Ghana, currently classified as a lower middle-income country, has a goal of achieving middle-income status by 2015. Ghana has seen sustained economic growth of 5-7% over two decades, improvements in life expectancy, literacy rates, and declining under-5 mortality (International Development Association, 2011). The IMF estimates Ghana’s 2011 GDP per capita (adjusted for purchasing power parity) at $2,931, one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa (International Monetary Fund, 2011). Ghana’s human development index score has risen by 0.8% annually, from 0.363 in 1980 to 0.467 in 2010, showing gradual development in the last three decades (UNDP, 2011). The HDI for sub-Sahara Africa is 0.389. Nevertheless, Ghana ranks 130th out of 169 countries worldwide.
Ghana is comprised of nearly 100 different ethnic groups. According to the 2000 census, the most populous groups are Akan (45%), Mole-Dagbon (15%), Ewe (12%), and Ga-Dangme (7%). The major religions of Ghana are Christianity (69%), Islam (16%), and traditional religions (9%). The current ethnic composition of Ghana can be traced to migrations of people from Arab states and areas in western Sudan. The influx of northern Africans for trading contributed to the local following of Islam.
Historically, Ghana has been one of the most organized states in the region with formal militaries and rulers dating back over ten centuries. European merchants, who came to Ghana for its lucrative gold deposits, brought with them Christianity, which continued to spread throughout colonialism. The British began their rule in the coastal region, and then defeated the Ashanti state to gain power in the central territories. Colonial political structures began to form, and upon controlling the Northern Territories, the name ‘Gold Coast’ was given to what is now the Republic of Ghana (McLaughlin, 1994). In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan country to gain independence.