Ghana

Gold Coast fishing
Figure 1.--Here we see a fishing community in the British Gold Coast colony during 1943. It looks like the children are helping to bring in a returning fishing canoe.

Ghana is a West African country bordered by Togo and the Ivory coast on the west and east and Burkina Faso in the north. The country is located north of the Equarir i te Gulg of Guinea bite. There is a swampy coast without majorindentatins. The interior is forested and savana as one moves north. The Ghana Empire was located north of modern Ghana but traded with what is now modern Ghana (4th-11th centures AD). It is at this time that the slave trade began. Arab traders expanded the slave trade. Ghana was one of the early Sub-Saharan locations that Portuguese navigators sailing south reached in an effort to sail south to round the African continent. They and other Europeans were interested in what is now Ghana because the natives offered gold in trade. Gradually slaves became more important. f and the first place in sub-Saharan Africa where Europeans arrived to trade--first in gold, later in slaves. West Africa including what is now Ghana became a major source of slaves in the Atlantic slave trade. The British created the Gold Coast colony. Britain granted independence to Ghana (1957). Independent Ghana was primaily the Gold Coast colony, augmented British Togoland, and the British protectorates of Northern Territories and Ashanti. It was the first black African colony to achieve independence among considerable optimism and fanfare. There were grounds for optimism. Ghana has considerable mineral wealth. Britain left the country with a good basic education system and a competent civil service as well as bsic infrastructure. The high hopes of independence, however, were dashed by corruption, mismanagement, and socialist big government economic policies. Free markert capitalism was generally seen as a relic of the past by Ghana's new leaders. And there were fewer opportunuties for coruption in a free market economy with a smaller govrernment. The primary ethnic groups are Akan (45 percent), Mole Dagbon (15 percent) Ewe (10 percent), abnd a variety of smaller grouos. The country is primarily Christian (nearly 70 percent) with a Muslim minority (15 percent). There are also traditional animist beliefs. The official language is English because there are so many native languages that a common language was needed. These include Akan which in its many dialects is spoken by about half the population.

Geography

Ghana is a West African country bordered by Togo and the Ivory coast on the west and east and Burkina Faso (once called Upper Volta) in the north. The country is located just north of the Equaror in the Gulf of Guinea bite. There is a swampy coast with sandy areas backed by plains and scrub which is several small rivers and streams, for the most part navigable only by canoe. There are no major coatal indentations. The interior is forested and savana as one moves north. The terrain is mostly mostly low plains with dissected plateau in south-central area. The Kwahu Plateau in the south-central area is particularly important. A tropical rain forest belt in the south is broken by heavily forested hills with many mostly small streams and rivers. This is known as the Ashanti and extends northward from the coast near the eastern border with Côte d'Ivoire. About half of Ghana is only about 150 meters above sea level, making the country vulnerabe to flooding. The highest point is 883 meters. This area, known as the "Ashanti," produces most of the country's cocoa, minerals, and timber. North of this belt, the country varies from 91 to 396 meters (299 to 1,299 ft) above sea level and is covered by low bush, park-like savanna, and grassy plains. Lake Volta is a large river lake system in the central and southeastern area of the country. It is the world's largest artificial lake. Thee is a recurrent and worsening drought in the north. This has severely disrupte traditional agricultural activities, wiosened by deforestation; overgrazing. Soil erosion is another probem. Subsistence poaching and habitat destruction threatens wildlife populations. An increasing problem in the south is water pollution and inadequate supplies of potable water

