I am back from wonderful Ghana! I have just returned from my first Africa Business & Investment Mission to Ghana and I am filled with energy and excitement! The country is full of mind-boggling African business opportunities, you must not miss!
Wow, what an absolutely amazing and very successful week it has been! The whole trip exceeded even my own expectations and we have now very happy participants who are buzzing with energy and want to start implementing in Ghana over the next few months. Yep, all of them, that is.
I am grateful to be able to see them so eager to follow-up on the amazing insights and connections they were able to build in a single week. Serious business connections were made.
One said: ‘Had I come on my own I would not even have achieved 10% of what we have achieved here.”
The other one told me:”Seriously, you have changed my life.”
I feel happy and humbled and the success is also down to my great colleagues Akosua and Prince of AB2020 (both Ghanaians) who did an exquisite job in the preparatory work and local guidance. A huge ‘thank you’ also to the Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) who supported us throughout. Personally, I can say that this was one of the best weeks I had, too, and Ghana is a great country to do business in, no question about that. But then, connecting with Africa is so much more than that each time. It is almost always a matter of the heart.
(Well, and in Ghana even a matter of the stomach I cannot remember when I had last eaten that much delicious food in a week – you would find us all eating a lot I have to admit. It must have been all that hard work :))
I want to let you know that I did not choose Ghana by default or because I had great connections there. I chose it because I believe it is one of the best markets in Africa for first time entrants (among other). If you are doing business in Africa for the first time, market parameters such as degree of opportunities, ‘ease of doing business’, low levels of corruption and threats, and a country that scores high on personal & investment safety, effectiveness, business incentives go an extra long way.
Oh, and one more thing: We managed around 25 meetings in 5 days – yep, absolutely, we averaged 5 meetings each day and that included government ministers, CEOs of GIPC, the Export Promotion Council, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. And of course we met with many, many amazing local business owners, entrepreneurs, investors, and farmers.
I always thought getting so many meetings banked is unique to markets with a relatively small capital city and no traffic (Kigali for example), so I was a bit concerned if we could manage that in Accra. But I am telling you now that you can be very effective in this regard in Ghana, too, if you take the right approach. Traffic after all, thanks for that, is very manageable and orderly in Accra.
Today, I would like to take the opportunity to share with you some of the amazing opportunities we have come across during our recent business trip. I am happy to make you aware of valuable details you would hardly read about anywhere else – having said that, of course this is only an article, so I will pack into it as much as I can. And if you are in a hurry, please read it in chunks (note: all images used in this post are my own made during this trip).
Amazing African Business opportunities in Ghana: So let’s get started – shall we?!
1. Yep, agribusiness is for those who want to become millionaires
Yes, yes I know – agribusiness is an area you often come across when reading my blogs, but you can simply not disregard it when thinking about doing business in Africa. And our trip to Ghana has brought this realization to new heights!
We even had a participant who was interested in real estate and I think this trip almost converted him 🙂 In short: the opportunities in agri-business in Ghana are absolutely enormous, so much so, that I could not even scratch the surface of it in a separate post. But listen, we met Diaspora entrepreneurs and renowned local business men and investors and they have made millions with agribusiness. They could not stop talking about their expansion plans and the huge opportunities in the sector. They were clearly the biggest fans of their own industry. And that is the right sign.
One said to me:” I don’t want to venture into anything else. Agribusiness is where I make my money’. Now mind you, this gentleman has been introduced as one of the most successful investors in Accra; he is maybe in his forties.
What to invest in?
Fruits, poultry, fish farming, cashew nuts, palm oil, cassava, and cocoa where without a doubt the products that came up again and again as they were said to be bringing great returns. Avocado seems to be another popular product.
The high demand for fruits and poultry in particular could currently not be met. While fruits were demanded both locally and globally, the poultry sector faces a true crisis locally.
Ghanaians consume a lot of chicken in their diet, yet the country imports almost all of it as frozen products from Brazil, the US, Holland, and South Africa! Exactly, this is where you will come in. Be aware however that chicken feed will be your greatest challenge and expense in Ghana – tackle that too when you plan to go into the poultry sector.
We were also told by the Minister of Agriculture of the State of Ghana, that dairy production in Ghana was as good as ‘zero’ (in his own words). Hold on – 25 million people on no dairy? Yes. Can you imagine – how huge your opportunities are!
Fish production was another amazing investment opportunity, but according to the Minister of Fisheries who also welcome us personally, you need to invest at least $500,000 if you want a serious return. I get her, but then most of us don’t have that. I strongly believe that terrestrial fish farming is a great business that you can start on a small budget and grow as so many in West Africa have proven. You can have earth ponds, fish tanks, or containers…but we were told Ghanaians love their tilapia fish ‘earthy’ hence earth ponds were preferred.
Like Nigeria, Ghana has a serious problem with tomato paste imports. I went through a major local supermarket for my usual research and the items were imported from Italy, UAE, USA, China, and South Africa. Out of over 10 ketchup and tomato paste brands only one was made-in-Ghana! Get in and change that!
