|General background: Formed from the merger of
the British colony of the Gold Coast and the Togoland
trust territory, Ghana in 1957 became the first country
in colonial Africa to gain its independence. A long series
of coups resulted in the suspension of the constitution
in 1981 and the banning of political parties. A new constitution,
restoring multiparty politics, was approved in 1992. Lt.
Jerry RAWLINGS, head of state since 1981, won presidential
elections in 1992 and 1996, but was constitutionally prevented
from running for a third term in 2000. He was succeeded
by John KUFUOR.
Area comparative: Slightly
smaller than Oregon
warm and comparatively dry along southeast coast; hot
and humid in southwest; hot and dry in north.
Terrain: Mostly low plains with dissected plateau
in south-central area
Ethnic groups: Black African 98.5% (major tribes
- Akan 44%, Moshi-Dagomba 16%, Ewe 13%, Ga 8%, Gurma
3%, Yoruba 1%), European and other 1.5% (1998)
Religions: Indigenous beliefs 21%, Muslim 16%,
Language: English (official), African languages
(including Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, and Ga)
Government type: Constitutional democracy
Legal system: Based on English common law and
customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.
Economic overview: Well endowed with natural
resources, Ghana has roughly twice the per capita output
of the poorer countries in West Africa. Even so, Ghana
remains heavily dependent on international financial
and technical assistance. Gold, timber, and cocoa production
are major sources of foreign exchange. The domestic
economy continues to revolve around subsistence agriculture,
which accounts for 36% of GDP and employs 60% of the
work force, mainly small landholders. Excessively expansionary
monetary and fiscal policy prior to the 2000 elections
led to accelerating inflation in early 2001. A depressed
cocoa market and continued weak growth in non-traditional
exports led to disappointing growth in 2001. Ghana opted
for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country
(HIPC) program in 2002.
Communication/Telephone system: Poor to fair system;
Internet accessible; many rural communities not yet
connected; expansion of services is underway.
Places of interest: Ghana retains a remarkable
sense of self. Its craftspeople have a long, rich cultural
history to draw from, and their work is thick with that
tradition - be it the colorful kente cloth of the Ashanti
or any of the stools, icons, beads or baskets you'll
find in the major markets. Even the leftover forts and
castles, recalling five centuries of European influence,
today seem less like Ghana's ghosts than players in
Travel tips: The US is advising its citizens
to 'avoid unnecessary travel to the region until the
situation improves.' UK officials advise that travelers
exercise caution and remain vigilant.