Facts on Ghana ahead of presidential polls

2012-12-04 07:58
Ghana’s incumbent President John Mahama. (File, AP)

Ghana’s incumbent President John Mahama. (File, AP)

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Accra - Ghana, which holds a presidential election on Friday, is a west African country seen as a relatively stable democracy in the region and was recently classified by the World Bank as a lower middle-income nation.

GEOGRAPHY: At 238 537 square kilometres, Ghana is roughly the same size as the United Kingdom, its former colonial ruler. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Togo to the east, Burkina Faso to the north and Ivory Coast to the west. Capital: Accra.

- POPULATION: 24.3 million (World Bank 2010).

- LANGUAGES: English (official) plus local languages.

- RELIGION: Christian (60%), Muslim (10%), animist.

- HISTORY: The traditional home of the Ashanti kingdom, Ghana was known as the Gold Coast in colonial times. In 1957 it had the distinction of becoming the first African state to achieve independence from its European rulers, under nationalist leader Kwame Nkrumah.

After Nkrumah, the most influential of the country's leaders has been Jerry Rawlings, who first came to power as a junior air force officer in a coup in 1979. He organised elections and installed a civilian regime, and although he was to mount a new coup two-and-a-half years later, he brought in a constitution that has proved a stable basis for democratic rule.

- POLITICAL SYSTEM: Since 1992 Ghana has had a presidential system on the US model, with a president elected every four years by universal suffrage and a parliament elected on the same basis. The parliament was recently expanded to 275 seats.

The last presidential election, in 2008, was won by John Atta Mills, a former ally of Jerry Rawlings.

Atta Mills died unexpectedly in office in July this year, and was replaced by John Dramani Mahama.

- ECONOMY: Cocoa and gold are the two biggest export earners. Ghana also exports coffee, wood, diamonds, bauxite and manganese.

In December 2010, the country also started pumping oil from an offshore field discovered in 2007.

Thanks to its natural resources, Ghana has seen strong growth in recent years, leading to its reclassification by the World Bank in 2011.

Per capital GDP: 1,410 dollars per capita in 2010 (World Bank).

- DIPLOMACY: Ghana is a key member of the Economic Community of West African States, and has played an important mediation role in recent regional wars, notably in Liberia and Ivory Coast.

- OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.ghana.gov.gh

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