Road Construction - Photo Courtesy
of West Africa Trade Hub
Doing Business in West Africa
Senior Commercial Officer
Embassy of the United States
Accra, Ghana Port of Tema- Photo Courtesy of
West Africa Trade Hub
West Africa - Overview
• One of the world’s regions of highest intrinsic wealth: oil/gas, gold, bauxite, manganese,
diamonds, cocoa and much of the land highly suitable for agriculture;
• Currently one of the poorest areas in the world – but almost all countries showing positive
growth – best three performers 6-13% annual GDP growth;
• Legacy of colonialism: many countries encompass multiple ethnic groups and have had
long-term internal conflicts. But, growing number of peaceful democracies;
• Infrastructure poor: power, water, telecommunications, roads, etc. But, this also =
opportunities for infrastructure companies;
• Endemic health problems in region: malaria, water-borne illnesses, maternal/child
mortality – but, progress on almost all fronts;
• Known for internet fraud. Check potential business partners with embassy. Payment in
advance is highly recommended or other methods of limiting risk (letter of credit, etc.)
Courts often slow and judgments difficult to enforce;
• Formal business culture (suits, use of titles, etc.) but relaxed sense of time (things take a
long time and culturally people are not deadline conscious);
• Opportunities for infrastructure companies across the region – growing middle class in a
few markets (ie consumer goods).
West Africa – Key Market Statistics
Benin Burkina Cape Cote Gambia Ghana Guinee Guinee Liberia Mali Niger Nigeria Senegal Sierra Togo
Faso Verde D’Ivoire Bissau Leone
millions 10 17 ½ 21 2 25 11 2 4 15 17 170 13 5 7
of Doing 175 150 119 167 149 63 179 176 151 146 173 133 154 141 162
growth 3.8% 4.9% 5.6% -5.8% 5.5% 13.5% 4% 4.8% 6.9% 5.3% 5.5% 6.9% 4% 5.1% 3.8%
GDP $ 1,500 1,500 4,000 1,600 2,100 3,100 1,100 1,100 400 1,300 800 2,600 1,900 800 900
FR FR POR FR ENG ENG FR POR ENG FR FR ENG FR ENG FR
Road Governance Report
Challenges Photo by WA
• Infrastructure: water, power, internet – both reliability and quality
• Lack of business service providers (a handful of reliable providers, used by
almost all the companies)
• High costs (hotel, car rental, commercial real estate – all expensive)
• Difficulty sourcing qualified staff and high training costs
• Lack of reliable ‘cold chain’, most goods are trans-shipped through Europe
• Contract sanctity – contract seen by many as starting point, not end, of
negotiation. International arbitration clause is a must. Use qualified lawyers.
• Check any potential business partner with the Commercial Service or Embassy.
A handful of fraudsters are very active. You would be amazed how legitimate
some of them seem.
• Payment in advance is highly recommended or other methods of limiting risk
(letter of credit, etc.) Just because one transaction was ok – don’t let down
• Culturally some West Africans have a very difficult time saying ‘no’. Actions
speak louder than words when dealing with people from the region.
• Asian and European competitors already very aware of opportunities in the region – but
U.S. companies much less aware/experienced in this part of the world;
• In many parts of West Africa, U.S. brands/goods are highly sought after/esteemed;
• While risks higher in this part of the world, returns can also be higher;
• Sectors of particular opportunity:
• Energy (Power and Oil/Gas – both will see sig. growth in next decade)
• Transportation (Bridges, Rail, Ports, Aviation and Roads)
• Heavy Equipment (Mining, Construction and Oil/Gas)
• Telecommunications (high cell phone penetration, increasing use of
• Agriculture (starting to transition from very small farms to larger-
scale commercial farming)
• Healthcare – equipment, hospital construction in particular
• Consumer – Limited for most of region but opportunities in some
markets (e.g. Nigeria and Ghana)
West Africa Photo by
• Crime/security issues vary considerably from country to country. Ghana
for example is similar to the United States while Nigeria is more
dangerous. Check travel.state.gov before planning any trip.
• Malaria is big risk across region. We advise all travelers to take
prophylaxis. Other vaccines etc. are important. Visit the CDC website for
more information on health preparations: www.cdc.gov.
• Weather is HOT and air conditioning can be variable. Suits are a must for
business but lighter fabrics are better.
