Moving to Ghana

Apart from the heat, some of the first things that new expats moving to Ghana will notice are the friendly people and laid-back atmosphere. Whether moving from North America, Europe or even from bustling West African countries, Ghana is known for its relaxed atmosphere. From Accra, the country's coastal capital, to the dusty northern towns of Tamale and Bolgatanga that border the Sahara Desert, Ghana is relatively quiet and peaceful.

Safety in Ghana generally isn't a huge concern as the country generally suffers less from crime, corruption and political instability than its neighbours and other Sub-Saharan African countries. The country is 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 such as Angola, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC).

The expat community in Ghana has grown over the years and become quite diverse. Lebanese traders who have been in the country for generations have been joined by Christian missionaries, diplomats, aid workers and, more recently, professionals from the private sector. That said, the entire foreign community only constitutes a small proportion of the total population.

People move to Ghana for many reasons. Some expats in Ghana want to ‘give back’ by making a difference in a safe part of Africa. Many of these volunteers pay their way to Ghana and exist on a small stipend over their two-month to two-year stay. Conversely, an increasing number of expats are flooding into the country to work as a result of the growing hydrocarbon, telecommunications, mining and transportation industries. 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.

Schooling in Ghana can be a concern, and most expats will need to ensure that an education allowance is provided 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 Accra, but enrolment is limited and tuition is expensive.

Getting used to the weather in Ghana can be a challenge. There are year-round temperatures of between 77°F (25°C) and 100°F (38°C) and an average humidity of 85 percent, with the only distinction in season being precipitation, which is heaviest between March and November.

Many new arrivals also need to get used to the state of public transportation in Ghana, which is not nearly as efficient as some may be used to. Otherwise, water and electricity in Ghana are also not reliable and most expats will need to install generators, water pumps and storage tanks for when the mains supply fails. Life without functioning air conditioning in Ghana is uncomfortable.

There are a few modern hotels and beach facilities in Ghana for expats 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 a favourite destination for expats. In particular, the instability in neighbouring countries has propelled Ghana to the forefront as a viable alternative for families seeking an African experience in a stable, safe environment.

Holli Our Expat Expert

I'm a writer at heart with a double life as a regional sales manager in the telecoms industry in Africa. My work and social life take me around the continent, and provide me with a plethora of interesting material to ramble about, which I try to do at least weekly on my blog, Holli's Ramblings

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