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On March 6, 1957, the former Gold Coast — a British colony — became the Republic of Ghana and the first African state south of the Sahara to win its independence. At the time, Ghana was economically strong and was believed to have a bright future under the leadership of its founding father and first president, Kwame Nkrumah. However, chronic political instability and financial mismanagement during the ‘60s and ‘70s left the country with a crumbling infrastructure and a largely bankrupt economy. Today Ghana has a new constitution restoring multiparty choices which was approved in 1992. Ghana is a constitutional democracy with a legal system based on English common law and customary law. The president is chief of state as well as head of government. A unicameral Parliament with 200 seats has its members elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-year terms.

Under a vigorous reform program, the economy has grown rapidly, the infrastructure is being repaired, the markets are full, and Accra once again has the appearance of a bustling coastal city.

Well endowed with natural resources, Ghana has roughly twice the per capita output of poorer countries in West Africa. Even so, Ghana remains heavily dependent on international financial and technical assistance. Gold, timber and cocoa production are major sources of foreign exchange.

Ghanaians are warm, hospitable, and polite, and have a strong traditional culture that they enjoy sharing with foreigners. Through shared history and a natural affinity, they are especially open to Americans.

Americans assigned here will enjoy the professional challenge of working in a developing country with a future. Those who make the effort will learn that a tour in Ghana is also a special opportunity to “discover” and experience an African culture and society.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:10 AM

Ghana is situated on West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, and its capital, Accra, is 4 degrees north of the Equator. Ghana covers 238,540 square kilometers and is about the size of Oregon. Half of the country lies less than 152 meters above sea level and the highest point is 883 meters. The 537-kilometer coastline is mostly a low, sandy shore backed by a narrow coastal plain with scrub brush, and intersected by rivers and streams, navigable only by canoe. A tropical rain forest belt, broken by heavily forested hills and many streams and rivers, extends northward from the shore near the border with Côte d’Ivoire. This area, traditionally known as Ashanti, but now divided into several administrative regions, produces most of Ghana’s cocoa, minerals, and timber. North of this belt the country varies from 91 to 396 meters above sea level and is covered by low bush, savanna, and grassy plains.

Current environmental issues include recurrent drought in north which severely affects agricultural activites; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; poaching and habitat destruction which threatens wildlife populations; water pollution and inadequate supplies of potable water.

Ghana is bordered on the west by Côte d’Ivoire, on the north by Burkina Faso, and on the east by Togo. A major feature of the country’s geography is the Volta Lake, the world’s largest manmade lake (8,900 square kilometers), which extends from the Akosombo Dam (completed in 1966) in southeastern Ghana to the town of Yapei, 520 kilometers to the north. The dam generates electricity for all of Ghana as well as some exports to neighboring countries. The lake also serves as an inland waterway and is a potentially valuable resource for irrigation and fish farming.

Ghana’s climate is tropical with temperatures between 21ºC and 32ºC (70ºF and 90ºF). Rainy seasons extend from April to July (heavy rains) and from September to November (light rains). Annual rainfall exceeds 200 centimeters on the coast, decreasing inland. Accra’s annual rainfall averages about 76 centimeters, low for coastal West Africa. The southern part of the country is humid most of the year, but the north can be very dry.

It is coolest from May until October. In December the harmattan, a dry dusty wind from the Sahara, covers the country, and lasts through February. The desert wind reduces humidity, and early mornings and nights are relatively cool. Visibility during the harmattan can be poor, as the air is filled with fine dust.

Population Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:12 AM

Ghana’s population numbers 20.4 million (July 2003 est.), with an annual growth rate of over 1.4 %. Accra is the largest city with some 3.8 million inhabitants. Other major cities include Kumasi (1.3 million est.), Tema (250,000 est.), Sekondi/Takoradi (200,000 est.), and Tamale (105,000).

The majority of Ghanaians belong to one of four broad ethnic groups: Akan (44%), Mole-Dagbane (16%), Ewe (13%), and Ga-Adangbe (8%). Subgroups exist within each of these, along with many other smaller ethnic groups. A large number of Ghana’s inhabitants have roots in neighboring countries or are citizens of those countries. A few communities of foreigners come from outside West Africa, including Lebanese, Syrian, Indian, and Chinese. English is the official language, but about 100 other languages and dialects are common. Most urban Ghanaians speak some English, and many Ghanaians speak Twi (an Akan language), an unofficial second language. Ga is also widely spoken in Accra.

All religious beliefs are accepted in Ghana. Approximately 63% of the population are Christians, and Christian holidays are celebrated nationally. Roughly 21% are traditional animists and 16% are Muslims. People in the south have been influenced by Western education and Christianity, and those in the north by Islam, but members of the three major religious groups are found throughout the country.

Even where Christianity and Islam have the greatest influence, traditional social structures and customs remain important. Ethnic identification and kinship, traced paternally among some peoples and maternally among others, are the basic building blocks of Ghanaian society. However, their impact has been reduced by internal migrations, contact with Western cultures, and urbanization. Since independence, the authority of traditional rulers has declined, but local and regional chiefs continue to play an extremely important role in day-to-day life, especially in rural areas. Traditional annual festivals are popular, and basic rituals — such as naming ceremonies for newborns, customary marriage and divorce rites, and elaborate funerals — are still performed.

The existence of many different ethnic traditions makes generalizing about Ghanaian cultural values and practices difficult. However, most Ghanaians consider their responsibilities to their extended families a guiding principle in their lives. This can create a heavy burden for those who have good, salaried jobs in the cities. Education is universally recognized as the key to economic and social advancement. Even the poorest families do all they can to educate their children and prosperous relatives often “adopt” young relatives, housing them and paying their school fees. Polygamy is rare among the educated elite, but is still practiced in much of the country, even by Christians. Economic pressures and official policies are discouraging it.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 10/11/2004 8:29 AM

Europeans first came into contact with the area known today as Ghana when Portuguese and Dutch merchants and slave traders landed on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea in the late 15th century. The British took control of the area, then called the Gold Coast, in the early 1800’s. When the Gold Coast became the first sub-Saharan African colony to gain its independence in 1957, the name was changed to Ghana, after an ancient African empire (700–1200 B.C.E.) along the Niger River.

Under Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention People’s Party (CPP), which had led the country to independence, Ghana began as a parliamentary democracy, but gradually evolved into a single party, socialist state. Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966 in a military coup, and the National Liberation Council ruled by decree until 1969, when a new constitution took effect and K.A. Busia was elected as President of the Second Republic. The Busia government compiled a reasonably good record in the human rights field but failed to solve Ghana’s mounting economic problems. The government was overthrown in January 1972 by a military coup led by Army Colonel I.K. Acheampong.

Under Acheampong’s National Redemption Council, the economy continued to decline and corruption flourished. Efforts to establish a nonparty “Union Government” created a backlash, which led to a takeover by Lt. General Frederick Akuffo on July 5, 1978. Akuffo moved to restore constitutional rule, naming a constituent assembly and restoring political rights and activity. However, his regime failed to reduce corruption or improve the economy. On June 4, 1979, Flight Lt. Jerry John Rawlings led a group of junior officers and enlisted men, called the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), in a successful coup against the Akuffo government.

The AFRC executed eight senior military officers, including several former heads of state, for corruption and abuse of power. The Council established “People’s Courts” and other tribunals, where dozens of former government officials and others were sentenced to long prison terms and their property confiscated. It also permitted the previously scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections to take place in June and July of 1979. The People’s National Party (PNP), the new name for Nkrumah’s CPP, won both the Presidency and 71 of the 140 seats in parliament. A new constitution took effect in September 1979, and Dr. Hilla Limann became President. The Limann government had little success in solving Ghana’s economic problems or in reducing corruption. It came to an early end when Flight Lt. Rawlings led a second coup on December 31, 1981, and established the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC).