Interestingly there were some new interesting niche crops, which are now being promoted by government stakeholders in Ghana . They include: Chillies, shrimps farming, coffee, and flower production.
Fertile land is available in abundance, which is a true blessing, and non-Ghanaians can also access land for production. However, some of the land belongs to the state, some to local chiefs, and some to individuals. Hence just make sure you take the right routes with the help of local government authorities, so you don’t encounter any problems in the process.
The Ghana Investment Promotion Center and Land Commission will guide you in this regard.
2. Fruits – surprisingly lucrative! But hey, where is the made-in-Ghana juice?
Here is a shocking revelation once more: Ghana sells hardly any locally processed fruit juice unless it is freshly squeezed juice in a glass with a straw.
During my research in a large supermarket with many busy shoppers I counted eight fruit juice brands. On the packaging I saw the images of nice tropical fruits. Banana, pineapples, oranges, mango, passion fruit. You know, the kind of fruit that grows in Ghana’s tropical climate in abundance….
Origin of the tropical juice on Ghana’s supermarket shelves?
Austria, Belgium, the UK, and South Africa.
Truly, it almost hurts to realise that. But this is where you come in. This is precisely where you cannot just create great wealth for yourself, but you can make a direct impact on Ghana’s enormous trade deficit, create jobs and brands locally by – let’s face it – squeezing fruits into a container.
Pineapple and mangoes seem to be getting the first price in popularity. Pineapple can be grown throughout the year, so it is a preferred fruit with many. I ate both of them in Ghana, and hands down, I have never tasted such high-quality pineapples or mangoes. It was like they were melting on my tongue. Absolutely delicious.
The demand for Ghanaian fruits is enormous and the Chamber of Commerce told us they are getting about 1000 e-mail request for Ghanaian products each day. Most of them – we have been told by the chamber – are for fruits, in particular for export to Turkey, UAE, and China.
When you think fruits, amazing opportunities are available across the supply chain.
a) Primary production – here is an important market fact: the demand for fruits is now so high, that primary production is urgently needed. Many fruits are short in supply. Or in other words: grow them and you will sell! Be aware that you may face supply constraints when planning to process or export food as a main strategy.
b) Processing – for local, regional, or global markets.
One entrepreneur is making a fortune by cutting them and selling them to Tesco and Sainsbury’s – UK’s leading supermarket chains. So next time you get a popular fruit bowl during your lunch break in London, they may be from Ghana. The profit margin rises by three or four times, just by adding this simple processing locally in Ghana. And it creates jobs and value addition there. Really local processing locally is the way to go if you want to positively impact on both your profits and Africa’s development.
c) Packaging and storing – Interestingly, packaging was less of a hit than I personally expected. It did not seem to get the Ghanaian business hearts racing as it does in Rwanda or Zambia for example. But I think the opportunity is there, because everyone I asked imported their packaging from China. Shortage of storage however was mentioned several times as a major constraints and we met a couple of agribusiness investors who planned to invest in that, too.
d) Export – the world is looking for Ghana’s fruits. In particular pineapple.
Find out why in my short Ghana video: ‘Ghana’s Top 2 Business Sectors for the Diaspora’
3. Ghana needs housing – Very lucrative if you know THIS secret!
Real estate was without a doubt regarded as a top sector for doing business in Ghana, both among government stakeholders and private businesses and investors locally. Having said that, there were a few discrepancies in the information we received. But there is a very valid reason for that: Real estate in Ghana has taken somewhat of a hit during the current economic slowdown in the country, which results in a need to operate in way that is different to ‘ business as usual’ and some seem to have adopted quickly to that while others are learning it the hard way.
So here are two facts that are important for you to grasp if you are interested in entering Ghana’s real estate sector: The sector remains to be hugely profitable, but you have to make strategic decisions and the right moves.
We met many stakeholders in the real estate sector and here is another interesting revelation: Among the Diaspora both agribusiness and real estate seem to be the two most favoured sectors by far.
And while the government tries to promote affordable housing ($50,000 and below for a 2-3 bed room house) , most of the private sector representatives we met think the risk is considerably higher, as compared to higher-end housing as most families cannot afford them and the local mortgage market is very limited.
We were told that residential real estate makes about 9-15 % return on investment while commercial can get you 16-20% or even 25 %. But many are earning considerably more!
However, we met another developer from the UK who is building an entire housing complex, with a 3-bed room house selling at around $150,000 at the outskirts of Ghana (so no prime location) and he seems to have a hard time selling them now.
What’s the secret?
On the other hand we had two investors who were doing residential housing, and others who do retail spaces who were very confident about absolutely remarkable returns. I tried to analyse what they were doing differently and it soon became very clear:
They all built something very unique that other competitors in the market were unable to match:
Developer 1(Ghanaian returning from the UK; he did not know anything about real estate before his arrival in Ghana about 5-6 years ago): After a couple of small successful project, he is now building neat, modern, water-side apartments for professionals in the middle of Accra. Stepping into the showrooms was stepping into a space somewhere in Europe. The finishing and design was exceptional and each unit comes with a lakeside view and on-site coffee shops selling between $74,550 for a studio to $239,550 for a 3-bed apartment. Cost of the development is US$9 Mio. Expected sales: US$30 Mio. That looks like a rather healthy super-return on investment to me.
