Pt. 3 Ghana: A Background

It is 238,533 sq km which is slightly smaller than Oregon. Ghana is on the Gold Coast of Western Africa and borders Burkina Faso to the north, northwest and Togo to the east. The Ivory Coast and Gulf of Guinea border the rest.

Ghana became the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence in 1957. Currently, the country is a constitutional democracy with the capital being Accra. The only major airport is in the capital city and is the gateway to all other African countries. The country is divided into ten regions. I became familiar with the Upper West Region and a seminarian also gave me insight into the Ashanti culture. Ashanti is its own region but I am not sure if that is where all of the Ashanti culture originated (the symbols and customs such as gue nyame).The constitution was only approved eighteen years ago (1992). They seated their new president in 2009, Pres. John Evans Atta MILLS. There is a council of ministers and Parliament as well. The country has many parties and they were very visible during my stay. The posters and signs were still up after the elections and the ads were still being played on the radio to support the “Convention People’s Party” or “Democratic Freedom Party.”

The country of Ghana is officially an English speaking country however; although English is the formal language many Ghanaians speak the dialects of the native language as well as English and French. Many know French due to the two bordering countries that were French colonies and are established as French speaking. Ghana was originally a Portuguese colony (from my reading and understanding) and eventually was won over by the British. A lot of people from both countries travel to Ghana to finish schooling and learn English. Christians make up 68.8% of the country and believe me it is noticeable. The streets are filled with vendors selling out of their shacks, with “business” names like “Jesus Saves Barbershop” and bumper stickers that say “God Will Provide” and “Jesus Loves Me.” 16% of Ghana is made of Muslims and the rest are either traditional, native religion or something else. 57.9% of the people are literate including only 66% of men and 50% of women, compared to Americans 99% all across the board and right next door in Burkina Faso the literacy is 21.8%.

Ghana produces many foods including cocoa, rice, cassava, peanuts, corn, shea nuts, bananas and timber. During my stay we found that rice, cassava, and shea nuts were one of the major staples or maybe the most talked about in the Upper West Region. Peanuts or groundnuts as they say are also a nice treat to them. Many fruits were sold on the side of the roads and bananas were commonplace (and so delicious!). The shea fruit is used for many things; they eat the fruit and use the oil and doughy butter in cooking, Francesca my adopted African mother, told us that she also used the cream as a moisturizer. If you read the word shea, like shay, than you are thinking of what they put in creams, however in Ghana they pronounced it she-uh, and we learned that it takes a lot to make the butter, so when you put your body butter on think of women in Ghana. While their meals are okay, luckily for us they made us plain spaghetti and rice along with chicken, pork, or fish. To me the spaghetti was a comfort food. I still love to eat plain spaghetti with a little oil to remind me of how great it tasted over there.

Ghana exports gold, cocoa, timber, tuna, bauxite, aluminum, manganese ore, diamonds, and horticulture. They import capital equipment, petroleum, and foodstuffs. Pampers have started to make their way into the cities, mothers who live in the country cannot believe when their daughters come home and tell them of “the pampers.”

Paved roadways: 9,955 km

Unpaved roadways: 52,266 km

The infrastructure is interesting. The city’s roads are largely dirt, filled with potholes from the rains and vans filled with people pile into the city in the mornings to either work or shop. There are few stoplights and some are not regarded by drivers. The country is undergoing construction but little was getting accomplished. The streets were unorganized and crazy. Ghana’s few paved roads surround the government buildings and airport. The people living in the “North country” of Ghana have no knowledge of concrete and pavement. Roads are all dirt and very inefficient. Many use motorcycles simply because it is the most fit for the surroundings. A motorcycle is easy to maneuver (especially around an unspotted pot hole) and the most fuel efficient to use. In the North Country there were large drainage pipes that were left in the road that were meant to advance the roads, but no one was working on putting them in. At night the older kids would sit on them and talk. We passed several severe accidents, one of which we saw bodies laying on the ground. Who knows how long they waited for medical response. The government seems to be taking steps to make progress but it just isn’t happening. It is apparent that the organization isn’t there and that a country’s efficiency depends largely infrastructure. Without the means to travel quickly and safely the country will have a hard time advancing toward anything resembling what we know as a common developed country.