Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of red (top), yellow, and green with a large black five-pointed star centred in the yellow band; uses the popular pan-African colours of Ethiopia; similar to the flag of Bolivia, which has a coat of arms centred in the yellow band.
Location: Western Africa, bordering the Gulf of Guinea, between Cote d'Ivoire and Togo.
Geographic coordinates: 8 00 N, 2 00 W.
Climate: tropical; warm and comparatively dry along southeast coast; hot and humid in southwest; hot and dry in north.
Independence: 6 March 1957 (from UK).
Capital City: Accra.
Head of State: President Jerry John RAWLINGS (since 7 January 1993).
Area: 238,540 sq km.
Type of Government: constitutional democracy.
Currency: 1 new cedi (C) = 100 pesewas.
Major peoples: black African 99.8% (major tribes - Akan 44%, Moshi-Dagomba 16%, Ewe 13%, Ga 8%), European and other 0.2%.
Religion: indigenous beliefs 38%, Muslim 30%, Christian 24%, other 8%.
Official Language: English.
Principal Languages: English (official), African languages (including Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, and Ga).
Major Exports: gold, cocoa, timber, tuna, bauxite, aluminium, manganese ore, diamonds.
History: Migrants from the ancient kingdom of Ghana to the northwest may have settled present-day Ghana, although the two should not be confused. Initial contact with Europeans occurred when the Portuguese reached West Africa in the early 1400s. They soon established trade relations with the people of the Gold Coast. The West African slave trade began in the mid-1400s, when the Portuguese transported some Africans to meet their own labour shortage.
The Portuguese built Elmina Castle on the coast in 1482. The Dutch, seeing the profits of slave trading, conquered the Portuguese bases in West Africa, and by 1642 they controlled the Gold Coast forts. Between 1500 and 1870, an estimated 10 million slaves left Africa, about 19% of them from the Gold Coast.
The British, who from about 1660 were the chief competitors of the Dutch, greatly increased their involvement in the Gold Coast between 1850 and 1874, by which time they had practically broken the authority of traditional African rulers. By 1898 the boundaries of the British Gold Coast were established. Throughout the colonial period, the British developed the infrastructure of the colony in an effort to lure British private investments to the area.
The emergence of an educated African elite, combined with a changed world opinion, ultimately led to independence. In 1947 the British- and American-educated Kwame NKRUMAH organized a nationalist party. The colony gained full independence in 1957, with Nkrumah as president, but his one-party regime was overthrown by the army in 1966.
The military ruled until 1979, when elections were held. Civilian president Hilla Limann was accused of corruption and deposed in December 1981 by Jerry RAWLINGS, the young army officer who had overseen the 1979 return to civilian rule. Ruling as head of the Provisional National Defence Council, Rawlings instituted free-market reforms. Rawlings won presidential elections held in November 1992 under a multiparty constitution approved earlier that year, and a return to civilian rule was scheduled.