By Sheelagh Mahoney, Head of Intercultural Training, Farnham Castle Intercultural Training
A rich and diverse country steeped in history, Ghana lies at the heart of Sub Saharan Africa. With vast reserves of natural resources, its economy has been built upon being one of the world’s best cocoa and gold producers.
The country is fast becoming an attractive opportunity for UK investors, with Ghana’s economy maintaining an average annual growth of about 6% over the past 6 years. Prospects for UK companies include transport, logistics and renewable energy.
However, with 30% of the population still living under the international poverty rate, the economy also relies heavily on financial and technical support from other countries. To take advantage of this developing economy you must first understand the intricacies of Ghanaian social, economic and business culture.
Ghanaian’s value family, their rich ethnic diversity and religion – these three factors can help immensely with intermediate business discussions. Like many African countries, the business pace is much slower than in the UK, making it important to take time to get to know your counterparts.
With respect shown to those with wealth, age, experience and position – finding out who makes decisions is essential if you are to reach the right person to speak to. If you ask your Ghanaian business partners for advice on this, or on how to address people, it will not cause offence – instead they will appreciate the attentiveness you show.
Initial meetings are often used for relationship building rather than business discussions – asking about the health and family of your business partner is one way to show an interest.
Body language in Ghana contrasts dramatically with the UK. In terms of eye contact, people in Ghana will generally not look straight into another person’s eyes when communicating as this can be interpreted as rude. Ghanaians also beckon with the palm up, moving all four fingers. They are taught never to point at people, and will often use pursed lips in the direction of the person to whom they are referring.
Silence is a common way of responding to a question that can’t be answered, without causing offence. It is advisable not to try and fill the silence, instead ask in private if you feel you have something else to say.
It is important to be sociable: Ghanaian society is tight-knit, and people depend on one another. Like Indian culture, when receiving social invites from business partners, it is considered a sign of disrespect to not attend.
Taking all business etiquette tips into consideration, Ghana offers real potential for businesses looking to expand abroad, something organisations such as Barclays, Vodafone and British Airways have known for years.