Situated on the southern coast of the West African bulge lies the country of Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana. The second most populous country in West Africa, Ghana is suffused with a pulsating culture, idyllic beaches, gorgeous hinterland, vibrant cities, diverse wildlife, and affable inhabitants. Here are some interesting facts about Ghana.
Facts about Ghana
1. Ghana is the 80th largest country in the world.
Occupying a total area of 239,567 km² (92,497 sq mi), Ghana is the 80th largest nation in the world. Comparatively, it is marginally smaller in size than the United Kingdom or the US state of Oregon.
2. Ghana shares a land border with three countries.
3. The tallest mountain in Ghana is Mount Afadjato.
Ghana’s terrain consists of small desert mountains with the Kwahu Plateau in the south-central area. Located near Ghana’s eastern border with Togo, Mount Afadjato is the highest point in the country that rises to an elevation of 885 meters (2,904 ft).
4. Ghana has a total coastline length of 539 km (335 mi).
Ghana’s 539 km (335 mi) long coastline on the Gulf of Guinea is peppered with lovely sandy beaches shaded by swaying palm trees.
5. Ghana is named after the medieval Ghana Empire of West Africa.
Ghana gets its name from the medieval West African kingdom of the same name. However, the actual name of the empire was ‘Wagadou’ and the word ‘Ghana’ was the title of the kings who ruled the kingdom.
Interestingly, the Ghana Empire’s location was about 800 km (500 mi) north of present-day Ghana, in present-day Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal. The word Ghana means “Warrior King” in the Soninke language, which is primarily spoken in Mali.
6. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to set foot in Ghana.
One of the lesser-known facts about Ghana is that the Portuguese were the first known Europeans to set foot in the country. The recorded history of Ghana begins in 1471 when Portuguese traders landed on the coast in search of gold, ivory, and spices.
They set up trading posts and purchased slaves from the local people bringing Ghana into the Atlantic Slave trade.
7. Ghana was once home to the powerful Ashanti Empire.
From the late-17th century to the late-19th century, much of Ghana was ruled by the mighty Ashanti Empire from their capital in Kumasi. The Ashanti supplied European traders with slaves, gold, and other goods in exchange for firearms, which they used to expand their kingdom.
8. Ghana was formerly known as the “Gold Coast.”
Ghana was referred to as the “Gold Coast” by early Europeans who visited it because of the substantial amounts of gold found in the nation. The name “Gold Coast” was in use until Ghana’s independence.
9. Ghana is a former British colony.
After the arrival of the Portuguese, Ghana became an area of intense colonial rivalry from the 17th century. Following the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Danes, the Swedes, the Prussians, and the British all came to Ghana.
In 1821, the British acquired control of all of the trading posts in Ghana and the coastal area settlements became a crown colony—the Gold Coast Colony. From 1826 to 1900, the British then fought a succession of battles against the native Ashanti.
The final war between the British and Ashanti resulted in the British burning of Kumasi and the official occupation of the Ashanti Empire in 1900. In 1901, the Ashanti state was declared a British protectorate. In the early 20th century, Ghanaians began trading on a global scale and grew their economy through the production of cocoa and coffee.
10. Ghana was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from colonial rule.
In the late 1940s, as the decolonization era began to sweep the world, the Ghanaian people felt the desire for independence. The British finally surrendered the Gold Coast colony on 6 March 1957 and Ghana became a dominion of the British Commonwealth.
By achieving independence, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan country – and as such the first black African country – to break free from the shackles of European colonization. It became a republic in 1960.
11. Ghana is home to the largest man-made lake in the world.
Located in southeastern Ghana, Lake Volta is the world’s largest artificial reservoir by surface area and the fourth largest one by water volume. It covers a surface area of 8502 km² (3,283 sq mi) or over 3.5% of Ghana’s area.
Lake Volta was completed in 1965 to provide electricity, freshwater, and economic opportunities to Ghanaians.
12. Accra is the capital and largest city of Ghana.
Founded in the 17th century by the Ga people, Accra was the capital of the Gold Coast during the British colonization and has continued to serve in that capacity since the country’s independence.
13. Accra’s name is derived from a word meaning “ants.”
The reason behind Accra’s etymology is the abundance of anthills in the country surrounding it. Its name comes from the Akan language word Nkran meaning “ants.”
14. The currency of Ghana is the Ghanaian cedi (GHS).
The Ghanaian cedi has been the sole legal tender in Ghana since 1965 when it replaced the Ghanaian pound. The word ‘cedi’ stems from the Akan language word for cowry shells which were formerly used as currency in present-day Ghana. It is one of the strongest currencies in Africa.
15 . Ghana is home to over 60 different ethnic groups.
