The Asantes are the largest group among the Akan Communities that have always inhabited the southern and forest areas of this part of the Guinea Coast of West Africa which came to be called the Gold Coast. Together with their kinsmen, the Fantes, Akims, Akwapims, Denkyiras, Kwuhus, Sefwis, etc they constitute the singly largest ethnic community in what is today the modern State of Ghana, and have since the seventeenth Century exerted considerable influence on the political, cultural and economic life and development of this area of West Africa.
The King of Asante was founded in the seventeenth century by the union of previously separate, independent communities of the same cultural identify and ethnic origins, to free themselves from domination by Denkyira, another organized Akan community which interposed itself between them and the coast and denied them direct access to the trade which the Europeans conducted from their forts and castles. The need to control trade to the North and South for the survival of the new kingdom rather than mere military gain inspired the rapid expansion of Asante in the century following its foundation as a United Kingdom. The Asantes were so constantly at war with their neighbours to the North and South that the political structure which their new kingdom evolved was much influenced by, and could be understood only in terms of, of the military organization with which they defended themselves and pursed and safeguarded their commercial and other economic interests.
The need to control the trade to the North in Kola, gold and other items of commerce brought Asante into contact with Dagomba and Gonja in the North East and Jaman in the North West; and the trade with the castles and forts on the coast brought Asante into conflict with their kinsmen in the Fante States and ultimately with the British with whom they fought seven wars in nineteenth century.
From its capital, Kumasi, Asante controlled the trade routes to the North through Salaga in the North East and Bontuku in the North West, and was in commercial contact with the Moshie and other states in the savanna and beyond the Sahel region, from where regular caravans carried merchandise in exchange for the gold and kola produced in the forest regions. By the middle of the 18th Century, Asante had become the dominant Kingdom in the forest belt of the ‘Gold Coast’ of the Guinea Coast and provided a vital link between the coast and the savanna areas to the North and contributed to its own acculturation and the assimilation of the many communities that it came into contact with. Asante was described on a 1764 French map of Africa as “Roy de ‘lL’Asiante, tres puissant” (very powerful)
Today, as in the past Asante remains the largest single community among the traditional communities that constitute modern Ghana, and continues to make significant contributions to the country’s economy. Richly endowed, it is the economic heartland of the country, responsible for much of its domestic food production and for the foreign exchange it earns from cocoa, gold and timber.
Asante is the only region in Ghana with a common language, where paramount chiefs in the region and beyond owe allegiance to an overlord king the Asantehene.
This arrangement has strengthened the unity of Asante, the most populous region in Ghana towards economic, social and cultural development.