At the outset, the PNDC took a radical direction, banning all political activities, confiscating property, placing the country under curfew for 2 years and imprisoning or even executing citizens for political or economic crimes. Gradually, the PNDC took a more pragmatic line, both economically and politically, although some of the radical rhetoric remains. Since 1983, Ghana has been implementing a successful IMF-sponsored Economic Recovery Program (ERP). Annual economic growth has averaged 5–6% since the inception of the plan, with the exception of 1990, when bad rains resulted in a growth of only 3%. In 1989, with the election of nonpartisan District Assemblies, the PNDC began a slow process of returning Ghana to constitutional rule.

In 1992, the voters in a nationwide referendum accepted a new constitution, and elections for President and Parliament late that same year ushered in Ghana’s Fourth Republic. Jerry John Rawlings was elected President with nearly two-thirds of the vote, and was reelected in 1996. The major opposition party boycotted the 1992 Parliamentary elections, but took part in 1996; the present Parliament is made up of roughly two-thirds ruling party members and one-third opposition members. Presidential and parliamentary elections were held in December 2000. Rawlings was constitutionally prevented from running for a third term in 2000. He was succeeded by John Agyekum Kufuor, who defeated former Vice President John Atta Mills in a free and fair election. In December 2004, presidential and parliamentary elections will again be held.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:17 AM

Ghana has a long tradition of formal education, dating back to the “Castle Schools” of the early 17th century. During the colonial period schools were established by both the British Government and missionary groups. The government at all levels has traditionally provided tuition. However, parents find themselves paying fees for a wide range of services, depending on the level of school. These can include annual fees for services and activities such as the use of textbooks, sports, arts and culture, electricity and water, and board and lodging.

A student loan scheme has been introduced at Ghanaian universities and other institutions for tertiary education under which students are able to finance a substantial portion of the cost of tertiary education. Such loans are repaid when the students have graduated and are employed. Meals and some other on-campus services have been commercialized. University-level user fees for accommodations, electricity and water were started in 1997. The degree to which students should contribute to their own university education continues to be a very lively debate. Graduates from Ghana’s universities and other institutions of higher education are required to complete a period of National Service ranging from 1 to 2 years.

A reform program was initiated in 1987 to help reduce the educational system’s emphasis on academic subjects and university preparation. Under the reform program, the preuniversity schooling period has been shortened from a maximum 17 years to 12 years (6 years primary, 3 years junior secondary, and 3 years senior secondary, vocational and technical). The reform program has introduced vocational and technical education at the junior secondary school level and seeks to make basic education more widely available.

In 1996, the government launched a major initiative in Basic Education (grades 1–9) called FCUBE (Free, Compulsory and Universal Basic Education). Donor assistance to this effort has been massive. The medium of instruction is a local language through primary grade 3 and English from primary 4 through university.

Ghana has five state-run universities. The University of Ghana at Legon (near Accra), the University of Cape Coast in the Central Region, and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi are well-established and have broad, comprehensive curricula (though UCC emphasizes training secondary teachers and KNUST emphasizes science and technical education). In addition, two new institutions of higher education were recently established in Ghana. The multi-campus University for Development Studies in the Northern Regions emphasizes agriculture and development of technology, and has a medical school. The University College of Education at Winneba (about midway between Accra and Cape Coast) is exclusively a teacher training institution, and also offers distance learning programs. Many faculty members have earned advanced degrees from abroad, including the U.S. Academic exchanges of lecturers, researchers, and students are increasingly common. All five universities currently operate on a semester system.

In the past few years, a half dozen private “universities” have been established. They are mostly affiliated with one or another Christian denomination and their general focuses are business and religious studies.

Salaries in Ghana have been severely eroded through a decade of economic reforms, which limited public expenditures. In addition to poor pay and working conditions for lecturers, other frequently cited challenges facing Ghanaian universities include pressures to provide residential accommodations for increased numbers of students; the need for more books, professional journals, computers, and scientific equipment despite rising costs; and the problems of maintaining the universities’ generally attractive but deteriorating buildings, grounds, and equipment.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:20 AM

Independent Ghana’s economy, rich in natural and human resources, was among the most advanced and prosperous in West Africa. By 1982–83, two decades of instability and mismanagement had led to virtual economic collapse. A bloated public sector, neglected infrastructures and agriculture, and grossly overvalued currency spurred production declines. The slide, accelerated in the early 1980s by drought, bush fires, and the forced repatriation of about 1 million Ghanaians from Nigeria, left the country with virtually no foreign exchange and severe food shortages.

The Economic Recovery Program, adopted in 1983, drastically devalued the Ghanaian cedi, stabilized prices, improved fiscal and monetary discipline and public sector rationalization, reduced foreign debt arrears, and began the task of rehabilitating Ghana’s infrastructure. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, the U.S., and other Western multilateral and bilateral donors have lent strong support. From 1993–1996, Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at an annual rate of 5%.

Inflation in 1999 was at an annual rate of about 13%. The cedi, which in 1983 traded at the rate of 2.75=US $1, by March 2001 had an exchange rate of about 7,195=US$1. In April 2004, the cedi had an exchange rate of 8,900 = US$1. Private foreign exchange bureaus operate throughout the country buying and selling cedis at free market rates. Agriculture dominates the economy, accounting for almost 60% of the workforce and 36% of the GDP. Cocoa, the main cash crop, generates about 34% of export earnings and substantial tax revenues. Ghana is no longer the world’s major cocoa producer, but its output has recovered after sliding to less than one-third of its peak. Other major crops, consumed internally, include cassavas, yams, cocoa, plantains, shea nuts, oil palms, and cereals (maize, millet, and rice). The Ashanti region around Kumasi is a center of cocoa, tobacco, and timber production.

The semiarid savanna of the north (covering nearly half the country) is the main livestock and cereal growing area. The southwest’s humid forests produce timber, rubber, and plantains, while the drier southeast produces livestock, poultry, citrus fruits, and vegetables. The government is offering farmers greater incentives to diversify output in order to reduce heavy dependence on imported foodstuffs and provide domestic inputs for the nation’s industry. Ghana has rich mineral resources, notably gold, manganese, diamonds, and bauxite. While its gold reserves are among the world’s largest, output has been far below former and potential levels. Since the mid-’80s, major foreign investments in the mining sector have resulted in large increases in gold production. Ghana’s Ashanti Goldfields Company is the only African corporation listed in the New York Stock Exchange.

Ghana currently imports all its crude oil. The Akosombo Dam on the Volta River and the smaller Kpong Dam downstream supply virtually all the country’s electricity, though a new thermal plant in Takoradi came on line in early 1998 to supplement the supply. In recent years, the power grid has gradually been extended to the northern two-thirds of the country.

Ghana has the natural resources, industrial capacity, skilled labor, and relatively inexpensive power necessary to be a successful producer of goods for both domestic consumption and export. While the situation has been improving, industry still is hampered by dilapidated plants and machinery, a high dependence on scarce imported replacement parts and raw materials, slowness in developing domestic supply sources, and rundown infrastructure.

Given the importance of agriculture, the economy remains dependent upon the variable rainfall patterns. These patterns are affected by significant environmental deterioration.

One of the largest foreign investments in Ghana (and Africa’s largest aluminum smelter) is the Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO), owned by the U.S. companies Kaiser (90%) and Reynolds (10%). It processes imported bauxite into aluminum ingots, primarily for export. A U.S. company is majority owner of Ghana’s second national telephone service provider. Other U.S. firms have invested in Ghana’s information technology and communications sectors. Other significant U.S. investments involve tuna fishing and processing (Star-Kist), small-scale manufacture of pharmaceuticals and household products (Johnson Wax and Phyto-Riker), petroleum products distribution (Mobil), public accountancy (Deloitte & Touche and Price WaterhouseCoopers), electronics products distribution and service (IBM, NCR, Motorola), and wood treatment (KIC International). Many more U.S. firms have active local agents and distributors.


