This chapter begins with some basic statistics 1 about Ghana, a West African country with a population of 18.5 million (annual growth rate, 3.1 per cent; average life expectancy, 59 years; national literacy level, 75 per cent). It occupies a total area of 238,537 sq. km and is well endowed with natural resources such as gold, diamonds, bauxite, manganese, iron ore, clay and salt deposits. It is also blessed with a good supply of arable land, suitable for both crop and livestock production, and forestry.
Agriculture is the main economic activity in Ghana, with cocoa the leading export crop. Cocoa is grown in six of the country’s ten regions and as an economic activity it occupies 8 million people or close to half the population, mainly as small-scale farmers. Cocoa is the country’s second biggest export earner after gold and contributes 13-14 per cent of GDP, 11 per cent of tax and 30-35 per cent of foreign exchange earnings (Wallis, 1999).
In 1999, Ghana had a total labour force of 3.7 million. This is a considerable decline from the 4.2 million in 1982 and slightly higher than the 1970 figure of 3.3 million (Huq, 1989). There is growing concern about unemployment because of the ongoing retrenchment of workers, economic structural changes, and, in particular, the decline in the manufacturing sector. In the late 1970s, manufacturing accounted for about 14 per cent of GDP, in 1999 it was less than 10 per cent. Wage employment exists in almost all industries but, in recent years, the bulk has been in mining and construction. This is due to the former being able to attract foreign investment and the latter benefiting from overseas loans to rehabilitate the country’s infrastructure. Ghana is a multi-ethnic country with about six main local languages. English, however, is the official language.
In the economic realm, Ghana has embarked on an ambitious economic and social programme designed to qualify it as a middle income country by 2020. According to the government’s development blueprint, known as Vision 2020, it is expected that an annual growth rate of 12 per cent can be achieved by the end of the plan period. But, as Holman (1999a:3) comments:
After 13 years of rumbling down the runway of World Bank and IMF aid-backed reforms, Ghana’s economy has yet to reach take off. Not only is