• Bring any medicines you take regularly – not all pharmacies are reliable
and some medicines available in the U.S. are not available here. (Also,
counterfeit medicines are a problem.)
• Visa in advance is required for some countries. Allow 2-3 weeks for
processing for each country.
• Lots of new flights coming and many airlines already here: Delta, United,
BA, KLM, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Lufthansa for example.
Is West Africa for my
• Business is West Africa is very relationship driven. Business relationships take time
to develop. (Any process takes time in West Africa.) Do you need an immediate
sale? Or are you willing to wait a year or two?
• Business in West Africa is personal. You may need to travel to West Africa on a
somewhat frequent basis – even if you have a partner on the ground. Are you
prepared to travel to West Africa?
• To develop in West Africa long term, you will need a local partner. Are you
prepared to work through a distributor, reseller or other partner?
• West Africa can be challenging for new-to-export companies. Do you have
experience in other export markets?
• After-sales service/repair/support can be a challenge in West Africa. Does your
product or service depend on on-the-ground after-sales service or support?
• Infrastructure can be unreliable (power, water, internet, etc.) Does your product
depend one or more infrastructural aspects?
• Are you a flexible, patient person with a sense of adventure?
Spotlight on Three Markets:
Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal
GHANA: MARKET OVERVIEW
12th fastest growing economy Ghana one of the fastest growing economies 24
in the world last year. Steady in the world in 2011 at 13.5 %. million
growth over last decade. people
Growth from low base, just English Growing popularity as regional HQ for
moving into bottom of middle speaking, U.S. companies: stable, good quality of
income status. High debt to former life, easy to attract ex-pat employees,
income ratio. British colony ease of travel.
Lots of real opportunities for U.S. companies – U.S.
exports grew more than 30% in 2010 vs. 2009
Your Gateway to West Africa
• Sub-regional market of 250
• Immediate access to all markets
of the Economic Community of
West African States (ECOWAS).
Although, not completely free
• Many companies moving
regional HQ’s from other
countries in region to Ghana.
A Vibrant Democracy
July 2009 – President Obama visited Ghana, first visit
by President Obama to sub-Saharan Africa.
Third sitting U.S. president in a row to visit Ghana,
Presidents Bush and Clinton also visited.
•Two peaceful handovers of power between parties in a row – best track record
on the continent and by far in the West African region.
Two main parties: NDC (National Democratic Congress) and NPP (New Patriotic
Party). Each have over 40% of the vote.
•Last election was roughly 8 million voters, decided by 40k votes. No sig. violence.
•Free and active media (albeit sometimes rather colorful).
• Ghana is sometimes called the Ireland of Africa. Ghanaians known everywhere as
friendly, welcoming and fun-loving.
• Relaxed mode of life, and business. Can be enjoyable (when you want to relax) and
frustrating (when you want to get something done).
• Although pace is relaxed, aspects of society very traditional, formal: Ghanaians
dress formally and modestly. Greetings and titles very important.
• Traditional rulers still important feature of power structure.
• U.S. companies setting up presence in Ghana encouraged to
establish and maintain good relations with both elected
government and traditional rulers.
• Steady growth of 5-7% for past decade. Oil find in 2007 (and further oil finds since)
have created further economic momentum. 13% last year.
• Number of inquiries to Embassy Ghana has more than tripled in last three years.
Companies already in Ghana have increased footprint (e.g. GE, IBM, etc.).
OIL AND GAS GENERATION & PORT/MARINE
Consumer Goods Franchising
EQUIPMENT AUTOMOTIVE HEALTHCARE
E.G. MINING AND
If you are interested in
opportunities in Ghana..
Heather Byrnes, Senior Commercial Officer
Direct tel. +233-21-741-086
Abdul-Aziz Anyang, Commercial Clerk
Direct tel. +233-21-741-498
Foreign Commercial Service
2020 Accra Place
Washington, DC 20521-2020
NIGERIA: MARKET OVERVIEW
More than twice the size of Rich in natural gas, petroleum, tin, iron ore, 170
California coal, limestone, lead, zinc and arable land million
Long-standing ethnic & religious English Oil sector provides 80% of country’s
tensions but 2007 marked first speaking, revenues but since 2008 government
civilian-to-civilian transfer of former attempting to diversify and instituting
power in country’s history British colony economic reforms.
