Facts & figures
Full name: Republic of Ghana
Population: 25.5 million (UN, 2012)
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
Vice-President John Dramani Mahama became interim head of state following the death of President John Atta Mills in July 2012.
Entry Requirements for Ghana
- All visitors to Ghana must be in possession of a valid passport or legal travel documents.
- All visitors entering Ghana must have valid entry visas or, in the case of Commonwealth nationals, entry permits, issued by a Ghana diplomatic mission or consulate abroad or any other visa issuing authority mandated by the Ghana Government to act on its behalf. (ECOWAS nationals and those of other countries with which the Government of Ghana has specific bilateral agreements, are exempted).
- All travellers above nine (9) months coming into or transiting through Ghana are required to have been vaccinated against Yellow Fever at least Ten (10) days from the proposed date of travel and where already vaccinated, provide evidence(certificate) indicating the duration of a vaccination status of not more than Ten(10) years before entering Ghana.
- Best period:
Ghana has a tropical climate, thanks to its proximity to the equator, which means it’s hot pretty much year-round, with some seasonal rains. While temperatures vary with region, season, and elevation, the temperature generally falls between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (21 and 32 degrees Celcius,) with high levels of humidity. The coastal region of Ghana has two rainy seasons, one peaking in May or June, the other in October. In the north, the single rainy season starts in May or June. High tourist season lasts from June to August.
The U.S. Department of State’s consular website has a great deal of information about safety and security in Ghana. It can’t be repeated often enough: be sensible when you travel. Be alert and aware of your surroundings.
The Republic of Ghana is named after the medieval West African Ghana Empire. The Empire became known in Europe and Arabia as the Ghana Empire after the title of its emperor, the Ghana. The Empire appears to have broken up following the 1076 conquest by the Almoravid General Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar. A reduced kingdom continued to exist after Almoravid rule ended, and the kingdom was later incorporated into subsequent Sahelian empires, such as the Mali Empire several centuries later. Geographically, the ancient Ghana Empire was approximately 500 miles (800 km) north and west of the modern state of Ghana, and controlled territories in the area of the Sénégal River and east towards the Niger rivers, in modern Senegal, Mauritania and Mali.
Historically, modern Ghanaian territory was the core of the Empire of Ashanti (or Asante), which was one of the most advanced states in sub-Sahara Africa in the 18th to 19th centuries, before colonial rule. It is said that at its peak, the king of Ashanti could field 500,000 troops.
For most of central sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural expansion marked the period before 500. Farming began earliest on the southern tips of the Sahara, eventually giving rise to village settlements. Toward the end of the classical era, larger regional kingdoms had formed in West Africa, one of which was the Kingdom of Ghana, north of what is today the nation of Ghana. Before its fall at the beginning of the 10th century Akan migrants moved southward and founded several nation-states, including the first great Akan empire of the Bono founded in the 11th century and for which the Brong-Ahafo Region of Akanland is named. Later Akan groups such as the Ashanti federation and Fante states are thought to possibly have roots in the original Bono settlement at Bono manso. Much of the area was united under the Empire of Ashanti by the 16th century. The Ashanti government operated first as a loose network and eventually as a centralized kingdom with an advanced, highly specialized bureaucracy centred on Kumasi.
There are many styles of traditional and modern music of Ghana, due to its cosmopolitan geographic position on the African continent. The best known modern genre originating in Ghana is Highlife. For many years, Highlife was the preferred music genre until the introduction of Hiplife and many others.
The traditional musicology of Ghana may be divided geographically between the open and vast savanna country of northern Ghana inhabited by Ghanaians of Gur and Mande speaking groups; and the fertile, forested southern coastal areas, inhabited by Ghanaians speaking Kwa languages such as Akan.
- The northern musical traditions belong to the wider Sahelian musical traditions. It features a mix of melodic composition on stringed instruments such as the kologo lute and the gonjey fiddle, wind instruments such as flutes and horns, and voice; with polyrhythms clapped or played on the talking drum, gourd drums or brekete bass drums. The tradition of gyil music (balafon) is also common, especially in northwestern Ghana around Wa and Lawra. Music in the northern styles is mostly set to a minor pentatonic or chromatic scale and melisma plays an important part in melodic and vocal styles. There is a long history of either griot or praise-singing traditions.
- The music of the coast is associated with social functions, and relies on complex polyrhythmic patterns played by drums and bells as well as harmonized song. Drums and dance are often linked, and the tradition of royal talking drums fontomfrom (distinct from the northern talking drum) means music is widely used for communication of both tangible and esoteric topics. The most well known of southern Ghanaian drum traditions is the kete and adowa drum and bell ensembles. Music can also be linked to traditional religions. An exception to this rule is the Akan tradition of singing with the Seperewa harp-lute which had its origins in the stringed harps of the north and west.