History

The Ghana Empire was located north of modern Ghana but traded with what is now modern Ghana (4th-11th centures AD). It is at this time that the slave trade began. Arab traders expanded the slave trade. Ghana was one of the early Sub-Saharan locations that Portuguese navigators sailing south reached in an effort to sail south to round the African continent. They and other Europeans were interested in what is now Ghana because the natives offered gold in trade. Gradually slaves became more important. f and the first place in sub-Saharan Africa where Europeans arrived to trade--first in gold, later in slaves. West Africa including what is now Ghana became a major source of slaves in the Atlantic slave trade. The British created the Gold Coast colony. Britain granted independence to Ghana (1957). Independent Ghana was primaily the Gold Coast colony, augmented British Togoland, and the British protectorates of Northern Territories and Ashanti. It was the first black African colony to achieve independence among considerable optimism and fanfare. There were grounds for optimisdm. Ghana has considerable mineral wealth. Britain left the country with a good basic education system and a competent civil service as well as basic infrastructure. A series of coups resulted in the suspension of the constitution approved with independence (1981). Military leades banned political parties. A new constitution, restoring multiparty politics (1992). Lt. Jerry Rawlings, head of state under the miitary government since 1981, won presidential elections (1992 and 1996). He was constitutionally prevented from running for a third term (2000). John Kufuor defeated former Vice President Atta Mills in a free and fair election.

Economy

There appears to have been maitime commerce with the Meditwrranean world during the ancient world with the Phonedians and Carthage. This was, however, limited and the Sahara was a formibavle barrier to trade. This only chnged with the introduction of the camnmel, allowung the development of trans-Saharan caravan (3rd century AD). The earliest known indigenous African empire was Ghana covering a large area of sub-Saharan West Africa beyond the boundaries of the modern country which bears its name. The origins of the Ghanian Empire are murky. It is known to have existed by the 4th century AD, but its origins probably pre-date the Christian era. The Arabs thus encountered a well-established African civilization in West Africa. The economy was built on agriculture, including gardents and date groves. Sheep and cattle were also raised. The agricultural economy was affected over time by droughts. Here the climate change appears to have been a factor. Trading was also important to the economy and the primary trading partner was with the north. In antiquity this meant the Roman Empire. After the fall of Rome this meant the Vandal kingdom of North Africa and than the Arabs who conquered North Africa. The most important town was Kumbi-Kumbi. Islamc gradually was accepted by the people and was pronounced by the 10th century. The Arab influence benefitted the economy and this allowed the Empire to expand. The Tunka converted to Islam (11th century). The increased power of the Empire was able to impose control over the trade routes. Ghana imported wheat, fruit, sugar, brass, pearls, and salt. They exported rubber, ivory, slaves, and gold. The Empire reached the peak of its power during the Sisse dynasty. A fanatical Muslim group, the Almoravides invaded the Empire (1076). They captured Kumbi-Kumbi and killed those who refused to convert to Islam. The ensuing religious strife and droughts resulted in the decline of the Empire (late-11th century). Invaders destroyed the Empire (12th-13th centuries). [Franlin, pp. 11-13.] The area of modern Ghana continued to be involved in long-distance trade, here gold was a powerful factor. The trans-Saharan trade, one of the most extensive trading networks before the Europen maritime outreach. European, North African, and Saharan commodities were taken southward and exchange for the products of the African savannas and forests, this included gold, kola nuts, and slaves. The trans-saharan trade was largely displaced by the arrival of Europeans and the beginning of maritime trade. What is now Ghana, was named the Gold Coast by the European traders. The area was an important source of the gold traded across the Sahara and this continued to be vimportant with the Europeans maritime traders. Impotant tribes like the Asante achieved a degree od centralized organization. They controlled gold prices by regulating production and marketing. Portuguese and later Dutch and English traders effectively circumvent the Saharan trade by sailing directly to its southernmost source on the West African coast (15th century). Pepper and ivory were other importt commodities.

Chronology


Ethnicity

The primary ethnic groups are Akan (45 percent), Mole Dagbon (15 percent) Ewe (10 percent), abnd a variety of smaller groups.

Religion

The country is primarily Christian (nearly 70 percent) with a Muslim minority (15 percent). There are also traditiinal animist beliefs.

Language

The officialm language is English because there are so many native languages that a common language was needed. These include Akan which in its many dialects is spoken by about half the population.







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Created: 10:46 PM 12/2/2010
Last updated: 8:33 AM 3/26/2016