Automobiles Last Updated: 10/11/2004 8:21 AM

Most employees find it advantageous to import a vehicle, although new and used vehicles may be obtained locally. Public transportation is unreliable, overcrowded, and generally inadequate. As in the U.S., driving is on the right side of the road. Importation of right-hand-drive vehicles into Ghana is not permitted. Street conditions are fair but strewn with potholes. Higher ground-clearance vehicles, while preferable, are not necessary, unless you plan to make excursions outside of Accra “off the beaten track.” There are no safety, color, or emission restrictions related to imported vehicles. Vehicles over 10 years of age on the date of importation cannot be brought into Ghana. A vehicle imported by a diplomat that reaches 10 years of age while in Ghana cannot be sold in Ghana and must be exported when the diplomat leaves the country at the conclusion of the assignment. The Government of Ghana levies a substantial tax on buyers of diplomatically imported vehicles if sold in Ghana to a person who does not hold diplomatic status. The tax is computed on the basis of the declared value of the vehicle upon importation that is generally the value of the vehicle when new. Consequently, the tax liability for a non-diplomat is prohibitive. Please contact the GSO for additional information regarding the importation and sale of vehicles, since the regulations are subject to frequent changes.

Gasoline now sold in Ghana is unleaded or diesel fuel. The catalytic converters do not/not need to be removed at this time. Air-conditioning is strongly recommended, as are first-aid kits and car seats for small children. A single Mission employee may import or purchase locally, free of duty charges, one car. Married employees accompanied by their spouse may import or purchase locally two cars duty free.

Many Mission members drive European, Japanese, or South African manufactured cars since parts and service for most American-made cars are not readily available. Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota (both sedan and 4x4 types), Honda, Peugeot, or the European or South African versions of General Motors or Ford products are popular and the easiest to maintain. Duty-paid vehicles are widely available in all price ranges. Used duty-free vehicles are occasionally available from departing colleagues at the U.S. and other embassies.

Unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel are available locally. Diesel fuel and unleaded gasoline may be purchased at the Embassy pump. The Government of Ghana sets the price. As of July 2004 it is about $1.74 per U.S. gallon. Fuel prices continue to fluctuate with the increase/decrease in crude oil prices.

Most Mission personnel have radios and cassette or CD players in their cars. CB radios are not permitted. Several private FM stations broadcast in Accra with AM stations broadcasting to their parts of the country, although coverage is not complete.

Americans patronize several repair facilities. Though the quality of work is mixed, labor costs are low with used parts common for vehicles widely available and reasonably priced. Dealer installed new parts and labor is high. Some people arrange with the Mission-employed mechanics to service their vehicles during off duty hours.

Driving. Driver expertise in Accra and outside Accra leaves much to be desired. Defensive driving techniques must be employed at all times. Driving outside of Accra after dark must be absolutely avoided. Plan any trip outside of Accra during daylight hours only. In addition to the almost total absence of any roadside lighting, many drivers drive at night without using headlights under the mistaken impression that they are saving electric power. Over-the-road heavy-duty truck drivers often drive at night in a totally sleep-deprived condition. Driving at night outside Accra is an open invitation to disaster. Most Americans killed in Ghana die by virtue of nighttime auto accidents.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:23 AM

Ghana has about 9,300 kilometers of hard surface roads, in varying degrees of upkeep. While the construction of improved laterite roads has been a major priority for several years, some roads are still not passable during the rainy seasons, especially in rural areas. It is possible to drive east to Lome, west to Abidjan, and north to Kumasi and Tamale. Once you leave the major routes, road conditions can become very rough. Many streets in Accra are narrow and bordered by hazardous open culverts without curbs.

Buses and “tro-tros” are always overcrowded, poorly maintained, odoriferous, and driven by incompetent, reckless and inattentive drivers. Taxis are abundant and cheap in Accra and generally available in other major cities. One must, however, negotiate the cost before entering the taxi. Most taxi drivers speak some English but it is wise to know where you are going before getting in the taxi. Addresses mean little in Accra with most taxi drivers operating by landmarks. Drivers tend to be reckless and do not obey traffic laws since the enforcement of traffic laws is almost nonexistent. Taxis can be hired for an entire day or for a long duration trip. Hiring a taxi for a trip out of town, however, is not recommended. Rental cars are available but tend to be expensive. It is not possible to rent a car without a driver.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 10/11/2004 8:26 AM

CTK City Link and Antrak Air Travels, which are domestic carriers, provide Monday to Friday service to Accra and Kumasi. Antrak also offers flights to Tamale on selected days. A number of international airlines provide service outside Ghana. At present there are "open skies" agreements and "code shares" with British Airways/American Airlines, KLM/Northwest Airlines as well as Lufthansa/United Airlines. Official travelers are routed between the U.S. and Ghana via Amsterdam on Northwest/KLM, via Frankfurt on United/ Lufthansa and via London on American/ British Airways.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:25 AM

Ghana Telecom (GT) and Westel (a U.S. majority-owned firm) provide local telephone service. The average monthly rental for a telephone is about $3.00 and this must be paid regardless of whether the telephone is working. Local call charges vary. As of March 2003, the cellular phone companies that offer mobile phone services are Celltel, Spacefon, and Mobitel.

The embassy also has the International Voice Gateway (IVG) system, which ties in directly to the U.S. Calls can be made on IVG toll-free from the Chancery to the Washington, D.C. area and to any 800 number. Calls can be made any day of the week from the chancery. It is also possible to call other locations in the U.S. by using IVG to access the 1-800 commercial long-distance service such as Sprint, MCI and AT&T. You must obtain a calling card before arrival as there is no direct-dialing service from your home except on weekends when the IVG line is available (only for U.S. Direct Hire employees).

Internet Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:25 AM

It is possible to obtain Internet service in your home. There are several local companies to choose from with prices ranging from approximately $25 to $50 a month. The CLO office can provide more information on arrival. It is advisable to ship voltage regulators and an uninterruptible power source (UPS) along with quality power strips with surge protection.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:26 AM

International service for incoming mail is slow and unreliable. American personnel use the Department of State diplomatic pouch for incoming mail.

Pouches may not contain liquids, glass, pressurized containers or items that are illegal to import into the country of destination and items that are harmful to human life or to the environment. Outgoing mail is restricted to envelopes up to 2 pounds, and boxed mail that is the size of a video or audio tape up to 2 pounds. U.S. postage stamps may be purchased at the commissary. Incoming restrictions are 40 pounds and a maximum of 62 inches length and girth combined. Pouch delivery time to or from the U.S. averages 2 weeks. The pouch address for personal letters and packages is as follows:

2020 Accra Place
Dulles, VA 20189–2020

The critical element in this address pattern is the use of the accurate 9-digit zip code. Post office addresses for local and international mail are:

American Embassy,
P.O. Box 194, Accra, Ghana

USAID, P.O. Box 1630, Accra, Ghana

Public Affairs,
P.O. Box 2288, Accra, Ghana

Peace Corps,
P.O. Box 5796, Accra, Ghana

INS, American Embassy,
P.O. Box 194, Accra, Ghana

Twice weekly DHL shipments of personal mail (letters only) to the U.S. continues to run smoothly. Homeward bound mail weighing over 2 pounds is also available at the commissary, but very expensive. Other express deliveries, Federal Express and UPS are available. Services are reliable and fairly expensive.

Radio and TV Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:45 AM

Accra enjoys a variety of FM radio stations. The government-owned GAR and university-run Radio Univers aside, all are privately owned. Broadcasts are dominated by music, and more and more by lively public affairs programming, including popular call-in shows. GAR (95.7) is the first source for those eager for the government’s take on current events. Radio GOLD (90.5) is the Voice of America (VOA) affiliate in Accra, and rebroadcasts several VOA news and other programming several times during the day. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Radio France Internationale (RFI) both broadcast their Africa-oriented programming full-time on FM rebroadcast stations in Accra (101.3 and 89.5, respectively).

The government-owned GTV dominates television in Ghana. A typical transmission day begins with some CNN news. From 10:00 am to 3:00 pm each weekday GTV broadcasts the U.S. Government's WorldNet programs, including “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer,” which appears at 10:00 am.

Competing with GTV in Accra are two private TV broadcasters, METRO TV, which is primarily entertainment programs, and TV3, which screens news, entertainment, documentaries, and sports programs. Many affluent Ghanaians subscribe to cable television, the most popular of which is Multichoice, which offers a number of channels, including CNN and BBC World as well as cartoon, movie, and sports channels.

