Crossroads' Work in Ghana
Richly endowed with natural resources, Ghana has roughly twice the per capita income of the poorest countries in West Africa. However, most of its people still rely on subsistence agriculture for survival. Just over 40 per cent of people live in extreme poverty and more than three quarters live on less than $2 US a day. Ghana faces significant challenges in addressing health, poverty and gender equality. Working in partnership with local organizations, Canadian Crossroads International’s work in Ghana focuses on HIV and AIDS, women's rights, domestic violence and rural development.
I am learning a lot and I believe they are also learning a lot from our experience getting Ghana’s domestic violence law passed.
- Bernice Sam (WiLDAF)
Full Name: Republic of Ghana
Population: 23.8 million (UN 2009)
Area: 238,533 sq km (92,098 sq miles)
Major languages: English, African languages including Akan, Ewe
Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs, Islam
Life Expectancy: 56 years (men), 57 years (women) (UN)
Monetary Unit: Cedi
Main Exports: Gold, cocoa, timber, tuna, bauxite, aluminium, manganese ore, diamonds
GNI per capita: US $670 (World Bank, 2006)
Ghana is named after the ancient African kingdom that existed for a period of 800 years before the 11th century. Prior to independence, the region was known as the Gold Coast.
Between the 15th and 19th centuries, the Gold Coast was a major port for the slave trade. The number of Africans enslaved and transported across the Atlantic from the west coast of Africa during this period is estimated between 10 and 28 million.
Ghana, which celebrated 50 years of independence in 2007, was the first democratic sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence.
A US-backed coup in 1966 led to the overthrow of Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah, a leading figure in Africa’s anti-colonial movement and a proponent of Pan-Africanism.
Following a series of military coups, culminating in the seizure of power in 1981 by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, democratic governance was restored to Ghana in 1992.
The 1992 constitutional changes resulted in shared power between a president, a unicameral parliament, a council of state, and an independent judiciary.
The election of John Kufuor in 2000 was Ghana's first peaceful transfer of power from one elected government to another. In 2004, Kufuor won a second term as president, in an election widely acknowledged as well-run and orderly. Four years later, John Kufuor had to step down after having served the maximum permitted two four-year terms. In December 2008 John Atta Mills was elected president on a promess for a greater wellfare platform.
Over the past decade, a major focus of the Government's development programs has been decentralization and poverty alleviation, with special emphasis on women as central players in households and in resource management.
Ghana is one of the best-performing economies in Africa.
As a result of the World Bank’s 2004 Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative, followed by further cancellations by donors, Ghana’s external debt, about $6 billion in 2001, is now almost entirely written off.
Dumping cheap, subsidized Western rice onto local markets has had a negative impact on the livelihoods of local farmers. Undercutting the price of their homegrown rice has forced many out of business.
While agriculture is a mainstay of Ghana’s economy, accounting for more than one-third of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and about 55 per cent of formal employment, the country also has a diverse natural resource base, including mineral deposits such as gold manganese and ore, as well as oil and gas. The discovery of major offshore oil reserves in June 2007 encouraged expectations of a major economic boost.
Mining is now Ghana’s most important economic sector, but its expansion has come at a price. Mining companies in Ghana have been implicated in environmental and human rights violations including the burning of villages, illegal detention, rape, intimidation and attacks.
Since 2000, Ghana has experienced economic stability and has one of the fastest rates of poverty reduction in Africa.
Ghana poverty levels decreased from just over fifty per cent in 1991 to 28.5 per cent in 2005. Still, 78 per cent of Ghanaians live on less than US$2 a day, with 44 per cent living on less than US$1 a day.
Seventy per cent of the country’s poor people live in rural areas. Rural poverty is characterized by limited access to basic social services, safe water, roads, electricity and telephones. The incidence of poverty is highest in the northern parts of the country.
On the 2009 Human Development Index, Ghana is ranked 152 out of 182 countries. According to the World Bank, Gross National Income per capita is $670 US.
The ability to lead is not biologically determined. Women need to be given a chance.
- Rose Mensah-Kutin, Abantu for Development
In Ghana, women are responsible for 55 to 60 per cent of agricultural production. They work at least twice as many hours as men, spend about three times as many hours transporting water and goods, and transport about four times as much in volume. Over half of women who head rural households have incomes that place them in the poorest 20 per cent of the population.
Women in Ghana are recognized under law as having equal rights with men in all spheres of life. Yet, women are much less likely than men to receive education or health benefits or have a voice in decisions affecting their lives. For them, poverty means high numbers of infant deaths, undernourished families and lack of education for children.
Rape and domestic violence remains a significant problem in Ghana. Legislation introduced in 2007 seeks to bring an end to domestic violence in Ghana, targeting in particular men who are habitually violent against their partners.
While the practice of Female Genital Mutilation was made illegal in Ghana in 1994, it remains a serious problem. Those who perform the operation face a prison sentence of at least three years. Female Genital Mutilation is still common in the north, where it was widely practiced before the ban. However, there are relatively few prosecutions.
There are about 5,000 women known to still be in slavery in Ghana. Modern-day slavery in Ghana includes indentured labour of children and commercial sexual exploitation.
HIV and AIDS
Ghana’s HIV and AIDS rate is low by sub-Saharan African standards (3.2 per cent in 2006). But, the situation is still critical. Five per cent is known to be a tipping point where the pandemic compounds and grows at a rapid rate.
Ongoing medical care and public education is needed in Ghana to provide adequate health services, build awareness and stem the spread of HIV and AIDS. In a survey of condom use among men and women, aged 15 to 24, just over half of men (52 percent) had used a condom during their last episode of "high risk" sex. The figure was 33 per cent for women in the same age range.
Out of a population base of 23.8 million, the estimated number of people living with HIV and AIDS in Ghana by the end of 2007 was 260,000. Approximately, 160,000 children under 17 have lost their mother or father or both parents to AIDS. In 2007, 21,000 died people from AIDS in Ghana.
The difference between learning diversity intellectually and directly experiencing it by rubbing shoulders is definitely worth the effort.
- Peter Hayes AIDS Committee of London (ACOL), CCI Canadian partner