Moving to Ghana
Ghana has been called ‘the Gateway to Africa’ and ‘Africa-lite’ by investors and expats respectively. The country is less riddled with crime, corruption and political instability than its surrounding neighbours and sub-Saharan African countries on the whole. It's a mild introduction to what makes Africa tick, and expats are eased into what to expect before moving on to more intense experiences in countries like Angola, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC).
The expat community has grown over the years and become quite diverse. Lebanese traders who have been in the country for three generations have been joined by Christian missionaries, diplomats, aid workers and more recently, professionals from the private sector. Still, the entire expat community only constitutes about 8 percent of the total population.
People move to Ghana for many reasons. There are those who want to ‘give back’ by making a difference in a safe part of Africa. Many of these volunteers will pay their way to Ghana and exist on a bare minimum stipend over their two month to two year stay. Conversely, more and more expats are flooding into the country due to the growing hydrocarbon (with Ghana’s recent offshore oil find), telecoms, mining and transportation industry. Highly skilled foreigners will find that salaries far exceed that of their home countries for the same work, and that companies view Ghana as a ‘hardship posting’, which brings additional financial benefits.
Ghana is a country of some extremes. Where rental accommodation in choice areas of Accra can run at over 5000 USD per month, house staff who commute into the city will be paying about 20 USD per month for their accommodation outside the central areas.
Schooling in Ghana can be a concern, and most expats will need to ensure that it is a benefit covered by their sponsoring company or diplomatic mission. The local school system is modelled after the traditional British system, and corporal punishment is the norm. There are a limited number of excellent private schools in the capital city Accra, but enrolment is limited and the tuition can exceed 20,000 USD per annum.
Becoming acclimatised to the weather in Ghana can be quite a challenge. There are year round temperatures of between 28 to 38 degrees Celsius, and a humidity of 85 percent average, with the only distinction in season being dry and wet.
Water and electricity are not reliable and most expats will find the need to install generators as well as water pumps and storage tanks for when the mains supply fails. Life without functioning air-conditioning in Ghana is a humid affair!
There are a few modern hotels and beach facilities around to cool off though, and a small but growing list of continental restaurants and nightlife venues are popping up in the main cities of Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi.
With many parts of the Sub-Saharan Africa region emerging as markets of the future, Ghana is proving to be a favourite destination for expats. Not to mention the political instability in the Ivory Coast and Nigeria has propelled Ghana to the forefront as a viable alternative for families seeking an African experience in a more stable, safe environment.