Settling into life in a new country comes with many challenges and opportunities, and Ghana is no exception. On top of culture shock, expats have to endure the red tape surrounding visas, finding affordable accommodation, and integrating their children into a suitable school. On the other hand, there are plenty of upsides, and life in Ghana, with the right attitude, can be quite wonderful.
Here is a list of some pros and cons of moving to Ghana.
Culture in Ghana
+ PRO: Friendly people
Ghanaians are warm and friendly. They are happy to help and like to get to know each other, socialising before getting down to business and having lighthearted chats when haggling in local markets. Expats will be happy to know they are welcome in Ghana and are encouraged to learn local customs.
- CON: Different style of eating
Standard Ghanaian cuisine involves starch alongside a stew or soup. Meals are often eaten from a communal dish with the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand being used to pick up food. This style of eating can be a bit of a culture shock for those unused to eating with their hands.
Safety in Ghana
+ PRO: Fairly safe
Expats need not be anxious about their safety living in Ghana. While neighbouring and nearby countries experience political unrest, Ghana remains relatively peaceful. Expats living in compounds have the luxury of security staff as an added, but not strictly necessary, measure of protection.
- CON: Be aware of pickpocketing and scams
While safety is not a major issue, opportunistic petty crime does occur in Ghana. Expats should be aware that they may be targeted if they appear to be a new arrival, unaware of customs, confused in their new environment and not paying attention to their belongings. Remain vigilant and take common-sense precautions like not walking alone at night and keeping valuable items out of sight.
Getting around in Ghana
+ PRO: Excitement in travelling by tro-tro
Of course, travelling by tro-tro is both a pro and a con. These minibus taxis are a cheap way to whizz around town and can be lots of fun for foreigners looking to get familiar with the local way of life and experience some excitement; on the other hand, expats should take note that road rules are hardly obeyed, which means taking a tro-tro is not always the safest option. Taxis and ride-hailing services are a safer alternative.
- CON: Hectic traffic congestion
Being stuck in traffic is nothing new in Ghana’s major cities like Accra. Rush hour sees gridlock traffic jams stressing out drivers and impacting their arrival times to and from work and school. Poorly designed roads and high numbers of car ownership contribute to this, although there are plans to improve existing road networks.
Visas for Ghana
+ PRO: Expat businesses organise visas
Fortunately, foreigners moving to Ghana with employment already secured are likely to receive much support from their employing company. Companies must process work permits themselves and can help with visas and residence permits to get their expats settled.
- CON: Complicated, time-consuming procedures
Expats will face many bureaucratic procedures in Ghana when applying for visas, work permits and residence permits. Different governmental institutions need to be contacted, going through various departments. Patience is key and expats should consult their embassy for advice.
Accommodation in Ghana
+ PRO: Various housing options
Expats moving with families can find large homes with gardens while young and single expats might enjoy renting a luxury apartment. The housing stock is indeed in short supply and high demand, but expat companies often extend their support to accommodating employees in high-quality housing with air-conditioning.
- CON: Landlords expect heavy rent advancements
Oftentimes, securing a lease for accommodation is dependent on paying several months' rent in advance – and although contrary to legislation, this could even extend to two years’ worth of rent. By law, the maximum amount to be paid in advance is six months' rent, but this isn't always kept to in reality.
Cost of living in Ghana
+ PRO: Employment packages are negotiable
Despite high costs, many employment contracts can be negotiated in favour of the expat employee. This can include accommodation, tuition fees, insurance as well as visa and travel costs. It's important to discuss these matters with the employer when securing a job in Ghana.
- CON: Costs may be higher than expected
Expats should drop the conception that that things will be cheap because it’s Africa. Plush accommodation and quality education often come with heavy fees. The accommodation that meets Western standards is expensive, especially in Accra, and prices are often set based on the US dollar then converted into Ghanaian cedi, which may fluctuate. International schools with high tuition fees also contribute to the cost of living in Ghana.
Schools in Ghana
+ PRO: Fantastic international schools
Expat children from America, Canada, France, Germany and the UK will have few issues settling in provided the range of quality international schools to choose from. Those with a certain religious background or preference for Montessori education will also have their needs met, especially in large cities such as Accra.
- CON: Limited support for children with special needs
Despite Ghana’s Inclusive Education Policy, public schools provide limited help for children with disabilities and special needs. International private schools are more likely to provide inclusive education, but these should be contacted directly to find out the level of support available.
Working in Ghana
+ PRO: Business language is English
Although there are many languages spoken in Ghana, English is the official language and is spoken in business settings. This eases culture shock and language barriers for many English-speaking expats.
- CON: Work opportunities for expats are limited
Work opportunities for expats are limited because they are largely quota-based. Companies must apply for a work permit to employ foreign workers and this is dependent on their capital investments in Ghana. There are other options available, however, such as possibilities for company transfers to branches in Ghana or even starting up a new business.
Healthcare in Ghana
+ PRO: Private health insurance is beneficial
Expats should organise private health insurance and though this can be costly, many expat companies include this as part of their employment package. Health insurance can cover a range of health issues, treatment in higher-quality private medical facilities, as well as medical evacuation and repatriation in case of emergencies.
- CON: Health concerns like malaria are serious
Mosquito-related illnesses such as malaria and yellow fever have been major issues in Ghana. Mosquito repellent and mosquito nets are necessary precautions, and expats should be well informed of the diseases and which hospitals provide quality healthcare.