The distribution channels available for U.S. suppliers of goods and services include wholesalers, retail outlets, and agents or distributors.
When talking to potential distributors/sellers in Ghana, an important issue to consider is potential changes in product shelf life given the warm and humid climate in the country.
Major cities in Ghana for U.S. goods and services roughly correlate with population size:
- Accra/Tema Metropolitan area (2.4 million people) – with the greater Accra regional population topping 5.4 million.
- Kumasi (2.1 million)
- Takoradi (728,000)
- Tamale (275,000)
- Sunyani (252,00)
Goods primarily enter Ghana via sea or air (including air freight, courier services, air parcel post and express). Because deliveries can sometimes be delayed, it is important to allow extra time when preparing delivery timetables. Also, it is advisable to ensure that required documentation is in order prior to shipment; incorrect or incomplete documentation can add extra time to delivery schedules. A freight forwarder is recommended to increase the chances of a smooth transit of goods to Ghana. Please see CS Ghana’s Business Service Providers’ List for information.
Currently, all goods enter Ghana through one of two main seaports, Tema or Takoradi, or via Kotoka International Airport in Accra. Companies have reported problems with customs clearance, including some reports of solicitations for bribes from port and customs officials. (See the customs section).
Note: Companies can store imported or locally manufactured goods under customs control in a government or private bonded warehouse without payment of import duty or other taxes to allow deferment of tax liabilities until the goods are needed for consumption or are exported.
Using an Agent to Sell U.S. Products and Services
While it is not legally required by Ghanaian law to do so (in most cases), U.S. companies that retain a local, experienced representative in Ghana tend to experience a greater level of success when entering the market. For this reason, U.S. companies should consider engaging a local business partner to help them succeed in the Ghanaian market. In some industry sectors, notably the oil and gas sector, U.S. firms may be required to operate through a local partner.
When choosing a Ghanaian business partner, some important factors are:
- The local agent or distributor chosen understands the local economy and import/export regulations.
- The potential business partner has enough experience working with international companies in the same or a related sector.
- The Ghanaian company shares the same expectations as its potential U.S. partner. West African companies can overestimate the viability of commercial opportunities in their home markets.
- If the exported product requires maintenance and servicing, the distributor will be able to provide qualified personnel and a reasonable inventory of spare parts to local buyers.
- Whether exclusivity is a priority for a distributor or agent (note that most agents and distributors in Ghana often represent several product lines, so an exclusive agent/distributor may be more difficult to find).
- The U.S. company has conducted rigorous due diligence of the agent or distributor prior to commencing a business relationship.
U.S. Commercial Service Ghana at Office.Accra@trade.gov can assist U.S. companies in finding a local business partner or conducting due diligence on a potential partner. See Commercial Service’s due diligence services such as an International Company Profile.
Establishing an Office
Registering a business can be done online via the Ghanaian Office of Registrar of Companies. Businesses have noted that the process of fully establishing a business requires can require compliance with regulations and procedures of at least four other government agencies, including the Ghanaian Investment Promotion Center (GIPC), the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Ghana Immigration Service, and the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).
More detailed information about setting up a business is available at the GIPC website. The GIPC acts as a one-stop shop for economic, commercial and investment information for international companies and businesspeople interested in starting a business or investing in Ghana.
The main types of business entities in Ghana are:
1. Companies, including branches of foreign firms
2. Partnerships and joint ventures
3. Sole proprietorships
Under Ghana’s Companies’ Code, the following forms of business are allowed:
1. Limited Liability Company – liability of members limited to amount, if any, unpaid on shares respectively held by it,
2. Company Limited by Guarantee – liability of members limited to amount they respectively undertake to contribute to the assets of the company in the event of its being liquidated, or
3. Unlimited Company – no limit on liability of members.
Note: Ghana does not allow limited liability partnerships. A company may be registered as a public or private company. Every company with limited liability must include the word ‘Limited’ as the last word of its name. Companies incorporated in Ghana must have at least one shareholder and two directors, with one director resident in Ghana. Companies must file annual returns with the Registrar of Companies.
The U.S. Commercial Service Ghana also advises that a local attorney be consulted prior to establishing a business in the country. The U.S. Commercial Service maintains a list of attorneys in Ghana, several of whom have worked and/or studied in the United States. Generally, the cost for the service and registering of a business does not exceed $2,500.
For the latest Investment Climate Statement (ICS) which includes information on investment and business environments in foreign economies pertinent to establishing and operating an office and to hiring employees, visit the U.S. Department of Department of State’s Investment Climate Statements website..
There are about a dozen American franchisees in the local economy with opportunities for expansion in this sector. For a more detailed discussion, see the Franchising section above under the Leading Sectors for U.S. Exports and Investments.
Direct marketing is not a well-established business model in Ghana. There are a limited number of international direct marketing companies with an established presence. However, a recent increase in interest on the part of international direct marketing companies may indicate future growth in this business method. The Ghanaian culture values extended networks of business, family, and school contacts, a factor that could lead to success for products sold through a direct marketing distribution channel.
While the Ghanaian Investment Code encourages joint ventures, U.S. companies should ensure that any joint venture arrangements clearly delineate the areas of responsibility for each party. Financial arrangements should be discussed in detail and in advance. Some local entrepreneurs expect the foreign investor to bear all costs while their contribution is limited to local market expertise. Conducting due diligence on a prospective partner is always advisable, as is retaining a local attorney.
Local content requirements in the petroleum sector have made joint ventures a more attractive approach to market entry. The U.S. Commercial Service Ghana advises all U.S. companies to carefully select a qualified partner and spend resources conducting extensive due diligence before committing to a joint venture structure.
Multiple options are available for both inbound and outbound express delivery. FedEx, DHL, TNT Express, UPS, EMS, and Aramex have operations in Ghana. There are no significant restrictions on the operations of express delivery services in Ghana; most firms work through a licensed agent.
The U.S. Commercial Service Ghana strongly advises U.S. companies to conduct due diligence on all potential new business partners in Ghana. CS Ghana can assist with this by reviewing correspondence or documentation received from potential partners and/or via one of Commercial Services’ due diligence services such as an International Company Profile or Initial Market Check.
Trade Promotion Services
U.S. companies interested in trade promotion services should contact the U.S. Commercial Service Ghana at Office.Acccra@trade.gov or +233(0) 30-274-1870 or the nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC). To find contact details for the nearest USEAC.
Local Professional Services: A list of pre-vetted, local business service providers can be found on CS Ghana’s Business Services Providers’ list.
Principal Business Associations
American Chamber of Commerce Ghana
No. 10 Mensah Wood Avenue, East Legon, Accra
P.O. Box CT2869, Cantonments-Accra, Ghana
Tel: +233 030 224-7562/233 030 701-1862
Fax: +233 030 224-7562
Association of Ghana Industries (AGI)
2nd Floor, Addison House
Trade Fair Centre, La-Accra
P.O. Box AN-8624
Accra North – Ghana
T: +233 (0) 30 277-9023
Ghana Chamber of Commerce & Industry
1st Floor, World Trade Center,
Opp. Children’s Park, National Theatre-Accra
P.O Box 2325, Accra
Tel: +233 (0) 30 266-2860