– Top gold producer –
The West African nation — once called the Gold Coast — overtook South Africa last year to become the continent’s biggest producer of the precious metal.
It is also the world’s second biggest producer of cocoa after Ivory Coast, with more than a fifth of the market. It also exports oil, diamonds, bauxite and manganese.
Once hailed as a regional growth model, it was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2015 for a bailout as global commodity prices tanked.
Nearly a quarter of Ghana’s 30 million population — which has tripled since the 1970s — live in poverty, with per capita income at $2,220 (1,827 euros).
Growth for 2020 is expected to fall to its lowest in 30 years, to 0.9 percent according to the International Monetary Fund, a steep decline from 6.5 percent growth in 2019.
Ghanaians also suffer from inflation and lack of infrastructure, especially sanitation, as well as regular power blackouts.
Independence pioneer –
In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African state to win independence under nationalist leader Kwame Nkrumah.
After Nkrumah, the most influential of the former British colony’s leaders has been Jerry Rawlings, who came to power as an air force captain in 1979.
Although he mounted a second coup in 1981 after allowing elections, Rawlings — who died on November 12 — brought in a constitution that has proved a stable basis for democratic rule.
The World Bank has hailed it for taking “major strides toward democracy under a multi-party system, with its independent judiciary winning public trust.”
In 2019, Ghana cracked down on separatists who were preparing to declare their own nation, “Western Togoland”, in the eastern Volta region bordering Togo.
– Ashanti kingdom –
Modern-day Ghana is home to the Ashanti people, a nation and ethnic group which has wielded power in the region for over 300 years.
Built on gold, the Ashanti empire extended into neighbouring countries and fiercely resisted British colonial rule.
Ashanti monarchs still preside over an area containing around five million people that is roughly the size of Great Britain.
– Diplomacy –
Ghana has played an important role in mediating in wars and crises that have affected its neighbours.
As chairman of the region’s Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo worked to resolve the recent political crisis in Mali.
The late Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian, was the first black African to lead the United Nations and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his nine-year tenure that ended in 2006.
Barack Obama chose Ghana for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa in 2009 after his election as US president.
– Slave trade bastion –
Cape Coast, the former European colonial capital, was once the largest slave-trading centre in West Africa from where slaves were shipped to North and South America and the Caribbean.
Now a fishing village, it has become a major tourist attraction since Obama visited with his family.
Akufo-Addo designated 2019 the “Year of Return” to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first recorded landing of a ship carrying Africans to the US and to encourage their descendants to “come home”.