Ghanaians certainly know how to live the good life. Throughout the country there is upbeat music, great food, heart-warming laughter and a general laid-back attitude, so laid back that one of the national mottos happens to be “Haste Not In Life.” But don’t be fooled, Ghanaians are also very serious and diligent folk, with a great entrepreneurial drive. Attributes that have helped earn Ghana the reputation as one of Africa’s greatest success stories, where stable democracy meets impressive economic growth statistics. Ghana is the perfect destination for a first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa – a place where you can simultaneously enjoy the buzz of a fast developing Africa, and yet still slip into a more grassroots way of life, and be welcomed by the locals with open arms.
It’s hard to imagine its darker past until you head to Cape Coast, the site where millions of Africans took a last glimpse of their homeland before being packed into slave ships bound for the Americas. The slave forts that are scattered along Ghana’s coastline hold the secrets of centuries long power struggles between the British, Portuguese, Swedish, Germans and Dutch for both trade and religious domination. The two most impressive (and well-restored) castles are in Cape Coast and nearby Elmina.
Ghana (or the Gold Coast as it was fondly known to the British) was in fact the first sub-Saharan African country to gain its independence from the empire, and consequently commands a certain respect across the continent, and beyond.
The capital, Accra, does not have the same kind of historical attractions. This is not a city for traditional sightseeing – it does not boast museums, but is a place to observe a rich and busy culture at work, simply hang out, eat great food, enjoy the nightlife, and be inspired by the good vibes of the people.
Kumasi, Ghana’s second capital, is the heartland of the proud warrior Ashanti peoples, and a must visit for tourists wanting to delve into Ghana’s tribal history, as well as check out its colonial architecture. The famous Kumasi open-air market is a large and sprawling arena of intense trade, where you can find everything imaginable and colourful to boot.
Of late, the majority of investment into to Ghana has been concentrated in the southern coastal region, around Takoradi, which is Ghana’s first bonafide ‘oil town’. Since Ghana discovered the Jubilee Oilfield in 2007, Takoradi has been transformed into a hub for international oil companies and their contractors, and with it has come rapid development.
Just outside Takoradi lies the old town of Sekondi, a totally run down, but breathtaking, fishing town brimming with crumbling and weather-beaten colonial buildings.
In the same region is Busua Beach, a rugged but pretty white sand beach, which has very recently become a trendy surfing hot spot, and once a year hosts a music festival where the in-crowd can be found dancing to tunes all night long.
Ghana is one of 15 countries forming part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).