Ghana was the first place in sub-Saharan Africa where Europeans arrived to trade - first in gold, later in slaves. It was also the first black African nation in the region to achieve independence from a colonial power, in this instance Britain.
Despite being rich in mineral resources, and endowed with a good education system and efficient civil service, Ghana fell victim to corruption and mismanagement soon after independence in 1957.
Ghana was formerly known as the Gold Coast. On 6 March 1957 Kwame Nkrumah declared the country's independence. On 1 July 1960, Ghana became a commonwealth republic with Nkrumah as the first President of the country. The flag of Ghana consists of the colours red, gold, green, and the black star.
In 1966 its first president and pan-African hero, Kwame Nkrumah, was deposed in a coup, heralding years of mostly-military rule. In 1981 Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings staged his second coup. The country began to move towards economic stability and democracy.
In April 1992 a constitution allowing for a multi-party system was approved in a referendum, ushering in a period of democracy. A well-administered country by regional standards, Ghana is often seen as a model for political and economic reform in Africa.
Although Ghana’s growth has been fairly robust, the source of growth has always been biased in favour of extractive and capital intensive services sector which do not have direct poverty reducing effect. Poverty endemic areas are often constrained by basic infrastructure such as feeder roads that links their economic activity, mostly farming, to urban market centres.
Malaria still remains a public health concern as it is the leading cause of morbidity in Ghana. There are still challenges in meeting the goal of reducing maternal mortality ratio to the expected 185 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015. There are rural‐urban disparities in health care services. Moreover, there is still significant number of children of primary school age not enrolled and significant enrolment gaps also remain between the poorest and the wealthiest children.
Ghana’s forest cover continues to decline rapidly. The agriculture sector particularly the food crop sub-sector continues to rely on rain-fed agriculture and the adoption of limited modern agricultural technique. Women’s access to and control over land, information on land rights issues, access to formal credit from the banks, as well as storage, processing and marketing facilities limit their ability to engage in food crop farming activities independently.
The business climate in Ghana is still weak and continues to hold back productive investment particularly in the area of manufacturing. The business community is often constrained by limited and unreliable supply of energy and affordable finance especially for SMEs to enable them expand production, create jobs and improve incomes of workers.
Ghana is the world's second largest cocoa producer behind Ivory Coast, and Africa's biggest gold miner after South Africa. It is one of the continent's fastest growing economies and has made major progress in the attainment and consolidation of growth. Significant progress has been made in poverty reduction. In fact, Ghana is the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the Millenium Development Goal 1, which is the target of halving extreme poverty.
Ghana has recently become a middle income country. The discovery of major offshore oil reserves was announced in June 2007, encouraging expectations of a major economic boost. Production officially began at the end of 2010, but some analysts expressed concern over the country's ability to manage its new industry, as laws governing the oil sector had not yet been passed.
In July 2009, Ghana secured a 600 million dollar three-year loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), amid concerns about the impact of the global recession on poorer countries. The IMF said the Ghanaian economy had proved to be relatively resilient because of the high prices of cocoa and gold. Beside economic development, Ghana has made real progress in good governance, youth and gender empowerment.Important pieces of relevant legislation have been enacted and institutional arrangements improved to promote inclusive society. Government for instance has enacted the Domestic Violence and Disability Laws, established Domestic Violence Victim Support Units and the implementation of the National Social Protection Strategy.
Over the last decade, Ghana has enjoyed increasingly stable and deepening democratic governance. Four successful elections in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 have strengthened the effectiveness of key national institutions, enhanced investor confidence and anchored the new economy in an environment for positive growth. Ghana has a high-profile peacekeeping role; troops have been deployed in Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and DR Congo.
Ghana enjoys a high degree of media freedom and the private press and broadcasters operate without significant restrictions. The media are free to criticise the authorities without fear of reprisals, says Reporters Without Borders. The private press is lively, and often carries criticism of government policy. Animated phone-in programmes are staple fare on many radio stations. Radio is Ghana's most popular medium, although it is being challenged by increased access to TV.