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Ghana Profile (A Brief History)

Updated: Oct 31, 2020

Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, located in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, Ghana has Africa’s eight largest economy of 68 billion-dollar GDP and is Africa’s ninth most populous nation with 31 million people. Ghana is bordered by Ivory Coast to the West, Burkina Faso to the North, and Togo to the east. Ghana is one of the wealthiest nations in Africa because of its natural resources and was one of the first African nations to received independence from colonial rule.

Early history of Ghana

Archaeological studies show that the coastal zone of the Gulf of Guinea had been inhabited right from the early Bronze Age around 3000 BC.

The ancient dwellers of the territory now known as Ghana had occupied the zone since the 10th century AD, and were mainly nomadic migrants from the Mediterranean, North Africa, and East Africa. They were renowned for their opulence in gold and for their war-hunting skills. Wagadugu was the name of the ancient Ghana Empire, and Ghana was the title held by the kings who ruled the territory. The empire was under the control of the larger powerful Mali Empire of Sundiata at that time.

Ancient Ghana was originally located between the River Senegal and River Niger and was situated 500 miles northwards of the present-day Ghana. The empire was richly endowed with large deposit of gold and was described by some ancient Arab writers as possessing the richest gold mines ever found anywhere in the world.

Ethnic Groups in Ghana

Situated on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, present day Ghana has several tribes amongst which are nine prominent ethnic groups. These are the Ashanti, Mole-Dagbon, Fante, Ewe, Ga-Adangbe, Guan, Dagomba, Hausa and Kusasi.

Geographically, the country is generally divided into three, the southern Akan-speaking region, the northern Fante-dominated region, and the central coastal region. The northern region, as of the 15th century, was invaded by the Mande people who dominated the area and founded some states including Dagomba and Mamprusi. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Mande kingdoms were among the earliest kingdoms to be established in northern Ghana. The region is still greatly influenced by the Islamic culture of the early Mande settlers.

The Akan-speaking people who occupy the southern part of Ghana are said to have migrated from Mali. The Sub-Saharan traders from Mali settled in the region towards the later part of the 15th century. Dwelling in this southern region are one of the most influential and powerful tribes in Ghana, the Asante (Ashanti). They form a major part of the Twi-speaking kingdoms of the Akan tribe. As of the beginning of the 18th century, the Asante kingdoms had military rulers and they invaded and overpowered the territories surrounding them, and together they united to form a powerful state. The unity of these conglomerate of Asante kingdoms is consolidated by the golden stool, which is claimed to have fallen from heaven.

Arrival of Europeans in Ghana

By the late 15th century, none of the various immigrant kingdoms occupying the area had been able to establish a firm hold over the entire gold-rich territory. The area between the River Ankobra and the Volta River attracted so much attention from traders across the Sub-Saharan regions, mainly because of the abundance of gold in the region.

The Portuguese who first arrived in Ghana in the 15th century, intrigued by the large deposits of gold, named the area Mina which is the Portuguese word for Mine. They set up a castle at the Elmina area in the southern region of the country to facilitate their trade for gold, ivory and slaves. They were later joined in the 16th century by Dutch traders who would later capture the Portuguese fort in 1637.

By the middle of the 18th century other European traders from England, Denmark, Prussia, and Sweden had settled in the area and set up their forts all along the coastline of Ghana.

Colonization of Ghana

The end of the 19th century would see the British and the Dutch traders still standing, while the other European countries had retreated from the coast. The British took possession of most of the Dutch trading forts, and by 1824 Britain claimed Ghana as its crown colony and renamed it the Gold Coast.

After the displacement of the Dutch traders, Britain became the dominant European power across the region. They had established a closer relationship with the Fante people much to the chagrin of the Asante kingdoms.

The Asante, prior to the colonization, had so much influence and controlled a larger part of Ghana, an influence they still retain to date. They resisted the British dominion 100 years during the Anglo-Ashanti wars with the Fante people being on the side of the British whom they had come to rely on to protect them from the invasion of the Asante.

The enmity between the Asante and the Fante contributed immensely to the growth and expansion of British influence in Ghana. The British would later go on to subdue both kingdoms between 1901 and 1902 and proclaimed them northern and southern protectorates.

Economic and Social Development

Right from the 17th century the gold mining business in the Wassa and Asante areas of the country were flourishing, and by 1950 the gold export had risen to about 9 million pounds.

With the introduction of cocoa from Fernando Po in the later end of the 17th century, the country commenced mass farming of cocoa and by 1951 had made her first export of cocoa to Britain with a revenue of around 60 million pounds. Presently, gold mining and commercial agriculture remain major lucrative sources of revenue for the country.

The British Colony of The Gold Coast

The Gold Coast comprised of four separate regions of Ghana that were grouped together as a single unit under one governor. The four regions that constituted the Gold Coast were the main Gold Coast, the southern Ashanti protectorate, the northern Fante Protectorate, and the British Togoland Trust Territory, with Cape Coast as the capital. The Slave trade soon became the chief source of exchange and a major source of economy for the Colony until its abolishment.

Independence of Ghana

The British colonists exploited the natural wealth and resources of the Ghana territory much to the discomfort of the locals. Several sons of Ghana who had participated in the Second World War and became exposed to the new world politics demanded autonomy and independence for their country. Between 1947 and 1955 these veterans went ahead to form a coalition of forces called the United Gold Coast Conversion, with the sole objective of achieving Ghana's independence.

Some of the prominent Ghanaian nationalists who fought for the independence include J.B Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah, Akuffo Addo, George Grant and few others. The British administrators eventually would come up with the unified control system and power was shared between the local leaders and the British.

The struggle for freedom later yielded fruits, and the Ghana Independence Act of 1957 constituted the Gold Coast Crown Colony as the sole dominion of the Republic of Ghana. On March 6, 1957, the former Gold Coast colony achieved independence and sovereignty. This established Ghana as the first black African country south of the Sahara to gain independence from the colonial rule of Britain.

The name Gold Coast was dropped, and the country assumed its old name, Ghana. One of the key players at the frontier of Ghana's independence, Kwame Nkrumah, became the very first prime minister of the independent Republic of Ghana.

Economy of Ghana

Ghana has a market-based economy that is instrumental to the country’s GDP of 68 billion-dollars. There are very few policy barriers to market entry compared to other countries in the region. Ghana’s economy was strengthened by sound government policy that ushered in a competitive business environment that has helped reduce poverty levels in the last 25 years. For fiscal year 2020 Ghana’s GDP was expected to grow by 6% according to the IMF, but because of Covid-19 its growth has only been 1.5%.


Agriculture represents 18.3% of GDP and employs 34% of the workforce, nearly 60% of all land in Ghana is arable and 95% of those farms are cultivated by small and medium-sized farms. Ghana produces cocoa, palm oil, coffee, rubber, legumes, yam, tobacco, and cotton.


Industry accounts for 31.5% of GDP and employs 10% of the workforce and is dominated by mining of gold and manganese, lumbering, light manufacturing, aluminum smelting, food processing, cement production and petroleum. Ghana also has a thriving automotive industry and exports cars to other African nations.


The service sector is the largest contributor to GDP at 43% and employs 48% of the nations workforce. The service sector is lead by banking, telecommunications, and in recent years the growing technology industry.

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