Oral literature, in the form of story telling, has traditionally been the most popular indigenous way of transmitting societal values. In village gathering places, stories of the spider Ananse were told both to entertain and educate. In the 1950s and 1960s, many of these stories were written down to serve as reading material for school children. Commonly recurring themes in modern Ghanaian literature have been opposition to colonial rule, political corruption, and the clash between tradition and modernization in Ghana. Some of the best known Ghanaian writers in the English language are Efua Sutherland, a colonial-era female playwright; Ama Ata Aidoo, a writer whose plays, novels, and poetry examine the traditional roles assigned to African women; Ayi Kwei Armah, an author of insightful critiques of contemporary political conditions and historical fiction; and Kofi Awoonor, a writer whose poems and novels dissect the interaction of traditional and Western ideas in Africa.
- Film industry:
Ghana's film industry dates as far back as 1948 when the Gold Coast Film Unit was set up in the Information Services Department. African Pictures Ltd. started operations about the same time. In 1971, the Ghana Film Industry Corporation was created as a corporate body but ceased to exist as far back as 1996 when it was divested and a greater percentage of its equity holding were sold to Malaysian interests. Long before the divestiture, the Corporation had stopped the production of black and white films as from 1990. The laboratory itself was not properly functionnal and was limited to the cleaning of black and white negative films and some positive films. Some internationally recognised filmmakers have come from Ghana. John Akomfrak's Goldie, when Saturn Returnz (1998) joined the festival circuit in 1999. Ghana's best-known filmmaker is Kwah Ansah of Film Africa fame whose two films, Love Brewed in the African Pot (1980) and Heritage Africa (1988) won more than 12 awards. In 1999 the Ghana Film Awards were instituted to acknowledge the efforts of distinguished crew and cast. Notable among the entries that were nominated and which won awards were A Stab in the Dark, parts 1 & 2 and Ripples, parts 1 & 2. Both were directed by Veronica Quashie, a graduate of the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI). In recent times there has been some collaboration between Ghanaian and Nigerian crew and cast with a number of productions being turned out. Among these co-productions were Web and Lost Hope, which received nominations at the Ghana Film Awards. Though Ghana shares borders with Francophone neighbours, so far there has not been any co-production to hit the Ghanaian screen. This has been attributed to the lack of funding as well as to language. Ben Musa Imora of Ghana, vice-president of the Video and Film Producers Association of Ghana in West-Africa, spoke about a video-boom in his country. These efforts of networking with other African countries to sell products was a cheaper way of making and marketing films. Many film makers used their own family members in films as actors to produce videos which were very popular in his country. The videos were shown in humble venues such as garages, churches and community halls.
- Famous places
Kakum National Park is a dense tropical rain forest in southern Ghana. The forest is home to over 40 species of larger mammals including forest elephants, forest buffalo, Mona-meerkats and civets. The bird life is fantastic as well with over 250 species living in the forest. The highlight of any visit to Kakum, is a stroll on the Canopy Walkway that is built 30 meters above ground, crosses several bridges and is over 1000 feet (350 m) in length. The canopy walkway offers a unique viewing perspective of the wildlife and unique plants of the forest. Trained guides are on hand to take you on a tour and provide detailed insight into the medicinal uses of the forest plants. There's a basic campsite for those who want to overnight.
Ghana has some lovely beaches but the most popular for the last decade has been the beaches around Kokrobite including Langma. Kokrobite is a quick 20 mile (30km) tro-tro ride away from the capital Accra. One of the main attractions here is the excellent Academy of African Music and Art (AAMA) founded by master drummer Mustapha Tettey Addy. The Academy attracts drummers and dancers from all over the world.
Ghana's Atlantic Coast is lined with old forts (castles) built by various European powers during the 17th Century. The Cape Coast Castle was built for the slave-trade and is one of the most impressive of Ghana's old forts. It was originally built by the Dutch in 1637, later expanded by the Swedes, finally the British took control of it in 1664 and turned it into their colonial headquarters. It stayed that way for the next 200 years until they moved the capital to Accra in 1877.
Architecture in the Gold Coast, now Ghana, from the historic past, comprises of traditional buildings of various designs and construction on one hand, and on the other hand by European, Asian, and Middle East typologies, such as castles, forts, roads, railways, churches, schools, hospitals, residential buildings, et cetera. Colonization of the country (1843) accelerated the physical development of the country. For example, the construction of the Takoradi Harbor, Achimota School, and the Korle-Bu hospital by Governor Guggisberg, a surveyor, marks a significant watershed in the country's socio-economic development. Expatriate Engineers and Artisans dominated the construction industry especially following the establishment of the Public Works Department (P.W.D.). As the agitation for independence gathered pace, the British decided to expand schools and colleges to produce the anticipated expertise to run the affairs of a free country. New secondary schools and colleges were built and old ones refurbished and expanded. The need for architects and engineers increased and scholarships were awarded to deserving students to pursue courses in Europe and America most of who returned back to Ghana to take up positions in the public and private sectors. The missionaries were not left out in the rapid expansion of schools and colleges. The Presbyterians, the Methodists, and the Catholics have been traditional partners in development throughout the history of the country. They built and managed a wide number of secondary schools and recent private universities in the country.