Updated: Mar 5
Ghana is an ethnically diverse country situated on the western coast of Africa situated between the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Togo, and the Atlantic Ocean. It has a large shield rich in mineral resources, such as gold and diamonds, and also has plenty of water due to the Volta River running through the eastern part of the country. Ghana was the first colonized African nation to gain its independence from European rule.
This transition was marked by leaders renaming the nation to Ghana after a great indigenous civilization of the past, which translates to mean ‘warrior king’ in the Soninke language. This evocation of noble origins combined with a rich cultural heritage, militant nationalism, and Pan-Afrika symbolism provide this diverse nation with a sense of common identity.
In 300 AD, Dinga Cisse united various tribes of the Soninke people into the Empire of Ghana in an area Northwest of the current country. The empire was driven from what is now Mauritania, Senegal, and Mali into present-day Ghana by Islamic tribal groups. The empire was weakened during the 12th Century and incorporated into the Mali Empire. Trade began with the Portuguese, later expanding to include the Dutch and British, in 1471 when Portuguese traders landed in modern-day Ghana and noticed the prevalence of golden jewelry.
This ushered in an era of trade that allowed Ghana to become rich and powerful as it exported gold, ivory, timber, and slaves. In the early 1800s, the British began applying pressure to curb the slave trade. In 1874, Ghana became a colony under indirect rule of the British Crown called the Gold Coast. It continued to prosper off exports of gold, cocoa, and coffee.
Indigenous rulers resisted British control from the onset of colonial rule, but were co-opted with time. The cause of independence was taken up by educated Westernized coastal elites. These nationalists formed the United Gold Coast Convention to take advantage of unrest in the aftermath of World War II. They expelled the British in 1951 and established the nation of Ghana in 1957 led by President Kwame Nkrumah, a Pan-Afrika nationalist who pushed for the liberation of the entire African continent.
The new government was plagued by corruption, coups, and military rule until 1981 when Jerry Rawlings vowed to put an end to the nation’s instability. This came to fruition in 1992 when a new, democratic constitution was adopted. The economic and political reforms that Ghana undertook now allow it to stand as one of the most peaceful countries in all of Africa.
Ghanaian Societal Values
Ghanaian people have a strong sense of loyalty to family. Family obligations take precedence over pretty much everything else in life, with individuals commonly gaining social status through their extended family. For the Akan, or Ashanti and Fanti peoples, this connection is seen primarily through women as people are seen as getting blood from their mothers. It is important for all Ghanaians to maintain dignity and honor as the culture is highly collectivistic, with the entire family sharing any loss in honor. To protect their family’s sense of faith, people will act harmoniously to avoid causing embarrassment.
People can be viewed with respect because of factors such as age, experience, wealth, and position. Older people are granted respect for their wisdom, with the eldest member of a group always receiving preferential treatment. With respect also comes responsibility as the senior person is expected to make decisions that are in the best interest of the group. People regardless of age typically fall into distinct social classes because of their wealth and education, with social mobility having risen significantly since gaining independence.
There are still marked differences in wealth, but these are moderated by extended family support obligations and communal rights. Such stratification can be seen through the expenditure on symbols and consumer goods. Many of these status markers are Western imports, with the most dominant marker of high rank being the Mercedes-Benz.
Ghana Culture: Conclusion
Ghana is an ethnically diverse African nation. It is distinguished by being the first nation in Africa to gain independence and subsequently pushing forward the Pan-Afrika movement. Within the country, people behave based on strong family loyalties, with honor being especially important to them as poor deeds taint the family as a whole. Beyond this, the nation has a strong social hierarchy determined primarily by one’s education status and individual wealth.