In comparison to the Western world, business etiquette is more informal in Africa. In Ghana, like Japan, business relationships are influenced by culture and tradition.
Business conduct or etiquette is taken for granted and often than not overlooked by investors who assume money is enough to conclude a transaction. True or false, there is a perception that South African business persons do not understand the rest of the continent. This is most commonly manifested when they talk about “going to Africa” when they venture out to specific countries on business. Africa is not a country. This begs the question, how should one behave in specific countries when on business? How important is it to explore business conduct of the place where you intend to seal your deal?
Business and the concept of time.
In business, Ghanaians treasure time. Punctuality is a business cultural priority. The time for meetings is flexible and relaxed, but it is not appreciated that you should be late for a scheduled meeting. Nonetheless, do not expect your counterpart to arrive on time for the meeting.
It is important that you make appointments prior to conducting business and this should be done at a timely period. It is preferable that when making annual meetings, they should be scheduled between the months of September and April. Business working hours on a daily basis are between 8:00am to 5:00pm. Business days are Monday to Friday.
Do not plunge straight in!
In the first few meetings, one should not expect to go straight into business. Ghanaians believe in building relationships with their counterparts before they begin business. The first few meetings are spent getting to know each other and barely any business is or can be discussed. These meetings may be discussions on family, health and other issues on social life. With the importance of hierarchy and tittles, this is an opportunity for one to be invited to conduct business on a first name basis.
Ghanaians are considered as very sociable people and enjoy inviting people into their homes, hence it is considered disrespectful to refuse or turn down an invitation to someone’s house for a meal.
Even in the home setting, when you visit, it is appreciated to use titles like “Auntie or Uncle” during greetings because it displays respect and consideration for their culture. The most senior person in the home is greeted first. One does not take a seat unless offered and not before the eldest person in the room has taken a seat.
Meetings’ etiquette & Communication.
When meeting a counterpart for the very first time, rushing into a greeting is considered very rude. You address your counterpart with their title such as, “Mr, Mrs or Dr” to show respect, credentials to those in authority. One should always maintain eye contact during all conversations. It represents honesty. The most senior person is greeted first in a business setting or meeting, then you ask about family and health. When shaking hands, you use the right hand as the left is considered unclean.
It is important that you are aware of both your business counter parts culture and religion.
Culturally, elders are greeted first with the use of the right hand and depending on a specific religious group, different greetings are used. For example, Muslims do not shake hands with the opposite sex while Christians do. Ghanaians may have their own greeting depending on their ethnic group.
Silence is a considered form of communication. If an uncomfortable question or topic rises, the counterpart will remain silent to avoid making the other person uncomfortable. This way of responding is to avoid loss of face to the asker as the answer may be undesirable. But it is important that you do not fill the silence. If you have a sensitive issue to ask your counterpart, it is better to ask in confidence away from the public.
In Ghanaian business culture, the most senior counterpart in the company makes the final decision. Respect is shown to those with status, wealth, age, position and experience and these tend to be the most senior counterparts in the company henceforth the importance to address those using titles.
DO’S AND DON’TS IN GHANA BUSINESS ETIQUETTE
- DO address your Ghanaian business partner with their academic title because it is used as a representative of respect.
- DO ask questions about the well-being, health and or the family of your business counterpart. It is rude to get down to business right away.
- DO wear business suits for formal meetings, like at a bank or with the government.
- DO make an appointment for a meeting in advance, preferably between September and April.
- DO develop an understanding of how religion and indigenous beliefs influence the Ghanaian working practices.
- DO shake hands when you are meeting and departing.
- DON’T sit down before your older counterparts have sat down. You are expected to offer them a seat.
- DON’T be late for any business appointments as this can be seen as rude.
- DON’T give or receive gifts with the left hand.
- DON’T refuse an invitation for a dinner at someone’s home. Ghanaians love to have guests in their home and turning down an invitation is a sign of disrespect.
- DON’T shake hands, with your left hand.
So, if you are to take a flight or hit the road one day to Ghana to conduct business, take these pointers into consideration. They may not seem important now, but they may influence whether you sign the paper or not after conducting a business meeting.
My personal belief and view I stand by, is that life will always be a journey and not a destination. So, get on that band wagon with confidence.