Most Mission personnel bring TV’s, VCR’s and DVD players to post. Ghana TV uses the European (625) PAL system, which is incompatible with American receivers. In order to pick up Ghana TV and watch Videos or DVDs, you will need a multi-system, dual-voltage TV, DVD, or VCR (NTSC, PAL-B, and PAL-G). Be sure your TV, VCR or DVD are the same type. AFRTS television programming is available to direct-hire American personnel. If you wish to receive only AFRTS and watch movies, your American TV (NTSC) will be sufficient. There is a deposit (refunded upon departure from post) and a monthly maintenance fee.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:22 AM

During your first days in Ghana you will discover the Ghanaian media —g overnment-owned and independent, print and electronic. To prepare you for the encounter, may we offer the following brief introduction to Accra’s media scene:

You will find four government-owned newspapers on Accra’s streets: The Daily Graphic, a Monday through Saturday tabloid. The Ghanaian Times, also published Monday through Saturday. The Mirror, a weekender published on Saturday by the Graphic. The Spectator, a weekender published on Saturday by the Times.

Accra also supports a lively collection of independent newspapers, which appear weekly, biweekly, or tri-weekly. Among them are The Business & Financial Times, a commercial weekly: The Free Press, an anti-government biweekly: The Ghana Palaver, a pro NDC biweekly: The Ghanaian Chronicle, an independent weekly: The Ghanaian Democrat, a pro-NDC weekly: The Guide and The Crusading Guide, both left-of-center biweeklies: The High Street Journal and The Financial Post, both commercial weeklies: The Independent, an independent weekly: and The Statesman, a pro-NPP biweekly. Other independents on the scene are the Daily Guide and the National Democrat.

The newest media sign of the current constitutional era is the flowering of electronic media. As of September 1999, there were a dozen FM radio stations broadcasting in Accra (only one of them government-owned), with another three dozen spread out throughout the country, and roughly a dozen TV stations (some on-air, and some cable) serving the three largest regional markets of Accra, Kumasi, and Takoradi. The numbers have increased. In July 2003, 49 FM stations, 10 TV broadcast stations and 12 Internet Service Providers were available. Although many rural communities are not yet connected, the expansion of services continues.

Health and Medicine

Community Health Last Updated: 10/8/2003 8:14 AM

Communicable diseases found at most posts in tropical developing countries are endemic to Ghana. Take proper preventive measures to avoid serious diseases such as malaria, TB, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, HIV, endemic fevers, rabies and parasitic diseases. Malaria, including dangerous chloroquine-resistant cerebral malaria, is an ever-present threat throughout Ghana, including Accra. It is recommended that a rabies vaccine be obtained either prior to or after arrival at post. Malaria suppressants must be taken regularly. The recommended regime is weekly Mefloquine, now deemed safe for children under thirty pounds and pregnant women. Contact Medical Services for updates on preventive medication recommendations and for a supply of available medication. Any recommended malarial drugs not available in the U.S. may be obtained at post immediately upon arrival.

Strict cleanliness in food and water preparation is important. All drinking water must be filtered and boiled. All government housing is equipped with water distillers. Vegetables and fruits must be peeled or scrubbed and soaked in an iodine or bleach solution if they are to be eaten raw. All food must be cooked thoroughly. Household help should undergo health examinations before hiring and periodically throughout employment.

Due to the warm, moist climate, skin infections are common. These can be avoided by scrupulous cleansing of even a minor injury. It is unsafe to swim in fresh water streams or lagoons. Schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease transmitted through the skin, is prevalent.

Rabies is prevalent in many animals in Ghana. If you decide to import a pet, make sure it is inoculated against rabies. Veterinary services are available and vaccine is periodically available.

HIV, the virus causing AIDS, is widespread. Transmission, as in the U.S., occurs through sexual contact, contaminated needles, or blood transfusion. Abstinence from new sexual contacts, use of latex condoms, and HIV testing of any blood used for transfusion remain the most reliable means of preventing HIV infection. The Mission operates a “walking blood bank.”

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:49 AM

All personnel and dependents should have typhoid, tetanus, meningitis, rabies, hepatitis A and B vaccinations before coming to post. Malarial suppressants should be started 2 weeks prior to arrival at post. Yellow fever vaccination is required to enter Ghana. You will not be allowed to enter the country without proof of vaccination. Consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. and have as many immunizations as possible before leaving the U.S. All vaccines are not always in supply at post.

Bring a good supply of first-aid items, insect repellant, sunscreen, oral thermometer, and basic nonprescription medicines to post. The commissary stocks only a limited selection of such items and supplies are spotty. If you use prescription drugs, bring several months’ supply and a written prescription for ordering refills from the U.S. Only a very limited number of American and European drugs are available locally and are extremely costly.

A copy of your last medical clearance exam should be brought or sent to post, along with other records from specialists you may have seen for serious or ongoing problems.

Carry eyeglass and/or contact lens prescriptions with you in case you need to order replacements. Some expatriates have had eyeglasses reliably replaced in Accra.

Poor emergency facilities make seat belts and child/infant seats essential. Bring these with you to post.

Persons assigned to Accra are urged to attend to all pending medical problems before departing for post. Guidance should be obtained from the Office of Medical Services to maintain a valid medical clearance. Minimal supplies of equipment and medications limit specialty care in Ghana. All of these factors may make diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of a chronic problem difficult or impossible.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:49 AM

A number of program and support jobs in the Mission are performed by dependents. In addition, the Mission occasionally needs temporary clerical help during leave periods, illness, or seasonal rushes. As a result, many dependents who want to work can find jobs within the Mission, although not necessarily in their preferred fields. The U.S. and Ghana have also concluded a dependent employment agreement and dependents may seek employment on the local economy.

American Embassy - Accra

Post City Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:49 AM

With a population of 3.8 million, Accra is Ghana’s capital and largest city. It has developed into the Greater Accra/Tema area and embraces several towns along the coast. Accra is Ghana’s major commercial, education, and transportation center. Formerly a fishing village, it became the capital of the Gold Coast in 1877 and remained the capital after Ghana's independence in 1957.

Some 4,400 Americans live in Ghana, including U.S. Government employees, business people, retirees, and missionaries and their families.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 10/11/2004 9:57 AM

In August 1983, the Embassy relocated to the current Chancery building, situated a few kilometers from downtown and the ministries. It houses most State personnel, the Health Unit, and CLO. The Annex Compound, about 1 kilometer from the Chancery, houses the Consular Section and General Services Office in one building as well as the DHS offices and GSO shops in a number of smaller structures. The USAID/WARP Mission is located about 4 kilometers west of the Embassy; the Public Affairs Section and Commercial Service offices’ compound is about 1 kilometer further away on the same main road. The Peace Corps office is about 3 kilometers to the north of the Chancery.

In winter 2004, construction will begin on a new embassy compound (NEC).

Of the 103 U.S. direct hire employees, 44 are Foreign Service employees with State, 3 with Public Affairs, 2 with DHS, 6 with DAO, 1 with ODC, 38 with USAID/WARP and 4 with Peace Corps. In addition, the Marine Security Guard detachment is composed of 6 Marines. About a dozen dependents hold Eligible Family Member (EFM) positions. Approxinately 150 Peace Corps volunteers currently work in-country.

Street addresses and telephone numbers of U.S. Government offices are:

Embassy Chancery
Ring Road East near Danquah Circle,
Tel: 775–347/8/9 FAX: 776–008

Embassy Annex
(Consular Section; GSO, INS)
Corner of 10th Lane and 11th Lane,
Tel: 776–601/2, 776–944, 776–775

4513 Independence Avenue
Tel: 228–440, 228–467, 228–482, 225–087 FAX: 773–465

Public Affairs Section and Commercial Services Office
Castle Road and Independence Avenue at Africa Liberation Circle
Tel: 229–179, 229–829, and 229–882

Peace Corps
Switchback Lane near Akuafo Circle
Tel: 775–984, 773–831 FAX: 774–383

Embassy/USAID/PA hours are Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; and Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

A Marine Security Guard is on duty 24 hours daily at the Chancery.

