Ghana: The Best Place to Start A Business In Africa – Part II

The Business Culture


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For many people who make the move from a Western country to start a business in Ghana the difference in how business is conducted will be the greatest challenge:


Punctuality is not seen as a main priority.

The concept of time is looked at in a relaxed and flexible way. This causes difficulties for those used to the Western way of planning and organisation.


Always make an appointment.

Don’t be late as it can be seen as rude to your counterpart but don’t expect them to be on time!


Relationship building is very important.

Always take the time to get to know your counterpart before starting business discussions.


Titles are important and should be used to show respect to those with authority and credentials.


Indirect communication style is used

Bad news or turning something down will be prevented at any time as this could cause a loss of face. In general, Ghanaians find it very difficult to say ‘no’ and confrontation and embarrassment will be avoided if at all possible.


Managing people and employees

You will find, particularly at the outset, you will need to micro-manage everything and not take your foot off the pedal as it were. Also never underestimate the power of presenteeism – having the ‘boss’ constantly in the office you will find has a positive effect on your employees’ the business’s performance.

You’ll also find that finding people who are willing to learn and have a similar work ethic as you will take sometime.



Understanding The Market


Understanding the Ghanaian consumer is so important to making your business idea work. You need to know who they are; what makes them tick; how they buy; what they watch.


Global research company Nielsen did some research across Africa some years ago and developed consumer segments to help businesses better understand the Ghanaian consumer market. They essentially categorised the African consumer into 7 segments:

  • Progressive Affluents
  • Struggling Traditionals
  • Female Conservatives
  • Balanced Seniors
  • Trendy Aspirants
  • Wannabe Bachelors
  • Evolving Juniors
African consumer

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Read more about this in my article – The African Consumer on



Advertising and promotions work well in Ghana

Advertising & Promotions

Cadbury Dairy Milk Advert. Image Credit:


According to Nielsen, compared to consumers in other African countries, Ghanaian consumers express a higher preference to buy brands that are advertised, available on promotion, possess attractive packaging and come in both small and bulk pack sizes.


Viral marketing when done well, usually with celebrity endorsement and comedic with a catchy jingle, can have a huge impact on sales. In Ghana you would often see these kinds of adverts on TV or radio – celebrity involvement/comedy sketch/catchy jingle. They may seem cheesey to you and me but they work and that’s all that matters!


Media Integration


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The penetration of TV (95%), radio (92%) and Internet (33%) in Ghana is greater than penetration in most other African countries surveyed in the Nielsen report (Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and DRC)


Driven by low literacy (67%), the penetration of newspapers (32%) and magazines (12%) in Ghana is lower than what was observed in other African countries.


Almost one-fifth of the consumers surveyed, particularly Trendy Aspirants and Progressive Affluents, use their mobile phones for assessing Internet and staying connected via social networking websites such as Facebook.


Internet / Digital Integration


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Here are a few stats on digital integration on the African continent from the 2012 Deloitte Report on Social Media In Africa:

  • Africa has the 2nd largest mobile phone market after Asia with more the 700 million mobile phone connections. This is set to rise to 1 billion by 2016.
  • More people on the continent are being introduced to the internet via mobile phones than any other medium
  • Africa has the 2nd highest levels of mobile traffic as a share of overall internet traffic at 14.9%. This is only preceded by Asia at 17.8%
  • Social media activity is by far the largest driver of mobile consumption. Social media is used very differently in Africa in that it is not being used as an entertainment tool or to consume media but rather as a cost-effective communication platform.



Last few words…


Can YOU survive in this market?

Something definitely to think about if you’ve not lived in Ghana for a very long time. You will come across some interesting challenges, particularly dealing with people, some you thought were not possible. If you can navigate the challenges of working in the market you business has every chance of succeeding.


Leverage the media

Not only highlight your product or service attributes but to also to enable consumers to try new brands. Amongst consumers product recommendation by friends and family will ensure trial and help to build brand loyalty.


Have a balanced view and work with local partners

Being open and flexible and use the correct etiquette and customs when building relationships with local partners.


Have a plan A, B, C, D & E

They say ‘fail to plan and you plan to fail’. In this case have many different plans to succeed, as things are unlikely to go the way you initially plan them to.


Do it now while you still can!

While you’re still young enough and also while the country and continent is still growing fast – soon there won’t be any room left!



What other information or advice would you give someone considering starting a business in Ghana?



Categories : GBM on Africa

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