AVOIDING OBRONI PRICE – BARGAINING & PAYMENT TIPS FOR GHANA
Irrespective of your race or nationality, if you look like a foreigner or have a foreign accent, you will inevitably be referred to as an “obroni” (outsider/foreigner) in Ghana. It’s a common assumption that obronis are wealthy, and you will therefore often be overcharged for goods or services that don’t have a set price. This is unavoidable and acceptable behaviour here, but you can be prepared for it by practising and perfecting your bargaining skills. This post will run you through the best basic steps to get your negotiations going. Also, once you’ve scored the deal of the century, there are a variety of ways you can pay for it. We outline all these payment possibilities below.
Bargaining in Ghana
Except for hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, and upmarket shops, most vendors in Ghana will be very used to bargaining. In markets it’s expected, and the initial price quoted for an item is usually 30 – 40% more than what the vendor would be happy to receive. The “obroni price” might even be 50 – 60% more than the vendor’s “last price”. But how can you get around this if you’re not used to negotiating? And how can you go about it in a fair way, but without being ripped off? There are no set rules. However, the following tips often work well and may help you get into your bargaining groove.
Firstly, you should plan your purchases in advance, and ask friends or colleagues what they think is fair, or what they have paid in the past. This will give you an idea of what the price should be, and an excellent foundation to begin your negotiations.
A vendor won’t ever sell anything that puts them at a loss. So, if you aren’t sure what the final price for the item should be, you can start by confidently making a counteroffer of 50% of the asking price, and start a friendly negotiation from there. It’s essential to keep this exchange congenial. Getting angry or aggressive will get you nowhere. The friendlier you are, the better your bargaining experience will be.
Another tactic is to ask for the vendor’s “last price”. They will reduce the price somewhat from the original one given, and you can continue negotiating from there.
Also, if you’re buying a few items from the same vendor, it’s often far easier to get a bargain. Usually, food sellers will throw in something extra rather than reduce the price, e.g. a couple of extra tomatoes. This is called a “dash”.
If you cannot reach a deal, simply walk away. Sometimes this will prompt the seller to give you the item at the last price you offered. If not, then you’ll have a better idea of what the base price of that item is for future bargaining attempts.
Now for how to pay for your finds…
Payment Systems in Ghana
There are different systems of payment in Ghana. Below are some methods used for business transactions or purchasing items and services.
Cash is king. Despite the relatively recent increase in the use of electronic point of sale (POS) systems in Ghana, as well as the growing number of ATMs, cash is still the most widely known and accepted method of payment. It helps to always have some smaller denominations (e.g. Gh¢5 & Gh¢2) at hand as many stall keepers, taxi drivers, and other businesses, will not have change for larger notes. Or they might, but handing over a big bill could have the seller backtracking on your negotiated price.
Ah, the good old fashioned cheque. Cheques are more commonly used by businesses than by individuals in Ghana, and usually for larger amounts. In most cases, when paying by cheque, the receiver will make sure that it clears, and the money reflects in their account before goods are delivered to the client/customer. However, this can depend on the agreement between both parties involved.
Cash cheques are also accepted by banks. This is where you do not specify the name of the receiver and write “CASH” instead. This type of cheque can be cashed at any branch of your bank by anybody who has possession of it, which obviously makes this method of payment risky.
An official form of photo ID (e.g. passport or driver’s license) will be requested when depositing or cashing a cheque at the bank. If the cheque is for a significant amount, the bank will often call the account holder to verify that they have issued the cheque before it is processed by the bank. The maximum amount that can be withdrawn using a cash cheque is GH¢5, 000.
Traveller’s cheques are NOT accepted in Ghana.
Visa cards are the most commonly accepted and used in Ghana. Upscale hotels, restaurants, shopping centres and supermarkets will almost always have a POS system that accepts Visa cards. Smaller businesses are unlikely to take cards at all. Visa debit cards can be used to withdraw money from most ATMs across the country.
MasterCard and American Express are accepted in many of Accra’s establishments, but there are very few places outside the capital where you’ll be able to use them.
It’s best, and safest, to always have some cash on you for the places where cards are not accepted, and in case the electronic payment system is down due to lack of signal or power.
NB! Make sure that you notify your debit or credit card issuer that you may be using the card outside the country of issue over your travel dates. Otherwise attempts to use your card may be declined.
Africa has lead the way in the development and use of mobile money transfer systems. Instead of paying with cash, cheque, or credit card, you can use a mobile device to pay for a variety of goods and services, or even to transfer money to friends or employees. Most mobile phone users in Ghana subscribe to a mobile money platform. “Momo”, as mobile money is widely known here, works by loading money onto your digital mobile money wallet via an electronic transfer from your bank account, or by visiting any mobile money merchant with cash. They will load it onto your momo wallet for a small set commission. Your momo wallet can also be linked to your bank accounts. Money can be transferred to your account from your wallet, and visa versa, without having to go to the bank.
This is a fast, convenient and safe way to send and receive money, buy airtime credit, mobile data, pay for goods and services, e.g. DSTV bills, electricity bills, etc. In as much as it is safe, it is not advisable to provide your mobile money passwords or other details to anyone. This may lead to theft of your funds.
Telecommunication networks that provide Mobile Money include MTN, Vodafone, Airtel Tigo, etc. To register for mobile money, visit any of their customer service centres, retail agents, or mobile money merchants, with a valid official photo ID. Some networks offer online registration.
Online payment platforms
The speed, safety, and convenience of secure online payment platforms are making them increasingly popular with both service providers and consumers in Ghana. Below is a list of online payment systems available here:
This secure online payment and collection platform enables individuals, businesses and institutions to make or receive payments online from the comfort of their homes and offices. Simply log onto myghpay.com, select which merchant you’d like to pay, and make your payment via Visa/ MasterCard, Gh-link enabled card or your mobile money wallet. This platform can be used to pay for utilities, insurance, school fees, travel and tours, shipping, airtime credit, etc. To see a list of vendors using this platform, visit the myghpay website.
An easy and convenient way to top up your airtime, mobile money, and pay bills. Airtime for all the major telcos in Ghana is sold on ExpressPay. It also offers real-time payment for TV subscriptions, school fees, and hotel bookings. ExpressPay supports mobile money payments and all major international card networks, i.e. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.
One of the simplest, safest and speediest ways to pay, and get paid, online, in-store, and via mobile devices in local currencies across Africa. IPay is used to make online and on-mobile payments, buy airtime and pay bills, process retail and in-store payments, and purchase tickets for events. Payment methods supported are mobile money, Visa and Mastercard.
Enables hotels, airlines, churches, educational institutions, supermarkets, etc. to accept payments on their websites from anywhere in the world. Local, as well as international cards such as Visa and MasterCard, can be used on this platform.
Interpay makes it possible for consumers and merchants to make and receive payments of bills, invoices and fees. It also allows Ghanaians in the UK and Canada to make direct cash payments to Interpay merchants. This makes it cheaper, safer, and more convenient, for Ghanaian expats in the UK and Canada to pay bills for themselves, or their loved ones, in Ghana. They no longer have to send the money to Ghana for the bills to be paid.
We hope these bargaining and payment pointers have been helpful to you. Are there others you use that work well? Please let us know. We’d love to hear from you, and share your top tips with our followers.
For more useful information on life in Ghana, as well as your free Living in Ghana Guide, subscribe to our newsletter HERE.