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Map | Political Developments | Economy | Education | US-Ghanaian Relations

The Republic of Ghana, formerly known as the "Gold Coast", lies on the coast of West Africa. Its population of 19.4 million consists of over 50 different ethnic groups speaking various languages and dialects. Despite its great cultural diversity, Ghana has avoided any major ethnic conflicts throughout its 44-year history as an independent nation. While English is the official language, the major dialects of Twi, Ga, Fanti, Ewe, and Hausa are prevalent. Ghana's main urban centers are Accra (the capital), Kumasi, Cape Coast, and Takoradi. Its currency is the Cedi (pronounced see-di), which floats against major world currencies.

Political Developments [1]
In December 2000, Ghana experienced a groundbreaking political event as a general presidential election resulted in a smooth transition of political power from the 20-year incumbent party to the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). The incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC) conceded the election to John Kufuor, presidential candidate of the NPP, who took office on January 7, 2001. This successful election process serves to underscore Ghana's significance as a beacon of stability and hope in Africa.

Ghana first shone as a beacon of African hope on March 6, 1957, when it became the first Sub-Saharan African country to achieve national independence. Yet it was to experience nine changes of government, including four military coup's d'etat, before entering a period of relative stability. The former lieutenant Jerry Rawlings initially established military rule in 1981, which he eventually replaced with a democratic system of government. Based on a US-style constitution, the new government consists of three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. Democratic elections under the new Constitution were held in 1992 and again in 1996 - with Rawlings winning the presidency both times and his NDC party consistently maintaining control of the Parliament. In compliance with the Ghanaian constitution, Rawlings did not run for a third term in 2000. The NPP victory in those elections not only brought Kufuor to the presidency; it also granted the NPP majority control of the Parliament as they claimed 100 of the 200 seats. Transition of power between the two parties has proceeded smoothly, with members on both sides vowing to cooperate in the interest of a better future for Ghana.

The NPP is strongly pro-business and market-oriented. President Kufuor has declared his preference for creating an environment that would make Ghanaian enterprises competitive, rather than resorting to protectionist measures. Educated at Oxford University where he received Masters degrees in philosophy, political science, and economics, Kufuor has previously served as a member of Parliament and as deputy minister of foreign affairs. Kufuor's new government looks to continue good relations with international institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, as well as with neighboring governments.

Economy [1]
Since the mid 1980s, the Ghanaian government has pursued a reformist economic policy emphasizing privatization of the economy. Such reform has been supported by loans from the World Bank, and only looks to be accelerated under the rule of the NPP.

After several years of steady economic expansion and low inflation rates, Ghana was hit hard in 2000 by a decline in global prices of the country's two major exports, gold and cocoa, and a simultaneous increase in crude oil prices. The result was a drop in GDP growth from 4-5% in the 1990s to only 1%, rising inflation, depreciation of the cedi and a growing fiscal deficit. While still not fully curbed, these negative trends did abate during the fourth quarter of 2000.

Despite the recent economic downturn, analysts believe there is still hope for economic success in Ghana. The International Finance Corporation, a private sector arm of the World Bank, made significant investments in Ghana to support further development of telecommunications infrastructure planned by Ghana Telecommunications Company. Oil and natural gas production have begun in several areas around the country, and loans have been obtained in an attempt to start a large-scale cashew industry development project. Gold mines throughout Ghana are producing more than in past years, and a regional decline in cocoa supply has led to an increase in cocoa prices.

Key Economic Indicators 1999 2000 2001 2002
GDP (US$) $7.7 billion $4.8 billion $5.3 billion $6.2 billion
Real GDP growth 4.2% 1.0% 4.2% 4.5%
Exports $2.1 billion $1.6 billion $2.4 billion $2.6 billion
Imports $3.2 billion $2.2 billion $3.4 billion $3.4 billion

GDP Breakdown by sector (2001 estimate)

Agriculture, Mining, Forestry: 35.2%
Industry: 25.4%
Services: 39.4%

Education [2]
Primary and junior secondary school education is tuition-free and mandatory in Ghana. Government support for basic education is unequivocal: Article 39 of the constitution mandates the major tenets of a free, compulsory, universal basic education initiative. Launched in 1996, it is one of the most ambitious pre-tertiary education programs in West Africa. Since 1987, the government has increased its budget for education by 700 percent, growing the share of basic education from 45 to 60 percent of the total amount spent on education.

Students begin their six-year primary education at age six. Under educational reforms implemented in 1987, they pass into a junior secondary school system for three years of academic training combined with technical and vocational training. Those who continue move into the three-year senior secondary school program. Entrance into one of the five Ghanaian public universities is determined by examination, following completion of senior secondary school. Student enrollment at all educational levels totals almost 3 million.

As the Ghanaian government has shifted its focus and resources towards providing universal primary education, it has been unable to channel as much of its funds to public universities. Recognizing this, the government now actively encourages private sector investment in tertiary education. In 1993, it created the National Council for Tertiary Education to oversee the administration and improvement of tertiary education, and the National Accreditation Board to oversee accreditation of new private institutions. During an informal interview in June 1998, Ghana's Minister of Education indicated that private universities are considered necessary to lighten the heavy taxpayer burden of providing public education. The Ghanaian government is also seeking to encourage private investment in education by granting import tax exemptions for laboratory equipment and library books imported into the country.

US-Ghanaian Relations
From the time of its independence, Ghana has enjoyed good relations with the United States. Particularly on a nonofficial, personal level, relations between Ghanaians and Americans have been consistently strong. Thousands of Ghanaians have been educated in the US, and many remain there to gain working experience. Ties have been maintained between educational and scientific institutions, and cultural affiliations are particularly strong between Ghanaians and African-Americans.

Ghana was the first country in the world to accept American Peace Corps volunteers. Currently, the Ghanaian program is more than 150 volunteers strong, making it one of the largest Peace Corps programs. The program places heavy emphasis on education, but also encompasses fields such as agro-forestry, small business development, health education, water sanitation, and youth development.

On the economic front, the US is one of Ghana's most significant trading partners, with American investments forming one of the largest stocks of foreign capital in Ghana. The biggest US investor is VALCO, a joint venture between Kaiser (90%) and Reynolds (10%). Other important US companies operating in the country include Mobil, Coca-Cola, S.C. Johnson, Ralston Purina, Star-Kist, A.H. Robins, Sterling, Pfizer, IBM, Carson Products, 3M, Pioneer Gold, Stewart & Stevenson, Price Waterhouse, Great Lakes Shipping, and National Cash Register (NCR).

[1] The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2001, EIU Country Report: January 2001.

[2] US Department of State, Background Notes: Africa.

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