Facts and History
Government: Parliamentary Democracy
Official Language: English
Largest Ethnic Group: Akan
Date of Independence: March 6, 1957
Formerly: the Gold Coast, a British colony
The three colors of the flag (red, green, and black) and the black star in the middle are all symbolic of the pan-Africanist movement. This was a key theme in the early history of Ghana's independence.
Much was expected and hoped for from Ghana at independence but like all new countries during the Cold War, Ghana faced immense challenges. Ghana's first President, Kwame Nkrumah, was ousted nine years after independence. For the next 25 years, Ghana was typically governed by military rulers with varying economic impacts. The country returned to democratic rule in 1992 and has built a reputation as a stable, liberal economy.
Ghana’s independence from Britain in 1957 was widely celebrated in the African diaspora. African-Americans, including Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, visited Ghana, and many Africans still struggling for their own independence looked on it as a beacon of the future to come.
Within Ghana, people believed they would finally benefit from the wealth generated by the country's cocoa farming and gold mining industries.
Much was also expected of Kwame Nkrumah, the charismatic first President of Ghana. He was an experienced politician. He had led the Convention People's Party during the push for independence and served as Prime Minister of the colony from 1954 to 1956 as Britain eased toward independence. He was also an ardent pan-Africanist and helped found theOrganization of African Unity.
Nkrumah's Single Party State
Initially, Nkrumah rode a wave of support in Ghana and the world.Ghana, however, faced all the dauntingchallenges of independencethat would soon be felt across Africa. Among these issues was its economic dependence on the West.
Nkrumah tried to free Ghana from this dependence by building the Akosambo Dam on the Volta River, but the project put Ghana deeply in debt and created intense opposition. His party worried the project would increase Ghana's dependence rather than lessen it. The project also forced the relocation of some 80,000 people.
Nkrumah raised taxes, including on cocoa farmers, to help pay for the dam. This exacerbated tensions between him and the influential farmers.Like many new African states, Ghana also suffered from regional factionalism. Nkrumah saw the wealthy farmers, who were regionally concentrated, as a threat to social unity.
In 1964, faced with growing resentment and afraid of internal opposition, Nkrumah pushed a constitutional amendment that made Ghana a one-party state and made himself the life president.
As opposition grew, people also complained that Nkrumahwas spending too much time building networks and connections abroad and too little time paying attention to his own people's needs.
On February 24, 1966, a group of officers led a coup to overthrow Nkrumah while Kwame Nkrumah was in China. He found refuge in Guinea, where fellow pan-Africanist Ahmed Sékou Touré made him honorary co-President.
The military-police National Liberation Council that took over after the coup promised elections. After a constitution was drafted for the Second Republic, elections were held in 1969.
Second Republic and Acheampong Years
The Progress Party, headed by Kofi Abrefa Busia, won the 1969 elections. Busia became the Prime Minister and a Chief Justice, Edward Akufo-Addo, became the President.
Once again, people were optimistic and believed the new government would handle Ghana's problems better than Nkrumah. Ghana still had high debts, however, and servicing the interest was crippling the country's economy. Cocoa prices were also slumping and Ghana's share of the market had declined.
In an attempt to right the boat, Busia implemented austerity measures and devalued the currency, but these moves were deeply unpopular. On January 13, 1972, Lieutenant Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong successfully overthrew the government.
Acheampong rolled back many of the austerity measures. This benefited many people in the short term, but the economy worsened in the long term. Ghana's economy had negative growth (meaning the gross domestic product declined) throughout the 1970s, as it had in the late 1960s.
Inflation ran rampant. Between 1976 and 1981, the inflation rate averaged around 50 percent. In 1981, it was 116 percent. For most Ghanaians, the necessities of life were getting harder and harder to obtain, and minor luxuries were out of reach.
Amidst rising discontent, Acheampong and his staff proposed a Union Government, which was to be a government ruled by the military and civilians. The alternative to the Union Government was continued military rule. Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, that thecontentious Union Government proposal passed in a 1978 national referendum.
