Official languages: English, African languages such as Akan and Ewe
Main Religions: Christianity (70%), Islam (17%), traditional faiths
The Republic of Ghana is a West African country, famed for its jagged and beautiful coastline, rich culture and welcoming people. The country shares borders with Ivory Coast to the west, Togo to the east and Burkina Faso in the north. The lively capital Accra is the largest and most densely-populated area, with nearly three million residents. Ghana’s geography consists of low plains and rivers and a 539km-long coastline which hugs the Gulf of Guinea, boasting some of the continent’s most spectacular beaches. Ghana is also home to Lake Volta, the world’s largest artificial lake (3,272 sq miles) and an abundance of wildlife including lions, elephants and chimpanzees, which can be viewed in the vast Mole National Park in the north of the country.
Since gaining independence from British rule in 1957, Ghana is now considered to be one of the most developed nations in West Africa. The country’s growing economy is boosted by manufacturing, exports and natural resources such as gold, oil and cocoa. In 1992, Ghana established a new constitution which allowed multi-party elections, enabling its continuing transformation into a modern and outward-looking country. Famous Ghanaians include former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.
The word ‘Ghana’ means “Warrior King” in the Soninke language, reflecting the proud and hierarchical structure of Ghanaian society. There are over 100 ethnic groups currently living peacefully in Ghana and citizens are proud of their tribal heritage while promoting a national identity. The Ashanti tribe is the largest in Ghana and one of the few societies on earth that is traced through the maternal line. The family is central to Ghanaian culture and loyalty to one’s relatives and respect for tribal traditions are deeply embedded and evident in daily life.
Ghana is considered one of the cultural centres of the African continent and the country has thriving film and music industries. The capital Accra is fast-becoming one of Africa’s most cosmopolitan cities and offers a wide range of restaurants, bars and bustling market places. Football is Ghana’s most popular sport and the country often comes to a standstill, with many shops and businesses closing when the national team – nicknamed The Black Stars – are playing.
Ghana’s research landscape has seen significant growth in recent years and the University of Ghana now has four research centres in the fields of medicine, tropical/clinical pharmacology, therapeutics and population studies.
Within the last decade there have been a number of reforms and initiatives to increase research productivity and widen PhD training opportunities in Ghana. Research is funded by the Ghanaian government through the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) and through external donors and partners. Ghana currently does not have a national policy framework for research, however steps are being made to formulate a research agenda to increase the level of funding and collaboration.
Tertiary education in Ghana has expanded in recent years and the country now has 55 universities, 10 polytechnics and a range of other specialised institutions. Just under a third of universities are publicly funded – the rest are private organisations. Top-ranking institutions include the University of Ghana (public) in the capital city Accra and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (public) in Kumasi, southern Ghana.
Universities offer a two-tier system of degree programmes, with bachelor’s degrees taking around four years to complete and master’s degrees between one and two years. A PhD takes around three to five years to complete. English is the principal language of instruction and research in Ghanaian universities and schools. Admission to university in Ghana is by grades attained at secondary school and an entrance exam and there is fierce competition for places, particularly in state-run institutions. Tuition fees at public institutions are around 1,500 GHC (£233) per year for home students and 2,400 GDS (£370) per year for international students.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Ghana is higher than other African countries but around 25% lower than the UK and USA. Rents and utilities will take up most of an expat’s budget, however essentials such as food and transport are reasonable when compared to some European nations. The capital Accra is the most expensive place to live, particularly in the more exclusive areas of the city, such as Abelempke and Trasacco Valley.
Since the introduction of a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the cost of healthcare is low. However, expats are advised to take out a comprehensive international insurance healthcare policy, which would usually be arranged by your employer in Ghana.
Ghana has a growing population of professional expats, therefore rented property is in high demand. The good news is that the demand for rented accommodation has fuelled an upsurge in the construction of new properties. If you are moving for an academic or research post, most Ghanaian universities will assist you in finding suitable accommodation in the form of an apartment or a small house. The rental price of a one-bed apartment in central Accra is around 5,200 GHC (£800) per month. Rents are cheaper the further you live from the capital city. Tenants should be aware that most landlords expect a deposit of up to six month’s rent (sometimes more) in advance before contracts can be signed.
Visas and Eligibility
All visitors entering Ghana must have a valid entry visa (or entry permit in the case of Commonwealth nationals). Visas are valid for a period of three months (or up to one year for specific purposes). You can apply for a visa from the Ghanaian High Commission in London. Note that all visitors to Ghana are required to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever at least ten days before the date of travel.
Expats who have secured a job in Ghana must apply for work and residence permits. Applications are made to the Ghana Immigration Service and your employer is required to assist you with this process.
Safety and security
Ghana is one of the safest countries in Africa and violent crime is low. However, petty crime such as pickpocketing can be a problem, so it’s best to keep a close eye on your possessions when in crowded tourist spots and marketplaces. Additionally, expat workers should be aware that it is mandatory for all foreign nationals resident in Ghana to register with the National Identification Authority (NIA) as soon as possible after arrival.
Working hours in Ghana are not dissimilar to Europe and the USA. Depending on the type of employment, the working day usually begins at 8am and finishes at 5pm, Monday to Friday. By law, workers are only permitted to work a maximum of 40 hours per week. Employees are entitled to at least 15 working days of paid leave after completion of 12 months continuous service. Workers are entitled to 13 public and religious holidays (Festival Days) which incorporate both Christian and Muslim celebrations, as well as national celebrations such as Ghanaian Independence Day (6th of March).
Ghanaian culture is hierarchical, with appropriate respect accorded to age, experience and position. This culture is reflected within the organisational structure of the workplace and those in senior positions are expected to make the final decisions.
Ghanaians are known for being highly respectful and polite and the prevalent workplace culture strives to maintain harmony between co-workers. Heated exchanges would be considered extremely rude and Ghanaians will do their utmost to make everyone feel comfortable and respected during meetings, while according deference to the most senior people in the room. The business world in Ghana is highly formal so it’s a good idea to use your counterpart’s given titles until you get to know them better.