How to start importing and selling UK used phones in Ghana

by Ibrahim Agunpopo
124 views 6 minutes read

The market for refurbished UK used mobile phones in Ghana presents a massive business opportunity today. With increasing internet adoption and Ghanaians needing affordable means to gain digital access, there is huge demand and appetite to purchase quality secondhand phones. However, sourcing such devices locally comes with challenges. That’s where importing pre-owned phones from mature overseas markets like the UK provides a lucrative avenue.

With the right execution, this is a multi-million dollar industry waiting to be tapped by savvy Ghanaian entrepreneurs. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to successfully set up shop importing used UK phone into Ghana for profitable sales.

How to start importing and selling UK used phones in Ghana
How to start importing and selling UK used phones in Ghana

The Growing Industry and Market Opportunity

As smartphone penetration increases across Africa, Ghana included, a struggling middle class and low-income segments still find most new flagship phones unattainable. Buying fairly-used or Uk used devices is the next best affordable option for digital access.

Some key opportunity drivers in Ghana:

Steady Economic Growth Performance

Ghana’s economy has shown impressive GDP growth trajectory over the past decade, averaging 6-8% annually until the pandemic outbreak. Recovery has also been robust with projections of over 5% GDP growth between 2022-2024. This steadily enlarging economic output and business activities naturally correlate with higher disposable incomes and purchasing power.

Youthful Growing Population

Ghana has a hugely youthful population with the dominant segment aged below 35 years old. This tech-savvy demographic that’s highly educated and more open to shopping for used affordable gadgets bodes well for secondhand phone market uptake.

Rising Smartphone Adoption

Currently Ghana has over 15 million active mobile phone subscriptions, majority now trends towards smartphones rather than old feature devices. By 2025, over 75% of mobiles in use are projected to be web-enabled smartphones as prices drop further.

High Demand Vs Limited Local Supply

There is clearly an established appetite by Ghanaian consumers for Uk used iPhone, Samsung Galaxies, and other branded smartphones. However, sourcing such gadgets locally through vendors comes with quality concerns and after-sales support deficiencies. That import sourced supply gap equals big opportunity.

Lower Smartphone Costs

The actual unit economics also makes this a massively profitable venture. Sourcing used iPhone 7, iPhone X, or Samsung S7 models in UK wholesale markets can cost between just £80-£150 depending largely on device conditions. Selling the exact same handsets in Ghana delivers profit margins of 100-300% over the UK cost prices.

Scaling the business by importing and selling thousands of used phones annually can easily deliver eight figures in Ghana Cedis revenues.

Summary of Market Potential

In total addressable terms, the used and refurbished phones industry in Ghana is now valued at over $50 million annually. And that demand is growing at an incredible 25%+ year-on-year – faster than new smartphone uptake. This is still a largely untapped opportunity with tremendous headroom for growth and profits over the next 5-10 years for savvy entrepreneurs jumping in now.

How to start importing and selling UK used phones in Ghana

Now to the step-by-step guide on how to crack this business as a savvy Ghanaian entrepreneur.

1. Registering a UK company

The first step is registering a UK incorporated company from which to base your wholesale used phones sourcing and importation logistics. While not necessarily mandatory, having a registered UK business entity does come with advantages:

  • Establishes credibility with British and EU suppliers as a registered wholesale buyer
  • Allows opening simple business banking tools like international money transfers which will be required
  • Future proofs your operations allowing smoother overseas business expansion

Procedure: Conduct a company name search on UK Gov Companies House portal first, this verifies against existing registered names. Then submit company incorporation forms online via form IN01. Basic details required:

  • Proposed company name
  • Company registered office address
  • Shareholder/Director(s) info
  • Share capital amount & division

UK company formation can cost between £100 – £300 depending on:

  • Type being private or public limited
  • Using formation agents or solicitors incurs extra fees
  • Additional requirements like employee shares issuance etc.

Once done, the Certificate of Incorporation is sent containing registered name, company number that makes it fully operational. Include this registered entity on all UK supplier contracts and procurement paperwork.

2. Setup Local Ghana Company Registration

Separately, establish a Ghana incorporated company. This business entity will be importer of record locally to handle:

  • Receiving wholesale used phone batches from international suppliers
  • Paying all related Ghana import duties
  • Operating as the domestic trading entity

Starting a Ghanaian company requires submitting registration documents to Registrar General’s Department along with:

  • Business ownership agreements between partners/shareholders
  • Proposed local company name
  • Nature of business
  • Location of offices

Government fees for standard company registration in Ghana is about 500 – 1000 GHS

RECOMMENDED: Work with a credible lawyer locally to advise and handle entire Ghana company formation process efficiently. This covers resident permits if foreign shareholders are involved even via remote/digital means according to latest laws.

3.Open Business Bank Accounts

Next important step is opening UK and Ghana business bank accounts which enable wholesale procurements, receiving payments from clients, and staff payroll:

UK Business Bank Account

As a freshly registered company in Britain, open a full service business checking account with competitive banks like:

  • Lloyds Bank
  • HSBC UK
  • Metro Bank
  • NatWest Bank

Required docs:

  • Company registration certificate
  • Proof of company registered address
  • Shareholder/Director IDs verification
  • Minimum initial deposits
Ghana Business Bank Account

Similarly, open business current account locally from leading Ghana banks such as:

  • Ecobank Ghana
  • GT Bank Ghana
  • FBN Bank Ghana
  • Zenith Bank Ghana

Equivalent incorporation documents and KYC/IDs items required as per UK account opening.

Having functional business bank accounts also builds credibility with suppliers and streamlines the import-export operations through electronic payments/receipts.

