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Updated on January 16, 2012

Ghana has a population of more than 24 million. Population density is greatest in the central coastal areas, which have more than 101.5 persons per km2.

More than 15% of the population is in the five main urban concentrations: Accra-Tema, Kumasi, Takoradi-Sekondi, Cape Coast, and Tamale.

Accra itself (1,658,937) is the capital and largest city of Ghana. Kumasi (1,468,609), the old capital of Ashanti, is an inland railroad terminal and the commercial hub of the Ghanaian interior.

The Ghanaians are composed of about 75 distinct tribal groups each having its own language or dialect.

The most important of these are Akan (44%), Mole-Dagbani (16%), Ewe (13%), and Ga-Adangbe (8%). English is the official language.

Though education is free and compulsory little more than 25% of the population can read and write.

About 43% are Christians living in the south. Almost as many (38%) cling to traditional beliefs, and about 12% are Muslims.


Behind the mangroves and coconut palms of coastal Ghana lies a grassland belt separating the coast from the forests, where large areas have been cleared for agriculture. Of Ghana's 80,300 km2 of forests, only 26,000 km2 are true high forest. Valuable hardwoods include African mahogany, obeche, and sapele.

Savanna woodland consisting of scattered broadleaved trees and tussock grass covers 148,000 km2 of central, northern, and coastal southeastern Ghana. Northward, trees become scarcer, fine-leaved acacias more common, and grasses shorter.


Agriculture, the major activity, provides employment for more than 60% of the working population.

About 97% of the production comes from small peasant farms, though there is some large-scale cultivation of sugar cane, oil palms, rubber, and kenaf. The leading food crops are corn, yams, cassava, millet, guinea corn, and plantain. Other crops include shallots, kola nuts, and rice. Cacao, introduced in 1897, has long been the mainstay of the economy. From the original area of cultivation in Akwapim, the crop spread westwards through the forest area to its present "cocoa frontier" in the Brong-Ahafo region.

Much of Ghana is infested with the tsetse fly and though sheep and goats are found in most areas, cattle are restricted to the savannas of the southeast and north.

The Economy

Ghana's economic problems stem not only from her heavy external debts, which are gradually and painfully being reduced, but from over-dependence on a single export crop, cacao. Ghana is the world's leading producer of this crop.


Forestry provides 10% of Ghana's exports. Most of the output comes from areas near the railheads and export is entirely through Takoradi. Nearly 66% of exports are lumber, but vigorous efforts are being made to increase the export of sawn timber, plywood, and veneers.


Fisheries are important in view of the protein deficiency in Ghanaian diets. Motorized canoes provide about 43% of the catch, which includes herrings and tuna. Tema is the chief fishing port, followed by Elmina and Takoradi-Sekondi. Lake Volta provides more than 20,000 tons of fish annually.


Gold accounts for 8% of Ghana's exports by value. Modern mining methods were introduced after 1870 with the deep working of "blanket conglomerate" (comparable with the Rand deposits in South Africa) in the Tarkwa area. Other centers to emerge were Obuasi, where the Ashanti mine is one of the richest in the world, and Bibiani and Konongo. Industrial diamonds are won from alluvial deposits in the Bonsa valley south of Tarkwa and from the Birim valley. Open-pit manganese from Nsuta is exported through Takoradi. Bauxite from Awaso is also shipped from Takoradi, while the aluminum smelter at Tema uses alumina imported from the USA! The government hopes to build an alumina plant so that Ghana can process its own bauxite (probably from Kibi). Large bauxite deposits were found in Ashanti region in 1972, and iron ore in the north and west of the country.


Industry consists mainly of small plants using relatively primitive methods to manufacture processed foods, textiles, and wood products.

But modern methods have been introduced in the expanding processed food and textile industries and Ghana has progressed in import-substitute industries such as brewing, soft drinks, sugar, cigarettes, paints, glassware and other consumer goods. Vehicle, radio, and television assembly, and pharmaceuticals, are now important.

Most industrial development has been concentrated at Accra-Tema, Takoradi-Sekondi, and Kumasi. The oil refinery, steel mill, and aluminum smelter at Tema provide a base for heavy industry.


Ghana has 950 km of railroads and over 80% of the traffic is minerals, lumber, and cacao for export. Road transportation dominates internal traffic, the ubiquitous "mammy-lorry" carrying both freight and passengers. Ghana has 35,000 km of roads, but only 4,400 km are bitumenized and many are not allweather roads.

Kotoku International Airport at Accra provides external air links, while Takoradi, Kumasi, and Tamale are served by internal flights. Seaborne trade is handled by two man-made harbors on the surf-bound coast, Takoradi and Tema.

International Trade

Cacao provides more than 60% of Ghana's export earnings, but the export of aluminum and manufactured goods is expanding. Manufactured goods and foodstuffs are the main imports. Ghana trades with many countries including Britain, the USA and Germany.


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