The Akans of Ghana West Africa


Kyeremateng, K.N., (1996). The Akans of Ghana their History & Culture. Sebewie Publishers. 

Flag Colors: 

“The colors bear the following message: Red represents the blood of the nation’s freedom fighters. Green represents the rich forest; Gold represents the mineral resources as well as the nobility of the Ghanaian character, and the Black Star represents the lodestar of the emancipation of the black man” (K. N. Kyeremateng, 1996). 

The logo of Ghana: 

“The symbol challenges citizens to defend freedom and justice” (K.N. Kyeremateng, 1996). 

Some interesting history from

Medieval Ghana is about 500 miles north of present day Ghana and it occupied the area between the Senegal and Niger rivers.

Some inhabitants of present Ghana had ancestors linked with the medieval Ghana. This can be traced down to the Mande and Voltaic people of Northern Ghana–Mamprussi, Dagomba and the Gonja.

Prior to 1957 Ghana was known as the Gold Coast.  The Portuguese people that came to Ghana changed it’s name to Mina (which means mine) because of their claim to the vast quantities of gold they discovered between the Volta and Ankobra rivers.  The Portuguese were followed by the French, English and Dutch all in search of it’s riches. 


The Republic of Ghana lies on the West Coast of Africa, bounded on the West by Cote d’Ivoire, on the East by the Republic of Togo, on the North Burkina Faso, with the Atlantic Ocean washing its Southern shores in the Gulf of Guinea. Ghana’s land area [238,533 square kilometers] extends between latitude 4.5 degree N and 11.5 degrees N. The longest distance from south to north is 672 km. and 527 km from east to west (K.N. Kyeremateng, 1996). 

*Approximately the size of Oregon. 


Ghana, not far from the Equator, has a climate which is tropical, generally. Over the whole country the mean monthly temperature never falls below 25 C [77 F]. The hottest month of the year is March, just before the rainy season, while August is the coolest month. 


Tropical Rain Forest & Forest Vegetation. 

Accra plains have scrub and mostly savanna grass. 

(K.N. Kyeremateng, 1996) 


The pattern of human organization in Ghana starts with the smallest unit, the family, through the clan, to the tribe, the ethnic group, the city state and culminates in the nation. In Akan traditional society the extended family is stressed, at the expense of the nuclear. Marriage, considered the basis of the preservation of family heritage, unites two clans, instead of just two individuals as in other cultures. The matrilineal system of inheritance makes issues of a marriage more inclined to the mother and her clan, defined as a social group with a common ancestress. The term tribe covers people of different clan backgrounds who form communities. When tribes come together an ethnic group is formed. 

Demographics of Ghanaians in the USA

Total Population: 65,570 

Naturalized US Citizens: 20,665 

Entered US 1990-2000-4,210 

Entered US 1980-1989-8,945 

Entered US before 1980-7,505 


Not a U.S. Citizen: 44,915 

Entered US 1990-2000-35,475 

Entered US 1980-1989-7,015 

Entered US before 1980-2,430 




Under 5 years-660 

5-9 years old-1250 

10-14 years old-2265 

15-19 years old-3270 

20-24 years old-4885 

25-34years old-16680 

34-44years old-19765 

45-54 years old-12100 

55-59 years old-2330 

60-64 years old-1340 

65-74 years old-740 

75-84 years old -220 

85 years and over-75 

School Enrollment: Population 3 years and older  

Nursery School/Preschool-225 


Elementary School [1-8]-2990 

High School [9-12]-3465 

College or Graduate School-11445 

[US. Census, 2000]

There are many different Ethnic Groups throughout West Africa and there are many different languages, but there are so many dialects per one language. 

This map shows just how many different languages/ethnicities there are throughout Ghana. 


There are  9 languages that are spoken in Ghana & that are government sponsored. However; there are MANY different dialects throughout, but are not as common as the following:(F. Badu, Personal Communication) 

Believe it or not English is the official language, but used more for in business/professional circumstances. 

Each tribe has there own language, and like the US, Ghana, is made up of all different cultures and different languages throughout (F. Boateng, 2009). 

Twi & Fanti are spoken by the Akan tribes- and are the most common throughout the country of Ghana. 

