Welcome to our helpful guide for Ghana. Should you be looking to travel, live, relocate or do business in Ghana, we will give you a helpful head start on understanding the country and its cultures.
Facts & statistics
Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the West, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean in the south.
The Capital: Accra
Main Cities: Accra, Kumasi, Tamale, Takoradi
Population: 25.9 million
Size: 238,535 sq km (92,098.9 sq miles)
Major Religion: Christianity
Main Language: English
Life Expectancy: 77 years (men), 84 years (women)
Dialling Code: +233
Emergency Numbers: 191 (Police) 192/999 (Fire) 193 (Ambulance)
Currency: Ghanaian Cedi
Symbols: GH₵, GH¢
ISO 4217 Code: GHS
Central Bank: Bank of Ghana
Currency Sub-Units: Pesewa = 1/100 of a Cedi
Denominations: GH₵1, 5, 10, 20, 50
Coins: 1, 5, 10, 20, 50Gp. GH₵1
Guan people can still be found in a few isolated places. But today, Ghanaians can be divided into four main regional groups:
- Mole-Dagbani, of the Northern Region
- Ewe, east of Lake Volta
- Ga-Adangbe, of the East
- Akan (including the Anyi, Asante/Ashanti, Baule, Fante and Guang), who live across the south and centre of Ghana and comprise more than half the population.
Including the official language, which is English, these groups speak over 40 languages and 70 different dialects. The Akan languages of Twi, Ashanti and Fante are the most common.
Ghanaian national dress, kente cloth, is a source of common identity and pride. It is handwoven into intricate patterns from brilliantly coloured silk. Men drape it around their bodies and women wear it as a two-piece outfit.
Languages in Ghana
There are nine government sponsored languages supported by the Bureau of Ghana languages which was established in 1951. These are Akan, Ewe, Dagbani, Dangme, Dagaare, Ga, Nzemaa, Kasem and Gonja.
Etiquette & customs
You should always greet people from right to left, and always with your right hand. Your palms should always be properly aligned for greeting people when going right-to-left. Always follow this order, regardless of the age, gender or status of the people you are greeting.
Always use your right hand to give and receive items, and to eat. In Ghanaian culture, your left hand is considered your ‘toilet hand’. It is a common practice to give money in shops with your right hand while at the same time receiving your purchase into the same hand.
Throughout Ghana when visiting villages and towns it’s customary for visitors to pay their respects to the local Chief when they visit. The Chief has been elected to this position usually by a council of elders, however the elders do have the power to overrule a chief’s decision if he acts inappropriately.
Ensure that you are not wasteful in any way during your time in Ghana. Every little thing in Africa has value. You will notice that the rubbish bins in homes and hotels are tiny, as not much is considered waste. It’s appreciated if you offer anything that has no value to you, to any person, anywhere.
The constitution in Ghana provides for the freedom of religion, and religious tolerance in the country is relatively high, allowing people to practice whatever faith tradition they desire.
Christianity is the largest religion in Ghana with approximately 72% of the population being members of various Christian denominations as per the 2010 census. The major Christian celebrations of Christmas and Easter are recognised as national holidays in Ghana. Additionally, nearly 18% per cent of Ghanaian citizens practice some form of Islam. Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, is observed by Muslims in Ghana and important traditional occasions are celebrated.
Business meeting advice (if doing business in Ghana)
Greet with a right handed handshake. In Ghana, the direct, “let’s get to business” approach is considered rude. Always exchange pleasantries and enquire about family before beginning to transact any business; this will be appreciated. You should only refer to your colleagues using first names after being invited to do so. While older people generally prefer to be addressed formally, you will find that the younger generations speak to one another more casually.
Initial business meetings in Ghana are about business associates getting to know each another and working out whether a future business relationship is likely to work on a personal level. Therefore you should expect to spend a fair amount of time on relationship and rapport building and you shouldn’t be surprised if no actual business matters are discussed in that first meeting.
Dress as you would for a business meeting in the UK. Timekeeping in Ghana is far more flexible than it is in Western societies and punctuality is not overly important. Therefore you should not expect your meeting to start on time and if you have more than one meeting planned in a day, ensure that you leave enough time to allow your first meeting to overrun, as it’s typical for a meeting to start late and over run.
Ghanaians do not like to say no, or to give bad news and as a result, proverbs and analogies are often used so the message is conveyed in a way which seems less blatant or direct. Silence is also not unusual. If someone is not comfortable with a question or if they think their response will not be liked or appreciated, they will say nothing rather than making the other person feel uncomfortable.
Business cards are exchanged at meetings without a formal ritual. Present and receive business cards with the right hand, never the left.
Address Ghanaians by their academic, professional, or honorific title and their surname until you are invited to address them by their first name only.
Ghanaian names consist of several given names and surnames based on the language of ethnic groups in Ghana. Children are given a “day name” which corresponds to the day of the week they were born. The day names have further meanings concerning the soul and character of the person. Middle names have considerably more variety and can refer to their birth order, twin status, or an ancestor’s middle name. These names are also used among Ghanaians living abroad and among Africans living in the diaspora who wish to identify with their ancestral homeland.
Management advice, when managing Ghanaian employees
Ghanaian business culture is hierarchical and people gain respect as a result of age, experience, wealth and their position within a company. Older people are viewed as being wise and not addressing seniors appropriately is a faux pas in Ghanaian business circles. Senior business people tend to be in charge of making decisions in the best interests of their company.
In Ghana, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a paternalistic attitude to their employees, which may demonstrate a concern for employees that goes beyond the workplace and professional concerns. This can include involvement in their family, housing, health, and other practical life considerations.
In the main cities many people speak English, which, as mentioned, is Ghana’s official language.
It’s ideal if you have a car, as there are not too many ways to get around otherwise. Public transport is mainly made up of “trotros” which are basically very cheap mini vans, and also taxi cabs. These are not too expensive, however they are not metered, and so sharp bargaining skills are required. You won’t find buses with designated stops or trains and trams.
You need to remember that Ghana is a developing country and what you may have previously taken for granted can be considered as luxury here.
Ensure that you take out healthcare insurance. You can also join private clinics at a price. It’s important to remember that if you don’t have the money for hospital, as harsh as this sounds, it could be fatal.
Unfortunately, it is hard to get a job in Ghana when you do not have the links to an agency or are not part of a local network. In reality you are unlikely to get the same salary as you are used to, however, you are likely to get some benefits which could equal your salary once these have been taken into consideration. However, even with a lower salary, you should still be able to live comfortably in Ghana.
Prepare for the weather! Air conditioning and a fan are an absolute must in this all year round tropical climate.