Challenge of Selling in Ghana


Honestly, making money in Ghana is harder than I thought.  Several things I took for granted in the US are absent in the local market.

Credit cards: To state the obvious, these plastic rectangles are licenses to overspend! Due to the prevalence of fraudsters originating from Nigeria and Ghana, most vendors do not accept credit card payments nor PayPal from these countries.  In other words, there is no impulse shopping so a Facebook or Google Adwords campaign does not easily convert into cash.  The consumer either must email/call the vendor or arrange a bank transfer in person.  I’m sure that’s part of the reason UgoDeal, a Groupon imitator in Ghana, folded shop.

Second, without credit cards, we cannot auto-bill.  Many popular services in the US, e.g. Netflix, Match, Audible, gym memberships, seem to rely on people forgetting to cancel their subscriptions.  Once you accept that feature, you basically agree to renew at least 2-3 times before you realize it’s a complete waste of time or money.

Wary and (more) Discreet Culture: Perhaps due to the fact that there a lot of scammers, e.g. microfinance lenders, gold traders, and poor quality products imported from China, Ghanaians are wary of trying new products and services.  Couple that with a more modest income level and you get a culture that is not adventurous in it’s spending.

Several people have told me that once you get a critical mass of Ghanaians doing something, then everyone will imitate them and follow suit.  Ghanaians are lemmings!  How does this help me?  I’m introducing a new service. (I also think that’s not much different from other countries.)

Lastly, Ghanaians are not known for being extravagant spenders — those are the Nigerians.  In the late 1970s, under former dictator/President Jerry Rawilings, an army squad routinely shot or “disappeared” political enemies and people who appeared to be taking advantage of the system.  Anecdotes from friends describe incidents where people were pulled out of their fancy cars then either shot or taken away.

This history makes several old-timers reluctant to wear clothes or drive cars/SUVs in keeping with their economic status.  Usually the children of the wealthy are the ones spending big in the bars and clubs or driving the Benz and Land Rovers.  Thus, even identifying upper income Ghanaians is not that easy.

Sales-oriented:  People prefer to buy rather than rent.  They like to own things.  Perhaps this has something to do with the high cost of financing, e.g. 25 percent corporate borrowing rate, north of 50 percent for individuals.

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