The Flag of Ghana: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

The Flag of Ghana Vector
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Written by Alan Lemus

Published: November 17, 2022

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Ghana’s flag comprises red, green, and yellow Pan-African colors and a five-pointed black star at its center. The flag represents Ghana’s sovereignty and its people’s resilience.

Adomi Bridge in Ghana

The Adomi Bridge in Ghana at sunrise.

Ghanaians first raised their flag in 1957 when the country secured its independence from British rule. On that day, the flag represented the people’s victory over their colonial masters and marked the beginning of self-rule. As with many other flags worldwide, the Ghanaian flag is symbolic and evokes a sense of patriotism.

History of the Ghanaian Flag

Did you know that Ghana had several other flags before the one it raised at midnight on March 6, 1957? Did you also know that the flag raised during independence was dropped a year later and restored in 1966?

When Kwame Nkrumah’s government raised the first Ghanaian flag during independence, it marked the point when the British Gold Coast Colony transformed into Ghana.  

The country’s founders borrowed the name from an empire that ruled over the land several centuries earlier. The headquarters of the Great Sudanic Empire of Ghana (700 to1200 A.D.) existed approximately 700 miles in the northeast region of present-day Ghana.

The Soninke founded this wealthy and vast empire made up of Mali, Ghana, and Songhai. 

When the Arabs came, they named the entire Sahara Desert region “bilad al-Sudan,” meaning the land occupied by the Blacks. Consequently, Sudan became the name of the region stretching from West Africa to present-day Sudan. 

Ashanti Reign

The Ashanti empire took over the area in the late 1600s and transformed it into a wealthy and influential empire well-known for its unique military prowess, architecture, and sophisticated hierarchy.  

The Dutch and Portuguese engaged the Ashanti in trading activities before the British arrived and colonized sections of the region.

The British arrived in present-day Ghana in 1874, launched their attack, and captured Kumasi, the Asante’s capital.

In 1899, the British collaborated with other European powers to demarcate the boundaries and assume colonialism over African states. They declared the land area representing present-day Ghana, the Gold Coast Colony of the British empire, despite resistance from the Ashanti people.  

The British resilience saw them secure victory over the Ashanti by 1901 and expand the land area under the British Protectorate.  

In 1935, Ghana launched its first flag, representing the Ashanti Kingdom. Like the current flag, the Ashanti flag comprises three striped colors:  yellow, black, and green. 

The flag also has a yellow stool on the black stripe. The stool symbolized the golden stool that repressed Ashanti’s absolute monarchy. The flag emerged during the reign of Emperor Asantehene Prempeh II, who assumed reign over the Ashanti Empire when restored.

The empire did not officially or nationally adopt the flag because the British controlled the region. 

After the Second World War, Africans launched their demand for equal rights as those enjoyed by the British in their country. The British responded to these demands by granting them some power, such as allowing them to draft a Gold Coast constitution in 1946 while facilitating the majority election of Africans into their Legislative Council.

Independence for Ghana

But the Gold Coast British Governor still maintained significant control over the happenings of the colony. So, Gold Coast adopted a new flag to signify the change in leadership. It was a blue flag with the English flag in its upper left corner. A yellow circle that enclosed images of an elephant, a green landscape, rising sun, and a palm tree lay on the opposite side of the British flag. The flag had G.C. initials at its center, representing the country’s name. The colony used this flag until 1957, when the country gained its independence.  

The 1957 flag had red, yellow, and green stripes and a five-pointed star.

Ghana Flag Flying

The 1957 flag raised for Ghana’s independence was red, gold, and green, and featured a five-pointed black star in its center.

The flag resembled the one that the Convention People’s Party used during the independence clamor. However, the party’s flag had red, white, and green stripes to symbolize the country’s modernization and self-reliance. 

In 1958, the country’s leadership changed the flag by adding a second black star to the center, representing the alliance between Ghana and Guinea. In 1961, another star was added to represent the entry of Mali into the Union of African States. After that, the alliance of three nations used the tri-star flag until 1964, when the union collapsed. 

