Ghana

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Background

Ghana achieved independence in 1957, but as with so many newly independent countries, the end of colonialism ushered in a protracted period of instability. Things settled down in the 1990s and, since the turn of the millennium, Ghana has enjoyed peace and stability with consecutive free and fair elections entrenching its position as one of the most successful democracies in West Africa. With stability came prosperity, and today Ghana boasts impressive economic growth against a backdrop of falling inflation – 2010 saw the official inflation rate fall to a 20-year-low of 8.6%. Ghana is the world’s second-largest producer of cocoa and the country is seeing steady economic growth, as the ‘black gold’ joins the amber precious metal as a major pillar of Ghana’s thriving economy, along with newfound oil. Cocoa may well be the flavour of the month, but it’s Ghana’s extensive gold reserves that have long been the country’s economic anchor, producing three million ounces per year. Ghana is the second-largest gold producer on the continent, although the country is working hard to diversify its economy. The state-sponsored Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) facilitates investment across the Ghanaian economy, with a special focus on the manufacturing and services sectors.

Important Cities

Accra is the commercial and cultural heart of Ghana, while the interior town of Kumasi is the traditional home of the Ashanti kingdom. The beaches around Takoradi are a popular tourist-draw.

Climate

The climate is tropical. The eastern coastal belt is warm and comparatively dry, the south-west corner is hot and humid, and the north is hot and dry. There are two main seasons in Ghana – the wet and the dry seasons. Northern Ghana experiences its rainy season from March to November, while the south, including the capital Accra, experiences the season from April to mid-November. 

Visas

Nationals of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), along with citizens of Kenya and Egypt, do not require a visa to visit Ghana. Citizens of Malawi, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda and Swaziland are able to receive a free visa on arrival in Ghana. All other nationalities require a visa before entry.

Connectivity

Ghana has a vibrant telecommunications sector, with six cellular phone operators and several Internet service providers. The introduction of both the Main One underground cable network and Glo One underground cable has seen marked improvement in connectivity. They both offer open access and broadband connectivity to mobile operators like Tigo, MTN and Airtel.  Further to that, development is speeding up, following the introduction of wireless and 3G mobile broadband technologies such as iBurst, WiMax and HSPA and the arrival of the two fibre links mentioned.

Travel Tips

Money The most widely accepted credit cards are Visa and Mastercard, and they are accepted in major hotels, restaurants, airlines, banks and businesses. However, be aware of the threat of fraud. Ghana’s currency is the cedi and can be exchanged at any forex bureaux and some banks. Most large commercial banks have ATMs outside, accepting Visa mostly, but also other cards.
Out & About Tipping is permitted in hotels and restaurants, as gratuity is rarely added to bills.
Attire Since the climate is warm and tropical all year round, be sure to pack light, washable cotton clothing.

Getting around

All international flights arrive at Kotoka International Airport, 12 kilometres from the centre of Accra. From Kotoka, a handful of commercial airlines serve domestic destinations. There are taxis and numerous international and local car hire companies at the airport, as well as in the major cities. An International Driving Permit is required if you plan to hire a car in Ghana. Roads are generally in good condition in the cities, but can be poorly maintained in rural areas. Accidents are common on the roads from Accra to Cape Coast and Kumasi, and drivers should be alert for livestock on the road.

Health

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Ghana. So, consult your doctor well in advance of travelling – ideally, three weeks. Malaria prophylactics are essential in Ghana, as malaria is widespread. Tap water in cities is hygienic, but bottled water is recommended.

Contacts

Websites – ghana.gov.gh; touringghana.com and ghanaweb.com.

Fact File

Population: 24.8 million
Time zone: GMT
Dialling code:
+233 + area code + number required
Currency: The Ghanaian Cedi was redenominated in 2007, and old cedi notes can now only be exchanged at the Bank of Ghana. Always exchange currencies at an authorised dealer – not on the street. US$1=1.65GHS
GDP growth rate (2010): 7.7%
Language: English is the official language of government and business, although French is spoken widely. Over 50 indigenous dialects are used across the country.

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