Northern Region is located between latitudes 0.30N and 10.30N and longitudes 0.31W and 0.30W.  The Region, which occupies an area of about 26,911 (km²) square kilometers, is the largest region in Ghana, occupying approximately 11.2 % of the total land mass of the Ghana (238,535 km²). It shares boundaries with the North East Region to the North, the Ahafo Region and the Volta Region to the South, the Republic of Togo to the East, and Savannah Region to the West.




Population distribution

The Tamale Metropolitan Assembly and Sagnarigu Municipal are the most populous districts in the region, with a projected population of 298,351.14 and 197,917.62 respectively representing 14.45% and 9.59% of the region’s population.  This large concentration may be due to the fact that Tamale and Sagnarigu were at one time one district and they centrally located. Commercial activities, job opportunities, as well as educational institutions this two districts are attracting people from other parts of the region.

The least populous district was Kumbungu with 52,574.81 representing 2.55% percent of the regional population in 2020.  

Table 1: Distribution of District Population

District 2010 % Share 2020 % Share
Gushiegu 111,259 7.20%          148,685.12 7.20%
Karaga 77,706 5.03%          103,845.31 5.03%
Kpandai 108,816 7.04%         145,420.32 7.04%
Kumbungu 39,341 2.55%            52,574.81 2.55%
Mion 81,812 5.30%          109,332.52 5.30%
Nanumba North 141,584 9.16%          189,211.06 9.16%
Nanumba South 93,464 6.05%         124,904.10 6.05%
Saboba 65,706 4.25%          87,808.66 4.25%
Sagnarigu 148,099 9.59%          197,917.62 9.59%
Savelugu 89,283 5.78%           119,316.67 5.78%
Nanton 50,000 3.24%           66,819.37 3.24%
Tamale Metropolitan 223,252 14.45%          298,351.14 14.45%
Tatale 60,039 3.89%           80,235.36 3.89%
Tolon 72,990 4.72%            97,542.91 4.72%
Yendi Municipal 117,780 7.62%         157,399.70 7.62%
Zabzugu 63,815 4.13%            85,281.56 4.13%
  1,544,946 100.00%    2,064,646.22 100.00%

**RPCU Projection

Source:  2010 Population and Housing Census /RPCU projections                      

Age Structure

From the 2010 Population and Housing Census data, the Northern region has a youthful population with 44.9% of the population aged less than 15 years (Figure 1). The population aged 65 years and older constitutes 4.4 percent of the population. Persons aged 15-64 years constitute 51.0 percent of the Northern region population. Additionally, the proportion of the population aged less than 20 years constitutes more than half (55.4%) of the region’s total population.

The region’s population is therefore more youthful in nature and has the potential of increasing the productive work force with time. However, it also implies greater provision of social amenities such as schools, health facilities, and recreational centers to cater for the youthful population. With proper planning and prudent use of available resources, the youthful nature of the population should be considered as a blessing rather than a constraint.

Population density, Ethnicity and Religion 

The Northern Region is Ghana’s largest in terms of land area (26,911 square kilometers), constituting about 11.2% of the country’s land mass.  According to the 2010 Population and Housing Census population density (number of persons per square kilometer) of the region was 35 in 2010. However, 2018 projections of the Regional Planning Coordinating Unit show an improvement in the population density form 57.4 per Km2 in 2010 to 76.7 per Km2 in 2020 compared to the national 109 per Km2 in 2010 and 137 per Km2.  The increase in population density in the region is as a result of good economy attracting people.

Table 2: Population Density, Northern Region, 1960-2020

Year Area sq. km Population Density
1960 70,384 531,573 8
1970 70,384 727,618 10
1984 70,384 1,164,583 17
2000 70,384 1,820,806 26
2010 70,384 2,479,461 35
2010(New NR) 26,911 1,544,946 57.4
2020 26,911 2,064,646 76.7

Source:  PHC 2010

RPCU * 2020 projections


The largest ethnic subgroups of the Northern Region are the Dagombas, and the Nanumba. Other Minor ethnic subgroups are the Kokomba, Basaari and Bimoba ,Chokosi and chumburu .  


The 2010 population and Housing Census classified religious groups into Catholic, “No religion”, Protestants, Pentecostal/Charismatic, Other Christians, Islam, Traditionalist, and Others. Islam is the dominant religion in the region with 60% of the total population.