In Philology Twi is classified among the Volta-Comoe languages which might have been the language of negroes of the Niger bend. Twi happens to be the chief native language of Ghana, with many mutually intelligible dialects qualified by the various speakers, like Akuapem Twi, Asante Twi, and Fante. Dr. C.A. Akrofi made the following observations about the dialects: “Asante is the strongest; Akyem is the purest, most elegant and most central, and Fantehast he largest subdivisions.”(K.N. Kyeremateng, 1996) 

Dagani-this language is spoken in the Northern Regions of Ghana. (Wikipedia) 

Ewe-This language is spoken by over 2 million people in the Volta-Region of South-east Ghana. This language is also spoken in Togo. (Wikipedia) 

Ga- “It is very closely related to Adangme, and together they form the Ga-Dangme branch within Kwa. Ga is spoken in south-eastern Ghana, in and around the capital Accra (Wikipedia). 

Dangme [^see above]  

Dagaare-is the language spoken throughout the Upper Western region of Ghana (Wikipedia). 

Gonja-is spoken in the Northern Region of Ghana (Wikipedia). 

Kasem-is the language spoken in the Upper Eastern region of Ghana 

Nzema-Is the language spoken in the Western Region of Ghana, but also spoken on the Ivory Coast 


Ghana is considered a developing country.  However, due to rich supply of natural resources, it has twice the per capita output of the poorer countries of West Africa.  Its economy relies most heavily on agriculture, which accounts for 37.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) as of 2007, and provides jobs for 56% of the working population.  Ghana is the 2nd largest producer of cocoa in the world and one of the leading exporters of cocoa (including to the U.S.).  Ghana also exports timber, diamonds, bauxite,

Sunyani Cocoa House

 manganese, and electricity.  Since colonial times, Ghana has also been known for its rich supply of gold, and has remained one of top producers of gold in the world.  Ghana also is home to the Akosombo Dam, which sits on the Volta River and provides hydroelectricity for Ghana and nearby countries.

 Despite the wealth of natural resources, Ghana continues to remain dependent on trade and international assistance.  About 28% of the population lives below the poverty line, which sits at US$1.25 a day.  Most of these people are women who are politically marginalized, or live in the upper or northern regions of the country.  Rural communities are typically poorer than urban areas, and people there are less likely to achieve the same level of education as in the cities, due to the inability to pay for school. 

 Out of the 11.5 million people who are part of the workforce, the majority are landowners who work on farms and sell their crops.  Many women will take their crop yields to the larger cities to sell them in marketplaces.  Manufacturing only makes up only 7.9% of the GDP (as of 2007), and doesn’t account for as many people in the workforce (wikipedia). 

Asante Tribe [British call it Ashanti Tribe]and Fanti [Make up Akan]

[We will focus on this Tribe [Akan]]

Kyeremateng, K.N., (1996). The Akans of Ghana their History & Culture. Sebewie Publishers.

Who are the Akans?

3 Regions: Asante, Bono-Ahafo, and Central 

Mostly in the Western and Ethnic Regions 

The traditional Akan person, apart from his comeliness, is known for bravery.  He frowns on sycophancy not only as disgraceful but ignoble and immoral. Akan society, therefore, esteems and honors its sons and daughters who exhibit bravery, like Tweneboa Kodua and Yaa Asantewaa whose names are inscribed in letters of gold Asante History. 

The national character of the Akan, too, portrays love for freedom, self-rule, and independence from foreign rule, otherwise they would not abandon their original home in ancient Ghana. “The love of freedom brought them to modern Ghana.” The foregoing traits were on show even in the New World where Akan slaves were known to lead the insurrections against their task masters. 

The term Akan has been subjected to many interpretations of late. Even without traditional support, there are people who would derive the term from the Twi word Kan[e] [First or foremost] to imply that Akan were the first people [aborigines] of Ghana. From this perspective there are people who would stretch it to make it smack of a superiority complex ( K. N. Kyeremateng, 1996). 


How life Began?

Akan have a different view of how life began, not like the Hebrew version of Adam and Eve. 

Akan tradition has it that the first man and women descended from heaven, and as to how they multiplied, an Asante myth has it that the first man and woman were taught how to procreate by a python which lived in the Bosomuru river. Akans conceive procreation as the mixing of a woman’s blood with the man’s spirit/semen during sexual intercourse.  It is an act which ensures that people will always be available to tend ancestral shrines. Any marriage, therefore, which is not blessed with children is not much esteemed. ( K. N. Kyeremateng, 1996). 


