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April 2006

Area:92,100 square miles.

Neighbours: Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Togo.

Environment: The terrain of Ghana consists mainly of low-lying plains with a central southern plateau. There are savannah grasslands in the north and farmland and forest in the south. It has the world’s largest man-made lake – Lake Volta.

Population: 21.5 million.

Infant mortality: 48 deaths/1,000 live births.

Life expectancy: 56 years.

Ethnic groups: About 100 ethnic groups, belonging to the Kwa 71%, Gur 25.5%, Mande 1%; and others (including Fulbe, European, and refugees from Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire) 2.5%.

Languages: English (official); African languages.

Literacy: Male 83%, female 67%.

Capital: Accra (2.25 million).

Other cities: Kumasi (1 million); Sekondi-Takoradi (400,000).

Urbanisation: 37%.

Economy: Ghana is well endowed with natural resources, including petroleum. Its main exports are gold, timber and cocoa. It remains heavily dependent on international assistance, although the economy is slowly improving. Subsistence agriculture still accounts for 34% of GDP and employs 60% of the work force. Nearly one third of the population are below the poverty line.

Religions: Muslim 21%, Independent African churches 19%, unaffiliated ‘Christian’ 18%, Protestant 15%, traditional African religions 15%, Catholic 10%, cults and others 2%. There is syncretism across the various groups.

Protestant denominations: Various Pentecostal and Charismatic, various Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, Ghana Baptist Convention, and many others – there are over 1100 denominations.

History: Formerly known as the Gold Coast, and notable in earlier centuries for trading in gold and slaves, Ghana became independent of Britain in March 1957.

President Kwame Nkrumah (1957-1966) undertook a programme of socialist industrialisation, which proved disastrous for the nation’s economy. There was a series of military coups until Ghana was eventually stabilised under Jerry Rawlings and entered genuine multiparty politics in 1992. Today it is a constitutional democracy.

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