The Republic of Ghana is a country in West Africa. The name Ghana comes from the medieval Ghana Empire of West Africa. The actual name of the Empire was Wagadugu, and Ghana was the title of the kings who ruled there. Ghana was also the site of the Empire of the Ashanti, which was the most advanced black state in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana used to be called the Gold Coast. The Portuguese, who inhabited Ghana in the 15th century, found so much gold between the Ankobra and Volta rivers that they named the area Mina—meaning "mine."
The first contact between the Ghanaian people (the Fantes on the coast) and the Europeans occurred in 1482. The Portuguese landed first at Elmina, a coastal city inhabited by the Fanti nation-state. Over the next few centuries pieces of the area were controlled by the British, Portuguese, and Scandinavian powers, with the British ultimately prevailing. In 1957 Ghana became the first democratic Sub-Saharan country in Colonial Africa to gain its independence. Over the next 50 years Ghana would go through various changes in its politics.
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The first president Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown by a supported CIA coup in 1966. A series of political coups followed and placed and removed many people from power over the next 15 years. Finally, in 1981 Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings came into power. During his time in power, Ghana suspended its constitution and banned political parties. Later a new constitution was presented restoring multi-party politics in 1992, and Rawlings was elected as President for his second term in 1996. In 2001, John Kufuor took over as President of Ghana and is currently serving his second consecutive term. The current Ghanaian constitution is modeled after the United States' and other powerful democratic nations, and restricts its president to two consecutive terms. Therefore, Ghana is gearing up for another presidential election in 2008. With the vast improvements to its political structure, Ghana has shown to be one of the most influential countries in forging the path for a democracy in Africa.
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Religion in Africa is multifaceted. Most Africans adhere to the Christian or Islamic faiths. Religion in Ghana is widely spread with 69% of inhabitants following Christianity, 15.6% following the Islamic faith, 8.5% of Ghanaians are traditionalists and 6.9% follow a different religious belief. Although Christianity and Islam are the dominant faiths in Ghana, the people of the nation have adapted each religion to African cultural contexts by incorporating elements of the indigenous belief systems to be suit themselves. The incorporation of traditional African elements of religion proves the connection many Ghanaians continue to have with their roots. For more on religion in Ghana, see our "Religion" page.
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Tribes and Collectivism
In addition, Ghanaians are characterized as very communal, looking to help others in their community and also throughout the country. They help each other with inter-and intra-tribal trade, which accounts for much of the success of Ghana. Ghana consists of five major ethnic groups: The Akan, Ewe, Mole-Dagbane,Guan, and Ga-Adangbe. Within each major ethnic group there are various sub-cultures. These sub-cultures of each group share a common cultural heritage, history, language, and origin. The emphasis of culture in Ghana and its importance can be seen through their many community activities. Whether it be attending a funeral of a member of the community or crafting, fishing, or hunting for the betterment of the community's economy. The people of Ghana have a rich history filled with many trials and tribulations, and as a powerful African nation today they are celebrating their many accomplishments. For more on collectivism and a closer look on the overall dynamics of Ghanaian culture, see our "Ghanaian Typologies" page.
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Information courtesy of: Library of Congress, GhanaWeb, and Ghana.gov