Peace Corps hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. –5 p.m.

Payroll is processed differently by various agencies: State, State FMA, PA, and regular, nonvolunteer Peace Corps employees are payrolled by the Consolidated American Payroll System (CAPS) in Washington based on detailed payroll data furnished from the Regional Administrative and Management Center (RAMC) in Charleston, South Carolina. AID employees are payrolled from AID’s central payroll office in Washington, D.C. Direct deposit of pay is required for all employees. State, PA, and Peace Corps employees transferring from Washington, D.C. or a post served by RAMC, other than Paris, may experience a delay of one or more pay periods in receipt of earnings and leave statements and/or payroll checks if not deposited directly to their checking accounts. However, base salary will continue to be paid by CAPS. Adjustments to leave, overtime, and allowances can only be made once the employee has processed in at the gaining post and authority to pay has been requested and received.

All newcomers should notify the post of their travel plans in advance. You will be met at the airport and assisted through customs. Basic orientation briefings occur within the first week of arrival and in-depth orientation programs are scheduled periodically. All new arrivals are assigned a sponsor to assist them during their first weeks at post.

Housing Last Updated: 10/11/2004 9:50 AM

Housing at post is good with a nice variety of residences located in Cantonments, Labone and Osu areas. The post housing boards makes housing assignments based on family size, availability and position requirements. A 4-house compound, a 6-house compound as well as single houses throughout the area offer furnished accommodations complete with small yards with lush vegetation, lawns and 24 hour guard coverage. The embassy in Fall 2004 is in the process of leasing and/or purchasing several other locations as the American Mission continues to grow. Houses are located within 10 minute drive of all Embassy compounds.

Houses are equipped with refrigerators, freezers, washer and dryers, microwaves, water distillers, lawnmowers, large generators and water tanks. Houses are furnished with USG furniture including sofas, chairs, rugs, draperies, lamps, bookcases, beds, dressers, mirrors, end tables, dining room and master bedroom suites. Newly assigned personnel should check with GSO. Welcome Cable also contains additional information.

Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 10/8/2003 8:21 AM

Permanent quarters are usually available upon arrival. If necessary, temporary arrangements will be made at the Embassy staff apartment compound or a local hotel.

TDY or WAE rover personnel are housed based on availability and length of stay at either the apartment compound at BudField or at a local hotel.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:53 AM

Housing ranges from fair to very good in Accra. Most personnel live in government-owned or leased houses or in the Embassy’s six-unit apartment compound (“BudField”). Three units are used as permanent quarters and the other three units are used on an interim basis for TDY staff. Except for a four, single-family housing compound near the annex, all houses are on separate lots. No one commutes more than 15 minutes to work and most commute 5 to 10 minutes. Twenty-four hour daily, unarmed guard service is provided at each residence.

The staff apartments at BudField include (two) two-bedroom units and (one) four-bedroom unit. All have balconies and servants quarters. All the units have been completely renovated and “Americanized”.

All housing units are constructed of concrete block or stucco with terrazzo or wood parquet floors. Most have two stories with a kitchen and living and dining rooms on the ground floor, bedrooms on the second floor, and detached servants quarters. Many have large gardens and/or covered patios.

Furnishings Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:54 AM

All homes have living room, dining room, and bedroom furniture, assorted end tables, coffee tables and lamps plus rugs and drapes. The master bedroom usually has a queen-size bed, but twin-size can be provided, if available. All homes are equipped with refrigerator, freezer, washer, dryer, stove, a vacuum cleaner, a water distiller, a microwave oven, and air-conditioners.

The residences of the Ambassador and the DCM are equipped with representational china, glasses, and silverware. Service for up to 16 is recommended for those providing their own dishes. Lawnmowers and garden furniture are usually available for issue, varying somewhat from agency to agency. Check with your administrative office for details.

A Welcome Kit is provided for new arrivals until their airfreight arrives. The Kit consists of basic kitchen and dining supplies, linens, and an iron and ironing board. As you pack your airfreight, keep in mind that household effects often take several months to arrive.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 4/29/2004 9:55 AM

All houses have hot and cold running water. Water shortages do occur, so each house has a water storage tank. Electric current is 220v, 50 cycle. Power rationing is rarely required. Outages have become less common but do occur from time to time and sometimes last for several hours. All homes have diesel-powered generators. The inconvenience and noise of the generators should be considered a factor in post’s living conditions.

Up to five transformers are furnished at each government-furnished housing unit. Bring voltage regulators/stabilizers for expensive electrical items (e.g., audio and video equipment, etc.). Both a voltage regulator and a UPS are strongly recommended for computers. Electric fittings are British three pin, some round and some flat. Adapters are available locally. Screw type and bayonet light bulbs are usually stocked at the commissary or are available locally. Have tape recorders and turntables adjusted for 50-cycle current. Battery-powered or windup clocks are the most practical due to power outages. When buying new appliances, choose 220v/240v equipment. Computer equipment, television sets, radios and stereos must be kept in air-conditioned rooms to prevent deterioration.

Food Last Updated: 10/11/2004 8:59 AM

Mission members rely on the local market for their fresh produce, seafood, poultry and eggs, meat, and a few other staples. Familiar American brands are increasingly available, though with some patience comparable items can be found for substitution. With some exceptions (such as some vegetables), prices are generally higher than U.S. prices. Common vegetables are cabbage, carrot, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, green pepper, lettuce, okra, onion, potato, squash, string beans, and tomatoes. Plantain, yams, potatoes, and several varieties of starchy tubers are on the market year round. Some excellent fruits are available year round or seasonally: avocado, banana, grapefruit, lemon, mango, orange, papaya, pineapple, and watermelon.

Two well-stocked supermarkets have opened in recent years and have a wide selection of staples, fresh produce, meats, personal care and cleaning products. There are poultry, meat and fish markets in Accra as well as specialty foods, wines and spirits.

The American Employees’ Association (AEA) runs the Mission commissary. Commissary membership is open to all U.S. Official Mission personnel; a monthly fee of $5.00 is assessed. Purchases are paid by U.S. bank check.

The commissary stocks a variety of staples, including canned, frozen, and packaged foods; UHT and powdered milk; condiments; paper and cleaning products; soft drinks, ginger ale, tonic, U.S. and local beer, imported wine and liquor. Pet food is not sold, so if you have a pet, ship a good supply. Baby food and products are not stocked in the commissary; include it in your surface shipment. Ordering from ELSO has improved commissary prices as well as the variety of goods. The commissary will also place special orders for members.

Commissary members may place orders with several dry and frozen food orders yearly. An additional charge for shipping and handling is added. Some Mission personnel also use Internet web sites for buying dry goods, diapers, pet foods or other items that can be sent through the pouch. During the first year at post it is possible to have freight costs covered under your consumables allowance. Most personnel use their consumables allowance to ship large supplies of paper products, cleaning supplies, toiletries, canned goods, personal care products, and specialty items they may want while at post.

Some Mission personnel occasionally have vegetable gardens. Certain seeds are available locally (e.g., cabbage, eggplant, okra, onion, hot pepper, and tomato), and some imported American seeds do well in Accra with amended soil (e.g., lettuce, field peas, tomatoes, watermelon, lima beans, green peppers, and herbs such as basil, dill, parsley, thyme, and rosemary).

The Government of Ghana runs one diplomatic shop in Accra and foreign currency shops in several cities. Prices in the diplomatic shop are generally comparable to or better than those in the commissary, but the availability of goods is unpredictable.

Local beer is good, imported wine and popular drinks such as Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite are available locally.

Clothing Last Updated: 4/29/2004 10:02 AM

Lightweight summer clothing is appropriate year round. Bring a good supply for all family members; underwear, clothes, and shoes wear out quickly and good quality clothing is unavailable in Ghana. Cottons and cotton blends are recommended; fabrics that must be drycleaned are not. For the occasional cool evening, a light jacket, sweater, or shawl will suffice. An umbrella is essential during the rainy seasons. A few people find light raincoats useful, but they are not necessary. Swimsuits are a must and sun hats are useful. Local tailors and dressmakers can make everyday clothes reasonably well and at good prices. Western-style fabric selections are fair, but African-style prints are plentiful. Many Americans shop by mail order. The Community Liaison Office (CLO) has a large library of catalogs.