As of 2009, the religions of Ghana were as follows:  68.8% Christian (including Protestant, Protestant-Pentacostal, and Roman Catholic), 15.9% Muslim (mostly Sunni), and 8.5% Traditional African beliefs.  The majority of Muslims in Ghana are found in the northern region, while the majority of Christians are found in the southern regions.  Within the Akan region, the majority of people are Christian (mostly Roman Catholic).  The Muslim population in this region is small. 







The percentage of Christians in Ghana has increased considerably since the 1980s, while the percentage of those that practice the traditional religion has decreased.  However, the traditional religious beliefs continue to hold a heavy influence on the belief system for many Ghanaians, regardless of their religious beliefs, due to its emphasis on family loyalty and veneration of the ancestors. 

  According the Traditional religion, there is a supreme being, known to the Akan as “Nwame.” There are also lesser ‘gods’ who take up residency is certain elements of nature (mountains, rivers, trees, and streams).  To the people of Ghana, the spiritual world is as real as the world we live in and the many gods and spirits are there to bridge the gap between the supreme being (Nwame) and society.  Ancestors who have departed are the closest link between the living and the spiritual world and it is believed by some that they can even be reincarnated through the birth of a new person to replenish the lineage.  This is one reason why women are encouraged to have many children, and why childbirth is considered one of the most essential roles for these women.

It is also believed that the actions of people and their families has an effect on the spiritual world, so support of the family and honoring one’s ancestors is important for this reason.  To neglect these responsibilities may mean negative consequences.  Since the emphasis is on actions and behaviors on a daily basis, there is no formal worship service. (Owusu-Ansah, 1994)



In this society a baby is born, but the first couple of weeks it is considered a ghost child and does not receive care.  They feel that if it does not receive care, if it is not meant to survive it will return to where it came from.  If it does survive it is worthy of care and will receive care there after.  Rarely does a baby die, but if it does they bury it.  Often times they perform a sacrifice to ensure that it does not happen again the next time. They are then named and are named specific to what day they are born.  In this culture it is typical to have more than one name, because everyone is named after they day they were born. Their second name is usually after another person within the family. 

Day of Week                      Male                                        Female 

Monday                       Kwadwo/Kojo                            Adwoa 

Tuesday                            Kwabena                                       Abena 

Wednesday                       Kwaku                                           Akua 

Thursday                               Yaw                                             Yaa 

Friday                                  Kofi                                                Afia 

Saturday                          Kwame                                         Ama 

Sunday                          Akwasi/Kwasi                          Akosua/Akos 

K. Badu, Personal Communication 


There are no formal initiation schools for their children that reach adolescence with the exception of the girls reaching menstruation. It is considered a Taboo if the girl becomes pregnant before being celebrated into womanhood. When this happens she is banished with her husband to live in a hut in the bush until the baby is born and they are able to celebrate her womanhood. This is to instill chastity within the tribe for the young girls. When a girl first menstruates it is expected that her mother will announce it to the elderly women of the town.  At six o’clock at night the mother washes the girl and cuts her hair. She is then regarded as unclean for five days and is banned to a hut.  She then has to observe several Taboos, like not crossing sacred rivers, selling food, or offering food to the chief. At this point she is not able to enter into a stool room or sleep with a man.  After her time is up [5 days] the old women shave her armpits and pubes and dresses her in finery and gold ornaments and sits her in the street to receive homage and gifts.  She is then responsible to thank all those that attended her ceremony and is expected to marry soon after( K. N. Kyeremateng, 1996). 


Marriage is often arranged as a pact between two families.  Sometimes, it is even arranged before a woman reaches puberty.  It is considered the parents’ duties to choose spouses for their children and make the arrangements with the family.  It is unacceptable for a woman to choose a husband that doesn’t meet the approval of her parents.  The parents choose a husband that they feel will be the most responsible and best provider for the daughter and keeping the marriage together is considered the role of the parents of the two families.  Divorce is nearly unheard of, because breaking up a marriage means breaking up the relationship between two families.  

