The Akan are an ethnolinguistic group of people found mainly in southern Ghana but also in the eastern part of Côte d´Ivoire. According to historians, their ancestors migrated south from Egypt and Nubia in the 11th century and had links with the Empire of Ghana. Later on, they moved further down to the southern coasts.
Before the colonial era, the Akan region was organised into trading kingdoms. The major Akan kingdoms were the Kingdoms of Bonoman, Denkyria, Gyaman, Fante and the Kingdom of Ashanti, among others. Their economies were primarily based on gold. The Kingdom of Ashanti became the main trading partner of the Europeans, who were looking for gold and slaves in the region. In exchange, the Europeans provided wealth and weapons to the kingdom, which eventually became powerful enough to annexe the other independent kingdoms. By the 18th century, the Ashanti Empire dominated the Akan region and became the major exporter of slaves.
At the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, the European powers divided up the African continent among themselves in order to prevent any conflict that could arise from the exploitation of the natural resources needed for the industrialisation of Europe. The Akan region was divided between the French and the British. However, the new artificial border didn’t take the existing kingdoms into consideration, and the Akan people became subjects of two different colonies. Those on the western side of the border became subjects of the Ivory Coast (under French rule), while those on the eastern side became subjects of the Gold Coast (under British rule).
The Gold Coast gained independence in 1957, changing its name to Ghana in honour of the long-gone empire. Côte d’Ivoire gained independence in 1960.