Ghana is in West Africa on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Its population in 1983 was about 13.3 million -- approximately twice the number of people living in New York City. Its total land area is 92,100 square miles, which makes it somewhat smaller than the state of Wyoming. Ghana was the first black African country south of the Sahara to shake free of colonial rule. (Modern-day Ghana comprises the former British colony of the Gold Coast and the former mandated territory of British Togoland.) The country's economy is predominantly agricultural. Cocoa heads the export list (about 60 percent of total exports), and Ghana is the world's largest supplier of this product. This means, however, that the country's economic fortunes often depend on the fluctuating world price of cocoa. Next on the export list are minerals, the principal ones being gold, diamonds, manganese, and bauxite.
Ghana gained independence in 1957 under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. In 1960 Nkrumah declared himself president for life and in 1964 established a one-party state. He became increasingly unpopular and was overthrown in a military coup in 1966.
Constitutional government was restored in 1969, but a series of coups followed -- in 1972, 1978, 1979, and 1981. One of the country's military officers, Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings, led the coup in 1979, then relinquished power to a civilian government under an elected president.
On Dec. 31, 1981, however, Rawlings again took control of the country, which he still heads.
Ghana has been in an economic decline for many years but has recently shown signs of improvement -- in large part because of financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and some Western governments. It has adopted strict austerity measures, which it appears to be holding to despite their unpopularity.