Ashanti home page (1999). The status of ashanti women. Retrieved from

Gender Roles:

Unlike some of the other tribes of Ghana, the Asante are a matrilineal society.  This means that the family lineage is determined through the mother’s side of the family and is also what determines land and property rights.  However, it is usually the men who are the inheritors of the family’s wealth (or the nephew on the matrilineal side), followed by men of the next generation, and eventually the women, if there are no other heirs.  

Women of the Asante society hold a position of power and influence.  Their opinions regarding anything involving the community hold heavy weight and decisions are often made based on their input.  It is not acceptable to criticize a woman (even though women may whisper criticisms between each other) as she is considered an authority in her own area of expertise.  While women can work among men, it is often the men who work and provide for their families and it is considered their duty for men to provide for the upkeep within a social organization.  It is not considered unacceptable for women to take part in roles more often occupied by men, however women typically are so involved in raising the children, that some will stay at home and not work.  Women are often involved in selling farm goods in marketplaces.  In more recent times, women also hold positions as teachers and work in offices.  Women in urban settings are more likely to hold jobs to help support the family, and are more likely to attain a higher level of education than in a rural setting.  

Women have the especially important role of teaching their children to function as social beings within the Asante society.  If children grow up to be impolite and do not interact well with others in a social setting, it is considered the fault of the parents.  Women also have the role of assuring that girls will grow up to be strong workers in the household and strong in their future roles as mothers.  It is unacceptable for girls to engage in sports activities, as they are considered too weak and fragile, and too prone for injury for such activities, and nothing should detract from their future roles as mothers.  If a girl were to become interested in sports and not take the interest in more feminine roles, it is considered a failure on the part of the mother.  Girls and boys, however, mingle freely in the community setting as equals.  

Within the family unit, the bond between child and mother is considered much stronger than that between father and child.  This is not to say that fathers are not close to their children, but simply that the bond is stronger for women.  The children are ultimately considered the mother’s, since it is from her side that the lineage will continue. 

Ashanti home page (1999). The status of ashanti women. Retrieved from


As stated earlier Ghanaians put high honors on the types of clothing they adorn themselves with. Traditionally the culture and type of clothing worn is separated between boundaries of political groups of the north and south. Ghanaians wear a variety of cloths, smocks, dresses and uniforms. Kente is the most popular type of cloth worn for festivities and joyous occasions marking life events and portrays where a person is from and sometimes their status in life; it is worn by the people of the south region. Kente cloth is worn by the men of the south and smock is worn by the men in the north for most all occasions. Adinkra is another form of clothing traditionally worn only by the Asante people of the Ivory Coast and was originally intended for royalty and spiritual leaders. More now than in the past, Ghanaians are wearing western clothing as well as African-style. Women are seen wearing the kaba and slit which is a long wraparound skirt and matching blouse that doubles as a business suit. All students attending any level of school are to wear uniforms; at times teenage boys will wear jeans when outside of school.  

Kente Cloth

Many of their clothes or traditional dress are made out of Kente Cloth.  It is all hand woven, by the use of a loom. They are very colorful and each color has a specific meaning or stands for something. 

Also-the detail/pattern has a specific meaning/symbol. 


Red-Blood & Sacrifice 


Yellow-Gold [Ghana is known for it’s Gold] 

(F. Badu, Personal Communication) 

They also have “shops” specifically for bead making is another example of their crafts. 




They also make wooden scultpures/stools/instruments. . . . 


There are three main types of music throughout Ghana; ethnic or traditional music which is normally played during festivals and at funerals, highlife music, which is a blend of traditional and imported music from other countries, and choral music, which is performed in concert halls, churches, schools and colleges. The music is highly divided in two by the Southern and northern areas. The southern forested area uses music mainly for social or spiritual functions which use mostly only instruments such as drums and bells and also praise singing out of the Akan tradition. The south uses mainly complex polyrhythmic patterns (simultaneous sounding of two or more rhythms) while the north relies heavily on minor pentatonic scale (five pitches per octave). Popular music in Ghana has evolved through the years into many different forms including jazz, swing, rock, ska, soukous, guitar bands, dance-pop, soul, hip-hop or hip-life which is the newest form of Ghanaian music (an evolution of the traditional high-life started in the 1930’s). Some of the most popular Ghanaian instruments include the axatse which is a form of rattle formed out of a gourd or calabash, the gankogui which is a form of double bell or gong, the kaganu which is a narrow drum with a 3” head, kidi is a drum with a 9” head, the sogo is taller than the other drums and has a 10” head, the atsimevu is the lead drum and is 4’ tall (approx 2’ taller than the others) with an 11” head. There are also many other instruments which are traditionally from either the northern or southern regions such as harps, xylophones and one-stringed fiddles.  



