GEOGRAPHY: Ghana, the size of Illinois and Indiana combined, is located in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea just north of the Equator. The climate is tropical and the Ashanti region north of the coast is covered with a tropical rain forest. To the north of that is bush and savannah land.
PEOPLE: The population, estimated at 13.3 million in 1983 is made up of many tribal groups speaking more than 50 languages and dialects. The population growth rate is about 3.3 percent. About 30 percent of the people are literate in English, the official language.
HISTORY: Tradition says Ghanaians are descended from tribes that migrated south along the Volta River Valley in the 13th century. What is now Ghana was colonized by the English and it became the first West African country to obtain its independence, under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, in 1957.
POLITICS: Nkrumah experimented with a number of political systems until the establishment of a one-party state in 1964. Two years later, while he was visiting China, Nkrumah was deposed by an army and police coup. Military and civilian governments alternated until Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings took power on New Year's Eve of 1981. Rawlings, now leader of the Provisional National Defense Council, suspended the Western-style constitution, outlawed political parties, and established grass-roots workers' and people's defense committees. Recently, however, Rawlings has moderated his policies and the defense committees were abolished last December.
ECONOMY: While Ghana has a more advanced industrial base than many other West African countries, it is dependent on an agricultural product -- cocoa -- for most of its export revenue. Cocoa and cocoa products account for about 60 percent of the country's exports. Gold, manganese, diamonds and bauxite are other important export products, but production dropped sharply in the 1970s and early 1980s. The country's economy has been strengthened by an agreement with the International Monetary Fund in April of 1983 and new infusions of foreign aid. The economy grew 7.6 percent in 1984 following several years of almost no growth. Economic experts have predicted, however, that it will require a decade of austerity policies to restore the economy.