In 1964, Ghana adopted a new flag consisting of red, white, and green stripes. The central white stripe, representing the Convention People’s Party, had a black star. Unfortunately, Kwame Nkrumah’s regime mismanaged the country’s resources resulting in a billion U.S. dollars in debt by 1966.

The Ghanaian military deposed Nkrumah on February 24, 1966, and restored the red, yellow, and green-striped flag four days later.

Meaning and Symbolism

The Ghanaian flag has four colors: red, yellow, and green pan African. Each color has a meaning. 

Red

The red color symbolizes those who lost their lives as the country struggled to gain independence from British rule.

Ghana was the first sub-Saharan country to secure independence, but this freedom was not cheap. Several people died, and many more were injured during these fights. 

 The struggle for independence began in the 1940s, but the British ensured they continued to exercise their authority over the land by cooperating with African chiefs.  

Kwame Nkrumah joined the United Gold Coast Convention in 1947 and spearheaded the struggle for independence. 

Nkrumah borrowed Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent civil resistance philosophy to pressure the British to cede power. But instead, they pushed for constitutional reforms that would give the people the right to equality and freedom. 

As Nkrumah led the political reforms, former soldiers organized themselves into groups to add pressure, which resulted in considerable violence. 

One of the first violent encounters between the locals and the colonial rulers occurred in 1948 when a crowd of unarmed former servicemen marched in Accra to the British governor’s residence to petition against the unequal treatment of the natives. 

The police ordered the former soldiers to stop, and when they defied them, the police opened fire, wounding five and killing two participants. 

News about the event sparked rage among the locals, who responded by rioting in several cities, including Akuse, Nsawam, Kumasi, and Koforidua. The locals also raided the central prison and freed all the inmates. The protests lasted for days and resulted in 29 deaths and over 200 casualties.

The UGCC was not involved in organizing the violence, but they took advantage of the awoken masses to clamor for independence. Nkrumah organized multiple non-violent protests around the country and even traveled to London to petition for independence. His efforts finally bore fruit when the country became independent in 1957. 

Yellow/Gold

The gold color symbolizes Ghana’s mineral wealth. 

Ghana is blessed with vast mineral wealth, but the country primarily exploits its gold, bauxite, manganese, and diamond deposits. 

Gold mining is the oldest mineral exploitation activity in the country and is responsible for the country’s former name, Gold Coast. The residents began mining gold as early as the 1400s and its manganese, diamond, and bauxite in 1916, 1919, and 1942, respectively. 

Ghana mines considerable amounts of limestone and produces sufficient sea salt to cater to its domestic needs, with a surplus for export. The country also sources construction materials such as sand, stones, and gravel from within its borders. 

Ghana discovered natural gas and crude oil deposits in the 1970s, which were initially regarded as non-commercial reserves but were later mined following an increase in global prices. The country discovered more natural gas deposits in 1980, adding to its potential wealth. 

Exploration continued and led to the discoveries of more reserves as recent as 2016 and 2017.

Green 

The green stripe on the flag represents Ghana’s rich forest cover.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 40% of Ghana’s land area is covered by forests. The Scarlet, Red, Promotable, and Pink tree species make up most of the country’s tree cover.

Ghana has the Atiwa rainforest reserve, located in the southeastern part of the country. The forest covers 260 square kilometers of natural tropical forest, the largest in West Africa. 

These forests play a significant role in the country’s economy. They support agricultural activities, which provide roughly 40% of the country’s GDP, significant foreign exchange earnings, and employment opportunities. 

Black

The black star, also known as the lodestar of African freedom, represents Ghanaians’ ownership and control over their continent.

The star was a critical anti-colonialism and Pan-Africanism symbol.

The black star is also found in the country’s court of arms, Black Star Square in Accra, and on parliament’s Seat of State, where their president sits during ceremonial parliamentary occupations.

The black star also inspired the country’s national football team, christened “The Black Stars.”

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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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