History of Ghana

Ancient Ghana

Medieval Ghana (4th – 13th Century): The Republic of Ghana is named after the medieval Ghana Empire of West Africa. The actual name of the Empire was Wagadugu. Ghana was the title of the kings who ruled the kingdom. It was controlled by Sundiata in 1240 AD, and absorbed into the larger Mali Empire. (Mali Empire reached its peak of success under Mansa Musa around 1307.)

Geographically, the old Ghana is 500 miles north of the present Ghana, and occupied the area between Rivers Senegal and Niger.

Some inhabitants of present Ghana had ancestors linked with the medieval Ghana. This can be traced down to the Mande and Voltaic peoeple of Northern Ghana–Mamprussi, Dagomba and the Gonja.

Anecdotal evidence connected the Akans to this great Empire. The evidence lies in names like Danso shared by the Akans of present Ghana and Mandikas of Senegal/Gambia who have strong links with the Empire.

Gold Coast & European Exploration: Before March 1957 Ghana was called the Gold Coast. The Portuguese who came to Ghana in the 15th Century found so much gold between the rivers Ankobra and the Volta that they named the place Mina – meaning Mine. The Gold Coast was later adopted to by the English colonisers. Similarily, the French, equally impressed by the trinkets worn by the coastal people, named The Ivory Coast, Cote d’Ivoire.

In 1482, the Portuguese built a castle in Elmina. Their aim was to trade in gold, ivory and slaves. In 1481 King John II of Portugal sent Diego d’Azambuja to build this castle.

In 1598 the Dutch joined them, and built forts at Komenda and Kormantsil. In 1637 they captured the castle from the Portuguese and that of Axim in 1642 (Fort St Anthony). Other European traders joined in by the mid 18th century. These were the English, Danes and Swedes. The coastline were dotted by forts built by the Dutch, British and the Dane merchants. By the latter part of 19th century the Dutch and the British were the only traders left. And when the Dutch withdrew in 1874, Britain made the Gold Coast a crown colony.

By 1901 the Ashanti and the North were made a protectorate.

Britain and the Gold Coast: The first Britons arrived in the early 19th century as traders in Ghana. But with their close relationship with the coastal people especially the Fantes, the Ashantis became their enemies. When the first Europeans arrived in the late fifteenth century, many inhabitants of the Gold Coast area were striving to consolidate their newly acquired territories and to settle into a secure and permanent environment. Several immigrant groups had yet to establish firm ascendancy over earlier occupants of their territories, and considerable displacement and secondary migrations were in progress. Ivor Wilks, a leading historian of Ghana, observed that Akan purchases of slaves from Portuguese traders operating from the Congo region augmented the labor needed for the state formation that was characteristic of this period. Unlike the Akan groups of the interior, the major coastal groups, such as the Fante, Ewe, and Ga, were for the most part settled in their homelands.


Political Movements and Nationalism in Ghana (1945 – 1957)
The educated Ghanaians had always been in the fore-front of constructive movements. Names that come into mind are –Dr Aggrey, George Ferguson, John Mensah Sarbah. Others like king Ghartey IV of Winneba, Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh I raised the political consciousness of their subjects. However, movements towards political freedom started soon after WWII.

This happened because suddenly people realised the colonisation was a form of oppression, similar to the oppression they have just fought against. The war veterans had become radical. The myth surrounding the whiteman has been broken. The rulers were considered economic cheats, their arogance had become very offensive. They had the ruling class attitude, and some of the young District Commissioner (DC) treated the old chiefs as if they were their subjects. Local pay was bad. No good rural health or education policy. Up to 1950 the Govt Secondary schools in the country were 2, the rest were built by the missionaries.

There was also the rejection of African culture to some extent. Some external forces also contributed to this feeling. African- Americans such as Marcus Garvey and WE Du Bois raised strong Pan-African conscience.

In 1945 a conference was held in Manchester to promote Pan African ideas. This was attended by Nkrumah of Ghana, Azikwe of Nigeria and Wallace Johnson of Sierra Leone. The India and Pakistani independence catalysed this desire.

Sir Alan Burns constitution of 1946 provided new legislative council that was made of the Governor as the President, 6 government officials, 6 nominated members and 18 elected members.

The executive council was not responsible to the legislative council. They were only in advisory capacity, and the governor did not have to take notice.

These forces made Dr J.B. Danquah to form the United Gold Coast Conversion (UGCC) in 1947. Nkrumah was invited to be the General Secretary to this party. Other officers were George Grant (Paa Grant), Akuffo Addo, William Ofori Atta, Obetsebi Lamptey, Ako Agyei, and J Tsiboe. Their aim was Independence for Ghana. They rejected the Burns constitution.


Economic and Social Development (Before 1957)
1874–Gold Mine in Wassa and Asante. Between 1946-1950 gold export rose from 6 million pounds to 9 million pounds.


                       Economic History highlights

         Economic and Social Development (Before 1957)

1874 – Gold Mine in Wassa and Asante.

Between 1946 -1950 gold export rose from 6 million pounds to 9 million pounds.

1898 – 1927  Railway expansion in Ghana.

1928 – Takoradi harbour.

1878 – Tetteh Quarshie brought cocoa from Fernado Po.

1885 – Cocoa first exported to Britain.