Ghanaian food is very diverse and offers traditional samplings from the north to the south and every clan and tribe in between. There is great emphasis on taste, spices and texture. The makeup of Ghanaian food is generally a starch (e.g. rice, fufu, banku, tuozafi, gigi, akplidzii, yekeyeke, etew, ato and so on) and then a sauce usually with a tomato base, or soup that consists of fish, snails, meat or mushrooms.  Some popular soups are Okra, groundnut, and palmnut. Rice is also a traditional mainstay in Ghanaian cuisine. As far as side dishes are concerned kebabs are popular, mashed taro (cocoyam leaves) mixed with protein and/or mashed bean stew with fried plantains. Fish such as tilapia, shrimp, octopus and crayfish are also very popular. 


Schooling –Learning

Ghana has a population of approximately 18 million and a relatively large educational network which is able to provide, in theory, most Ghanains with good education. Average annual school enrollment is 2 million; 11,300 of which go into teacher training and 5,600 choose to enter University. They have 12,130 elementary/primary schools (which are free of charge), 5,450 mid/jr. high secondary schools ( secondary schools are mostly British boarding schools that have fees), 503 high/senior secondary school , 21 training colleges, 18 technical institutions, 2 diploma awarding institutions and 5 universities. This is a marked increase since their independence in 1957 when there were only a handful of schools. They spend approximately 35% of their annual budget on education. Students begin their education at the age of 6. Primary and junior schools supply them with basic academics, technical and vocational education. After that they move into senior secondary schools for three years which readies them for University life if they so choose. While in senior secondary they study a combination of 3-4 electives and also the core classes of Mathematics, English and Science. After passing through senior secondary if they wish to move on they must sit for the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) and try for a score of 18 or better; 6 is best. At the passing of the examination they can enter a university. Graduates can expect high salary paying jobs and to get a job overseas is particularly prestigious. 

Communications in Ghana per


Telephones – main lines in use: 302,300 (2003)

Telephones – mobile cellular: 799,900 (2003)

Telephone system: general assessment: poor to fair system; Internet accessible; many rural communities not yet connected; expansion of services is underway domestic: primarily microwave radio relay; wireless local loop has been installed international: country code – 233; satellite earth stations – 4 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); microwave radio relay link to Panaftel system connects Ghana to its neighbors; fiber optic submarine cable (SAT-3/WASC) provides connectivity to Europe and Asia

Radio broadcast stations: AM 0, FM 49, shortwave 3 (2001)

Television broadcast stations: 10 (2001)

Internet country code: .gh

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):

Internet users: 170,000 (2002)

New Transportation from international news

 A new transportation line is expected to reduce the long hours commuters spend in lines (queues) and improve the overall rail transport system.
As part of the project, government has imported two new coaches each with a capacity of 660 passengers and the complete project is costing the Ghanian goverment 16.5 million dollars.
The coaches will commute passengers four times a day between the two points and this project started January of 2010 is has a deadline of July 2010.


Mental Process

The mental process of Ghanains is a mix between indigenous, westernization teachings and the time spent between the mixture of the two. The major languages spoken are Twi, Fante, Ga, Hausa, Dagbani, Ewe and Nzema. English is the official language of Ghana and is the language primarily taught in schools. From the time they are born they are taught to love, to respect and to be humble and kind. The infant is shown affection and indulgence as is by the mother’s side at all times. Family is always very close and breast feeding and otherwise nurturing happens on demand for the most part. When growing of age puberty ceremonies are held for girls; they must engage in this act with family rather than in a large group and before doing so they may not be married. Boys have no such ritual. By puberty and even before this time Ghanains are expected to show politeness, hospitality and formality. They must shake hands and ask about the health and well being of the person and their family. This is encouraged to every member in the house not only the males and/or females. When playing host to someone one must offer them something to eat or drink. An invitation to eat should not be refused, it is considered rude and disrespectful. When someone has come back from a long journey a drink/toast to their ancestors is poured. Much emphasis is placed on age and social class/status. Friends of the same age will hold hands when walking and if confronted by an older woman or man they must address them as mother or father. Ghanains believe that education is more important than wealth and from that is where a person will get their social status. Social mobility is much more of an option since their independence and so Ghanains see that there are ways towards a better life outside of their class/caste. Although there are still traditions that hold strong that prevent people from becoming too wealthy and from holding huge land plots. Northerners especially have a hard time moving up in status because they are considered foreigners and thus cannot acquire land. Ghanains believe that spending money on western goods is a dominant status marker and clothing either western or traditional is a symbol of education and wealth. Luxury vehicles such as the Mercedes Benz are the ultimate high status marker. 


