Ghana is kind of like Africa for beginners, people usually go there to test out their sub-Saharan excursion skills before taking off the training wheels and venturing deep into the interior savannas and jungles. So if that’s you, your first place to probably report to in Ghana should be Accra.
Fun side; note the word Ghana means “warrior-king” harkening back to the Ghana Empire in the fourth century AD which actually wasn’t even located in Ghana. Anyway Ghana is a country about the size of Romania located in West Africa along the Guinea Gulf bordered by the Ivory Coast Burkina Faso and Togo. Ghana is also one of the only eight countries that pass through the Prime Meridian as well as Antarctica. In the south, the country is made up of ten regions with some interesting sounding capitals like wah ho and tamale and of course the capital Accra.
Yes that’s how we pronounce it “Ah-Cra” located in the southeast along the coast. The two largest airports are of course the Krakatoa International located in the capital and a second largest one Kumasi International located further inland. The north of Ghana is primarily inhabited by the Mole-Dagbani people. The north-central area has the Guan group; the Southeast including the capital Accra is dominated by predominantly the Ewe and Ga-Adangme people. The huge chunk of the West Center in South areas is where you can find the famous Akan and the Ashanti people. Sometimes this area is collectively referred to as Ashanti land.
Ghana is a constitutional Republic but nonetheless it still kind of technically has a king or disputably regional Kings that act more like cultural figure heads rather than governmental sanctioned legislators. However, these Kings still do hold high positions of influence in society. Nonetheless, the most notable and powerful of all these Kings would probably be the monarch Asantehene Nana Otumfu Osei Tutu ll who ruled over Ashanti land. He lived in the Manhyia palace and the Ashanti capital, Kumasi.
Other notable landmarks in Ghana include Elmina castle the oldest European building in sub-Saharan Africa built in 1482 as well as the cape coast castle each one has a dark history being used for importing slaves, Kwame Nkrumah mausoleum with the bronze statue of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah not to be confused with the vandalized statue of him during the coup d’état years. Other are the Independence Arch, Ussher Fort, the Kakoum canopy walk, Tengzug shrine and the Agbogbloshie the world’s largest digital waste dump where criminals try to hack into confidential governmental computers and also the Kejetia market the largest in Africa located in Kumasi and Ashanti land. Ghana even has its own Space Centre the Ghana Science and Technology Centre. Those were just the man-made landmarks.
Ghana kind of like accidentally broke a world record. The Lake Volta is the world’s largest man-made lake fed by the black white and red Volta Rivers. If you look at the map, there is this massive four hundred kilometer long body of water that scars the southeast side of Ghana taking up about four percent of the land is actually a reservoir byproduct created after the construction of one little guy the Akosombo Dam. Thousands of people and animals were displaced in the construction process of the dam; however, this little dam produces much of the electricity for the entire country with leftover to export to neighboring countries for its extra revenue.
Ghana is divided into four Geographic terrestrial plains, the coastal plain the Ashanti Kwahu, the Volta Basin and the Northern Plains. Basically, the South is wetter and the North is drier. Sometimes the country is subjected to those Harmattan winds. With a more sparsely populated area, the north is home to open savannas and the largest Nature Reserve Mole National Park where you can see animals like elephants, hippos, baboons, crocodiles and the national animal the Golden Eagle. Ghana is also the second largest cocoa producer after the Ivory Coast. Cadbury the company that makes those amazing Easter eggs actually import 90% of their cocoa from Ghana.
Ghana is actually second in Africa in gold production after South Africa. Gold plays a huge role in Ghana in fact the British touted the area as the gold coast during colonial times due to the high amount of gold reserves found throughout the country especially in Ashanti land. This is why you shouldn’t be surprised to find more gold material in Kumasi and the surrounding areas. Agriculture wise, typical African cash crops and staples like cassava, yams, cotton, rubber, sugar and palm oil are produced along with Kenaf the jack-of-all-trades crop. You can use the fibers for rope, twine, crude, cloth and paper bags you can even feed it to your animals and use it as their bedding. It is kind of like jute found in Bangladesh. The staple dish of Ghana made out of cassava and plantain powder is called fufu, a starchy substance typically eaten with stews and meats.
Fufu goes by many other different names in Africa like Sadza, Nshima and Ugali is kind of like the staple food for many sub-saharan African countries. It’s like what rice is to Asians and bread is to Europeans. Ghanaian famous national dishes include things like Kenkey dumplings, Waakye and be careful when mentioning jollof rice make sure there are no Nigerians around.
The interesting thing though is that although historically Ghana was dominated by an agrarian and mineral extraction based economy they really branched out and diversified their business portfolio in 2011 they gained the title of the world’s fastest-growing economy, now Ghana focuses on things like the manufacturing industry, electronics, technology and recently after an oil reserve was discovered in 2007 the hydrocarbon export sector as well which supplies over one and a half billion extra dollars in state revenue is partially why Ghana has one of the lowest unemployment rates in all of Africa at around only 6% to 8% annually.
They’re even slated to join the list of automobile manufacturing countries as well as they just launched their own domestic brand Kantanka. Other amazing natural zones in Ghana would include places like the Busua and Krokrobite beaches, the Paga Crocodile ponds where you can sit on lazy crocodiles that just don’t care, the Boabeng Fiema monkey sanctuary, Wli and Kintampo waterfalls, Lake Bosomtwe, umbrella rock when in doubt just take a little cruise on Lake Volta maybe go fishing for a little bit and it’s probably best to have a local show you these areas because you know locals are the best aren’t they?
