Joël Dido, EDC’s regional manager for Africa, shares his views on Ghana, a market that has been designated as one of EDC’s five priority countries in Africa and is known for offering specific opportunities for Canadian companies. In 2014, Ghana was Canada’s fourth largest market for merchandise exports in the sub-Saharan African region, after Botswana, Nigeria and South Africa. And from 2000 to 2014, two-way merchandise trade increased by 145.6 per cent. In 2014, Canadian exports to Ghana totaled more than $157.3-million – top exports included cereals, vehicles and parts, machinery, and textiles.
What’s your experience working in the region?
At EDC, I’ve been working as the International Business Development Group’s regional manager for Africa since April 2014. I’ve come from a banking background and worked as a banker in Africa for nine years. I was based in the Ivory Coast, which is a neighbouring country of Ghana. I came to know these West African countries well since they have strong economic ties and belong to the same economic union. I was dealing with a lot of clients from this region and also have some relatives living in Ghana.
How strong is the Canadian presence in Ghana?
As of June 2014, we worked with 58 Canadian companies through our offices in Ghana. They are mostly active in the mining sector and have roughly $2 to 3-billion of assets in Ghana in that industry. These 58 companies do not include businesses that are active through agents or brokers but don’t have a presence in the country. If we take all of them into account, there are around 100 Canadian companies working in Ghana.
Where can Canadian businesses find opportunities in these markets?
The mining sector is important – Ghana is Africa’s second largest gold producer – along with related industries, such as mining equipment and service companies, engineering companies, infrastructure, planning, consulting, transportation and project management. There is also a huge need for power – everything from generation, transmission and distribution – not only in Ghana but in Africa in general. This includes hydro, solar, biomass or other sources of power. Additional potential can be found in ICT and infrastructure, like roads, construction and ports.
What factors are driving these opportunities?
Traditionally, Ghana has been a mining and agricultural country. Then, in the late ‘90s, the country discovered some oil and gas fields. That boosted economic opportunities. Another factor would be the political stability. Ghana has been through four different elections without any major disruptions.
What challenges could Canadian companies face?
Corruption is an issue in Africa in general and it’s also present in Ghana, although at a lower level than in Nigeria, for example. And the power supply is highly unstable. In addition to all this, Canadian companies face fierce competition from other nations, such as the U.K., China and France.
What cultural practices should be considered?
People in Ghana are generally used to the presence of foreign companies, so there isn’t a huge gap in the way they do business. But manners tend to be more formal and the perception of time is different. People will take more time for lunches or discussions, for example, it’s a “flow-based environment.” Ghanaians are also attached to traditional values, like family and religion, whether they are Muslim or Christian. And it’s important to show respect to elders.
What are your top “dos and don’ts” for Canadian businesses?
In Ghana, personal relationships come first and business will follow. When you are on your first visit, take the time to get to know the people and build a relationship with them rather than trying to speed up the process and go directly to the business discussion. It’s also a hierarchical society. This means you will be judged first on you appearance, then on your age, as people will equate this with the experience they think you have. So, if you send your junior guy, people won’t regard this as a serious way of doing business.
Any additional advice?
You cannot expect to build a business in Ghana from Canada, you have to go there and be on the ground, get to know the people and understand the business environment.
See also: Ghana Country Information