Ghana is an enthralling traditional culture at a cross roads between the past and the present. It is historically rich and remarkably diverse. It boasts the legacy of the great Ashanti Empire of the 11th century along with the enviable distinction of being one of the most traveled to destination on the continent; owing to its stable political environment.
Formerly called the Gold Coast, The Republic of Ghana lies on the Gulf of Guinea, on the western coast of tropical Africa, bisected by the Greenwich Meridian. The country lies within GMT zone. Ghana extends from 672km north to south between latitudes 4.5† North and 11† North and from 536km East to West between longitudes 3† West and 1o East. It is bordered to the West by Cote d’Ivoire, to the North by Burkina Faso, to the East by Togo and to the South by the Atlantic Ocean. Ghana has a total land area of 239, 460km2, equivalent to that of Great Britain or the state of Oregon in the USA. The population of Ghana is approximately 24 million.
The majority of the population is concentrated in the southern and central part of the country, with Greater Accra the most densely populated region. The northern three regions, despite covering more than 40% of the national surface, support only 25% of Ghana’s population. Ghana extends 672km from north to south (between latitudes 4.5† North and 11† North) and 536km from east to west (between longitudes 3† West and 1o- wrong symbol!! East).
The capital of Ghana is Accra, situated on the Atlantic coast about 25km west of the Greenwich meridian. The current population of Accra is about 4 million people. The second largest city in the country is Kumasi, capital of the Ashanti Region. Ghana is divided into ten administrative regions: Upper West, Upper East, Northern, Brong-Ahafo, Volta, Ashanti, Western, Central, Eastern and Greater Accra.
Ghana has a typically tropical climate. Daytime temperatures are high, approaching or topping 30˚c on most days but fall at night. Temperatures are reasonably consistent throughout the year. The main seasonal factor is rain, which falls almost exclusively between April-September, peaking in May and June. During the rainy season however, the weather may drop to 22˚c. Another phenomenon in Ghana is the arrival of the Harmattan winds that blow from the northeast during the dry season. They bring dust from the Sahara and reduce visibility to as little as 1km. They generally come towards the end of December and continue until the end of January.
The national flag consists of three horizontal stripes -red, gold and green from top to bottom- with a black star in the middle of the gold stripe. The red band represents the blood of the nation’s freedom fighters; the gold is its mineral wealth and the green, its forest.
English is the official national language but there are a total of at least 75 local languages and dialects spoken in Ghana, generally divided into the Akan, Mole-Dagbani, Ewe and Ga language groups. Twi is the main Akan tongue and spoken by roughly half the population, including the Ashanti and Fante.
Freedom of religion is a constitutional right in Ghana. It is thought that about 60% of Ghanaians are Christian and at least 25% Muslim. Minority religions include various traditional faiths, Bahai, Hinduism and Buddhism. Islam is the predominant faith in the north, having reached West Africa via the trans-Saharan trade routes as early as the eighth century AD. Christianity dominates in the southern and central parts of the country, with Catholicism first introduced by the Portuguese in the late 15th century.
The cedi is the unit of currency of Ghana. One cedi is divided into one hundred pesewas. The present cedi was introduced on July 3, 2007, and was equal to 10,000 old cedi when redenomination saw four zeros lopped off the value. Ghana is not generally an expensive country to stay, but volunteers should be aware that certain amenities that foreigners are accustomed to, such as bottled mineral water and imported commodities, are expensive in Ghana.
We strongly recommend that volunteers bring hard currency cash or ATM cards, rather than travelers checks. At forex bureaus, it is simple to exchange euros, dollars, or pounds into Ghana Cedis. The best exchange rate is for larger bills. Visa ATMs are abundant in Ghana, but Mastercard is harder to find. No other debit/credit cards have a presence in Ghana. Most of the rural placement sites do not have an international bank in the town.
Therefore, Elective Ghana will assist in getting you to a bank or a forex bureau to exchange money before sending you to your placement site. Traveler cheques are a less convenient way of getting money. You will need to show your passport as well as your receipt for the traveler cheques in order to get money.
For more information on Ghana, get the Bradt Guide book on Ghana or visit www.bradtguides.com/Book/120/Ghana.html