In the lead up to the Union Government elections, Acheampong was replaced by Lieutenant General F. W. K. Affufo and restrictions on political opposition were lessened.
The Rise of Jerry Rawlings
As the country prepared for elections in 1979, Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings and several other junior officers launched a coup. They weren't successful at first, but another group of officers broke them out of jail. Rawlings made a second, successful coup attempt and overthrew the government.
The reason Rawlings and the other officers gave for taking power just weeks before national elections was that the new Union Government would be no more stable or effective than previous governments.They were not stopping the elections themselves but they did execute several members of the military government, including the former leader General Acheampong, who had already been unseated by Affufo. They also purged the higher ranks of the military.
After the elections, the new president Dr. Hilla Limann forced Rawlings and his co-officers into retirement. When the government was unable to fix the economy and corruption continued, Rawlings launched a second coup. On December 31, 1981, he, several other officers, and some civilians seized power again. Rawlings remained Ghana's head of state for the next 20 years.
Jerry Rawling's Era (1981-2001)
Rawlings and six other men formed a Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) with Rawlings as the chair.The "revolution" Rawlings led had Socialist leanings, but it was also a populist movement.
The Council set up local Provisional Defense Committees (PDC) throughout the country. These committees were supposed to create democratic processes at the local level. They were tasked with overseeing the work of administrators and ensuring the decentralization of power. In 1984, the PDCs were replaced by Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. When push came to shove, however, Rawlings and the PNDC balked at decentralizing too much power.
Rawlings' populist touch and charisma won over crowds and he initially enjoyed support. There was opposition from the beginning, however. Just a few months after the PNDC came to power, they executed several members of an alleged plot to overthrow the government. The harsh treatment of dissidents is one of the primary criticisms made of Rawlings, and there was little freedom of the press in Ghana during this time.
As Rawlings moved away from his socialist colleagues, he gained enormous financial support from Western governments for Ghana. This support was also based on Rawlings' willingness to enact austerity measures, which showed how far the "revolution" had moved from its roots. Eventually, his economic policies brought improvements,and he is credited with having helped save Ghana's economy from collapse.
In the late 1980s, the PNDC was facing international and internal pressures and began exploring a shift toward democracy. In 1992, a referendum for returning to democracy passed and political parties were permitted again in Ghana.
In late 1992, elections were held. Rawlings ran for the National Democratic Congress party and won the elections. He was thus the first President of Ghana's Fourth Republic. The opposition boycotted the elections, which undercut the triumph. The 1996 elections that followed were deemed free and fair, and Rawlings won those as well.
The shift to democracy led to further aid from the West, and Ghana's economic recovery continued to gain steam in the eight years of Rawlings' presidential rule.
Ghana's Democracy and Economy Today
In 2000, the true test of Ghana's fourth republic came.Rawlings was prohibited by term limits from running for President a third time. Theopposition party's candidate John Kufour won the Presidential elections. Kufour had run and lost to Rawlings in 1996, and the orderly transition between parties was an important sign of the political stability of Ghana's new republic.
Kufour focused much of his presidency on continuing to develop Ghana's economy and international reputation. He was reelected in 2004. In 2008, John Atta Mills (Rawlings' former Vice President who had lost to Kufour in the 2000 elections) won the election and became Ghana's next president. He died in office in 2012and was temporarily replaced by his Vice President John Dramani Mahama, who won the subsequent elections called for by the constitution.
Amidst the political stability, however, Ghana's economy has stagnated. In 2007, new oil reserves were discovered. This added to Ghana's wealth in resources but has not yet brought a boost to Ghana's economy.The oil discovery has also increased Ghana's economic vulnerability, and the 2015 crash in oil prices decreased revenue.
Despite Nkrumah's efforts to secure Ghana's energy independence through the Akosambo Dam, electricity remains one of Ghana's hurdles more than 50 years later.Ghana's economic outlook may be mixed, but analysts remain hopeful, pointing to the stability and strength of Ghana's democracy and society.
Ghana is a member of ECOWAS, the African Union, the Commonwealth, and the World Trade Organization.
"Ghana." The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency.
