On the train ride home last week I ran into a Ghanaian friend of mine and we got to talking about what else, doing business in Ghana. As we compared stories and ideas, my friend expressed to me his frustration with building a house in Ghana. Granted he still lives in the US, it is taking him 3 years to begin the process due to land disputes. The way he tells it, the land he purchased had been sold to another person by the same chief who was now dead. And because of the “light” record keeping, he was now stuck trying to haggle with another developer who stood to gain a lot more from the land. The discussion brought about one of my many fears of going back to Ghana with a Western mentality of doing business. I’ve heard from more than enough people about the complicated processes which slow down or even halt business in many countries on the continent, and at least for now I can’t get my head around it. In my rationale it serves a government entity, or even a businessperson, well to maintain processes that allows for ease of enterprise, particularly when that entity already has a bad reputation with foreigners. I’m not saying that we should kneel to foreign investments, but it doesn’t do anybody any good to run things as if it were a personal household. When we are in a position where we need all the help we can get, it serves us well to go beyond our comfort zone to make things easier for both foreign and domestic businesses. I guess Ghana in particular is in a transitional stage right now, with many of us returning home after living for so long in the UK and US, and trying to create a way of life we are already used to. In an allafrica.com article Benin highlighted in his Africa Investment series we are made aware of the Ghanaian ambassador’s investment “tour” of the US. In the article the ambassador, Dr. Kwame Bawuah-Edusei, says,
“The right environment should be created in the country so that those who have shown interest in setting up businesses in Ghana would not be frustrated. For example, the registration of businesses should take a day not days or weeks. That is the only way we can attract more investors into the country.”
This is good to hear from a government official especially since Ghana has been posting GDP gains for six consecutive years and is currently the most stable country in West Africa according to Inc. magazine. For those of us looking to retire to our homeland, I can only hope that processes and infrastructures back home back up the efforts of the ambassador. But despite the problems, I will continue to see the glass of opportunity as half full.