Ghana achieved independence from British colonial rule in 1957, making it the first African country to do so. The country shifted between several civilian and military governments post-independence until January 1993, when the ruling Provisional National Defence Council military government transitioned the country into the current Fourth Republic of Ghana, following presidential and parliamentary elections in 1992. Ghana is now widely regarded as a stable democracy, a regional economic powerhouse and a key continental player.

Recent economic challenges have been fuelled by pre-existing vulnerabilities and external shocks such as the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in acute financing pressures, a depreciating Ghanaian cedi, declining international reserves and high inflation. Real GDP growth slowed to 3.1% in 2022 from 5.1% in 2021 due to macroeconomic instability and global financial tightening. GDP growth is projected to fall to 1.2% in 2023 and recover to 2.7% in 2024, as global demand picks up.

Ghana’s capital, Accra, hosts the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat and has ambitions to become one of the continent’s centres for the financial services industry. According to the 2023 budget, the government is pursuing strategic investments to boost and retain foreign direct investment inflows, with an target of $3bn by the end of 2023.

Geography & Climate

The country borders Burkina Faso to the north, Côte d’Ivoire to the west and Togo to the east. The closest country to the Greenwich Meridian and situated slightly north of the equator, Ghana has a tropical climate. Its main source of fresh water, Lake Volta, is the largest man-made lake in the world, created when the Akosombo dam was built between 1961 and 1965. The landscape consists of plains along a low, sandy coastline; a forested plateau in the south-west and south-central areas; and high plains in the north. Ghana’s highest point, Mount Afadja, is situated in the hilly Akwapim-Togo ranges, along the country’s eastern border. The majority of south-central Ghana is covered by the Volta Basin. Cape Three Points near Takoradi is the southernmost point of Ghana, while Pulmakom is the northernmost. The south of the country contains evergreen and semi-deciduous forests.

Ghana’s climate is tropical and strongly influenced by the West Africa monsoon winds. The climate is generally warm with variable temperatures marked by seasons and elevation. The northern part of the country typically records one rainy season, which lasts from May to September. Southern Ghana records two rainy seasons; the major season from April to July and the minor season from September to November.

Due to the impact of climate change, the country is vulnerable to rising sea levels, drought, increasing temperatures and erratic rainfall. Average daily temperatures range from 30°C during the day to 24°C at night, with a relative humidity between 77% and 85%.


The population of Ghana was 32.9m in October 2023 according to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook, a 2.5% increase from 32.1m in 2022. The Ghana Statistical Service’s 2021 population and housing census reported that four out of the country’s 16 regions contained a combined 54% of the total population: Greater Accra, at 17.7%, Ashanti, at 17.6%, the Eastern Region, at 9.5%, and the Central Region, at 9.3%.

From 1990 onwards the country’s urban population has grown, surpassing the rural population in 2009. Ghana’s largest city, Accra, had a metro area population of about 2.6m in November 2023. Other notable cities include Kumasi, which was the capital of the Asante empire and had an estimated population of 2m people in 2023; Sekondi-Takoradi, the capital of the Western Region, with a population of 1.1m; and Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region, with a population of 730,000. The rural population was reported to be 41% of the total in 2022, according to the World Bank.

Due to migration and trade routes that aided in the dispersion of ethnic groups from their respective historical regions, Ghana’s population is diverse, consisting of 75 different ethnic groups. The Akan people, who made up 47.5% of the population as of 2021, are the majority in the south. Akan is also the most prevalent language and comprises three 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: Akuapem Twi, Asante Twi, Dagaare, 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. Some 31.6% were Pentecostal/Charismatic, 17.4% were Protestant, 10% were Catholic and 12.3% were other Christian denominations. Islam is particularly prevalent in the north of the country and was practised by 19.9% of the population at the time. The share of traditionalist religions shrank from 5.2% in 2010 to 3.2% in 2021, according to the census; however, traditional beliefs retain cultural importance and function in Ghana. Some 1.1% of households reported following no religion in 2021, 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 attracted European powers, 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 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 area’s inhabitants 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.


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 period 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 Dramani Mahama (2012-17), but lost to the NPP in 2016. President Nana Akufo-Addo has held high office since then and was re-elected in December 2020.

Economy & Social Development

Despite the downturn brought on by the pandemic, the economy has see robust growth since the 1990s. Ghana has demonstrated considerable progress in social development parallel to its economic expansion. Its score on the UN’s Human Development Index grew from 0.46 to 0.63 between 1990 and 2021, above the sub-Saharan Africa average of 0.55 and reflecting an increase of 37.4%.