Ghanaian immigration

2011-02-14 12:20:28

Most Ghanaians came to the United States and Canada after independence in 1957, seeking education and business opportunities. In the U.S. census of 2000 and the Canadian census of 2001, 49,944 Americans and 16,935 Canadians claimed Ghanaian descent. The largest concentrations of American Ghanaians lived in Washington, D.C., New York City, Baltimore, Chicago, and Boston. About twothirds of Canadian Ghanaians lived in Toronto.
Ghana occupies 88,700 square miles of the southern coast of West Africa between 5 and 12 degrees north latitude. Burkina Faso forms its border to the north; Togo, to the east; and the Ivory Coast, to the west. Ghana is composed mainly of plains. Lake Volta occupies much of the southeastern portion of the country. In 2002, Ghana’s population was estimated at 19,894,014, with nearly 2 million in the capital of Accra. The people were divided into many ethnic groups, including the Akan (44 percent), the Moshi-Dagomba (16 percent), the Ewe (13 percent), and the Ga (8 percent). Ghana was also religiously divided, with 30 percent Muslims, 24 percent Christians, and 38 percent practicing indigenous beliefs. Named for an African empire that had flourished along the Niger River (400–1240), Ghana became linked to the triangular trade with Europe and the Americas during the 17th and 18th centuries that brought more than 10 million slaves to the New World, most to the Caribbean sugar islands and Brazil. In 1874, Britain defeated the most powerful of the local tribes, the Asante, establishing a dominant political presence in the region it called the Gold Coast. Ghana became independent in 1957, but its first 40 years of independence were marked by political instability. The first president, Kwame Nkrumah, built hospitals and schools and promoted development projects such as the Volta River hydroelectric and aluminum plants but also ran the country into debt, jailed opponents, and established a oneparty socialist state. He was overthrown in 1966 by a police-army coup that expelled Chinese and East German teachers and technicians. Elections were held in 1969, but four further coups occurred in 1972, 1978, 1979, and 1981. The 1979 and 1981 coups, led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, were followed by suspension of the constitution and banning of political parties. A new constitution, allowing multiparty politics, was approved in April 1992. In 1993, more than 1,000 people were killed in ethnic clashes in northern Ghana. Kofi Annan, a career United Nations (UN) diplomat from Ghana, became UN secretary general on January 1, 1997.
Millions of Americans are descended from slaves who were brought from the Gold Coast between the 17th and early 19th centuries, though it is impossible to say exactly how many came from the present-day country of Ghana (see African forced migration; slavery). During the 20th century, a handful of Ghanaian students were educated in the United States, including Nkrumah. During the 1960s the Ghanaian government awarded scholarships for advanced study in the United States and the Soviet Union, with many of the students staying on in the United States. This formed the basis for a small program of family reunification as the political and economic turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s worsened. In 1995, remittances to Ghana were estimated at $300 million. Ghana is fourth among the sub-Saharan African countries as a source country for immigration—behind Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa—averaging more than 4,000 annually between 1995 and 2002.
Ghanaian immigration to Canada was inconsequential until the 1990s. Of 16,985 immigrants residing in Canada in 2001, only 215 came before 1971. Immigration increased to about 1,500 in the 1970s and about 3,700 in the 1980s. Between 1991 and 2001, however, almost 11,000 Ghanaians entered Canada, most for educational and economic opportunities. Little study has yet been done on their community, but indicators suggest that it is likely to grow.