Men Last Updated: 4/29/2004 10:03 AM

In the office and at informal events, men wear business suits, “safari suits,” or short-sleeved dress shirts and ties. Senior officers need at least two dark suits for evening and important daytime functions. Dark suits are also expected at national days. All types of shoes and sandals are worn. Hats are rarely worn except at the beach, on the golf course, and on the baseball field.

The dress code is most often “smart casual”, business suit or national dress. Formal clothes are used infrequently, except for the annual Marine Corps Ball and an occasional Ghanaian event.

Women Last Updated: 4/29/2004 10:03 AM

In the office and at most social events, women wear dresses, blouses and skirts, or lightweight suits. At informal evening functions, women sometimes wear dresses or skirts, or tunics over slacks, though short dresses are acceptable. All sleeve lengths are acceptable. Senior officers and spouses of senior officers may need a few dressy gowns for more formal functions. For other women, one or two dressy gowns will suffice. Most women prefer low, open footwear. Stockings are worn by few American women in Accra and are not considered necessary even at formal functions.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 4/29/2004 10:03 AM

Some essential nonfood items (such as cleaning and personal care products, adhesives, film, and audio and videocassettes) are available at the commissary or on the local market. Availability of these products is constantly improving and prices are varied. Most Americans ship a supply of such items to post or order them periodically from the U.S.

Some items are harder to get here and should be shipped. These include hobby supplies, sports equipment, beach and camping gear (ice chests and barbecue grills are particularly useful), shower curtains, dehumidifiers, anti-mildew preparations, lightweight blankets for air-conditioned bedrooms, baby supplies (diapers, clothing, food, and medications), toys, school supplies, and special-sized batteries, such as camera batteries.

Basic Services Last Updated: 4/29/2004 10:49 AM

Local tailoring and dressmaking are reasonably priced, but the quality of workmanship varies. Drycleaning is available at the commissary with moderate to high prices. There are other outlets available with varied prices including the local hotels. Shoe repair facilities are basic and inadequate. Film and developing and printing facilities are available in Accra. Some Mission members use mail service to develop their film in the U.S. Barber and beauty shop prices are less than those in the U.S. and facilities are adequate. A full range of beauty treatments (i.e., pedicure, manicure, massage, sauna, etc.) is available at reasonable prices.

Some stereos, radios, TVs and computers can be repaired locally. However, spare parts are scarce and expensive. Parts are generally ordered from abroad. Computer supplies are available, but quality varies and prices are high. Mission members bring extra computer supplies or order through the mail.

For information on car repair facilities, see Transportation.

The availability of a range of books is increasing with varied costs. The bookshop at the University of Ghana at Legon (just outside Accra) has an extensive selection of pocket books, especially African fiction, at prices equivalent to or lower than those in the U.S. Public Affairs and the British Council have libraries that anyone can join. Some people join one or more book clubs in the U.S or order through the Internet. The CLO office has a collection of paperback books for borrowing and there are various outlets throughout Accra where you may find a bargain in used books.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 4/29/2004 10:50 AM

Domestic help is readily available. Most Americans employ at least one domestic. Those with representational responsibilities or children usually employ two or more. Those living in houses may also hire a gardener. A 24-hour guard is posted at every residence. Often, the best way to get good help is to hire someone who worked for a departing Embassy family. The CLO keeps a list of people looking for domestic staff positions.

The following types of domestics are available: cook/steward or housemaid (performs all household duties), cooks, stewards, nannies, gardeners, guards and drivers. The salary range is $75–$90 per month for a 5- or 6-day week, less for part-time work. Unfurnished servants’ quarters are located in the homes. Employers usually provide at least one or two uniforms per tour, and many pay medical expenses. A bonus of 1 month’s salary is normally given at Christmas. A “dash” (tip) is usually paid on special occasions and for extra duty.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 4/29/2004 10:51 AM

Christians have no difficulty finding a church of their denomination. Churches in Accra include Anglican, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist and Quakers. The Church of the Latter Day Saints has opened a beautiful Mormon Temple on Independence Avenue in Accra. The Moslem Mosque is located in Korle-Bu. Currently there are no synagogues available. However, there are informal gatherings in peoples’ homes.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 4/29/2004 10:52 AM
The Lincoln Community School is a chartered private, coeducational American school that offers educational programs from pre-kindergarten (age 4) through grade 12 for students of U.S. diplomatic mission families and others who desire an American education. It is a Department of State-supported school. The Director is American and there are 44 instructors, most of whom are U.S. or U.K. certified. Enrollment at the beginning of the 2002–2003 school year was 416 students from 42 different countries. Approximately 24% of the students are U.S. citizens.

The curriculum matches U.S. standard public elementary, junior high, and high schools using American textbooks and teaching materials. The school, established in 1968, is located in a residential area of Accra. School facilities include 28 classrooms, a visual and performing arts center, 2 state-of-the-art science laboratories, a counseling center and administrative offices. The library has modern computer equipment including Internet accessibility via a radio link. A multipurpose hall contains a large gymnasium, a stage and dressing room facilties. Playground space includes two grassy playing fields with recreational apparatus and a large playground with a multipurpose court. There is no cafeteria facility so lunch boxes or small coolers and water bottles are necessary; however, a lunch is offered each day, prepared through a local restaurant. Each classroom has a refrigerator to keep students’ lunches cool. Extracurricular activities include PM Academy, offered through the school each marking period. Students sign up for various activities offered that term. Additionally, basketball, soccer, and taekwondo are available.

The Ghana International School (GIS) offers a British curriculum from the nursery level (3 years) through grade 12 and beyond, for those interested in studying for the British “A” -level exams. GIS offers an extensive extracurricular after-school program for the upper form (high school). Activities include a computer club, aerobics, swimming, a yearbook, a school newspaper, drama club, wilderness club, and art club. Libraries are small. Graduates from GIS have achieved good SAT scores and have been accepted at competitive American universities.

Away From Post Last Updated: 4/29/2004 10:52 AM
An “Away From Post” education allowance is authorized for children in kindergarten through grades 12.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 10/11/2004 9:21 AM

Mission personnel play softball, volleyball, tennis and golf. Ghanaians like sports and play most of the above. Commercial recreational facilities around Accra include an 18-hole golf course at Achimota (on the outskirts of town); a 9-hole course at Tema (30-minute drive from Accra), several tennis facilities, aerobic exercise and workout facilities for members and non members as well as a variety of sports clubs. Horses can be boarded at the Accra Polo Club and at Burma Camp.

Currently, the compound at BudField has a swimming pool, tennis court, volleyball court, and a large playing field open to all Mission employees. Softball and soccer are played regularly on weekends. However, a new embassy compound (NEC) project starts winter 2004 which will discontinue use of these facilities. Alternate facilities are being reviewed. The embassy gym has been permanently relocated to the GOIL House adhacent to the Budfield complex until the NEC is completed.

Many beaches can be found around the city and along the coast, but the undertow can be dangerous. It is not wise to swim alone. Boating and sailing are practical only at Ada, a 90-minute drive east of Accra, at the mouth of the Volta River. Swimming in any freshwater area is unsafe due to the presence of schistosomiasis (bilharzia), a serious parasitic disease.

Bush fowl are hunted a few kilometers from Accra. Bigger game, such as antelope and bush buck, are found in the northern region 500 kilometers away and in neighboring Burkina Faso. Hunting licenses must be purchased each year for the season (December to August). Chief of Mission approval is required for Mission personnel to bring firearms into Ghana. Mission policy is to discourage importation of firearms. Surf and boat fishing are possible along the coast and Ada. No license is required for fishing.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 4/29/2004 10:59 AM

Places of interest in Accra include Independence Square, which is used for ceremonial events; the National Museum, which houses a collection of Ghanaian and African cultural and historical artifacts; and the Makola Market, where hundreds of merchants carry on traditional commerce. Accra also has a small zoo and several parks, but they are in poor shape. There are local handicrafts, artifacts, African art, clothing, kente cloth, carved stools, beads, jewelry, drums, brass, leather and various other locally made handicrafts available at the Arts Centre Market and the African Market.

