An Atlas of African Affairs

By Andrew Boyd; Patrick Van Rensburg | Go to book overview

19. Ghana and its Neighbours

Ghana, the former Gold Coast, became an independent Commonwealth country in 1957. It was the first European dependency in 'black' Africa to gain its freedom, and this gave it a special prestige particularly in regard to leadership in the Pan-African movement (K). It is relatively prosperous, with an average living standard higher than Nigeria's, largely because it provides over a third of the world's cocoa. Cocoa beans account for 70 per cent. of exports, the rest including gold, manganese and diamonds. About 300,000 small farmers grow the cocoa, mostly on the low hills around Kumasi, the Ashanti capital.

The name Ghana was adopted because the Akan peoples ( Ashanti, Fanti, Sanwi, etc. -- C) claim descent from inhabitants of the old state of Ghana east of Senegal (E).

From the 15th century onward, Europeans of many nationalities came to the Gold Coast for both gold and slaves, building forts along the coast. (Christiansborg castle near Accra was Danish until 1840.) The slave trade here was largely with the Ashanti, who sold prisoners taken from other tribes. The stopping of the trade in 1807 was a blow to the Ashanti (cocoa was not introduced until the 1880s), and clashes with them complicated Britain's half-hearted efforts to control the coastal belt until, in 1874, it seized and destroyed Kumasi; later it deposed the Asantehene, their paramount ruler. Britain annexed the coastal belt -- the Gold Coast Colony -- in 1874, and Ashanti in 1902, and made northern Ghana a protectorate in 1897.

Full internal self-government came in 1954, spurred by 1948 riots which had shown the postwar growth of political consciousness, and by the victory in the 1952 elections of the Convention People's Party (CPP), founded in 1949 by Dr Kwame Nkrumah, now president of Ghana. As independence loomed near, fear of domination by the Coast-based CPP drew together an opposition National Liberation Movement, in which Ashanti and northern chiefs joined with other conservatives to demand a federal instead of a unitary system. But the CPP again won elections in 1956, and independence followed. Dr Nkrumah's government, which changed Ghana into a republic in 1960, has curbed opposition in ways which have been widely criticized.

Ghana's hopes of development are mainly pinned on an ambitious plan, not yet assured of foreign finance, to harness the Volta river and use its power to produce aluminium from local bauxite.

Togo, a former German colony, had, like Cameroons (21), been

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