FACTFILE: Five Things To Know About Ghana As Electorates Go To The Polls

Channels Television  
Updated December 7, 2020
Electoral commission workers and volunteers make the last preparations for the presidential and parliamentary election at an open-air polling station, in Accra on December 7, 2020.


Ghanaians head to the polls today as a close fight between President Nana Akufo-Addo and his longtime rival John Mahama, in a country long viewed a beacon of stability.

The West African nation has ensured peaceful transfers of power on seven occasions since it returned to democracy nearly 30 years ago.

Seen as a beacon of hope and stability in a turbulent region, Ghana is a major producer and exporter of gold, cocoa and oil.

READ ALSO: Ghana Heads To The Polls For Presidential, Parliamentary Election

Here are five things you should know about the black nation.

– Top gold producer –

The West African nation — once called the Gold Coast — overtook South Africa last year to become the continent’s biggest producer of the precious metal.

It is also the world’s second-biggest producer of cocoa after Ivory Coast, with more than a fifth of the market. It also exports oil, diamonds, bauxite and manganese.

Once hailed as a regional growth model, it was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2015 for a bailout as global commodity prices tanked.

Nearly a quarter of Ghana’s 30 million population — which has tripled since the 1970s — live in poverty, with per capita income at $2,220 (1,827 euros).

Growth for 2020 is expected to fall to its lowest in 30 years, to 0.9 per cent according to the International Monetary Fund, a steep decline from 6.5 per cent growth in 2019.

Ghanaians also suffer from inflation and lack of infrastructure, especially sanitation, as well as regular power blackouts.


– Independence pioneer –

In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African state to win independence under nationalist leader Kwame Nkrumah.

After Nkrumah, the most influential of the former British colony’s leaders has been Jerry Rawlings, who came to power as an air force captain in 1979.

Although he mounted a second coup in 1981 after allowing elections, Rawlings — who died on November 12 — brought in a constitution that has proved a stable basis for democratic rule.

The World Bank has hailed it for taking “major strides toward democracy under a multi-party system, with its independent judiciary winning public trust.”

In 2019, Ghana cracked down on separatists who were preparing to declare their own nation, “Western Togoland”, in the eastern Volta region bordering Togo.


– Ashanti kingdom –

Modern-day Ghana is home to the Ashanti people, a nation and ethnic group which has wielded power in the region for over 300 years.

Built on gold, the Ashanti empire extended into neighbouring countries and fiercely resisted British colonial rule.

Ashanti monarchs still preside over an area containing around five million people that is roughly the size of Great Britain.


– Diplomacy –

Ghana has played an important role in mediating in wars and crises that have affected its neighbours.

As chairman of the region’s Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo worked to resolve the recent political crisis in Mali.

The late Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian, was the first black African to lead the United Nations and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his nine-year tenure that ended in 2006.

Barack Obama chose Ghana for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa in 2009 after his election as US president.


– Slave trade bastion –

Cape Coast, the former European colonial capital, was once the largest slave-trading centre in West Africa from where slaves were shipped to North and South America and the Caribbean.

Now a fishing village, it has become a major tourist attraction since Obama visited with his family.

Akufo-Addo designated 2019 the “Year of Return” to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first recorded landing of a ship carrying Africans to the US and to encourage their descendants to “come home”.