11 Effects of European Presence in Ghana

The effects of European presence in Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Sierra Leone and other parts of Africa were both positive and negative. These effects of European presence in Ghana were social, political, economic and linguistic, among many others.

In this tutorial on the History of Ghana and West Africa at large, I will give you straightforward points to assist you in answering any History question on the effects of the coming of Europeans to Ghana and the rest of West Africa.

The question below is a past WAEC/WASSCE History question.


Let’s have the points for the effects of European presence in Ghana.

PLEASE NOTE: Supposing you’re studying for your History paper in Nigeria, Sierra Leone or any other African country, you will find that the points are no different from what you will need for the same question about your country. Perhaps the only thing you must change is the examples that accompany the points.

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The first Europeans to come to Ghana were the Portuguese. They arrived at the coast of Shama in 1471. In 1482, the Portuguese built a fort called Fort St George at Elmina. One Portuguese Prince, Henry the Navigator was instrumental in these voyages to discover new places in Africa and the rest of the world at the time.

From then on, others like the Danes, Swedes, Dutch, Germans etc arrived to engage in missionary work and trading activities. It was the English who established political control over Ghana and ruled the country till 6th March 1957 when Ghana gained its independence from colonial rule.

Effects of European Presence in Ghana

We shall first look at the positive effects of European presence in Ghana. After that, you can also see the negative consequences of the advent of the Europeans to West Africa and Africa as a whole.

Positive Effects

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There are many benefits which Ghana has derived from the coming of Europeans to the country. Take a quick look at the major positive effects of the coming of the Europeans to Ghana and the rest of Africa.

  1. Forts and Castles: These were built as warehouses and for security. After independence, they have served as the seat of government (Christiansburg Castle at Osu until recently), Prisons (Ussher fort) and Museum (Elmina Castle)

2. Rise and growth of coastal towns: Small fishing and salt-producing villages like Axim, Dixcove, Secondi, Apam Otuam Winneba, Accra Prampram, Keta, Ada etc grew into busy market centres.

3. Emergence of merchant princes: Some enterprising Ghanaians who served under the Portuguese, Dutch and English traders got rich and became important members of society e.g. John Kabes of Komenda and Amonu Juma of Anomabo.

4. Introduction of new attractive commodities: textiles, guns, gunpowder, alcohol etc.

5. Introduction of new crops: e.g. coconut, onion, garden eggs, okro, rice, cocoyam, (from Asia); cassava, sweet potatoes, maize peanuts or groundnuts, pawpaw, pineapple, guava, oranges, melons (from Europe)

6. Introduction and spread of formal education

– basic and second cycle schools in places like Cape Coast, Aburi, Peki and Akropong

– spread of literacy. The following Europeans worked tirelessly on the writing of various local Ghanaian languages.: i. Johannes Zimmerman – Ga, ii. Westman and Schlegel – Ewe iii. Christallar – Akan

Negative Effects of European Presence in Ghana


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Below are the major negative effects of European presence in Ghana, in particular, and Africa as a whole. You will first see the social impact of European contact with Ghana and Africa. After that, you can then look at the negative political effects of the European presence in Ghana and West Africa.


7. It undermined indigenous culture due to certain teachings against Ghanaian customs and traditions such as African names, clothing, libation, traditional dance forms, etc.

8. Disintegration of families due, again, to certain teachings against polygamy and obedience towards one’s pagan parents in the name of religion.

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9. Disintegration of local kingdoms due to political interference from foreign powers (Dutch, English, Danes etc). Here are a few instances.

– The illegitimate destoolment and enstoolment of chiefs negatively affected the chieftaincy institution.

– The sustained wars waged against states like Asante to rule them and the deportation of chiefs (e.g. Prempeh I) stifled the development of native political institutions.

10. The introduction of the slave trade led to many inter-ethnic conflicts

– The instability did not help social and economic development

– The cream of Ghanaian population and labour force was deported to the new world

11. Disunity among Ghanaians as they became pawns to different European powers e.g. Elmina once befriended the Dutch while Cape Coast was loyal to their rivals, the English.

Thus, the impact of European contact with Africa and Ghana, in particular, has been both positive and negative.

Overall, however, the positive effects clearly outweigh the negative effects of European presence in Ghana and Africa.

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