1951 – Revenue from cocoa was 60 million pounds.

Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) was founded in 1947.

1957 – Inherited 200 million pounds from Britain.

1957 to 1966

  • Development Projects/Policies:
  • socialist path to development
  • proliferation of state farms and industries
  • no linkages between farms and industries
  • universities and secondary schools (free for all)
  • health care facilities
  • negative NPV projects (e.g., Job 600)
  • WET (e.g., Akosombo Dam)
  • Price controls
  • emphasis on cocoa for export


  • inheritance is fully spent (no more free lunch for the future)
  • balance of payment deficits
  • inflation
  • disguised unemployment
  • Foreign debts

1966 to 1972

  • Privatization of state farms and industries
  • university student loan scheme
  • families asked to take more responsibility for education
  • proliferation of private medical practice
  • blue print for sewage system for the whole country
  • devaluation to solve inherited problems
  • elimination of price controls
  • emphasis on staples for domestic consumption


  • unemployment
  • foreign debts and servicing
  • cedi value allowed to fall
  • good excuse for military

1972 to 1979

  • Repudiate foreign debts
  • Operation feed yourself and industry
  • revaluation
  • price controls
  • import licensing
  • university loan scheme
  • CMB scholarships for education on whom you know basis
  • increase money supply


  • Kalabule
  • inflation
  • smuggling


  • seize assets from cheats
  • burn down makola, the citadel of kalabule
  • enforce tax code
  • price controls
  • rationing

1979 to 1982

  • relax price controls
  • reestablish credibility with donor and donor countries


  • inflation persists
  • balance of payment problems persist
  • kalabule persists

1982 to 1984

  • socialist path to development
  • price controls
  • rationing
  • PDC’s in charge of distribution
  • WDC’s in charge an as part of the IMCC
  • use of force to control prices, smuggling
  • confiscate 50 cedi notes
  • blame the rich


  • embargo on Ghana
  • Inflation
  • queuing
  • lack of medicine, food, transportation, etc.
  • Rawlings chain and necklace

1984 to 2000

  • Economic recovery program
  • free markets
  • layoffs at civil service
  • students bear more of cost
  • patients bear more of cost
  • stock exchange
  • more privatization of state industries
  • float the cedi
  • boost exports
  • VAT, then UNVAT


  • inflation
  • massive unemployment
  • schools/health care is broken down
  • interest rate at close to 50%
  • Goods available but not affordable

 2001 – 2013

Following the successful completion of a two-term presidential rule — first time in post-Independence Ghana — and the peaceful hand-over of the reins of government across the political divide in 2001, the nation received what has been described as a “handsome democracy dividend”. In spite of this, or, perhaps because of it, fiscal excesses in the early years of the new Administration led to the failure and abandonment at the end of September 2002, of the three-year economic programme of 1999-2002 agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF).  This debacle was largely on account of:

  • higher-than-budgeted for public sector wage bill; and
  • Subsidies to the petroleum, water, and the electricity sub-sectors.

A successor programme agreed with the IMF for the period 2003 to 2005 required the removal of the petroleum price subsidies as conditionality. A policy of import parity pricing, meaning a full pass through of changes in the cedi value of world market prices of petroleum and petroleum products to domestic consumers was instituted.  A mechanism to give effect to this policy was also put in place. Consistent with the poverty reduction objective, the mechanism included cross-subsidization of products of importance in the consumption baskets of the poor — such as kerosene.

Given the high social and political costs involved, however, the policy was not consistently implemented.  Subsequent continued increases in international prices of petroleum and petroleum products were not fully passed through to domestic consumers. The Government of Ghana, apparently, could not countenance any such domestic price increases since (as was communicated to the IMF and the development partners) in its view, this could be politically “destabilizing”. In January 2005, with the 2004 elections out of the way, petroleum product prices were increased, on average, by 50 per cent.

Thereafter, the policy of full pass through of price changes in the world market, once more, was not consistently implemented resulting in significant losses and debt at Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) currently estimated at GH¢1.4 billion.

These experiences in the oil sector, concerned with subsidies, fiscal discipline and macroeconomic stability, serve to illustrate the futility and unsustainability of pursuing the strategy of macroeconomic stability with growth. They also show the possible high cost of procrastination in responding to shocks whose consequences linger on — in other words, better considered as permanent rather than temporary shocks. A good rule in economic policy management is that permanent shocks call for policy adjustment; temporary adverse shocks are best financed. Delayed responses to a persistent or permanent shock could accentuate costs which could be destabilizing.

  • GDP growth for 2012 is estimated at 7.1%, driven by oil revenues, the services sector and the strong export performance of cocoa and gold. Ghana’s medium-term growth outlook remains positive, thanks to large investments in the extractive industries, public infrastructure and commercial agriculture.
  • The successful inauguration of President John Mahama in January 2013, following the death of incumbent John Evans Atta Mills in July 2012, indicates further consolidation of democracy. The depth and maturity of the country’s democracy are being further tested by the New Patriotic Party case in the Supreme Court contesting the election results.

∗Despite significant progress towards most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the country continues to be challenged by MDG 4, reduce child mortality; MDG 5, improve maternal health; and the sanitation component of MDG 7


Source: Ghanaweb

Arrannged by: CordovoGH


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