Did you know that the name Ghana means “warrior king” in the Soninke language and it was the name given to the kings of the medieval Ghana empire?
We all recognise that Ghana is a beautiful country with a rich history. But sometimes we can overlook our country’s past whilst trying to focus more on the present or the future. Which isn’t a bad thing. However, I think it’s important to look back at our country’s past and learn from both the good and bad, because it’s helped to shape our nation into what it is today.
So, join me as I take a look at Ghana’s past, present and future.
Throughout the centuries, a wide range of kingdoms and various states were established by the Akans, including the Akwamu, the Bonoman, the Denkyira and the most powerful being the Ashanti Empire. The Ashanti Empire expanded from the modern-day Ashanti region to the Brong-Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra and Western Regions and was well known for its military prowess, wealth, architecture and culture.
The Ashanti Kingdom was officially established in 1670 by Osei Tutu I (the first Ashanti King) and his advisor Okomfo Anokye, along with the introduction of the Golden Stool (Sika Dwa). According to legend, the Golden Stool was summoned from the heavens by Okomfo Anokye and landed on Osei Tutu’s lap. The stool was viewed as symbolic of the union of the Ashanti Kingdom, and is still symbolic today and remains sacred to the Ashanti’s as it is believed to contain the spirt of the Ashanti people. Under Osei Tutu, the Ashanti kingdom continued to grow and eventually became an empire that embraced most of Ghana’s current territory. Eventually, when there was European contact, the Ashanti kingdom played a major part in the gold trade.
Prior to contact with the Europeans, the Akans had an advanced economy in gold and had a flourishing trade with African states. By the 15th century, there was contact with the Europeans and trading commenced with the Portuguese. When the Portuguese began trading in the Gold Coast region, they established the Portuguese Gold Coast and in 1481, the King of Portugal commissioned the building of the Elmina Castle, which still stands today. By the 1500’s, the Dutch joined the Portuguese with the Gold trade and established the Dutch Gold trade and built forts at Fort Komenda and Kormantsi. By the mid-17th century, there were more European traders, including the Swedes, who established the Swedish Gold Coast and Denmark-Norway, who established the Danish Gold Coast. In total, over 40 forts were built by the various European merchants
Whilst the gold trade took place, the English, Portuguese, Dutch and French traders began participating in the Atlantic Slave trade. During which, about 10 million West Africans were captured as slaves and transported to America and the Caribbean. Sites such as the Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle and Fort Christiansborg (Osu Castle) were used to imprison slaves prior to them being transported onto ships and sold.
In 1807, the slave trade was officially banned in the Gold Coast and in 1847, Gold Coast was officially declared as a British Colony. By the 1900s, following years of resistance, Ghana’s current borders were established as the British Gold Coast.
By the 1940’s the struggle for independence from the British commenced. Most notably, in 1948 riots ensued in response to the deaths of three Ghanaian WWII veterans who were involved in protests seeking compensation for their service in the war. This event represented a major milestone in Ghana’s struggle for independence.
After years of struggle, Ghana officially declared itself independent from the British under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah in 1957. In doing so, Ghana became the first Sub Saharan African Nation to gain independence from the British.
Since gaining independence, Ghana experienced a series of coups. This resulted in political instability and for some years, economic instability. However, in 1992 a new constitution and multi-party system was introduced, allowing Ghana to enter its 4th Republic.
After experiencing significant political and economic crises in the decades following our independence, Ghana is now a nation that is well known for experiencing political stability and represents one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
Ghana’s economic growth can be greatly attributed to us being one of the world’s largest cocoa producers, and most recently our nations prosperity in the oil markets. This economic growth can also be attributed to us having a stable democracy. It is evident that in this aspect, our nation has learnt from the past and is doing much better to ensure that things are improved for the people by introducing more stability.
Moreover, this year is significant as it represents the year of return, as 2019 marks 400 years since the first slaves arrived in Virginia. As such, the aim of the year of return is to encourage African Americans and the diaspora to visit Ghana to reconnect with the continent, whilst simultaneously boosting Ghana’s tourism. Although this commemorates a tragic legacy, the year of return is an initiative that deserves to be commended for bridging Ghana’s past and future together, by encouraging people to learn about Ghana’s history whilst developing good relations with the diaspora for the future.
As a nation, Ghana continues to grow and change. The current government has promised to undertake a wide range of reforms and implement policies to improve the lives of Ghanaians, in all aspects. These changes include the creation of more jobs, industrial transformations, the introduction of railway lines such as the Takoradi to Paga railways.
Although everything happening with Ghana’s economy may look good, it is important to note that millions may potentially not benefit from this economic growth. The country may have a booming economy, but it must be remembered that many still live in poverty. Despite this, the Ghanaian government is committed to reduce poverty and to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to eradicate poverty by 2030.
As you can tell, Ghana has experienced highs and lows throughout the centuries. But one thing that’s clear is that Ghana has a bright future ahead of us. This is probably why Ghana was once hailed as the ‘future of Africa’ in a CNN article.
(Source: History files and Ghana Live)