Colonel Ignatius Acheampong, who has been lord of Ghana since the military coup on Thursday last week, promised a return to civilian rule “as soon as circumstances allow”. The circumstances – that’s four billion marks in debt, for which the 8.5 million people have to pay 70 million marks annually in interest and redemption (a quarter of state revenues). The government of 58-year-old Protestant sociology professor Kofi Busia failed because of this mountain of debt and economic stagnation.
The coup was unbloody. Busia was in London because of an eye complaint, and President Edward Akufu-Addo let himself be dismissed without resistance. The members of the government were arrested – Foreign Minister Ofori-Atta took the walking stick and the Bible to prison – and their accounts were frozen. Acheampong introduced censorship and arrested editors.
Accra cheered for the third time in six years about a change of government. In February 1966, the army dismissed dictator Kvame Nkrumah, but in the fall of 1969, it left power to an elected civilian government. With the main legacy of the Nkrumah period, the debt burden, there was no growth and unemployment increased.
The last impetus came from Washington’s currency decisions. The national currency, the New Cedi, had to be devalued by 44 percent, the cost of living rose by a third. The 20 percent increase in state producer prices for cocoa – Ghana is the world’s largest cocoa exporter, and half the population lives off cocoa cultivation – could not alleviate the need. The “National Renewal Council” (NRC) convened by Acheampong immediately promised to consider a different rate of devaluation and to raise cocoa purchase prices again.
But Busia did not only stumble over economic difficulties. He had not succeeded in mastering corruption and mismanagement. Instead, he tried to finance his reform program at the expense of the low-income earners and to eliminate the trade unions. Bad blood aroused his domestic tactics of playing rival tribes off against each other and thus securing his increasingly unpopular government. Members of his own tribe, the Ashanti, moved into the important administrative posts. The fact that he and the members of his government did not obey the appeals for austerity fuelled the people’s anger.
However, the army in Ghana did not unconditionally support Acheampong. But it seems willing to wait and see the new experiment. Of course, success is doubtful. Voices are already being raised urging Kwame Nkrumah, who lives in exile in Guinea, to return.
Ghana is located near the equator in West Africa. In the south it borders the Gulf of Guinea with a 535 km long coast, in the west there is the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, in the north Burkina Faso, in the east Togo. With a national area of 238 533 km², the country is about as large as Great Britain.
Ghana is home to the world’s largest reservoir, the Volta Lake, which is dammed by the Akosombo Dam and covers 8 482 km². The Volta dammed at its lower course is at the same time the main stream of the country, it originates from the Black and White Volta as well as the tributaries Afram and Oti and flows east of the capital Accra (1.04 respectively in the greater area 2.90 million inhabitants) into the Gulf of Guinea. Other large cities in the country are Kumasi, Tamale and Tema.
After a coastal region up to 25 km wide, which is little structured and characterized by lagoons in the east, different plateaus follow. These are crossed by numerous valleys and are bordered in the southeast between Accra and the Volta by the Akwapimrücken, east of the lower Volta and the Oti by the Togo-Atakora mountains. In the center of the country and in the north lies a hilly country called Ashanti, which lies on various plains through the tributaries of the Volta. The highest mountain of the country is the Afadjoto with 885 m, which stands at the border to Togo east of Lake Volta.
According to the constitution of 1993, Ghana is a presidential republic in the Commonwealth. The president, who is directly elected every four years, is both head of state and leader of the executive branch (John Dramani Mahama, since July 2012). He convenes the Cabinet, which is responsible to Parliament.
- The 230 members of parliament are directly elected for four years.
- The court system is based on the British legal system.
- The country is divided into ten regions.
Ghana is one of the economically most developed countries in tropical Africa. Since 2011 it belongs to the group of countries with low middle income. High inflation remains a problem.
For about half of the population, agriculture, fishing and forestry are the basis of their daily livelihoods. Maize, millet, cassava, yams, sugar cane, rice, peanuts and vegetables are grown primarily for the country’s own needs. Bananas, coffee, cocoa and palm oil, on the other hand, are important agricultural export goods and thus foreign exchange earners for the country. Most of these are exported via the port of Takoradi. Livestock breeding is mainly to be found in the north of the country. Despite declining exports, forestry continues to be an important area of work in the south-western rainforest areas due to the export of mahogany and other hardwoods. According to WWF estimates, well over half of all logging is illegal. In addition, fishing by the sea and in Lake Volta plays an important role in the internal market.
Ghana is rich in mineral resources. The country began commercial exploitation of oil reserves in the Gulf of Guinea in 2010. The deposits of gold, diamonds, manganese and bauxite provide good conditions for a positive economic development. Bauxite is processed into aluminium in the country’s most important industrial enterprise in the port city of Tema. Thanks to its oil refinery, Tema is an important industrial location and the country’s most important port of entry. Other branches of industry include the small but high-quality glass industry and some cement works. Ghana’s main trading partners are its neighboring countries; within the EU, mainly Great Britain and France; trade is also conducted with China and the USA. The country has to import mainly motor vehicles, machinery and food. Tourism is playing an increasingly important role in Ghana’s economy.
The country’s international airport is located in Kotoka near Accra. The road network has been extended to more than 35,000 km. Of this, about 11,000 km are asphalted, but of varying quality. Although there is a rail network, since 2006 only the route between Kumasi and Sekondi-Takoradi has been regularly used. Currency is the Cedi (= 100 Pesewas).