Ghana, the closest landmark to the centre of the world, is located on the west coast of Africa, about 750 km north of the equator on the Gulf of Guinea, between the latitudes of 4-11.5◦ north and longitude 3.11° West and 1.11° East. Tema, the industrial city, which is adjunct to Accra, the capital city of Ghana, is on the Greenwich Meridian (zero line of longitude). Ghana is bounded on the north by Burkina Faso, on the west by La Cote D'lvoire, on the east by Togo and on the south by the Gulf of Guinea.
Ghana, formerly called the Gold Coast, became independent from British colonial rule on March 6, 1957. It was the first black African colony to achieve independence. The period between the 15th and 19th centuries witnessed a power struggle for the country amongst European nations for fortunes in gold and ivory, following the advent of the Portuguese who discovered gold in 1471 and built Elmina castle in 1482. The other Europeans were the Dutch, Swedes, Danes, Prussians and the British. The battle for control and supremacy over the land culminated in the building of many forts and castles, which were used not only as trading posts but also as dungeons for the infamous slave trade. It is significant to note that out of the about forty-three (43) forts and castles in West Africa, thirty-three (33) are in Ghana alone. Out of these about twenty five (25) are in good condition, including Elmina and Cape Coast Castles and Fort St Jago, all three of which are recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage Monuments.
The country has therefore held and continues to hold out a lot of attractions notably:
- Rich mineral resources such as gold, diamonds, manganese, limestone, bauxite, iron ore as well as various clays and granite deposits. In 1999, Ghana produced 2,620,096 million ounces of gold and 684,033.4 carats of diamonds (Ghana is the second largest producer of gold in Africa).
- Extensive forests, which are arguably the best, managed in West Africa (with 252 permanent forest reserves in the rain forest zone alone. In total about 11% of Ghana is defined as forest.). Out of a total land area of 23 million hectares, 13 million hectares (57%) is suitable for agricultural production, and 5.3 million hectares (39%) of this is under cultivation. (Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa in the world. It is also the third largest producer of timber and the second largest exporter of wood and wood products in Africa);
- Rich marine fishing resources (tuna and game fishing);
- Beautiful landscape, inviting sunshine, pristine beaches, exotic wildlife and exciting national parks and game reserves;
- A rich culture and tradition and a world acclaimed warmth and hospitality of its people.
The country has a total land area of 238,537 km2 (92,100 sq. miles) and stretches 672 km north-south and 536 km east-west. . The coastal area consists of plains and numerous lagoons near the estuaries of rivers. The land is relatively flat and the altitude is generally below 500m, with more than half of the country below 200m. The Volta River basin dominates the country's river system and includes the 8,480km2 Lake Volta (the largest artificial lake in the world), formed behind the Akosombo hydroelectric dam. In the north, vegetation is predominantly savanna, while the south has rain forest interspersed with savanna.
Ghana has a tropical climate. The temperature is generally 21-32°C (70-90°F). There are two rainy seasons, from March to July and from September to October, separated by a short cool dry season in August and a relatively long dry season in the south from mid-October to March. Annual rainfall in the south averages 2,030 mm but varies greatly throughout the country, with the heaviest rainfall in the southwestern part.