Several enjoyable day trips can be made in the Accra area. The beaches are popular, as is the 19th-century botanical garden in the Aburi hills, a 40-minute drive from Accra. Just 110 kilometers northeast of Accra is Akosombo Dam on the Volta River. Tours of the dam can be easily arranged. The many colonial forts and castles along the coast are not to be missed. One of the best is Elmina Castle, 2 hours west of Accra, where guided tours are held daily.

Trips farther afield are possible, but require some planning because roads are rough and tourist facilities are limited and usually of poor quality. Pack food, water, and sanitary supplies, and take a good first-aid kit, a spare tire, and even emergency spare parts for your car. You may also want to take sheets and towels.

Kumasi, capital of the Ashanti region, is a 3½ hour drive northwest of Accra. It is the site of the National Cultural Center, where artisans make traditional Ghanaian cloth, woodcarvings, and brass weights. On Saturdays, the Center schedules music and dance performances.

Ho, about 3 hours from Accra in the Volta region, has a large market. Not far from Ho are the Wli Falls.

The adventurous may want to travel farther afield. Tourist facilities are less than satisfactory outside the main cities, but you will see a different way of life and find that Ghanaians are friendly and hospitable. Overland travel is rough and slow. It is possible to go to a few larger towns (Kumasi, Cape Coast, Sekondi-Takoradi, and Tamale) and rent a car with driver once you arrive.

Lome, the capital of neighboring Togo, is a 2½ hour drive from Accra. It has good hotels and restaurants, and is popular for weekend trips. Côte d’Ivoire’s capital city, Abidjan, is an 8-hour drive from Accra.

Photography buffs will find a wealth of interesting subject matter here. Ghanaians are generally happy to have their pictures taken, but ask permission first. You are not allowed to take any photographs of government buildings or castles. Be cautious when taking photographs in Accra.

The designated R & R point is London.

Entertainment Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:01 AM

There are a few cinemas in Accra. The venue is mostly Ghanaian and foreign films. The Marine House shows movies once or twice a month. Public Affairs and the British, German and French cultural centers occasionally show films. Many Embassy personnel watch movies on video recorders or DVD players. VHS tapes as well as DVDs can also be rented from local video centers. (Bring multisystem [PAL/NTSC], multispeed equipment — see Radio and TV).

There are a variety of nightclubs in Accra and they feature a wide range of music including jazz, disco, contemporary, highlife and live bands.

Music, drama, and dance performances are scheduled frequently by the Cultural Center, the University of Ghana, several other Ghanaian organizations, and a few foreign missions. Several popular clubs feature traditional music or dance groups as well as Western-style bands.

Restaurants are numerous in and around the Accra area. You will find a variety of Chinese, Lebanese, Italian, French, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, German, Mexican, and Ghanaian restaurants to choose from. Prices range from moderate to expensive.

Food servers in the casual drinking bars or “chop bars” (which serve Ghanaian dishes) don’t expect tips, but they appreciate them. Some restaurants add a service charge of 15% to the bill, which most Ghanaians consider an adequate tip. Few published sources of general information exist, so most people rely heavily on word-of-mouth for news on everything from where to shop to where to stay when traveling outside Accra.

Many traditional festivals are held during the year with colorful parades, dancing, and drumming. The festivals sometimes are built around a “durbar” in which the paramount chief sits in state to receive his chiefs, distinguished guests, and the homage of his people. Visitors are welcome on these occasions. Picture-taking is welcome, but request permission first.

Social Activities Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:01 AM

Accra is an informal city where friendships are formed easily. A good deal of casual entertaining is done within the American community as well as among Ghanaians, and people of other nationalities. Dinner parties are common. Other activities include cocktail parties, luncheons, beach picnics, and dart leagues.

The North American Women’s Association of Accra is open to American and Canadian women and women married to Americans and Canadians. The Ghana International Women’s Club is open to all nationalities, but membership is limited. Both clubs hold monthly meetings and sponsor social, cultural, and fundraising activities throughout the year.

There are many other organizations such as the British Women’s Association (BWA), Caledonia Society of Ghana, Canadian Business Association-Ghana, Ghana Bead Society, Ghana Muslim Women’s Association (GIMWA) and the International Players to name a few.

Official Functions Last Updated: 10/8/2003 9:26 AM

The diplomatic community in Accra entertains frequently. Attendance at national day receptions is often required of the top two or three Embassy officers and heads of U.S. agencies. The largest event is the Independence Day Celebration on July 4 in which all American mission staff and spouses attend along with invited guests from the Ghanaian government, diplomatic corps, local businesses, religious bodies and media professionals.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:03 AM

Calling/business cards are recommended for officers, as well as printed invitations. Order business cards in the U.S. for better quality. Local printing is acceptable for both raised lettering and gold seal, but the service is slow. Check with the appropriate agency to determine wording and necessary quantities.

Personal Security. While Ghana may appear to be a very peaceful and friendly place, it is not a nation devoid of political and economic problems, and one should exercise caution in daily activities. Americans traveling in Ghana should remember that they are in a high-crime environment and that the most effective means of protecting themselves and their property is the liberal use of common sense reinforced with a high state of security awareness.

Pickpocketing, purse snatching, and scams are the most common forms of crime confronted by visitors. Crowded market areas, beaches, parks, and tourist attractions are areas that are prone to this type of activity. Carrying large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewelry is strongly discouraged. Men should keep their wallets in a front pocket. Women should be extremely careful when carrying a purse or a handbag. In the past few years, there have been numerous drive-by purse snatchings in Accra. Purses should be tucked under the arm and not carried with the straps over the shoulder or around the neck. It is not recommended that credit cards or bank cards be used due to increasing fraud.

Practice good security procedures at home and while away. Doors and windows should be locked at all times. While driving, keep doors and windows locked. Criminals have been known to reach into vehicles while they are stopped at busy intersections. Cars should always be parked in well-lit, secure parking lots. Avoid driving outside large urban areas after dark. Police coverage on rural roads is scant and poor road conditions and lack of sufficient lighting combine to make driving conditions dangerous.

Report all crimes and suspicious incidents in which you have been involved to the Regional Security Officer or to the Marine Security Guard at Post 1.

FYI: Post 1 is manned 24-hours daily and will assist you in reaching the RSO during an emergency.

Special Information Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:04 AM

Post Orientation Program

On arrival at post, you will receive an information kit and basic briefings in key sections. A Mission-wide orientation program is scheduled periodically to familiarize new personnel and their spouses with post operations, with briefings by section heads. The CLO office is instrumental in providing welcome pamphlets and an insiders guide to Accra as well as local maps and current area happenings.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 10/11/2004 9:16 AM

Due to the “Fly America” policy, official transportation is booked via U.S. carriers across the north Atlantic connecting with flights daily to Accra from London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Zurich, or Geneva. Most official travel between the U.S. and Ghana is via Northwest/ KLM, United/Lufthansa or American/British Airways which have “code share” agreements. Official travelers are met at the airport and assisted through customs. Notify the post of your flight number and arrival time; avoid arriving on a holiday.

Household effects take 2 to 4 months to arrive, and unaccompanied airfreight about 3 weeks. The post supplies a Hospitality Kit that includes basic cooking and dining equipment, bed and bath linens, and an iron and ironing board, but essentials should be sent by air. Most people find it useful to pack kitchen, dining room, bedroom, and bathroom supplies as well as extra clothing, toys, a radio, a CD player or cassette player, hobby, sports, and beach/picnic gear including ice chest and blue ice. Bring 12 passport-sized photographs and 6 visa-sized photographs of each family member for identity cards, drivers licenses, and visas.

