Ghana achieved independence from British colonial rule in 1957, making it the first African country to do so. After enduring decades of post-independence instability and intermittent military rule, the country is now widely regarded as a stable democracy, a regional economic powerhouse and a key continental player.

Ghana is emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic in better shape than many of its regional and incomelevel peers: while GDP growth slowed to 0.7% in 2020, the economy rebounded in 2021. Rising commodity prices and consumer demand are expected to drive renewed expansion. GDP growth for 2021 was estimated at 4.7%, according to the IMF, while in November of that year the Ministry of Finance set a goal of 5.8% for 2022. Ghana’s strategic location, contribution to pan-African plans and regional influence also offer pathways to growth. Ghana’s capital, Accra, hosts the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat and has ambitions to become one of Africa’s largest centres for the financial services industry.

According to the 2022 budget, the government remains committed to growing the private sector and is emphasising “sustainable entrepreneurship, fiscal consolidation and job creation”. Attracting foreign investment and strengthening the domestic business environment remain priorities for the government.


The country shares borders with Togo to the east, Côte d’Ivoire to the West and Burkina Faso to the north. Ghana’s climate is considered tropical, as it is located just north of the equator and is the closest country to the Greenwich Meridian. The country has plentiful natural resources and inland water sources, and its topography is distinguished by overall low elevation due to the Volta Basin covering around 45% of the country’s land area; plains and sandy beaches define the coastline. Ghana’s highest point is Mount Afadja, located near the border with Togo.

The country’s main river, the Volta River, flows south and is fed by the Black Volta, the White Volta and the Red Volta rivers, in addition to a tributary river, the Oti. The Akosombo dam, built between 1961 and 1965, contributed to the creation of Lake Volta, which is among the largest man-made lakes in the world.


Ghana has a tropical climate shaped by West African monsoon winds in the humid south-west and the country’s proximity to the equator. While temperatures sometimes exceed 40°C, the usual high temperature range is between 25°C and 30°C. The dryer northern regions border the Sahel and are exposed to the harmattan, an arid wind from the desert that is typical in the months from November to March.

Rainfall patterns vary across the country, with the south-west receiving the highest levels of rainfall, followed by the centre and most of the Volta valley. The north of the country and especially the south-eastern coast are the driest regions in terms of rainfall. Climate change is increasing the risk of dry spells, desertification, floods and changing rainfall patterns.

Demographics & Language

According to UN data, the population grew from 31m in 2020 to 31.7m in 2021. While urbanisation is on the rise, the country’s rural population remains sizeable, at 42% of the total. Accra is the largest city, home to a metro population of around 2.5m in 2021. Other notable cities include Kumasi, which was the capital of the Asante empire and has a population of 1.5m inhabitants; Sekondi-Takoradi, located in the west and hosting 991,000 inhabitants in its metro area; and Tamale in the north, home to 350,579 people. At 58%, most Ghanaians are now city dwellers – a testament to the rapid growth of cities in the years since 2010, when the urban population surpassed the rural population for the first time.

Ghana’s population is diverse, with a total of 75 ethnicities due to increasing levels of mobility that have contributed to the dispersion of ethnic groups from their respective historical regions. The south of the country is dominated by the Akan (47.5% of the population). Akan is also the most prevalent language in Ghana and comprises mutually intelligible dialects: Fante, Asante Twi and Akuapen. Around 80% of Ghanaians speak Akan as a first or second language. The Mole-Dagbon, a prominent northern ethnic group, represent around 17% of the population and constitute most of Ghana’s Muslim residents. Other notable ethnic groups include the Ewe and the Ga-Dangme, respectively representing 15% and 7.4% of the country’s inhabitants. The Bureau of Ghana Languages officially protects and promotes 12 languages: Akuapen Twi, Asante Twi, Daagare, Dagbani, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem, Kusaal, Mfantse and Nzema. However, over 100 languages and dialects are spoken in Ghana.

The religious profile of the country is also diverse, with most of the population identifying as Christian, according to the 2021 Population and Housing Census. Of all people in Ghana, 31.6% are Pentecostal/ Charismatic, 17.4% are Protestant, 10% are Catholic and 12.3% are other Christian denominations. Islam is particularly prevalent in the north of the country and is practised by 19.9% of the population. The share of traditionalist religions shrank from 5.2% in 2010 to 3.2% in 2021, according to the census; however, folk beliefs retain cultural importance and function in Ghana. Some 1.1% of households reported following no religion, down from 5.3% recorded in the 2010 survey, and the share of other religions rose from 0.8% to 4.5%.


The first traces of human civilisation in Ghana date back to the Bronze Age 3000 to 4000 years ago. Over the course of Ghana’s history, most of its territory has been shaped by the numerous trans-Saharan trade routes that connected its gold mines to the lands north of the Sahara. Those same trade routes served as a conduit of Islamic influence southward through the Sahel and to modern-day Ghana. The region’s favourable climate, trade interconnectedness and gold resources attracted Akan settlers who are believed to have migrated from the Sahel in the 11th century; many Akan kingdoms and tribes would come to thrive by capitalising on the region’s gold deposits.

The Gold Coast’s wealth also attracted powers from Europe, such as the Portuguese in the 15th century. To gain a foothold in the region, Portugal constructed Elmina castle in 1482. By the early 1600s the Gold Coast was increasingly becoming a focal point for European imperial competition. With the discovery of the New World and the proliferation of plantations there, the slave trade became more prominent. European powers competed with each other to control the practice, and promoted conflict between the inhabitants, tribes and kingdoms in order to increase the number of captives; only in 1807 was slavery abolished throughout the British Empire.

Shortly after the turn of the 20th century the British Empire came to dominate the Gold Coast after almost 100 years of Anglo-Ashanti conflicts that opposed the European empire’s colonial ambitions and a powerful local hegemon, the Akan Asante Empire. Like elsewhere in Africa and Asia, Britain’s colonial authorities adopted a system of indirect rule, empowering local leaders while ensuring that the economic interests of the British crown were met. However, along with economic development and education of the local elite came the rising tide of Ghanaian nationalism that culminated in Ghana gaining independence in 1957 after a long period of resistance.

Post Independence

While the Queen of Britain at first remained a symbolic figurehead of Ghana, the country was declared a republic in 1960. As global cocoa prices fell in the early 1960s and affected government coffers, Ghana’s reformist and pan-Africanist president Kwame Nkrumah sought to achieve wide-reaching reform. However, Nkrumah was toppled by the Ghana Armed Forces in 1966, and the subsequent decades saw alternating military and civilian governments: one of the most prominent politicians during this time was Jerry John Rawlings, who ruled the country from 1981 to 2001.

First the leader of a military junta, Rawlings founded the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and continued for four years as a civilian leader after 1996 before endorsing a successor for the 2000 general election, which the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) – with John Kufuor at the helm – won. This moment marked the first peaceful transfer of power by democratic means in Ghana’s history. After almost a decade out of power the NDC reclaimed the presidency with the terms of John Atta Mills (2009-12) and John Mahama (2012-17), but lost to the NPP in 2016. President Nana Akufo-Addo has held the high office since then and was re-elected in December 2020.

Economy & Social Development

Notwithstanding the Covid-19 pandemic-induced slump, the economy has seen strong growth over the last three decades. Ghana’s economic success is reflected in its impressive record of social development: the country’s score on the UN’s Human Development Index rose by 31.4% between 1990 and 2019 to 0.611 – above the sub-Saharan Africa average of 0.547. Over the same period the expected years of schooling rose from 7.6 to 11.