No other region of Ghana has experienced such a huge, continuous and prolonged out immigration as the Northern Region in Ghana. Much of the brunt of this out immigration is born the informal job sector. There has been an equally intense immigration into Northern Region during the last decade due to formal jobs available and increased economic potentials

 The migration of young males and females to the cities of Accra and Kumasi in particular to seek greener pastures. Notable among these migrants are females who work as head porters. These females face many challenges daily, exploited and live in deplorable conditions on the streets and slums of Accra and Kumasi. Their male counterparts are no exception as they face similar situation as “truck-pushers” deprive the region of able-bodied persons.


The number of MMDAs in the region currently are sixteen (16) comprising 1 Metropolitan, 5 Municipalities and 10 Districts. Table (4) details the District Assemblies, their capitals, number of constituencies and number of area/zonal councils per district. A Metropolitan/Municipal/District Assembly is headed by a Chief Executive, who is the political head of the District. Two-thirds of the members of the Assembly are directly elected. The remaining one-third is appointed by the Central Government. The MMDAs are autonomous with regards to planning and budgeting of projects and programs. With this autonomy, and as the highest, political and administrative government representative, the MMDAs make a strategic ally for advancing the development agenda and decentralized local government levels.

The Assemblies are presided over by Presiding Members (PM) elected from among its Assembly members by a two-thirds majority of members present during voting. The main administrative structure at the Regional level is the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC), headed by the Regional Minister. Politically, the region is divided into thirty-one (31) constituencies. This gives the region an 11% representation in parliament.


Health Situation

Ghana’s regional access to health services is not the same for people residing in northern region compared to those residing in southern Ghana. The Region’s access to health services is one of the lowest in the country because of location and distances of health facilities to communities.  Health care facilities in rural areas are fewer and more dispersed than in urban areas. As a result, people in rural areas travel great distances to obtain services that cannot be obtained in their local communities. It is not uncommon for persons requiring specialized health services or diagnostic testing to travel 200 kilometers or more to the nearest health center. This is worsened by the poor nature of roads in the Region especially in the rainy season.

The Region has a total of 8 District Hospitals, 1 Teaching Hospital, 1 Regional Hospital, 25 Hospitals, 66 Health centers, 310 CHPS Compounds (Functional and Demarcated), 37 Clinics and 1 polyclinics. Table 6 shows details of health facilities in the region. (NR/GHS 2020).

Types and Number of Health Facilities in Northern Region

Organization unit CHPS Clinic District Hospital Health Centre Hospital Midwives/Maternity Polyclinic Teaching Hospital Total
Gushiegu 25 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 29
Karaga 38 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 42
Kpandai 12 2 1 8 1 0 0 0 24
Kumbungu 20 0 0 4 1 0 0 0 25
Mion 22 0 0 6 0 0 0 0 28
Nanton 9 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 13
Nanumba North 10 2 1 5 0 0 0 0 18
Nanumba South 23 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 26
Saboba 29 2 0 4 1 0 0 0 36
Sagnarigu 25 4 0 5 16 4 1 0 55
Savelugu 13 3 1 4 1 0 0 0 22
Tamale 14 15 0 5 5 3 0 1 43
Tatale-Sangule 14 2 1 3 0 0 0 0 20
Tolon 15 1 0 4 1 0 0 0 21
Yendi 31 4 1 3 0 0 0 0 39
Zabzugu 10 2 1 2 0 0 0 0 15
Northern 310 37 8 66 26 7 1 1 456

Source: NR GHS 2020


  District Assemblies Status Capital Constituencies Total No. Of Area Councils
1 Gushegu Municipal Gushiegu Gushegu 1 8
2 Karaga District Karaga Karaga 1 6
3 Kpandai District Kpandai Kpandai 1 13
4 Kunbungu District Kumbungu Kunbungu 1 6
5 Mion District Sang Mion 1 4
6 Nanton District Nanton Nanton 1 2
7 Nanumba North Municipal Bimbilla Bimbilla 1 6
8 Nanumba South District Wulensi Wulensi 1 6
9 Saboba District Saboba Saboba 1 4
10 Sagnarigu Municipal Sagnarigu Sagnarigu 1 3
11 Savelugu Municipal Savelugu Savelugu, Nanton 1 6
12 TAMALE Metropolitan Metropolitan Tamale Tamale Central, Tamale North Tamale South   3 13
13 Tatale District Tatale Tatale 1 3
14 Tolon District Tolon Tolon 1 12
15 Yendi Municipal Yendi Yendi 1 6
16 Zabzugu District Zabzugu Zabzugu 1 5
          18 103

