Ghana: A country overview

Ghana will hold a run-off vote on Sunday December 28, 2008 to decide who will be president of Africa’s newest emerging oil producer, already a magnet of investor interest.

The deciding ballot pits Nana Akufo-Addo, of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), against the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC)’s John Atta Mills, after neither managed an outright win in the first round.

Here are some facts about Ghana.

GEOGRAPHY: Area is 239,460 sq. km. (92,440 sq. miles), a bit smaller than Britain. Ghana is bordered by Burkina Faso (to the north), Ivory Coast (west), and Togo (east). The Atlantic Ocean lies to the south.

LANGUAGE: English is the official language, but local languages include Akan, Ga, Fanti, Hausa, Fanti, Ewe, Gadangbe, Dagbani and Mamprussi.

POPULATION: 23 million. There are seven main ethnic groups, including the Akan (Ashanti and Fanti), 44 percent, in the mid-southern part of the country. There are Mossi-Dagomba, Ewe and Gadangbe minorities, among others.

RELIGION: Christianity 50 percent, traditional African religions 32 percent, Islam 13 percent.

* World’s No. 2 cocoa grower after neighbouring Ivory Coast, producing around one fifth of world supply. Government plans to increase output by around half to 1 million tonnes by 2010.

* Africa’s second biggest gold miner after South Africa, with 2007 output of nearly 2.5 million ounces.

* Britain’s Tullow Oil and private-owned Kosmos Energy plan to start producing 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil offshore in late 2010, rising later to 250,000 bpd.

* Economic reforms under Kufuor’s administration are credited with boosting growth and helping secure billions of dollars in debt relief.

* Economic growth forecast at 6.5 percent for 2008, slowing to 5.8 percent in 2009/10, then accelerating to 6.8 percent by 2013, according to the IMF.

* Annual inflation has eased since an 18.4 percent peak in June, and the currency, the cedi  has stabilised after falling 17 percent against the dollar in the first seven months of 2008.

* $750 million Eurobond issue in 2007 was sub-Saharan Africa’s first outside South Africa.

* Ghana’s stock exchange is one of the top-performing markets in 2008 with the all-share index up around 60 percent, although trade is illiquid with as little as 600 cedis worth of trade in one session in October.

* Power shortages in recent years have added to business costs, curbing mining output and forcing the closure of the VALCO aluminium smelter, which the government wants to sell.

* Ghana was named after a powerful West African empire that ended in the 12th century and based its power on gold. None of modern day Ghana lies within the ancient empire.

* From the 17th to the 19th century, Ghana was the seat of the powerful Ashanti empire, which was defeated by the British.

* In 1957 the former British colony of Gold Coast became the first country in black Sub-Saharan Africa to shake off colonial rule, inspiring liberation struggles around the continent.

* Independence leader Kwame Nkrumah was a founding father of Pan-Africanism and a figurehead among Africa’s independence leaders with his concept of African socialism.

* But the economy collapsed, Nkrumah became increasingly authoritarian and many celebrated when he was overthrown by a coup in 1966 while he was on a state visit to Hanoi.

* Ghana then tottered from one military coup to the next before holding its first democratic elections in 1992.

* Former President Jerry John Rawlings, who seized control in a coup in 1979 and again in 1981, left office in 2000 but remains a popular and charismatic critic of the government.

Source: Reuters

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