The Republic of Ghana (formerly known as the Gold Coast) is located in West Africa and attained its independence from the British Empire on the 6th of March, 1957. It is bordered by Burkina-Faso to the North, Togo to the East, Cote d ’Ivoire to the West and Guinea-Bissau to the South. The country’s political and economic heritage is intricately tied to its culture and traditions. In pre-colonial times the country was ruled by Kings and Chiefs across the length and breadth of the territory. Leadership in these times was underpinned by strong traditions, customs and values modelled around time-honoured forms of justice. Culture and identity were inseparable, and activities in trade and politics were conducted based on mutual respect, creating a harmony of well-diversified groups.
Since gaining independence, the country has seen relative distortions in its traditional constitutional set-up. This follows the reconfiguration of political and geographical territories by colonial authorities, and the subsequent shift in political hierarchy from the chieftaincy institution to modern day democratic governance. However, the emergence of a unitary state and political structure did not sideline traditional norms and customs in national development. On the contrary, it served to integrate the separate cultures and groups, making the country one of the most harmonious culturally diversified states on the continent. To signify this commitment, a national cultural policy document was developed in 1957, soon after the nation gained its independence. Since its formulation however, subsequent administrations have made progressive reforms to the document2, and in 2004 a cultural policy for the nation was promulgated and put into full operation. The country currently has a Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture, as well as a National Commission on Culture with well decentralized agencies and institutions at regional and district levels, facilitating the promotion of culture locally.
Ghana is also a hub of various international cultural events and exchanges, with an increasing level of cooperation between both state and non-state agencies in the areas of culture and development through cultural exchange. The country has also invested in the development and training of human resources within the area of arts and culture. This is evident particularly in education, where universities offer degrees in the areas of fine arts, music, dance, cultural studies and drama. Courses are also taught at elementary and high school levels, where students can major in vocational courses, as well as learn more about their local traditions and cultural heritages. Through the introduction of these public sector programmes, the country has succeeded in retaining its multi-ethnic society and sustaining cultural harmony, resulting in a stable and peaceful climate. The country also boasts a well-developed multi-party democracy, an effective governance system and a peaceful co-existence of heterogeneous groups.
In order to boost its image internationally, the country has developed its tourism potentials by increasing government spending on scenic areas, as well as its tourism budget. There are also several events and activities for Ghanan diaspora, which have served to uplift the country’s population of diaspora dwellers. This interaction dates back to 1992, when the Pan-African Festival (PANAFEST) was inaugurated. Since then, the biennial conference has been a source of diasporan integration through cultural exchange and development initiatives. In the future, opportunities for state-initiated cultural development may increase, as the country appears to be well placed at a governmental level to promote cultural diplomacy in all its forms.