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Rules of Play

At an average of 14 days, the ease of starting a business in Ghana was ranked 79th in the world 2015-2016 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report. The Global Competitiveness Report also put Ghana at 55th in the world for the strength of its investor protection, making the country an ideal candidate for international investors looking to tap into the West African market. Ghana is well known for its friendly atmosphere, leading to its reputation as “Africa for beginners.”

Depending on the sector in which foreign investors wish to establish an official operating presence in Ghana and the nationality of the foreign investor, different regulations regarding the required startup capital apply and investors should seek specific legal consultation regarding the necessary procedural conditions of their potential business venture. As is the case in many emerging and frontier economies that have historically relied on skilled workers from abroad to operate foreign business ventures, legislation in Ghana mandates different quotas for the employment of local Ghanaian workers. Whether or not a new operation in the country is subject to these local employment stipulations and if so to what extent depends on the legal status of the business entity and the sector in which it will primarily operate.

Ghana is encouraging foreign direct investment through different financial and structural incentives, but foreign investors should take particular care to investigate the detailed requirements regarding the establishment of any operation in Ghana pertaining to activities in capital markets, insurance, banking and financial services, mining, petroleum, and telecommunications. In addition to specialized legal services, a useful resource for any foreign investor interested in establishing a local operation in Ghana is the Ghana Investment Promotion Center, which can provide a more detailed overview of what restrictions may apply to any proposed business venture.


Setting up a business in Ghana can take the form of either a local limited liability company or an external branch operation, and filings for registration in either case should be carried out with the office of the Registrar General’s Department. A local company is filed as a limited liability company with shares incorporated under the Ghana Companies Act of 1963 and can be either partially or wholly owned by a foreign national. An external branch is the establishment of a place of business inside of Ghana for a corporate body already registered outside of the country. It is necessary for directors and secretaries of incorporated limited liability entities, as well as local managers of external branches, to register for a tax identification number before registering the company with the Registrar General’s Department.


Free zone enterprises are taxed at 0% for an initial 10-year period, and subsequently at 8%, while real estate development and rental companies are taxed at 0% for an initial five-year period and subsequently at 25%, waste processing companies are taxed at 0% for an initial seven-year period and subsequently at 25%, and agro-processing companies are taxed at 0% for an initial 10-year period and subsequently at between 0 and 25% depending on the region of establishment in Ghana.


The 2016 Doing Business report estimated that the documentary compliance cost for exports in terms of US dollars is less than two-thirds that of the regional average for sub-Saharan Africa, while the border compliance cost to export is roughly 10% below the sub-Saharan average, and the documentary compliance cost to import is nearly 15% below the regional average. The efficiency of Ghana’s legal framework for settling disputes and challenging regulations were ranked 43rd and 47th, respectively, and according to data aggregated by the World Bank Group’s 2016 Doing Business report, contract enforcement in Ghana takes 710 days on average and a carries a cost of approximately 23% of the value of the median disputed contract claim. The report put Ghana at over seven points ahead of the sub-Saharan regional average using its 100-point proxy valuation methodology. Ghana came in at 116th out of the 189 economies surveyed by the Doing Business report for the ease of enforcing contracts in the country.

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