How to make a good impression when working with Ghanaians
Take time to develop personal relationships and be guided by your counterpart as to when to move on to business. Expect to be asked personal questions, like ‘What religion are you?’ and answer politely. Ghanaians love to chat and put a person in context and this questioning helps them to achieve that.
Be friendly and patient, rather than living up to the Western stereotype of coming across as aggressive and paranoid. Many visitors take the attitude that all Ghanaians are out to make money from them, or overcharge them, or demand bribes, which is not always the case at all. Bear in mind that English may not be the first language of your Ghanaian counterpart.
Ghana has always been in the shadow of Nigeria and is only coming into its own since the discovery of oil. Show that you are serious about investing in Ghana and do not make unfavourable comparisons with Nigeria.
Humour is important. Ghanaians love banter and teasing and may poke gentle fun at you. Once a relationship has been established, it’s fine to join in but be careful not to offend. Ghanaians will use stories and metaphors to make a point and you can do the same as a way of connecting with your audience.
10 tips for success when working with Ghanaians
- Business is personal, so expect the first couple of meetings to be about relationship-building, not talking business.
- Family connections are very strong, so do not be surprised to find many members of the same family working in one business, or do be asked to do favours for a contact’s family members.
- Ghana is a country of traditional chiefdoms. Local hierarchies are very important. Chiefs may not have political power but they have considerable power in the community and a connection to the people that politicians lack. Chiefs need to be cultivated and shown respect and in very remote communities, traditional rituals of greeting are important.
- Ghanaians have what some managers from the developed world might consider a relaxed work ethic. Many will get by doing the minimum. A good manager will need to keep on top of their team and to produce results.
- Ghanaians have a very laid-back attitude to time. Although visitors should arrive on time for meetings, Ghanaians may be an hour or more late. Socially, it’s not expected that you will arrive on time for an event; three or four hours late is perfectly acceptable (for a party; for dinner, it’s more important to be reasonably timely).
- Negotiating is part of daily life and is expected. The seller is expected to go in high and the buyer to make a very basic offer, the goal being to meet in the middle.
- Three things to remember in negotiations are fairness, a soft sell and a relaxed pace. Anything else will arouse suspicion and put you in a weak position.
- Decisions will be taken by one individual at the top of the hierarchy but after collaboration with trusted advisors.
- Ghanaians, like other sub-Saharan Africans, are fatalistic. They are more inclined to adapt to their environment than to try to change it.
- Ghanaians have a love of storytelling and meetings and presentations will involve long, detailed anecdotes, metaphors and flowery descriptions of events. Do not try to rush meetings; it will be seen as rude.
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