The major ethnic groups in Ghana are the Akan, the Mole-Dagbani, the Ewe, the Ga Adangbe, the Guan, the Gurma, the Grusi, and the Mande-Busanga. The Akan group is an amalgamation of around 20 smaller ethnic groups which constitute about 45-50% of the Ghanaian population. The most populous sub-Akan groups are the Ashanti (Asante) and Fanti.
16. English is the official language of Ghana.
As a result of British influence over Ghana, the official language of the nation is English. It dominates the media and is widely used in education and administration. Although not the mother tongue of the majority of Ghana’s population, French serves as a lingua franca among the various ethnic groups.
17. More than 50 indigenous languages are spoken in Ghana.
Ghana is a multilingual country with over 50 ethnic languages that are spoken by people from different tribes in the country. The languages follow the tribal divisions, with the related Akan languages of Asante, Twi, and Fante being most prominent. Also widely spoken are Dagomba, Dangme, Dagarte, Ewe, and Ga.
18. Christianity is the predominant religion in Ghana.
Ghanaians are deeply religious and respect for religion permeates pretty much every aspect of life. About 70% of Ghanaians are Christian. Christian denominations in Ghana include Roman Catholics, Methodists, Anglicans, Mennonites, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostals, Baptists, and the Society of Friends.
About 15-20% of the Ghanaian population is Muslim, the majority of whom live in the northern part of the country. Regardless of principal faith, many Ghanaians retain traditional beliefs, notably in spirits and forms of gods who inhabit the natural world.
19. Ghana is the world’s second-largest producer of cocoa beans.
Ghana is famous for its production of quality cocoa beans, used in chocolate products. The nation ranks as the world’s second-largest cocoa bean producer just behind the neighboring Ivory Coast.
20. Traditional healers are still extremely popular in Ghana when it comes to treating illness.
One of the most peculiar Ghana facts is that traditional healers are often the first and last line of defense against most illnesses in the country for around 70% of the population. This can be chalked down to the limited availability of healthcare.
21. Ghana is Africa’s largest gold producer.
Ghana is also known for being the largest producer of gold in Africa, having recently overtaken South Africa. It is also the world’s 8th largest producer of gold. Gold plays a major role in the economy of Ghana and accounts for nearly half of all of the country’s exports.
22. Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General from 1997 to 2006, was Ghanaian.
Arguably the most internationally known Ghanaian, Kofi Annan served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997-2006. Annan is also Ghana’s only Nobel Prize Winner, having won the Peace Prize in 2001.
23. Ghana is one of the most peaceful countries in Africa.
Long known for being the most stable country in West Africa, Ghana also ranks as the third-most peaceful country in Africa after Mauritius and Botswana according to the Global Peace Index.
24. Football is the most popular sport in Ghana.
Football is unquestionably the most popular sport in Ghana and the national men’s football team is known as the “Black Stars.” The Ghana men’s national football team is one of the most successful national teams in Africa and has won the Africa Cup of Nations four times.
In 2010, Ghana became only the third African nation to reach the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup after Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002. Some of the most notable footballers to come from Ghana are Michael Essien, Tony Yeboah, Abedi Pele, Samuel Kuffour, Sulley Muntari, and Asamoah Gyan.
25. Ghana is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ghana are the Asante Traditional Buildings and the Forts and Castles of the Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions.
26. The word “Kwashiorkor” comes from the Ga language of Ghana.
Kwashiorkor is a form of acute malnutrition that typically affects young children in the tropics due to protein deficiency. The word Kwashiorkor stems from the Ga language spoken in coastal Ghana and loosely translates as “the disease of the deposed child.”
27. Ghana is home to the oldest European building in existence and the first European slave-trading post south of the Sahara.
Ghana’s infamous Elmina Castle was erected by Portuguese traders in 1482 and was the first European slave-trading post in all of Sub-Saharan Africa. The white-washed fortress was employed as a filming location for German director Werner Herzog’s 1987 drama film Cobra Verde.
28. Ghana has won four medals at the Olympics.
Ghana first participated at the Summer Olympics in 1952 and has won four medals to date. The nation has won one silver and three bronze medals. Ghana is one of the few tropical nations to have competed at the Winter Olympics, having sent one athlete (Alpine skier Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong aka the “Snow Leopard”) to the 2010 Winter Olympics.
29. Ghana is not LGBT-friendly.
Homosexuality is illegal in Ghana and homosexual acts can receive up to three years in prison as punishment. Contributing to the conservative attitudes and lack of acceptance of homosexuals in Ghana is a pervading belief that homosexuals are cursed or bewitched.
30. Capital punishment is legal in Ghana.
Ghana still retains the death penalty for armed robbery, treason, and first-degree murder. However, Ghana is a de facto abolitionist country, having carried out its last execution in 1993.