Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, is one of the most densely populated countries in West Africa. The name Ghana originates from a flourishing empire that existed during medieval times, which incorporated parts of Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal and was increasingly influenced by Muslim teachings.
The friendliness of the people and their enthusiasm for a constitutional democracy is palpable. In addition, many familiar with Ghana say it is characterized, perhaps more than other West African nations, by a sense of order. The 2012 parliamentary and presidential elections made use of biometric technology to register voters and compat potential fraud.
Government and politics
More politically advanced than most British colonies, the Gold Coast (now Ghana) became the first African colony to achieve independence in 1957. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president after independence, was a charismatic statesman, an initiator of great projects, and an inspiration to third-world leaders worldwide, but his repressive, left-leaning, anti-business regime led to his overthrow in 1966.
Six corrupt and incompetent governments ruled until 1981, when a group of military officers led by Jerry John Rawlings took over, suspended the constitution, and established a Provisional National Defense Council, PNDC, as a ruling junta.
In 1992 a new constitution was approved by national referendum, providing for a multi-party system with executive power vested in the president, who is elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term. He appoints a vice president and acts as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The president also appoints a Council of Ministers, which is subject to approval by Parliament. A Council of State made up of political party leaders and regional representatives, a National Security Council of senior ministers, and members of the security forces act as advisory bodies to the president. Legislative power is vested in a 230-member unicameral parliament whose members are elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term. The Ghanaian legal system is based on English Common Law and customary law.
Two parties dominate Ghanian politics: the center-left New Patriotic Party and the more conservative National Democratic Congress.
Ghana is rich in natural resources. Gold, timber and cocoa exports are the main sources of foreign exchange, leaving the economy dependent on the price fluctuations of these commodities. A large segment of the population still depends on subsistence agriculture for a living; about 28 percent of the country's GDP comes from agriculture.
With assistance from the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Bank, the government is trying to restructure the economy. Developments include the privatization of government-controlled industries, improvement of infrastructure, the creation of a more efficient manufacturing sector, and higher agricultural productivity.
GDP rose nearly eight percent in 2010, and more than 13 percent in 2011.