Gold, cocoa and... vegetables? Surprise ingredient of Ghana's growing economy

Healthy vegetables, healthy economy
Healthy vegetables, healthy economy

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Story highlights

  • Ghana's economy has traditionally relied on gold and cocoa
  • In 2007, major oil discoveries raised economic expectations
  • Lately, the government has been pushing for more vegetable production to help boost growth

Each week, Africa View explores the trends, figures and initiatives shaping Africa. From education and energy to technology and innovation, it showcases topics and influential sectors driving countries on the continent.

(CNN)From leading the fight against colonial rule in Africa to triumphing in major sporting events, Ghanaians have a lot to feel proud of their country. This is after all one of Africa's major economic powerhouses and a country with a rich history that is consistently held up as a successful example of democracy in the continent.

Despite its relatively small size and population, Ghana boasts today one of Africa's fastest-growing economies, driven mainly by its substantial natural riches and strong agricultural production.
    Previously known as the Gold Coast (because of the vast quantities of the precious metal found there), Ghana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1957, becoming the first sub-Saharan nation to break the chains of colonialism.
    Since then, it has navigated stormy periods of army rule and political uncertainty to emerge in recent decades as a vibrant democracy that has enjoyed several peaceful transitions of power.
    Over the last six years, Ghana's economy has grown each year by an average of 6%, hitting a record-breaking 15% in 2011. Growth declined in the following years, but in 2015 economists expect the country to post strong growth of around 8%.
    Unsurprisingly, the west African country has traditionally relied heavily on exporting precious metals and minerals, including aluminum, diamonds and, of course, gold -- Ghana is the continent's biggest gold producer, following South Africa.
    Another economic driver and big source of income is oil. Since he the discovery of the Jubilee field off the coast of Ghana in 2007, there have been 23 new oil and gas finds. In 2012, oil earned the country $3 billion, while reserves are estimated at around 2 billion barrels.
    Besides oil and gold, agriculture is a major pillar of Ghana's economy. The sector makes up around 20% of the country's GDP but, more importantly, provides employment for more than 60% of its total workforce.
    At the heart of this is cocoa. Ghana is the world's second-largest producer, following the Ivory Coast, with the commodity being the country's third export product, below oil and gold.
    Yet, lately the Ghanaian government has stepped up its efforts to diversify the economy, pushing for more vegetable production to help boost growth.
    Last year, the country exported more than 42,000 tonnes of vegetables, up nearly four times compared to 2009.
    Currently, the vegetable industry pumps almost $3 million into the country annually, but with continued investment in local farms and crops that figure is expected to jump to more than $25 million each year.
    QUICK FACTS
    Official name: Republic of Ghana
    Form of government: Unitary multiparty republic with one legislative house
    Capital: Accra
    Freedom House status: Free
    Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index: 27