Developer 2: Two gentlemen (Ghanaians returning from the UK and Switzerland) have built one of Accra’s top malls. Now they want to embark on another one. While they were telling us about the major failure of one team among their competitors (‘they thought they simply could build a mall and people would walk in, but now it is empty’), these two are planning a shopping mall of the different kind: Catering for everything DIY and furniture related. Something simply not existing anywhere in Ghana or even the wider region.
Developer 3 (local): He is another top guy in the real estate industry and he is banking on the lowest income category: Accra is flooded by small traders from the periphery who are trying to sell small goods in the streets. You can see hundreds and hundreds of them selling on Accra’s traffic junctions to drivers and by-passers. But where do they sleep? Most of them somewhere in the open, we were told. He wants to build unique mass dormitories for these people charging them daily according to need.
This is the success pattern in Ghana’s real estate market at the moment – do your research and stand out!
4. The wild tip to a great skin care product in Ghana
Skin and hair care products belong to a sector called Fast Moving Consumer Goods. And according to Ernst & Young, this will be Africa’s top growing sector in the next couple of decades.
The potential for you is huge – locally, regionally, and globally. Especially with a growing trend among many consumers to use natural care products.
Ghana can provide you with a very valuable ingredient in this regard: Shea nut butter. And the profitable secret? It grows wild in great quantities and is not cultivated, which makes it so affordable!
You can of course buy it in Accra, but if you are serious about cutting down expenses and making an impact on local communities you should go to Northern Ghana and get it there. This is where the shea butter nuts grow and we were told that every single woman in Northern Ghana gathers them. The price you get there can be around 60% cheaper than buying it from a trader in Accra.
The beauty with this product is that you can use it for your own skin / hair care range or simply export it in bulk to related industries abroad.
5. Cocoa and gold is not just for the big guys
This one surprised me. Personally, I thought the cocoa and gold markets are ruled by the big players and there is no way to get in. But in Ghana, we were told otherwise. The Ghanaian government wants stakeholder diversification, and above all local processing. The large firms ship a lot out of the country (and the money gets shipped out of Africa, too) and not much value is added in Ghana.
So for the first time, I listened to an African Investment Promotion Center that is actively calling for jewellery makers to come to the country! In Ghana, they are very much needed.
We also heard about the need for more cocoa trees to be planted and more of the cocoa beans to be processed locally into chocolate.
Honestly, I am not a chocolate fan myself, but for some bizarre reason that business outlook of an African chocolate factory always intrigued me.
I was hence very happy to hear about a Ghanaian entrepreneur who is producing made-in-Ghana pralines neatly packed in boxes and she can hardly meet the demand for her chocolate locally.
Oh, one more thing: The Ghana-made chocolate – I was told – does not melt in the heat! I leave you to figure that one out 🙂
6. ICT and tech are still in infants shoes – grow your profits with this industry!
Here is another amazing opportunity – and that is to invest in local Information & Communication Technology (ICT) entrepreneurs. We had some of them pitch to us, and frankly their products were innovative and amazing. One team won a major award in South America recently as the only African team. I have no doubt most of them will go very far, yet they seem somehow a little overlooked as Ghana is simply not your usual African tech hub. But the country has big plans to turn into one, and has added ICT to the top 5 investor sectors locally. This new ambition also includes the establishment of a tech city, the implementation process has already started.
And this is precisely why you would find the best conditions and the necessary space in Ghana to really get to know these entrepreneurs and their solutions and to invest.
The organization MEST, an African tech incubator, is a great starting point for you. Just arrange a visit if you are serious about investing in Ghana’s tech industry. In my view, ICT investments in Africa, have an above-average potential to get you a healthy return fast.
Local businesses are looking for you!
What can I say, there is really no end to the amazing entrepreneurs and business owners in Ghana who are looking for you to partner with them. Considering group meetings and dinners, we met at least 40 of them. You can find them in all categories from a start-up or small business looking for $10,000 to the ultra-successful looking for millions. We met people from such a wide range, and all were keen to expand their existing operations and to welcome investors.
Most however made it clear that they did not just look for the money, but for someone who also shared their vision and who could add value with other input such as mentorship, connections, strategy, or the opening of new markets.
So where do you find these people? Next time you go to Accra, get in touch with the Chamber of Commerce (who said they will welcome anyone and assist where they can), the Ghana Investment Promotion Council, MEST, Kumasi Hive, your embassy in Accra, or the Diaspora Affairs Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
(new!) Watch my short video how we were discussing an investment opportunity with a local business within 4 days of being in Ghana.
Get started what are you waiting for !? 🙂
As for me, I am sure I will be back in Ghana and lead a bigger mission next year.
What about you? I hope the article managed to inform and inspire you. Would love to hear your feedback !