Berry, La Verle (Editor). "Historical Background." Ghana: A Country Study, U.S. Library of Congress., 1994, Washington.
"Rawlings: the Legacy." BBC News, December 1, 2000.
What happened in Ghana after they gained independence? ›
On 6 March 1957, the Gold Coast (now known as Ghana) gained independence from Britain. Ghana became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and was led to independence by Kwame Nkrumah who transformed the country into a republic, with himself as president for life.What happened to Ghana economy after independence? ›
The 1960-1970 period was characterized by ISI policies and income stagnation. The 1970-1984 period was marked by structural problems and economic decline. The Ghanaian economy slowly recovered in 1984-1992 and 1992-2000, after two structural adjustment programs were adopted in 1983 and 1987-1989.What did Ghana gain independence from? ›
In 1957 the British colony of the Gold Coast became the independent nation of Ghana.Why was Ghana gaining independence important? ›
On March 6, 1957, Ghana was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence. And it inspired other African countries to continue their struggle for freedom.What problems did Ghana face after independence? ›
Ghana still had high debts, however, and servicing the interest was crippling the country's economy. Cocoa prices were also slumping and Ghana's share of the market had declined. In an attempt to right the boat, Busia implemented austerity measures and devalued the currency, but these moves were deeply unpopular.What happened after the fall of Ghana? ›
The Ghana Empire crumbled from the 12th century CE following drought, civil wars, the opening up of trade routes elsewhere, and the rise of the Sosso Kingdom (c. 1180-1235 CE) and then the Mali Empire (1240-1645 CE).When did Ghana gain independence and how? › Was Ghana the first to gain independence? ›
Today in history: Ghana becomes first African country to gain independence from colonial rule, and more - World News.Did Ghana gain independence first? ›
It also marks the beginning of a series of events that triggered the liberation struggle, culminating in Ghana becoming the first colonized African country to gain independence.Who helped Ghana gain their independence? ›
The first African-born Prime Minister of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah was a prominent Pan-African organizer whose radical vision and bold leadership helped lead Ghana to independence in 1957.
What was Ghana like before independence? ›
The ninth-century Arab writer, Al Yaqubi, described ancient Ghana as one of the three most organized states in the region (the others being Gao and Kanem in the central Sudan). Its rulers were renowned for their wealth in gold, the opulence of their courts, and their warrior-hunting skills.Which people helped Ghana to gain independence? ›
Kwame Nkrumah, (born September 1909, Nkroful, Gold Coast [now Ghana]—died April 27, 1972, Bucharest, Romania), Ghanaian nationalist leader who led the Gold Coast's drive for independence from Britain and presided over its emergence as the new nation of Ghana.Did Ghana gain independence peacefully? ›
Unlike other countries struggling for independence in Africa, the ethnic groups in the “Gold Coast” coexisted peacefully together. This proved to be a strength that helped Ghana gain independence before other countries. As Nkrumah insisted, there is strength in unity.Why was Ghana successful? ›
Once an African success story built on gold, oil and cocoa, Ghana leveraged its natural resources to produce strong economic growth in the early years of this century. It met the millennium development goal of halving poverty rates by 2015, and was hailed as a model of political stability after peaceful elections.How did Ghana gain so much power and become an empire? ›
Located within the present-day borders of Mauritania, Mali, and Senegal, medieval Ghana literally sat on a gold mine. The land's abundance of resources allowed Ghana's rulers to engage in years of prosperous trading. Strategic governing coupled with great location led to the rapid emergence of a very wealthy empire.What challenges did Ghana face? ›
However, Ghana is faced with a debt crisis, high inflation and the devaluation of the local currency, the cedi. This limits the government's room for manoeuvre. In December 2022, Ghana concluded an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which is supposed to lead to a support programme.What is the main problem in Ghana? ›
Ghana is struggling with unemployment, corruption, inaccessibility of quality education, poverty, forest encroachment and desertification, rural-urban migration, and poor child welfare practice systems.What are some important events that happened in Ghana? ›
1957 March - Ghana becomes independent with Kwame Nkrumah as prime minister. 1960 - Ghana becomes a republic. Kwame Nkrumah becomes the country's first elected president. 1964 - Kwame Nkrumah declares that there will be no other political party apart from the Convention People's Party (CPP), the one party state system.What are 3 facts about Ghana? ›
- Accra Is the Second Most Expensive City in Africa. ...
