Lorissa is the Founder and Director of The Only Way Is Ghana; a web series about her move from London to Ghana.
1. What prompted you to leave London to go and settle in Ghana? I was coming to Ghana once or twice a year for the last 10 years and grew very fond of the country, I don’t know 100% what it was but something was calling me. I was at a time where I was getting bored with my job in London and doing business in the UK can be quite restrictive with a lot of red tape. I saw a lot of business opportunities and I just felt a sense of freedom when I was in Ghana. So I first took a 6 months sabbatical from work to see what it was really like being out of ‘holiday mode’ and I loved it. Thing’s moved very slow so I do not think 6 months was enough time, but when I returned to the UK I was made redundant within 5 months so I took that as my opportunity to take the action I was always craving for and took the leap of faith to move to Ghana.
2. How did you make the move? After departing from my 9-5 job I spent some time running my own business from home. Relatives were always asking me when I was going to get another job, but I just kept on saying in 6 months to the point when they got fed up of asking. They had always known that I wanted to move to Ghana as I spent a lot of time there but nobody knew exactly when, neither did I to be honest. Until one day I had a stressful phone call with the builder working on my housing project and I just made the decision that I had to go to Ghana as I was finding it very difficult maintaining both a London life (bills and parking tickets) and a Ghana life (being told constant stories of why the money for the building was not enough) so I decided I had to shut one down – so good-bye to London it was. I just felt that if things did not work out in Ghana I could always move back to London and it would be like I never left but with Ghana constantly developing and getting expensive by the second, it made sense to be in the Ghana system and build a great life for myself there. I noticed if I kept waiting for the right moment to leave I would never have left so I just bought a ticket and gave myself a few weeks to tie up all my loose ends, close down billing contracts, say goodbye to family and prepare my belongings for shipping. I work better under pressure, clearly.
3. What challenges did you come across when setting up your business/work? The challenges I have encountered when setting up are I made all these plans and budgets when I was back in the UK but when I came things changed, for example I was to be selling ladies cosmetics to accumulate some money but the shipping took much longer than expected then when it came the fluctuating cedi rate reduced my profit significantly, I had no shop so the products were not moving as fast as I had hoped. Then in terms of the real estate project I am working on, due to the bad economy things like cement sky rocketed, when I came to Ghana a year and a half ago, a bag was 17 Ghc then went to 40GHC when things got really bad, so in turn the money you budgeted is not enough . There was even a time when there was no cement in the system so I had to wait which caused further delays. Another challenge I have encountered is finding honest workers, which can be very difficult here, it is like trial and error. A lot of workers but NOT ALL purposely go out of their way to find a way of cheating you, by over inflating prices, saying you need more materials than you actually do or just stealing materials when you are not around. This is really bad, but just how it goes here so you just have to try to protect your investment as much as possible. One last thing is that Ghanaians tend to work very slowly and do things at their own pace which can be very frustrating so something that can take 2 days can take a week. With Ghana you just have to ride through the rough times and keep chipping away and working as things will and do get better.
4. What do you love about living in Ghana? For me I love that in Ghana your dreams are actually possible, you can actually touch them if you play your cards right. If you wanted to own a chain of clubs or restaurants you could, if you wanted to own an estate of apartments you also could but to achieve this in the UK or US is virtually impossible with all the rules, regulations and large debts you would be stuck with. I love the freedom to do as you like within reason, I can park anywhere for however long I want without the fear of getting a parking ticket or being towed away. Ghana is extremely hot but I do prefer the weather, I have kissed goodbye to coats and scarfs, which is great!
I also love that there is something for everyone’s budget in terms of food, drink and clothes. In the UK the best you will get is the supermarkets own brand, but still can be large and expensive but here in Ghana if you need to buy a cup of rice to cook you can.
5. What 5 tips would you give to someone thinking of moving to Ghana?
Tip 1: Try to never put yourself in a position where you say ‘I never hexperite it’. Expect the unexpected. The longer you stay in Ghana the more you will become in tune with this. Go with the flow and when things go wrong just concentrate on how you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Tip 2: Come with as much financial backing as you can, even if you do not use it, its good to have it there as you are coming at a time where the cedi rate and prices of things are fluctuating like crazy so you need to insulate yourself so you will not be affected too much.
Tip 3: Live somewhere secure, even within where you stay keep your belongings and expensive things hidden when you are out and when you go to sleep as petty theft is rife in Accra.
Tip 4: If you have the plan to come to Ghana and find a job, don’t! I would recommend you get it before you come as the benefits and salary will be much better. Finding a job in Ghana can be quite difficult as the unemployment rate is so high and jobs are scarce, also the job seeking portals are not productive at all.
Tip 5: Things can get very difficult and you may lose focus and direction at times but have a written plan of what you aim to achieve when you come. You may come and find you were over ambitions and need to modify your plan or time frame, which is totally fine. Nevertheless, shoot for the stars and please NEVER GIVE UP!