Ghana: A Leader in Africa
President Clinton made his first African stop in Accra, capital of Ghana, a country that has been a regional leader in many ways. In 1957, it became the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to emerge from colonialism; it enjoyed the highest per capita income in the region at independence before its economy went into a tailspin; and it experienced the trauma of military takeovers long before that became a trend in the region.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Ghana seeking the source of the African gold. Vestiges of the extent of European colonial presence and concentration of activity in the country are evidenced by the fact that 29 of the 32 European colonial forts and castles dotted along the coast of West Africa are in Ghana (www.ambassadorway.com).
On 1st July 1960, Ghana became a republic with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as its first President. Ghana spearheaded the political advancement of Africa and Dr. Nkrumah laid the foundations for the unity later expressed in the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). He was a firm supporter of the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned movement (www.ghanaweb.com)
Ghana is located in West Africa with the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Togo to the east, Cote d’Ivoire to the west and Burkina Faso to the North. The country lies within the tropics and on the Greenwich Meridian. There are two main seasons, the rainy season and the Dry season. The dry season starts around late August and ends in February. Minerals such as gold, diamond, bauxite and manganese are also found in Ghana. The population is about 19,894,014 with about 51% females and 49% males (www.cia.gov/).
Well endowed with natural resources, the country has twice the per capita output of the poorer countries in West Africa. Even so, Ghana remains heavily dependent on international financial and technical assistance. Gold, timber, and cocoa production are major sources of foreign exchange. The domestic economy continues to revolve around subsistence agriculture, which accounts for 41% of GDP and employs 60% of the work force, mainly small landholders. In 1995-97, Ghana made mixed progress under a three-year structural adjustment program in cooperation with the IMF. On the minus side, public sector wage increases and regional peacekeeping commitments have led to continued inflationary deficit financing, depreciation of the cedi (Ghanaian currency), and rising public discontent with Ghana’s austerity measures (http://www.ghana.com).
Ghana is a key United States ally in promoting economic and political reform and respect for human rights in West Africa. The country plays a constructive role as a stabilizing influence in the region and is committed to helping resolve regional conflicts and promoting regional security. Ghana has taken a lead role in supporting the African Crisis Response Initiative, and is also in the forefront of African countries that have made positive steps toward consolidating democracy. Trade links between Ghana and the United States are expanding: U.S. exports to Ghana grew from $53 million in 1985 to $295 million in 1996.
The United States has a strong commitment to encourage these positive
efforts and supports the development of African leadership in promoting economic
growth and political stability. Many donors are involved in promoting democracy
and good governance objectives in Ghana. The United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany,
and Netherlands as well as the European Union and World Bank have active programs
in supporting decentralization of government services to local level district
assemblies. Germany also has an active media and journalism support program.
Ghana participates in several international organizations like ABEDA, ACP, FAO, G-24, G-77, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol and many more. Generally, it follows the consensus of the Nonaligned Movement and the OAU on economic and political issues not directly affecting its own interests. Ghana has been extremely active in international peacekeeping activities under UN auspices in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Rwanda, the Balkans, and Pakistan, in addition to an eight-year sub-regional initiative with its ECOWAS partners to develop and then enforce a cease-fire in Liberia. Ghana maintains friendly relations with all states, regardless of ideology ( http://www.state.gov).
Until the 1970s, Ghana had one of the most highly developed education systems in West Africa. It declined in 1975, with the rest of the economy. Currently, 76 per cent of males and 54 percent of females can read and write. The government aims to reallocate more of the annual budget towards basic education and aims to get every child into some form of schooling by 2005 (www.ghana.edu.gh).
The Country has lively festivals, exuberant highlife music, dramatic metal sculptures, woodcarvings and exotic jewelry. Vividly patterned kente cloth and other colorful costumes portray a fascinating pre and postcolonial history. Ghana has good claims to be the friendliest and most cheerful country in Africa. Its people are enterprising and receptive to visitors. It is a place where you can walk the crowded streets with a degree of safety. Each of its ten regions has its own distinct folklore and cultural tradition. Most festivals in Ghana are for purification, thanksgiving, dedication and reunion. They are also considered symbolically as maintaining the link between the living and the dead. It is dedicated to the honor of the spirits of the ancestors believed to be a guiding force in all-human activities( www.susubiribi.com)
The people of Ghana have a passion for song and dance. Music is an important part of every Ghanaian’s life, and now echoes all over the world. Ghana is the home of Highlife music, which is enjoyed throughout Africa and the world. Reflecting the vitality of Africa, the music, both traditional and modern, carries forward the spirit of the continent (www.carnival.com.gh).
For several years now Ghana has been playing host to ever-increasing tourists from all over the world. Ghanaians are a hospitable, respectable and peace-loving people. One could tell from their greeting forms and general behavior. Ghanaians have wide and generous smiles when you greet them. They are conservative people and respect traditional courtesies. Handshakes, using the right hand only are the common greeting. Traditionally, children are taught in their homes to respect their elders. A child who fails to observe social values is considered as untrained and uncultured. Visitors from all over the world are sure to be well received in any Ghanaian community that they happen to visit. The smile on their face seems to be permanently in place and the world has observed that Ghanaians are very patient as people, kind not only to visitors but to themselves too. Ghanaians hardly ever touch or kiss in public (www.ghanaweb.com).
Thick soups are the mainstay of Ghanaian cuisine and are usually eaten with potatoes or rice. Another staple meal is Fufu, which consists of cassava, yam, or plantain that has been cooked, pureed, and mashed into a ball. Fufu is a ubiquitous and much-loved staple throughout most of West Africa. It can be topped with a fiery sauce or served as the bland accompaniment to a main dish. Fufu is traditionally made with cassava, but it can be prepared with everything from rice or yams, to instant mashed potatoes (www.ghanadata.com).
On the political front, a new constitution was introduced in 1992 and Ghana’s first multiparty elections were organized shortly thereafter. In 1996, Ghana enjoyed a smooth second-term election, conducted with full participation of all political parties and of the Ghanaian electorate, strengthening democratic institutions. Lt. Jerry Rawlings, head of state since 1981, won presidential elections in 1992 and 1996, but was constitutionally prevented from running for a third term in 2000. John Kufuor succeeded him. Fortunately, Ghana is free of the tribal conflicts, which afflict many other African countries. It is one of the most economically progressive African countries and could be the starting point for the humanist movement in Africa (Library of Congress).