- Ghana Is Home to West Africa's Largest Open-Air Single Market. ...
- Ghana Is Sub-Saharan Africa's Second Most Peaceful Country. ...
- Ghana Jollof Is the Best in the World. ...
- Ghana Is the Home of the Popular Azonto Dance.
Ancient Ghana ruled from around 300 to 1100 CE. The empire first formed when a number of tribes of the Soninke peoples were united under their first king, Dinga Cisse. The government of the empire was a feudal government with local kings who paid tribute to the high king, but ruled their lands as they saw fit.
Who ruled Ghana after independence? ›
Kwame Nkrumah PC (born 21 September 1909 – 27 April 1972) was a Ghanaian politician, political theorist, and revolutionary. He was the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana, having led the Gold Coast to independence from Britain in 1957.What was the first step in Ghana's independence? ›
What was the first step in Ghana's independence? Africans gained a majority in the parliament.What is Ghana best known for? ›
Gold, cocoa and more recently oil form the cornerstone of Ghana's economy and have helped fuel an economic boom. The country is named after the great medieval trading empire that was located northwest of the modern-day state until its demise in the 13th century.Which country in Africa was the last to gain independence? ›
The referendum took place in January 2011, with about 99 percent of the voters choosing to secede, and South Sudan, with the support of the international community, declared independence later that year.How old is Ghana after independence? ›
Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, is the first country south of the Sahara to gain Independence on 6th March 1957. The feat also inspired other African countries to fight for Independence. 66 years on, we celebrate the day through these five highlights.Was Ghana independence violent? ›
Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of a Convention People's Party, which began in 1949, encouraged the nationalist movement demanding immediate independence and led a campaign of nonviolent 'positive action' influenced by Gandhi and India's struggle for independence.Who finally conquered the Ghana Empire? ›
After nearly four hundred years, the Ghana Empire fell in 1235 C.E. and was absorbed into the Mali Empire when it was conquered by Arabs from North Africa, led by the Muslim leader Abu Bakr.What was unique about Ghana's independence? ›
On 6 March 1957 Kwame Nkrumah declared to the people of Ghana about their freedom, he added that, "the African People are capable of managing their own affairs and Ghana our beloved country is free forever." Ghana was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve its independence from European colonial rule.What was the key to Ghana's growth and success? ›
Increased agricultural production and human capital development helped deliver Ghana's rapid and steady decline in poverty. Poverty rates among cocoa farmers declined from 60% in 1991 to 24% in 2005. Food production doubled during this period. Meanwhile, Ghana embarked on a major expansion in education.What impacted Ghana's success and expansion? ›
Over the past 30 years, an increase in the price and production of cocoa, gold, and oil helped transform Ghana: real GDP growth quadrupled, extreme poverty dropped by half, and in 2011, Ghana moved to a Lower Middle-Income Country status.
What major events happened in Ghana? ›
- 1960-07-01 Ghana becomes a republic.
- 1960-12-05 Ghana drops diplomatic relations with Belgium.
- 1961-06-27 Ghana imposes a total ban on exports to South Africa and South West Africa.
- 1962-08-01 Failed assassination on President Nkrumah of Ghana.
Ghana became a Republic once more on 1 October 1969 when the National Liberation Council handed power over to civilian rule. A new constitution was drafted based on the parliamentary system of government in the United Kingdom. Between 1972 and 1979, Ghana fell under the rule of several military dictators.What was done with the empire of Ghana? ›
Ghana was combined in the kingdom of Mali in 1240, marking the end of the Ghana Empire. A tradition in historiography maintains that Ghana fell when it was sacked by the Almoravid movement in 1076–77, although Ghanaians resisted attack for a decade, but this interpretation has been questioned.