for 8.30 percent of GDP. The industrial city of Tema is home to an aluminum smelter, an iron and steel plant, and a petroleum refinery.

The service sector accounted for 39.4 percent of GDP in 2005.


Ghana remains heavily dependent on foreign aid.


WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Metric weights and measures are used.


The Ghanaian unit of currency is the new cedi, divided into 100 pesewas (.89 Cedis equal U.S.$1; 2008 average).

Source: "Ghana," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2008

Geography and Climate


Ghana is located on the Gulf of Guinea along the west coast of Africa. It is bound by the Ivory Coast to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. The country has a coastline typified by sand bars and lagoons while the southern part of the country consists of low lying plains that are covered in scrub savannah, including the Accra Plains, the Volta Delta and the Akan Lowlands. To the north lies the Ashanti Highlands, the arid Volta Basin and the forest covered Akwapim-Togo Ranges.



Ghana has a tropical climate that varies from a warm dry coastal belt in the southeast and a hot humid southwest corner to a hot dry northern savannah. In the north there are two seasons, a dry season from November to April and a wet season from May to October, while the south has four seasons, two wet seasons from May to June and September to November as well as two dry seasons from July to August and December to April. There are considerable variations in annual precipitation and it decreases gradually northward. Average temperature ranges in Accra are from 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit) to 31 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit) all year.


There are two areas in Ghana on the World Heritage List:

  • Forts and Castles of the Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions

  • Asante Traditional Buildings

Sources: Altapedia Online: Ghana, Unesco


Culture and Religion



The major ethnic groups are Akan 45.3%, Mole-Dagbon 15.2%, Ewe 11.7%, Ga-Dangme 7.3%, Guan 4%, Gurma 3.6%, Gurunsi 2.6%, Mande-Busanga 1%, other tribes 1.4%, other (Hausa, Zabarema, Fulani) 7.8% (2000 census).


Ethnic Groups, Culture and Religion


Ghana has a diverse culture.  Oral literature, in the form of story telling, has traditionally been the most popular indigenous way of transmitting societal values.


Ghana’s visual art forms, including gold jewelry, woodcarvings, and weaving, were associated traditionally with the royal courts of different ethnic groups. Today artisans work primarily for the tourist industry.

There are two main types of indigenous Ghanaian building styles. Traditional round huts with grass roofing are found in the northern regions. In the south, several adjoining buildings surround a communal compound in the middle of an enclosure.   However, single-family structures have become more popular especially in the urban centers.


Traditional forms of ceremonial music, accompanied by dancing, continue to be performed in Ghana. The country is well known for its traditional talking drums, which mimic the tonal patterns of spoken language.


About 41 percent of the population adheres to Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, or independent Christian faiths; 20 percent to Islam; and most of the remainder to traditional African religions. Most Protestants belong to Methodist, Presbyterian, or Anglican denominations. A growing number of Christians belong to independent African churches that are usually organized as spiritual or Pentecostal churches. Most Ghanaian Muslims are orthodox Sunnis, and a small percentage are members of the Ahmadiyya sect. The main characteristics of traditional religion in Ghana include expressed belief in the power of a Supreme Being, family ancestors, lesser gods, witches, and a host of spiritual beings.

Despite the influence of these world religions, however, much of Ghanaian society continues to be traditional. Most people recognize the place of traditional practices. For example, they grant local chiefs customary rights to preside over their communities, and the young respect parents and their elders. An extended family’s elders arbitrate the inheritance of the family’s land, possessions, and social status.


Source: "Ghana," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2008

Fauna and Flora

Fauna and Flora

Plants and animals are mainly those common to tropical regions, but because of human encroachment, Ghana has fewer large and wild mammals than in other parts of Africa. Most of the forest is in the south and in a strip along the border with Togo. Except for coastal scrub and grassland, the rest of Ghana is savanna.


The Keta-Angar lagoon basin has important wetlands that are a special breeding ground for migratory birds. The Volta River Estuary is home to rare Hawksbill, Leatherback and Green Turtles, which come to lay their eggs in the sandbanks.
The Kakum National Park occupies some 357 square km of moist natural evergreen rainforests and a home for some 40 species of larger mammals including the forest elephants, bongos, Red River hogs and seven primate species. Some 200 species of birds are also found including five hornbill species, the Frazer eagle owl, African Grey and Senegal parrots. A canopy walkway provides for an adventure and provides tourists a unique view of the forest.

In the Mole National Park, which covers over 4,000 square km of savannah woodland, lions, kob, leopard, buffaloes, elephants, duiker, numerous antelopes and many small primates are seen. By the water pool visitors can see crocodiles basking in the sun. A lodge in Mole National Park provides accommodation.

In the Gbelle Game Reserve, 17km south of Tumu, herds of hippopotamus wallow in the waters of the river, while elephants and Roan Antelopes can be seen drinking at the water's edge.


Source: Encyclopedia of the Nations, Moving Planets

Environment Environment

Ghana is the third largest producer of cacao in the world. Large tracts of forest have been cleared for cacao crops, which thrive in the rich soil of the rain forest. In times of depressed cacao prices, Ghana has significantly increased exports of timber to generate needed revenue.  Approximately 24 percent of the country remains forested.

In 1988 Ghana initiated a conservation plan called the Forest Resource Management Project. In 1989 Ghana restricted the export of 18 tree species, and in 1994 the country banned the export of raw logs. About 4.8 percent (1997) of the country’s land is officially protected, but illegal logging threatens Ghana’s remaining forests.

Deforestation, overgrazing, and periodic drought have led to desertification and soil erosion. Ghana’s wildlife populations, depleted by habitat loss, are further threatened by poaching.

Ghana has ratified international agreements protecting biodiversity, endangered species, tropical forests, wetlands, and the ozone layer

Source: "Ghana," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2008

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