- Download our Moving to Ghana Guide (PDF)
Doing business in Ghana may not be the most popular option for expats, but entrepreneurs are attracted to the country for its natural resources, industrious and well-educated workforce, as well as the fact that English is the language of the Ghanaian business world.
For new arrivals interested in starting a business, there is much research to be done, and expats will need to take the necessary steps to understand the inner workings of Ghanaian business culture and business etiquette to avoid culture shock.
Although this varies, business hours in Ghana are usually Monday to Friday, from 8am to 6.30pm.
Handshakes are the norm in professional settings. Expats should always address people using their titles unless told otherwise, such as Madam and Sir or Mrs and Mr.
Dressing formally is generally appropriate in most corporate environments. Businesswomen often wear modest suits with skirts or trousers, while businessmen wear suits and ties.
While gifts are not necessary, they are generally welcome. Gifts need not be expensive, as the thought is more important than the item’s value. Gifts should be given using either the right hand or both hands.
Women are gradually gaining more equality in the workplace, but female representation at senior management levels remains pretty low.
Business culture in Ghana
Ghana’s business environment is underpinned by impressive economic growth and steady innovation in the business sector. The work environment is a unique blend of formality and traditional Ghanaian culture. As such, respecting hierarchy and maintaining relationships with colleagues is vital to succeeding in business in the country.
Ghanaian business culture is hierarchical, and people gain respect due to age, experience, wealth and their position within a company. Older people are considered wise, and not addressing seniors appropriately is considered disrespectful in Ghanaian business circles.
Professional and academic titles are valued in Ghana, so if a business contact has credentials, expats are advised to address them accordingly. Expats should wait to be invited to refer to their colleagues using their first names before doing so. While older people generally prefer to be addressed formally, the younger generations speak to one another more casually.
The concept of timekeeping in Ghana is far more flexible than in Western business culture, and punctuality isn’t overly important. Expats should leave a time buffer between meetings to accommodate for meetings that start or run late.
Networking and small talk
Ghanaians appreciate business associates who take the time to inquire about their health and family before beginning formal business proceedings. It’s considered rude to rush initial greetings and move straight onto business.
Initial business meetings in Ghana are about business associates getting to know one another and determining whether a future business relationship is likely to work on a personal level. Expats should expect to spend a fair amount of time on relationship and rapport building, and they shouldn’t be surprised if no actual business matters are discussed in the first meeting.
Expats doing business in Ghana may find that the communication style among local business people is somewhat indirect. People take care not to touch on topics that could cause tension. Ghanaians generally avoid rejecting an invitation from a business associate, and expats are advised to accept all invitations if possible.
Dos and don’ts of business in Ghana
- Do address seniors and those with academic or professional titles in the appropriate manner. Hierarchy is an integral part of Ghanaian business culture.
- Do leave a time buffer between meetings. The concept of time is flexible in Ghana, and meetings tend to overrun.
- Don’t expect to get down to business at the first meeting. Ghanaian people enjoy getting to know their colleagues personally before beginning any formal business proceedings.
- Don’t use the left hand when offering gifts to a business associate or when receiving them.
- Don’t embarrass a business contact at a meeting. Ghanaians value the concept of ‘maintaining face’ and will try to avoid uncomfortable situations.
What do expats say about Ghana's business culture?
"Business culture in Africa is very different from the Western culture. Also, obtaining finance, as in loans, is difficult and there are limitations as to what business an expat can engage in." Read our interview with David, a dual citizen of the UK and Ghana for more.
"While there are definitely opportunities to start businesses in Ghana, the process can be long and patience is required. Some industries may require a local partner." Read German expat Chris's interview for more on working in Ghana.
►For an overview of the job market, read Working in Ghana
►Read Visas for Ghana for more on visas and work permits
Are you an expat living in Ghana?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ghana. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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