Health care in Ghana:

Ghana recently passed a new health care bill that provides care for children of Ghana and to those adults that are of the age 60 or older.  They have really began to build an infrastructure, and began building hospitals.  *It is also required of  Ghanaians to retire at age 60* However, the life expectancy is 60, where as it is higher in other countries. The use of old medicine/spiritualistic ways is still mixed in with modern medicine (L.Brown-Badu, personal communication).

Ghana has many disease that affect people every day.  Some of these disease include: cholera, typhoid, pulmonary tuberculosis, anthrax, pertussis, tetanus, chicken pox, yellow fever, measles, infectious hepatitis, trachoma, malaria, and schistosomiasis. Others are guinea worm or dracunculiasi, various kinds of dysentery, river blindness or onchocerciasis, several kinds of pneumonia, dehydration, venereal diseases, and poliomyelitis. Many of their diseases are water borne, and they have been working ensuring clean water sources.  Clean water sources are more often found in the urban areas vs. rural areas.  It is also said that malaria and measles account for many of the cases of premature death in Ghanaians.  Ghana’s health conditions are improving and infant mortality has significantly decreased.  In 1989 they initiated Expanded Program on Immunization to improve the delivery of health services. They then took it a step farther and implemented by Greater Accra Municipal Council, which declared child immunization a prerequisite for admission to public schools. 

Approximately 33% of all reported deaths are attributed to
infectious a
nd parasitic diseases that are preventable (Tabi 1994).
Lack of access to medical facilities, particularly those in rural
areas, poor roads and infras
tructure, malnutrition, infectious diseases
including HIV and AIDS contribute to almost half of all
deaths reported in Ghana (M.M.T
abi & D. Hodnicki, 2006). 

In 2003-286 Hospital Facilities & 1487 health centers and clinics. 

Traditional as well as modern medicine is integral components of the healthcare delivery system in Ghana. In a country of scarce medical resources and transitioning cultural traditions and beliefs, approach to health care is based on a personal understanding of one’s health, life and being (M.M.Tabi & D. Hodnicki, 2006). 

Health care delivery uses both modern and traditional medicine, and it’s all dependent upon the individual and their choice of health care to use.  The relatives and close friends also play a big part in choosing the type of health care to use in the situation of a sick person. Depending on prevalent symptoms of illness, a person may choose to disregard an illness or health problem, use treatment modalities known to the individual, friends or family, or make a decision to use services of a traditional healer or modern medical practitioner. There are ten regions in Ghana and in every region a hospital.  They say that accessibility to health care is within 5-7 miles,  but those that live in rural areas are at a lesser advantage.  The ratio of medical doctors to a patient is 1:20,000 and the ratio of traditional healers is 1:200.  This is a very significant difference.  For the rural and urban poor traditional healers are they only ones they can afford, or even have access to for their medical needs. 

Traditional Medical System: as stated in research article:

Tabi, M. M., Powell, M., Hodnicki, D. (2006). Use of traditional medicine and modern medicine in Ghana. International Nursing Review. 53(1): 52-8 (21 ref). 

Traditional medicine consists of health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating animal- or mineral-based medicines and spiritual therapies, either used singularly or in
combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illness to maintain well-being. The traditional medicine system includes not only herbal remedies for specific diseases, but also folk knowl
edg e , traditions and
values, health behaviour rules and patterns, and identified personnel and structures for delivery and restorative therapy. There are many types of practitioners available in Ghana, each with a distinctive approach to diagnosis and therapy. There are secular healers often referred to as ‘traditional pharmacists’ who use herbal medicine prepared from selected leaves, roots or other parts of plants and animals. There are also plant drug peddlers who travel to towns and villages, as well as sell herbal medicines at workplaces, bus stops and in the streets. The most common type of healer in the traditional medical system is the priest and priestess of deities and gods who use techniques such as divination and rituals in healing practices.  They cure organic and spiritually based diseases. Others such as sacred healers are faith healers who usually use prayers, fasting, incantations, herbal medicines, as well as occultism. Among these different types of healers are differences in specialization. Some healers focus on one or a few illnesses, while others are generalists. Among the specializations are bone setting, childcare delivery and psychotherapy. Some healers are full-time practitioners, and others practice traditional medicine as a secondary occupation.