Ghana is not only like Africa’s training wheels but also like Africa’s first main sub-Saharan contact to Europe.
The Sahara and Sahel West coast areas like Senegal and The Gambia had already been discovered essentially it wasn’t until the Portuguese explorer Fernoa Gomes came in the 15th century and established the El Mina settlement regarded as the first European settlement in sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana has always been kind of seen as like a beacon of democracy in Africa in which John Rawlings handed over power to John Kufour making it the first peaceful democratic transition since independence in 1957 which also made them the first colonial sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from European power. Technically Liberia gained independence in the 1840s but it was a confusing US aided resettlement program and not so much a colony. Ghana has about 27 million people and usually scores in the top most democratic transparent stable and safe nations in all of Africa. The country is made up of over 70 different tribes in over 200 different dialects. However most of them fall under five main ethnic groups the majority belonging to the Ashanti or Akan making up about half of the population (50%), Dagbani and Mole (17%), Ewe (14%) and the remaining groups belonging to other peoples like the G, Gurma, Guan,Bissa etc. (17%) while the remaining two percent are made up of non-Africans and whites.
Also Ghana use the type G and D plug outlets, they drive on the right side of the road and they use the Cedi which is their currency which also translates to cowrie and shells which were used as currency at one point in time. Ghana is also very religious, the majority of the population about (75%) three-quarters is Christian mostly Protestant and Pentecostal, about (15%) are Muslim and the rest adhere to traditional beliefs and faiths.
Each of the main people groups has a very distinct culture that contrasts with the others along with mutually unintelligible languages; nonetheless English is still used for cross communication by the majority of the population as it was a former British colony. The most widely spoken native language though would have to be Twi or various dialects of Twi spoken by the Akan and Ashanti people some will say that it’s also mutually intelligible with Fante and Bron and it’s kind of just like a dialect thing like English from America and English from Scotland.
Ga is spoken in the southeast and is said to have originated from Nigeria whereas Ewe is a language more prevalent and indigenous to Togo and Dagbani and Mole is spoken in the north and are more closely related to the Mosi language. Ghanaian cultures are always a lot more than just Ashanti. Ewe people’s in the East for example are known for being amazing cross-rhythm drummers and performers of dances and also the originators of Voodoo. The North Dagomba areas have a more Islam influenced culture and they had their own king Yakubu II who was killed in 2002 and since then the line of succession has been kind of disputed and has yet to be installed. He did kind of have like over 30 wives and like over a hundred children.
The Ga Adangbe people are actually found mostly in the capital Accra as well as other areas in the southeast both men and women are known for being really good boxers they are also known for making the famous Ghanaian fantasy coffins a tradition that started in the 1950s in which skilled carpenters will custom make a coffin that are designed to capture the essence of the deceased person’s identity. The Ashanti people have always played probably the most culturally dominating role in the history and development of Ghana supposedly they believe they are descended from the ancient Abyssinians that were pushed south from the Egyptians. They played a huge role in the Atlantic slave trade as well as the furious rebellions against the British. They fought like four wars over the course of 70 years to finally give in. They are known for their gold rich people, beautiful Kente cloth with elaborately designed patterns and of course the royal family.
A few customs guardians from all people groups follow include things like never using your left hand to offer a gift, point or shake someone’s hand as the left hand is considered to be the dirty hand. Many children are named after the day of the week they were born on per gender for example a boy born on Saturday might have the title Kwame and a girl born on Saturday might have a title Ama. On Sundays expect to find lots of people dressed in their best clothes as its church day. To get someone’s attention you’ll probably hear a sharp hissing sound and for some reason people don’t seem to use umbrella as much in the rain it’s not a taboo it’s just kind of the way things are.
Some notable Ghanaian people include Kwame Nkrumah the first president that led Ghana to independence. Yaa Asantewaa the hero Queen Mother of Ghana who led a rebellion against the British forces in the late 19th early 20th centuries. Kofi Annan the former UN Secretary-General, Numerous soccer players and of course the British actor Idris Elba whose mother was Ghanaian. Ghana may be pretty stable and prosperous but of course they couldn’t have done it alone. Ghana has some of the oldest recorded history in sub-Saharan Africa with roots that extend beyond the continent. First of all like other regionally distinct nations Ghana’s people groups have historically had alliances with other neighbors for centuries. The Ewe have strong ties to Togo, the Dagomba in the north love Burkina Faso and the Ashanti were always in touch with the similar Kwa language speaking peoples of eastern Ivory Coast. Just like many other post-colonial states Ghana still maintained close ties to the UK and almost immediately after independence set up agreements and policies that encourage mutual relations.
The UK also has the largest community of Ghanaians in the world followed by New York in the USA who also has close ties to Ghana as the East Coast is saturated with Ghanaian communities. When it comes to their best friends most Ghanaians believe it would probably be Nigeria. Although they have a heated rivalry in almost everything, their music, soccer or you know “Jollof Rice” they still share a deep bond that historically tied them for centuries especially during colonial times when they shared a mutual struggle.
In conclusion, Ghana is like one of the few sub-Saharan African countries that transition beautifully out of its Dark Ages, maintain its regional cultures and stabilize its economy always keeping attention of the Royal African charm.