WORKING ABROAD / SEP. 01, 2014
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How to Master Business Etiquette in Ghana

For years after gaining its independence from Great Britain, the sub-Saharan African nation of Ghana suffered from the turmoil of poverty and government incompetence, corruption and violence. Over the past quarter of a century, though, Ghana has become one of the economic engines in the continent, which is turning into a business-friendly climate.

With sound economic management, a competitive business structure and significant reductions in poverty levels, Ghana is a leading African country that a lot of other regional governments are trying to mimic. Thanks to a strong agricultural sector and steady oil production, Ghana can enjoy a rising gross domestic product, which is currently closing in on $100 billion.

As Ghana continues to maintain one of the lowest unemployment rates in Africa, a dependable resource industry and a hardworking labor market, there are an abundance of business opportunities to tap into, and of course it also provides its people with superb weather conditions.

If you wish to be successful conducting business in Ghana here is the business etiquette you need to know:

Communication

The Ghana government has deemed English to be the official language, but it is one of the least spoken languages in the nation. There are numerous languages uttered in Ghana, including Asante, Ewe, Fante, Boron, Dagomba, Dangme, Dagarte, Akyem, Ga and Akuapem.

People are generally polite as well as direct in their communication style. For instance, if someone makes the remark that “you look terrible today” then it should be viewed as a positive comment. Despite the positive and couth environment, it is impolite to ask for something directly.

At initial meetings, it’s a rule not to talk about controversial matters. Instead, the safest topics to discuss are family, sports, home and work.

During conversations, it’s best to stand at an arm’s length from each other. Much like other West African countries, it’s quite common to see two men walk and hold hands as they speak with each other as it symbolizes friendship – when men walk with women you will be considered dating that person.

Casual eye contact is the general rule of thumb, but too much can be classified as rude and threatening. However, when speaking with a senior or an authority figure then it’s important to avoid eye contact altogether.

Dress Code

Ghanaians are proud people and like to dress well. Men will usually wear pants, a collared shirt and tie, while women will regularly sport conservative dresses, skirts or pants and blouses. When men wear shorts it’s likely for sports and when women wear skimpy clothing then they are viewed as being promiscuous.

Greetings

A simple handshake is the most common way to greet someone for the first time (this is acceptable for all genders). There are some minor protocols, though: handshakes among friends are brief, handshakes in business settings linger and it’s prudent to wait for a senior or authority to initiate the handshake.

Professional Titles & Business Cards

When you know a person’s name then it will always suffice to address them as Mr. or Mrs. However, if you’re unaware of their name then you should constantly identify them as sir or Madame or by their profession (a driver can be called “driver” or a waiter can be called “waiter”).

Although there is no proper etiquette when distributing and receiving business cards, it’s always wise to give and receive these cards with your right hand.

Punctuality

Time is both important and unimportant to Ghanaians. Their view of punctuality is that it’s an essential issue, but most are usually late to meetings, whether it’s for business or socially, by as much as two hours. The standard protocol is to just wait. There has been a trend as of late in the business sector to show up to meetings on time.

Ghana is one of the most beautiful places in all of Africa, and its people are just as wonderful. Ghanaians are believed to be the most laid back people in the region, but also dedicated, hardworking, polite and respectful. If you travel to Ghana then be aware of some different customs and you’ll be fine.

Have you previously conducted business in Ghana? Let us know in the comment section.

Photo by Retlaw Snella Photography via Flickr.

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