The modern medical system:as stated in:

Tabi, M. M., Powell, M., Hodnicki, D. (2006). Use of traditional medicine and modern medicine in Ghana. International Nursing Review. 53(1): 52-8 (21 ref). 

The modern medical system includes government-operated financed delivery systems with medical care provided at hospitals, health centers, clinics, health posts and maternity homes. Somequasi-government-operated health services include those provided by the army, the police, and some large firms and corporations for their employees. In addition, there are private health care services provided by religious missions such as the Catholic Mission, the Presbyterian Church and Seventh Day Adventist Church. The government also supports these mission health services. The modern medical system is officially managed by the Ministry of Health, which provides medical care, maternal and child health services, health laboratory services, mental health, dental health, nutritional health, environmental health and health education. 

So-Which do they choose or how do they make their choice?  

This article found that the decision making process is rather complicated and that many factors come into play on whether they choose modern, traditional, or a combination of both. There are many forces that play into the decision, individual choice, family, religious views, traditional culture, finance and economics, education, and the knowledge/awareness of western medicine.  So, as one can see choosing what method to use stems farther them just simply receiving health care, and getting better. It stems deep into cultural values/beliefs, individual and family beliefs, and what is available to them at the time.  

Practice Implications: as stated in :

Tabi, M. M., Powell, M., Hodnicki, D. (2006). Use of traditional medicine and modern medicine in Ghana. International Nursing Review. 53(1): 52-8 (21 ref). 

Implications of the study findings indicate that traditional and modern medicines will always be part of Ghanaian health care delivery and efforts should be made to integrate traditional practitioners
into the national health care delivery system. The challenge for nurses and nurse–midwives is to help people identify and use the positive elements of traditional health resources. With integration of modern and traditional medicine, facilitated by introducing each modality to the benefits of the other, goals of global improvement in health conditions and realization of personal abilities may be achieved. A good understanding of traditional preventative issues by nurses and policy makers could have enormous public health benefits.

Health Risks/Behavior Risks:  


2. Food & Water-borne illnesses & not having access to clean water sources  

3. Not having adequate medicine or the means/ money to get necessary medicine. 

4. For those living in rural areas, having access to modern medicine or even medical facilities is limited  

5. Most live on small salaries and do not have the means to receive adequate health care, and some might not be educated enough to know when to receive necessary health or what is the appropriate action to take when seeking treatment.  

6. Practicing unsafe sex or sex with multiple partners.

HIV/AIDS in Ghana:

Takyi, B. K. (2003). Religion and women’s health in Ghana: insights into HIV/AIDS preventive and protective behavior. Social Sciences & Medicine. 56 (2003) 1221–1234. 

HIV/AIDS exists in Ghana, like it does in any culture, but it is not as rampant as in other parts of Africa.  Ghanaians goal is to heavily educate everyone on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and how to protect oneself from acquiring the disease. Their focus of education is on men, and work hard with them to prevent the spread of the disease.  They have social marketing, and it’s towards the men in changing their behaviors, and discourages them from having intercourse with other women that is not their wife.  They also educate the women in refusing sex, even with their husband, if a condom is not used.  They are trying very hard to educate and prevent the spread of such a horrific disease.  (L.Brown-Badu, Personal Communication) 

Right now the amount of cases is report at 340,000 in Ghana, West Africa, which is a big increase from the number of 76 in the eighties.  It is thought that the rise/epidemic is a cause of lax sexual behavior, lack of male circumcision, the practice of polygamy, rapid turn-over in sexual partners, and multiple sexual partnering. Also the reason for increase in education and the social marketing. 

