Ghana is a country with a fast-growing economy and a vibrant business environment. As an expat looking to do business in Ghana, it’s important to understand the cultural nuances and business protocols in the country. This is a big part of the process of adapting to life in Ghana in general.
Here are some tips to help you navigate the Ghanaian business landscape:
Building relationships & networking
Ghanaian culture values personal relationships, so it’s important to take the time to build relationships with your business partners or potential clients. Ghanaians will really appreciate it if you take some time to ask about their health and family before beginning any formal business proceedings. It would be seen as rude from your side if you rush to move straight onto business talk.
You will also earn some points if you show your local business partners or local clients that you have been appreciating and integrating into their culture.
This can be anything from starting the conversation by saying how much you enjoy a local Ghanain breakfast, mentioning to them your Ghanaian day name or even pronouncing a few words in one of their local languages!
These types of approaches will immediately create some warmth and this will help in easing and creating a more trustful business relationship.
On a general note, we recommend you take the initiative to socialise outside of work and attend events to network. Here are a few tips on how you can make connections with other expats in Accra.
Understand the hierarchy
Ghana has a hierarchical society, so it’s important to show respect in certain instances. Respect is gained as a result of age, experience, wealth and their position within the company.
You will notice that many Ghanaians will address you using titles such as “Mr.” or “Madam”, this is done as a sign of respect. We recommend you also integrate such vocabulary when addressing someone in a business meeting or any other business context (for example Mr. + their name).
As mentioned above, age and status are highly valued, so it’s very important to show deference to those who are older because they are viewed as wise.
Patience is something you will definitely develop living in Ghana!
Business negotiations in Ghana can be slow and take time to develop. Be patient and take the time to build trust and rapport with your contacts. Rushing things can often backfire and lead to lost opportunities.
And remember, time does not always equal money in Ghana. Learn how to read between the lines as yes doesn’t always mean yes and tomorrow doesn’t actually mean it will happen to tomorrow (MAYBE next week if you’re lucky :D).
Being flexible is linked to being patient. From one side, you have to be flexible when it comes to time keeping because punctuality isn’t overly important. Advisable to always be prepared for some downtime before a meeting or in between meetings.
On another note, Ghanaian business culture can be quite informal in some instances, and as an expat, it’s important to be adaptable to certain business practices or etiquettes that may not be within your practice.
he informality can also be linked to the communication style which can also be seen as somewhat indirect in some instances. It is advisable to not touch on topics that can cause tension. Ghanaians generally avoid turning down an invitation from a business partner and as an expat you are also advised to do the same.
Tips to take into consideration during a meeting
The first impression really matters. You will notice that Ghanaians dress very formally for all business meetings. Could this be from the British influence? Whatever it is, make sure you take this into consideration.
Start of a meeting
People are greeted with a handshake during a business meeting. In Ghana, people will start a meeting by introducing themselves (their full name which tends to be a long one) and their position/mission within the business, as well as of all those people present in the meeting.
The language used is always very polite, using many “thank you’s” and “please”. They will proceed by welcoming you and expect you to expose your “mission in Ghana” or your reason for being here (a tradition that can be seen from a village chief welcoming guests to a village and asking them of their mission).
Ending a meeting
Meetings normally come to an end with some sort of agreement about the next steps that should be taken towards action. You may be asked to provide written information so it can be passed down onto decision-makers (applicable mostly within the public sector).
Phone calls during meetings
Just be aware that Ghanaians can take calls during a meeting and this is not seen as something rude. Again, this is simply another element of the relationship oriented culture.
Strengthening business relationships
As may be in your own culture, it is always a good reminder to know that building trust and rapport with your business partners/associates/clients never stops at a meeting stage.
It all comes down to a basic notion which is, treat them as you would like to be treated. Joke around (Ghanaians appreciate a good sense of humor) and try to make interactions with somewhat of a personal touch and not 100% hierarchical.
Do’s and Don’ts of doing business in Ghana
As a summary of everything we have shared on this post, let’s have a final look at some of the top tips and pros and cons you should consider as an expat when making business in Ghana:
- Take time to understand Ghana and its culture. Immerse yourself in it as a way to build closer and more trustful relationships.
- Never stop networking and building contacts, especially try and find people with good reputation and track record, who can show you the in’s and out’s.
- Patience and adaptability: punctuality is not valued as is in the western world and a “yes” is not always a yes.