Source: RPCU, 2020

Economic Activities

In northern Ghana, the staple crops whose growth exerts the largest effect on poverty reduction are groundnut, cassava and cowpea. Agricultural growth will deliver the broadest based growth. However, the fastest growth is likely to come from tourism and trade, and possibly mining.

However, despite the large effects of the agriculture-led growth, there is the need for complementary avenues for poverty reduction. A review of the current trends shows that while the north generally is a net migration area, the rewards of migration have been limited because people who migrate have no skills and are, therefore, limited to entering the informal job market where wages are low. The implication is to enhance this labour with education and skills. Ultimately, the region must attract production investment to boost economic activity and generate local growth. Hence the state must play a leading role in investing in productive and social infrastructure as a way of facilitating the environment for private sector. With an annualized GDP growth rate of 7.6% over the past three years, Tamale has emerged as the fastest growing city in West Africa, ahead of Kumasi, Ghana’s second city.

Occupation distribution of the Region shows that 71.2% of the populations are into Agriculture, while 5.7% are in the Professional/Administrative Class and 23.1% are in the Trade and Services Sector.


The tourism sector remains unexploited coupled with undeveloped infrastructure. Tourism has proven its case as a serious income generating economic sector, which has been converted from a want into a need. Northern Region has been made a great strides, especially as a potentially fantastic tourism destination in Ghana and the world as a whole.

Tourist Sites

The region is endowed with existing potentials and developed eco-tourism sites. Some major tourist attraction sites in the region include;

  • Babatu slave raider tomb is said to have originated from a tribe in the modern-day Niger. Some relics of his weapons used to enslave can be found in the family compound of some of his descendants at yendi. His grave has been preserved by his descendants.
  • Adibo Dale – Adibo (site of the battle of Adibo fought between the Germans and Dagombas in 1897.) Adibo Dale is the resistance to slave raiding in the North. It is stated that lots of spiritual events took place eg the hoof prints of the Kanbona-Kpema’s (Chief warrior) are still visible on boabab tree at Adibo since then.
  • German cemetery in yendi, popularly called “German grave” is the location of interment of German and Dutch soldiers who died in the war between Dagombas and the Germans
  • Na Dataa Tua in yendi, site where men who had sexual knowledge of the Ya-Na’s wives were beheaded. At the site are a sacrificial stone and a baobab tree, at the base of which the heads were dumped
  • Nakpa-Gbeini Grove has a special water body from which the Nakpa-naa is prohibited from taking a drink or even fish from it.
  • Dakpam grove noted for wild crocodiles and is significant as far as the Bangyili gate of Nanumba State is concerned.
  • Dalaayili Grove, where the ‘Damli’, the staff of any enskinned Bimbilla-naa.
  • Juale Defence wall and Gorge on the Oti River.
  • Kukuo scarp and witches shrine: Women accused of witchcraft live in Kukuo village in Nanumba North
  • Crocodile infested dugouts in Kpatinga in Gushegu
  • Saakpuli Well: one of the popular slave markets in the northern region was in Savelugu
  • The Sacred stone at Wapuli in saboba
  • An ox-bow lake in River Oti at Buagbalm in saboba
  • Tugu Crocodile Pond in Tamale
  • the smock and art craft center,
  • Cultural Center in Tamale
  • Jagbo Forest in tolon


 Some major festival celebrated across the region are the;

  • Damba Festival by the Dagomba by the people of Dagbon, and Nanumba to commemorate the birthday of the Holy Prophet Mohammed.
  • Bugum Chugu is celebrated throughout the Northern Region and the Kpini Chugu as a harvest offering to the gods.
  • Gobandawu marks the beginning of the new harvest season by the traditional areas in the Northern Regions. The main activity is the sacrificial offering of yams and guinea fowl to in-laws. The significance of this festival is to give thanks to the gods for a good harvest