Growth in 2011 of 6.9% and 2010: 8.7%
Nigeria: Africa’s Largest Nation
• Nigeria has world’s 31st largest GDP at $414 billion in 2011 and aspires to be in
world’s 20 largest economies by 2020.
• To reach that goal, government is liberalizing the economy and promoting public-
• Nigeria accounts for 40%+ of all imports in West Africa and is the third largest
consumer market on the continent, after Egypt and South Africa. Africa’s most
populous country (one-sixth of the continent’s population lives in Nigeria).
• One of the most diverse markets in the world
with 250 ethnic groups.
• Diverse nationalities and cultures offer
opportunities for U.S. companies – but also
challenges. For example, sales/ad literature
with certain female portraits might work well in
majority-Christian areas, but could cause
problems in the Muslim-majority North.
Cashew Factory in Nigeria - Photo Courtesy of West Africa Trade Hub
• Infrastructure inadequate = high costs for transport,
• Less than 4,000 MW total so most businesses rely on
generators. Recent reforms to power sector, which
may result in increased power gen, but will take
several years. Pent-up demand estimated at 20,000
MW; Photo Courtesy of West Africa Trade Hub
• Safety and security situation also creates cost for companies – both in terms of
direct costs and (for international companies) attracting retaining staff;
• Clearance of goods at ports can be slow, cumbersome and highly bureaucratic.
Reports from companies that corruption and congestion are significant issues;
• Cost and availability of credit are problems (interest rates are 20-35%);
• New local content laws for petroleum industry are higher than actual local content
seen in the industry globally – may be challenging for companies in the sector.
• Growing and increasingly sophisticated consumer base, coupled with strong affinity for
U.S. products and American culture;
• Best prospects in these sectors:
• Oil and Gas Field Machinery/Equipment
• Safety and Security Equipment/Services
• Power Generation Equipment
• Health Care Equipment/Services
• Agriculture Equipment/Machinery/Supplies
• Education Services and Supplies
• Secondary best prospect sectors:
• Maritime Equipment, esp. workboats
• Construction Equipment/Supplies
• Financial & Insurance Services
• IT Equipment and Services
• Water/Wastewater Equipment Photo Courtesy of US Embassy Nigeria
• Aviation Equipment and Supplies
• Check out any prospective local partner with the U.S.
Commercial Service in Lagos: www.buyusa.gov/nigeria.
• Commercial Service in Nigeria can provide lists of pre-
vetted companies as part of an International Partner
Search or Gold Key Service. They can also conduct
International Company Profile reports, useful as part Photo Courtesy of US Embassy Nigeria
of due diligence.
• U.S. companies interested in the Nigerian market are strongly advised to seek the
assistance of experienced commercial lawyers. For a list of legal firms, contact the
Commercial Service office in Lagos.
• The Nigerian Embassy in the United States has information for U.S. businesses
considering exporting to/working in Nigeria: www.nigeriaembassyusa.org
If you are interested in
opportunities in Nigeria..
Rebecca Armand, Senior Commercial Officer
A list of specialists and their sectors can be found on the
website, buyusa.gov/nigeria at
SENEGAL : BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
US EMBASSY DAKAR
SENEGAL : LOCATED FOR SUCCESS
SENEGAL : PROS AND CONS
SENEGAL : COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
. Tax and Customs Exemptions for Specific Sectors
ATTRACTIVE (agriculture, agroprocessing, fishing, tourism, mining)
INVESTMENT CODE . Significant Investment Incentives (> $200,000)
100% Tax Exemption on Profits for the first 5 years
. New Airport 47 km from Dakar – Toll Road under
PROJECTS . Plan Takkal
. Mineral Port
. No history of coups
DEMOCRACY . Free and fair elections
. Strong civil society
SENEGAL : COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
SENEGAL : BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
AND HEAVY MACHINERY
LOGISTICAL PLATFORM POWER GENERATION
SENEGAL : POWER GENERATION
- Plan Takkal
By 2015 15% of
Investment in new
power plants Rural electrification
- Rehabilitation of renewable sources
Senegal’s Plan Takkal requires big investments and may result in
opportunites for U.S. Companies
If you are interested in
opportunities in Senegal..
Youhanidou Wane Ba, Commercial Specialist
Steve Perry, Econ Counselor