“While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man’s humanity to man.” – Maya Angelou
The Republic of Ghana is a West African country bordered by Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, the Gulf of Guinea to the south, and Côte d’Ivoire to the west. Its name comes from the ancient Ghana Empire and means “Warrior King.” Formerly known as the Gold Coast, Ghana is indeed a golden example of a developing country that maintains peace while working hard to improve its success and standing in the world. Argued to be Africa’s friendliest country, Ghanaians are warm, hospitable, and invariably willing to go out of their way to help others and welcome people from outside their culture into their own. Ghana is a country of many tribes, cultures, religions and languages. All people feel strongly about a united Ghana and this brings a peacefulness found in few places with such a mix. This makes Ghana one of the safest countries on Earth. Ghanaians are proud of their culture, and have good reason to be. Ghana boasts of a rich history full of vibrant art, traditions, drumming, dance, proverbs, textiles and aural traditions. It is replete with bounteous natural beauty ranging from seaside views and lush forests to picturesque mountains and dusty deserts. Ghanaians emphasize communal values such as family, respect for the elderly, honoring traditional rulers, and the importance of dignity and proper social conduct. Individual conduct is seen as having impact on an entire family, social group and community; therefore, everyone is expected to be respectful, dignified and observant in most every aspect of life.
Ancient Ghana was originally located hundreds of miles north of present-day Ghana between the Senegal and Niger rivers. Its actual name was the Wagadugu Empire. The name “Ghana” was the title accorded to the rulers of the kingdom and was later adopted as the name of the land. Akan Kingdoms inhabited the area in pre-colonial times. These included the Akwamu, Ashanti, and Fante states. Europeans first made contact in the 15th century. The Portuguese, the first Europeans who came to medieval Ghana, arrived by sea in 1471. Upon settlement, they found huge amounts of gold deposits especially between the rivers of Volta and Ankobra. Thus, they named the land “Mina,” meaning mine. After 11 years, the Portuguese built the Elmina Castle, which still stands today as a tourist attraction. Their main goal for staying in the country was to trade gold, ivory, and slaves with other European countries. Due to the abundance of gold, the name “Gold Coast” was adopted and it soon became a major trade center of European nations.
In 1661, the Danish built a fortress which they called Christianborg Castle in Osu (present-day Accra) which became their center of slave trading. Slave trade became so widespread that various countries such as England, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Denmark and Portugal began competing intensely for slaves.
Slave trade was banned in the early 19th century and soon thereafter the British became the dominating power in the country, establishing the British Gold Coast Crown Colony in 1874.
Remarkably, Ghana was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence post-colonialism, which occured on March 6, 1957. For over 50 years this independence has been cherished by Ghanaians and in recent decades it has been peacefully maintained. Ghana has consistently remained in the top scorers of the most peaceful countries in Africa, according to Vision of Humanity’s Global Peace Index.
Today, the former Gold Coast is still golden, home to the second-highest output of the precious metal on the continent. It’s also where you’ll find black gold too, as it’s the second-largest producer of cocoa in the world. Ghana 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 since it has recently more than halved its poverty level while growing its economy. 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 is finding new wealth through tourism as visitors discover how vibrant and exciting this stable, successful African country is.
Ghana is a multilingual country in which about eighty languages are spoken. Of these, English, which was inherited from the colonial era, is the official language, the lingua franca and the language taught in schools. Of the languages indigenous to Ghana, Akan is the most widely spoken. Additionally, there are eleven languages that have the status of being government-sponsored languages: Ga, the Akan ethnic languages (Asante Twi, Akuapem Twi, Mfantse and Nzema), the Mole-Dagbani ethnic languages (Dagaare and Dagbanli), Ewe, Dangme, Guan, and Kasem.
Ghanaian food is tasty, spicy, flavorful and… to most Americans - quite strange. Most Ghanaians eat incredibly fresh food straight from their farms and the wild around them. Their dishes are flavored with hot red pepper, ginger, onions, garlic, palm oil, fish and spices. Meals tend to be served in a bowl and are comprised of three parts: a hunk of starch placed into the bowl, a soup or stew poured over top of the starch, and pieces of protein - fish, meat, snail or hard-boiled egg on top. Most food is eaten with with the hands - specifically the right hand only - even soup! People eat out of the same bowl which is a practice called “sharing hands.” There are many regional and tribal variations in Ghanaian food.
For a country the size of the state of Oregon, Ghana hosts a surprising amount of different types of ecosystems. Stretching from the mangrove swamps of its Atlantic Ocean coast to semi-arid northern savannas with lush forest in between, it supports a number of prime national parks and preserves. This makes it a fine destination for the wildlife enthusiast, bridging as it does deep-forest and open-savanna/grassland species. The country still harbors populations of such impressive beasts as African elephants and hippopotamuses in the large preserve areas, but more numerous and widespread are somewhat smaller animals showcasing their own beauty and ecological significance. Ghana is relatively rich in animal life, although the large fauna has been greatly reduced by hunting and the spread of human settlement. Large mammals that were once widespread include lions, leopards, hyenas, zebras, antelope, elephants, buffalo, wild hogs, and chimpanzees. These days those animals are mostly found in zoos or in the large preserves such as Mole and Kakum National Parks, if at all. Among the local snakes are pythons, cobras, horned and puff adders, and green mambas. Crocodiles, the endangered manatees, and otters can sometimes be found in the rivers and lagoons. Hippopotamuses are found in the Volta River. There are many species of lizards, tortoises, scorpions and giant snails as well as smaller mammals such as pangolins, hyraxes, porcupines, grasscutters (giant rats) and a variety of monkeys including Patas, Colubus and Monas.
- Lake Volta, in the Volta region of the country, is the world’s largest man-made lake. It’s 250 miles long and covers 3,283 square miles, or 3.6 percent of Ghana’s area.
- The currency unit in Ghana is called the cedi. The word “cedi” comes from a local word meaning a cowry shell. Cowry shells (from sea snails) were once used as money in Ghana.
- Kofi Annan is one of the most well-known Ghanaians. He served as secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997- 2006.
- Ghana has the largest market in West Africa. It’s called Kejetia market and it’s located in Kumasi, the Ashanti region’s capital. There you can find everything under the hot Ghanaian sun, from local crafts — beads, cloth and sandals — to second-hand jeans and clothing, and meats, fruit and vegetables. [fun fact, Jasmine, CWOO co-founder, was once in a zoo in this market where a chimpanzee threw a rock-hard lump of its own feces right at her head with terrific aim and strength!]
- The Ghanaian flag has rich symbolism behind its colors. The red represents the blood of those who died in the country's struggle for independence from Great Britain. The gold represents the mineral wealth of the country. The green symbolizes the country's rich forests and natural wealth. The black star is the symbol of African emancipation. The black star was adopted from the flag of the Black Star Line, a shipping line incorporated by Marcus Garvey that operated from 1919 to 1922. It is where the Ghana national football team derive their nickname, the "Black Stars".
Establish Cultural Exchange
We are partnering with SDA Elementary School in Sampa, Ghana, and Mum’s Love Orphanage in Duayaw Nkwanta, Ghana. The students and orphans are thrilled to connect with students in the US, to teach you about their culture and learn from you about yours. You will learn about how surprisingly different their daily lives are, but then again how surprisingly similar they are as well. Through our virtual cultural exchange program, you will have the opportunity to complete shared activities and exchange photos and videos while also making a big impact on your new friends’ lives. This unique one on one cultural experience will allow you to step outside of your culture into another, broadening and deepening your empathy for others and your understanding about the world.
Get the WorldChanger Experience™ with us!