Vol 28 No 4 (2019): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Culture

Interest groups, issue definition and the politics of traditional medicine in Ghana: emphasis on Asante (1902–2013)

Samuel Adu-Gyamfi
Department of history and political studies, Kwame Nkrumah university of science and technology, Kumasi-Ghana
Richard Oware
Department of history, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Dennis Baffour Awuah
Department of history, Illinois state university, USA
Published December 31, 2019
  • Health practices,
  • traditional medicine,
  • Ghana,
  • Asante


In some African societies, the highly accessible means of healthcare that has stood the test of time is traditional medicine. Though several actors have different views pertaining to its practice, traditional medicine continues to survive even in the age where biomedicine has become very reputable among African communities. Statistics have indicated that, 80% of Africans make use of traditional medicine before consulting any health practitioner in biomedicine. In the Ghanaian setting, traditional medicine users range from 75% to 90%. Using colonial Asante as a case study, which includes Ahafo, this article draws insight from a wide range of archival sources to highlight the various transformations underlying traditional medical practices in Asante and its environs. It argues this in the context of definitions and meanings attached to traditional medicine by actors such as the Ghana Psychic and Traditional Healers Association (GPTHA), the British Colonial Government in Asante, immediate post-colonial governments and Native Authorities who are at the centre of cultural norms in which traditional medicine features greatly. The findings suggest that the perspective of emerging healers who have modernised their practices, continue to have significant implications on healthcare in Ghana. It further postulates that their engagement has increased the functional scope of traditional medicine in Ghana.