In the research article it talks about the significance that religion has to do with the education and knowledge of HIV/AIDS.  Not one specific religion was associated with having more knowledge, but they found that a majority if Ghanaians are extremely religious.  In the 1980s the percentage of those that considered themselves religious 42%, and now nearly 98% associate themselves with a religion. Those women that are associated with more liberal religions are more apt to take part in premarital sex, than those that are part of a more conservative sect.   They have also found that religion is a big predictor of AIDS protective and risk behavior. Also, found that these churches has begun discouraging involvement in extra- and pre-martial sexual activity, thereby reducing the risk of AIDS. Also, by going to church more often, and being involved puts them in an environment full of educational material towards the prevention of AIDS. 

Depression/Schizophrenia/Psychosis in Ghana

In Ghana depression is not acknowledged like it is here in the USA, hence they do not receive treatment for it. They don’t view it as a condition, but a weakness.  Ghana is a third world country, and sometimes conditions are harsh, and so it’s not acceptable to have depression.  They figure life is hard and you just have to deal with it  (L.Brown-Badu, personal communication). 

Schizophrenia/Psychosis if you have one of these disease you are considered “mad.” They have facilities for you to go if you have this, but medications over there are so expensive, and so hard to get the use of physical restraints is excessive.  They use more archaic methods used, because of the lack of resources and money ( L.Brown-Badu, personal communication). 

5 things nurses must know:

1. Traditional Medicine is still a big part of the Ghanaian culture and a lot of traditional practices.  Most are willing to use modern medicine, but sometimes it is in conjunction with their traditional medicine. 

2. Family is huge in Ghana. They make and help make a lot of the decisions for those that we would be providing care for.  They seek out their family’s approval.  

3.  The fact that the Akan are a matrilineal society means that there may be times when the woman will have more say.  Since, as previously mentioned, the entire family is important in a decision-making process, this will be important to consider as the men (even a male patient) may turn to the females of the family for final approval. [It’s also important to be aware that this is Akan we’re talking about.  There are many other societies in Ghana that have patrilineal societies, so the male-female relationship may be different for these people.  Just be observant and prepared for either situation.]

4. It’s also important to consider that Ghana is a developing country and that there still remains many rural areas where healthcare access is limited.  People in these areas are likely uneducated about risk factors for certain illnesses and are either unaware or lack the resources of preventive care.  This is important to keep in mind if encountering anyone from this culture.  Do not automatically assume they know about a particular illness or how to prevent it, because they may never have learned where they came from.   As with any patient, education is important and don’t make assumptions about a patient’s knowledge.

5. Many people in this region do not believe in the use of condoms.  This may due to the many Roman Catholics in the area, who do not believe in any form of birth control, but it may also have something to do with the traditional beliefs about having large families and passing the lineage on.  To use a condom would prevent this.  In some areas, it is considered unacceptable to use a condom or for a female to ask a male to use one.  This is something to consider if encountering one of these patients and important to know since HIV/AIDS is endemic to the area.

What are the biggest differences between the culture you are researching and the US culture?

The biggest difference between Ghanaian and U.S. culture are the evident castes and classes. In the U.S. there is obviously a low, middle and high class that all comes down to how much money one earns/spends. In Ghanaian culture there is more of an emphasis on education rather than wealth and the caste systems are still around from the old days of royalty, commoners and slaves. Not as heavily as they used to be represented, but they are still there. Northern clans are still not allowed to purchase land because they are considered foreigners. There are evident differences in clothing in Ghana. You can tell what class and where a person is from by merely looking at the clothing they are wearing. In the U.S. one cannot walk up to someone and say that they look as if they are from northern Montana for example, because of the clothing they are wearing. Beyond clothing and social status relationships among family and friends are also widely different. There is more respect shown to everyone in Ghana relative to the U.S. Friends hold hands when walking together and there is more of an emphasis on loyalty, manners, tradition, niceness and selflessness. Another apparent difference is that past primary school Ghanaians must pay for their education in most places, in contrast to the U.S. where middle school through high school are free of charge unless one decides to go to a private school. Other than these differences Ghana is much like the U.S. in that it is a melting pot of different variations of cultures. 






Owusu-Ansah, D. (1994).  Religion and society.  In A country study: Ghana. Retrieved from

Gender and Marriage

Ashanti home page (1999). The status of ashanti women. Retrieved from


Wikipedia (2010) Ghana. Retrieved from


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