Business Etiquette in Ghana

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Business Etiquette in Ghana
Business Etiquette in Ghana (Image by: United States Agency for International Development, public domain)

Ghana is a stable constitutional democracy of diverse ethnicity and tribal makeup. The country is predominantly Christian, with a minority Muslim population of approximately 16 percent. The official language is English, although nine other languages are spoken. Business people are most prone to use English, however, which is the language of business, especially in the capital of Accra.

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The Ghanaian People

Family is important to the people of Ghana, and family matters take precedence over nearly all other aspects of life. Acting honorably and showing ethical behavior are important so as to not disgrace the family. The Akan, or Ashanti, and Fanti people consider their bloodline to run though their mother's side of the family.

Doing Business in Ghana

Ghana's largest exports are gold, cocoa, bauxite, aluminum, manganese ore, diamonds, horticultural products, timber and tuna. Imports include capital equipment, petroleum and food. There are many other areas of opportunity in trade with Ghana, and foreigners who approach business people in the country are likely to receive a warm reception and willingness to discuss opportunities.

Meeting Etiquette

First meetings for business people in Ghana are more about getting to know you and deciding whether to meet again with you and talk business. Ghanaians tend to be reserved at first, but as they get to know people they loosen up and find great pleasure in joking and teasing people. Always greet the senior-most person first before acknowledging his or her subordinates.

Communications

Be cautious not to speak too directly, because Ghanaians are prone to be less direct when speaking. As a culture, they are apt to avoid awkward moments, such as delivering unfavorable news, declining an invitation or declining a business offer. Ghanaians would rather "save face," whether it's their face or yours, than create discomfort. Sometimes this is done with the use of old sayings or short tales to illustrate a point. Silence is another common way of responding to a question that can't be answered without causing discomfort.

Business Etiquette and Protocol

Shake hands while maintaining friendly eye contact, then exchange business cards when appropriate. Use the right hand or both hands to offer your business card, but do not use your left hand. As is common in most Western countries, it is considered polite to wait for a woman to initiate a handshake. It is considered polite to take time to ask about one's health and family members. Be sensitive to titles, whether honorary or professional, as well as surnames. Do not use a first name until you have been invited to do so.

Gift Giving

Gift giving is common among business people in Ghana. Offer the gift with both hands or your right hand, but do not use your left hand. The gift does not need to be expensive, but the gesture is a sign of respect and friendliness. If you chose to wrap the gift, don't be offended if the recipient does not unwrap it when it's received. No gift is expected if you are invited to dinner, even if the dinner is at the person's home. Children always enjoy receiving a gift, no matter how small.

Dining Etiquette

Don't be surprised if your business dinner is held at your host's home. Ghanaians often entertain at home. It is common to remove your shoes upon entering a home. Business people in Ghana tend to dress well and judge others on their manner of dress. You may be introduced to other family members, including elders. Table manners tend to be formal, and you will likely be told where to sit. The meal often starts with hand washing. Food is usually served from a shared bowl, and it is considered polite to eat only from the portion of the bowl directly in front of you. Wait until your host begins eating before you start. Always use your right hand, and not the left, to eat.

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