About Ghana

REPUBLIC OF GHANA:

Geography, demography

Currency = Ghana new Cedhi (GHC).

1GHC = 0.6USD/ 0.4GBP (as of feb 2011)

Ghana is a tropical country south of the Sahara Desert in West Africa, with a short 539km long coastline on the South Atlantic Ocean.  The country has a land area of 239 thousand square kilometres, which places Ghana as slightly larger than the Australian State of Victoria.  The capital Accra is 5 degrees north of the Equator and lies nearly on the prime meridian (0 degrees longitude), due south of London.  Thus, Accra time is the same as London/UK, is five hours ahead of New York, and eight hours behind Perth, there being no time adjustment in summer.  Accra can be reached via Europe (London, Amsterdam, Zurich, Frankfurt or Rome) on any day of the week (KLM runs a good service) or via Johannesburg three times a week.

The climate is tropical. The eastern coastal belt is warm and comparatively dry; the southwest corner, hot and humid; and the north, hot and dry. There are two distinct rainy seasons in the south: May-June and August-September, whereas in the north, the rainy seasons tend to merge. A dry but gentle, north-easterly wind, the Harmattan, blows in from the Sahel and the Sahara Desert in January and February. Annual rainfall in the coastal zone averages 83 centimetres (33 in.).

The coastline is mostly a low, sandy shore backed by plains and scrub and intersected by several rivers and streams, most of which are navigable only by canoe. A tropical rain forest belt, broken by heavily forested hills and many streams and rivers, extends northward from the shore, near the Cote d’Ivoire frontier. This area produces most of the country’s cocoa, minerals, and timber. North of this belt, the country varies from 91 to 396 meters (300-1,300 ft.) above sea level and is covered by low bush, savannah, and grassy plains, which resemble Northern Australia in character.  The man-made Lake Volta extends from the Akosombo Dam in south-eastern Ghana to the town of Yapei, 520 km (325 mi.) to the north. The lake generates electricity, provides inland transportation, and is a potentially valuable resource for irrigation and fish farming.

Ghana’s economy is based primarily on agriculture (cocoa, domestic food crops, forestry, and fishing), which accounted for 40-45% of GDP in the period 1991 to 1995, but has now declined to some 20%.   The mining and manufacturing industry accounts, however, for only a fifth of GDP, with services making up the remainder.

Cocoa is Ghana’s best known crop, and it accounted for between 45% and 70% of commodity exports from the 1970s to the 1990s, when increased mineral revenues led to a decline in its share of exports, to some 37%.  Between January and September 1999, cocoa prices fell by 33% reaching a 5 year low in May, causing a severe revenue loss for the country.

The population is about 19 million and is densest in the main urban areas (eg Accra, 1 million plus) and the cocoa farming areas in the south.  Urban population growth rates are probably twice that of the country as a whole.  English is the official national language and is widely read and spoken as education and government structures are derived from British models.  Inter-ethnic strife is not a feature of the country despite a multiplicity of African language and dialects, and a diverse history.  About 1.5 million Ghanaians live abroad, mainly in Europe and North America, with a total annual contribution of about 300 to 400 million US dollars into the national economy, at an informal level.  A small number are resident in Australasia.

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