All freight should be well-packed, waterproofed, and banded to protect against rough handling and tropical conditions. Full commercial insurance is strongly recommended. When shipping a POV, remove all loose items from the vehicle including first aid kits, tools, glove compartment items, etc. before shipping. Do not pack them in the trunk of the car. Pilferage occurs from time to time.

Address all personal effects to:

American Ambassador
American Embassy
P.O. Box 194
Accra, Ghana

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 10/8/2003 9:43 AM

All diplomatic personnel assigned to Ghana are entitled to duty-free importation of articles for personal use throughout their tour. Nondiplomatic, administrative, and technical staff are entitled to duty-free importation of articles for personal use during their first 6 months at post. Allowable shipments include airfreight, POV(s), and HHE. Consumable shipments are also allowed to post in accordance with applicable Department of State rules. Limits are set on the exportation of Ghanaian currency, but none on the importation of dollars, whether in currency or travelers checks.

Check the Department of State website at for the most current information related to customs and duties.

Passage Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:07 AM

To enter Ghana, all U.S. citizens must have a valid visa and an international certificate of vaccination showing inoculation against yellow fever. The Embassy will obtain a multiple entry visa after your arrival if the initial visa is single entry. Visas are required for Côte d’Ivoire, Togo and Burkina Faso and advance visas are required for travel to other West African countries.

Check the Department of State website at for the most current information.

Pets Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:07 AM

Pets must have a recent certificate of vaccination against rabies and a certificate of good health signed by a veterinarian not more than 10 days before arrival. If the certificate does not have a block that can be checked to clear the pet for international travel, the words “international health certificate” must be typed onto the form itself. Notify the embassy well in advance if you plan to ship a pet. Fax copies of your pets’medical credentials to the post GSO as soon as you have them in hand. Except under the most unusual conditions, your pets should arrive with you on the same flight and be checked baggage. Should the pets be shipped by airfreight, they must be processed through customs and animal control at a remote location of the airport where clearance procedures are much more stringent and very time-consuming. Several veterinarians practice in Accra. Rabies is prevalent in Ghana; however, the local vets can administer the vaccine.

Check the Department of State website at for the most current information.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:08 AM

The Chief of Mission may authorize the importation or acquisition of personal firearms and ammunition by Mission personnel. However, it is post policy to strongly discourage the importation of weapons to Ghana by Mission personnel for personal use. Any employee who wishes to import or locally purchase any firearm must forward a written request to the Chief of Mission through the RSO. Such permission must be secured prior to the employee’s arrival at post or local purchase and will be granted only in exceptional circumstances. Ghanaian law specifies that only single shot firearms, manually cycled repeating firearms (revolvers, bolt or pump action) and semiautomatic firearms can be imported. Fully automatic firearms are strictly prohibited. Any firearm imported without Chief of Mission approval must be turned over to the Regional Security Officer until departure from post.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 10/11/2004 9:12 AM

The unit of currency used in Ghana is the cedi. Currency notes are available in denominations of 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, and 1,000. Also available are 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, and 10 cedi coins.

The exchange rate as of October 2004 was 9,000 cedis = US$1.

Official personnel may purchase cedis or request for U.S. dollars daily up to a limit of $1,500 or weekly up to a limit of $2,500 from Standard Chartered Bank which maintains a location at the Chancery Monday through Friday with limited hours. U.S. dollar personal checks drawn on a U.S. bank with a minimum value of $50 can also be used to purchase cedis, U.S. dollars, or other major convertible currencies from the Standard Chartered Bank or at licensed foreign exchange bureaus. Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted, but can be cashed at the Standard Chartered Bank or at some foreign exchange bureau for a reduced rate.

Credit cards are not widely accepted, except at some major hotels and restaurants. Bank cards for ATM withdrawals or payment for goods are strongly discouraged due to increasing fraud and misuse. ATM disbursements are in local currency so one must have a cedi account.

Foreign currency exchange bureaus are available in Accra. It is wise to consult with several forex bureaus as exchange rates vary. All the major banks and the larger hotels will cash traveler’s checks.

Ghana changed to the metric system officially in 1975, but it is not in universal use. Many items continue to be measured in the British customary system.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:13 AM

A Ghanaian drivers license is mandatory for operating a motor vehicle in Ghana. To obtain a Ghanaian license, you must provide to the GSO section a copy of your valid U.S. drivers license and five current visa-sized photographs. An international drivers license is recommended for anyone who intends to travel outside of Ghana. To obtain an international drivers license, you must provide the GSO section with a completed form accompanied by two passport-sized photos. You may also obtain an international drivers license through AAA prior to departing for post; forms are available at the Overseas Briefing Center at FSI. If you have a valid international drivers license that was obtained outside Ghana, it can be used temporarily while your Ghanaian license is being processed.

Locally procured third-party liability insurance is required by law and covers only damage to a second party’s car and its occupants. This coverage is good only in Ghana and payment is limited; the present minimum is 10,000,000.00 cedis and costs approximately $60 per year at 2003 exchange rates. Higher coverage can be obtained on request. Temporary third-party liability for travel to neighboring countries is locally available through the GSO at reasonable rates. Driving conditions are hazardous due to poorly maintained roads and vehicles. Mission personnel are strongly urged to secure more comprehensive international coverage, particularly collision and comprehensive coverage, through a U.S. insurance company.

Upon departure, employees can sell their vehicles to other persons with diplomatic status or sell on the open market. Sales to nondiplomatic personnel will require the purchaser to pay import duties. Import duties are based on the value of the vehicle and its engine capacity; smaller engines attract lower rates of import duty, as bigger engines attract higher rates ranging from 10%–100%. The Ghanaian Government confiscates vehicles over 10 years old as of date of importation into Ghana.

Other personal property can be sold locally upon departure after submitting Department standard clearance forms to the Administrative Office.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:16 AM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

The standard history of Ghana is W.E.F. Ward’s A History of the Gold Coast. Those interested in Ashanti history and customs may refer to works by K. A. Busia, R.S. Rattray, and Eva E. R. Mayerowitz. Perhaps the best account of more recent political events is Politics in Ghana, 1946-1960, by Dennis Austin. A book dealing with the same general period is David Apter’s Ghana in Transition. Forts and Castles of Ghana, by Albert van Dantzig, is an interesting description of castles built by European colonial powers along the Gold Coast. Peggy Appiah, Efua Sutherland, Ama Ata Aidoo and Ayi Kwei Armah are Ghanaian novelists of repute. The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, by Ayi Kwei Armah, is a novel which gives a vivid picture of present day urban life in Ghana.

General Interest
Addae, Dr. Stephen. The History of Western Medicine in Ghana.

Assimeng, Max. Social Structure of Ghana.

Barker, Peter. Operation Cold Chop.

Bouret, F.M. Ghana, The Road to Independence 1919–1957.

Bretton, Henry. The Rise and Fall of Kwame Nkrumah: A Study of Personal Rule in Africa.

Crowder, Michael. West Africa, An Introduction to Its History.

Fitch, Robert and Mary Oppenheimer. Ghana, End of an Illusion.

Lystad, Robert A. The Ashanti: A Proud People.

Mahoney, Richard D. J.F.K.: Ordeal in Africa.

Markowitz, I. Ghana Without Nkrumah: The Winter of Discontent.

McLeod, David. The Ashanti.

Moxon, James. Volta, Man’s Greatest Lake.

Nugent, Paul. Big Man, Small Boys, and Politics in Ghana.

Opoku, A.A. Festivals of Ghana.

Page, John D. Ghana: A Historical Interpretation.

Ray, Donald. Ghana’s Politics, Economics, and Society.

Thompson, W. Scott. Ghana’s Foreign Policy, 1957–1966 (a standard work).

Local Holidays Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:17 AM

In addition to U.S. Government holidays, the Mission observes the following Ghanaian holidays:

New Year’s Day January 1
Eid-Il-Adha Variable
Independence Day March 6
Eid-Il-Fitr Variable
Good Friday Variable(April/May)
Easter Monday Variable (April/May)
May Day May 1
Republic Day July 1
Farmer’s Day Variable (December)
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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