4. Source Wholesale Used Phones from UK

With a registered importing company now set up, it’s time to start sourcing batches of used/refurbished mobile phones competitively from UK device remarketers and wholesale auction houses.

Aim to initiate first batch order of 100-500 used devices comprising various popular iPhone, Samsung, Pixel, Xiaomi, LG, Sony models.

Recommended sourcing channels:

  • Alibaba/AliExpress – Many credible UK exporters here are vetted via trade assurance protections
  • eBay Wholesale UK lots – Fantastic variety of graded phones sold in bulk batches
  • Clikka.com – Specialist UK B2B mobile phones wholesale marketplace with sizeable vendor pool
  • DrumIt.io – Digital marketplace and auctions for used electronics sourcing
  • BidIt.net – One of the biggest online auction houses for bulk electronics lots in UK/EU

Reach out to suppliers via the platform messaging tools, provide your UK registration paperwork, and specify iPhone/Samsung models plus order quantities of interest to get the quoting process started.

Be sure to communicate estimated budgets so they customize competitive quotes with any applicable discounts. Expect between 7-15 days for suppliers to organize, pre-test devices, and process sample or full orders with documentation.

Other key pointers for streamlined order fulfillment:

  • Negotiate partial upfront payments vs full prepayment
  • Ensure fair used device grading feedback from vendors
  • Push for IMEI validation records from suppliers
  • Agree return/replace policies just in case
  • Reconfirm logistics and shipping particulars

Over time as you scale up import batch sizes and aim for container loads imports to maximize profit margins. Container loads translate into better quantity discounts from UK used phone wholesalers alongside lower consolidated shipping rates.

5. Phone Shipments Logistics from UK to Ghana

With order purchases finalized, devices require proper packaging and specialized international shipping arrangements from the UK to Ghana ports. Depending on order sizes, here are feasible options:

A. Postal Mail via Royal Mail

This is optimal for small initial test batches of up to 20-50 phones at once maximum. Royal Mail provides durable boxes with tracking.

B. Private Courier Shipping

For higher quantities between 50 up to 500 phones per batch, private global couriers like DHL and FedEx provide secure express door-to-door delivery solutions with tracking including:

  • DHL UK Express Worldwide
  • FedEx UK International Economy

Package and label items systematically ensuring:

  • Durable cardboard carton boxes
  • Bubble wrap cushioning
  • Customs declaration forms disclaimer as shipments being used handsets
  • Proforma invoices displaying goods descriptions and values
C. Sea Freight Containers

Once you are doing bulk import batches of 500+ used smartphones and beyond, then FCL (full container load) sea freight containers is most cost efficient. Standard shipping options via companies like Maersk, MSC, or Grimaldi shipping lines is more advisable.

  • Transit Times: 30-45 days
  • Consolidation: Can mix smartphones with other goods like accessories to maximize container space.
  • Cost Savings: Achieves lowest shipping cost per phone unit starting at ~$5 per device
  • Documents: Invoice, packing list, bill of lading, customs declaration forms
  • Common Routes: Felixstowe to Tema port, Southampton to Takoradi port

Given longer distances, obtain shipping insurance to safeguard phones consignment safety in rare incidents of accidents, theft, delays, or weather events enroute. Rates vary depending on insurance amounts but approx 0.2-0.3% in value.

Upon arrival at Ghana ports, your designated local customs clearing agent will facilitate:

  • Landing goods properly
  • Paying import duties
  • Clearing at customs
  • Final delivery

Aim to establish relationship with reputable clearing partner known for efficiency dealing with used electronics to avoid unnecessary long delays or fees during this last mile.

6. Local Refurbishing, Testing & Upgrades

To maximize retail pricing and consumer appeal for the imported Uk used phones, some degree of local Ghana refurbishing/enhancements helps boost their quality perception and functionality. Common interventions may include:

  • Physical cleaning of units removing chips, debris etc.
  • Replacing ageing batteries with genuine 3000+ mAh variants
  • Installing latest Android OS/iOS versions
  • Loading custom menu/language/compatibility upgrades for popular local telcos like Vodafone Ghana, MTN, Airtel networks
  • Accessories bundling e.g. screen guards, cases
  • Adding tailored warranty packages
  • Retail final packaging usability

This refurbishment process takes between 1-3 days per device workload depending on custom intervention you decided. The marginal input costs also delivers 3-4 times value upside on retail prices. It is important to deliver satisfying user experience that enhances your brand reputation in the competitive market.

7. eCommerce Online Sales Stack

An efficient way to directly reach and fulfil growing consumer demand for used affordable smartphones is through dedicated online sales channels.

Recommended multi-channel setup:

  • Social media storefronts – Create official brand pages on platforms like Facebook, TikTok and Instagram specifically promoting the refurbished UK phones inventory with pricing. High visibility and engagement channel, over 50% of Ghanaians now on FB. allows communicating your quality value proposition more clearly compared to informal marketplaces.
  • Website eCommerce store – Launch easy modern webstore on software like Shopify, Wix, WooCommerce that seamlessly interfaces order, payments and fulfilment operations. Enables 24/7 selling.
  • Amazon-style marketplace store – Have dedicated seller profile selling the UK used phones inventory on leading local online marketplaces like Tonaton, Jiji, OLX which tend to dominate buying searches by product categories. You will benefits from site traffic but you will have less branding control.
  • Leverage influencer marketing – Engage social media influencers, bloggers, vloggers with youth millennial appeal for video reviews, paid partnerships, affiliate promotions to gain reach and trust selling refurbished phones. Measure sales impact and compensate affiliates accordingly.
  • Run paid advertising – Experiment with Google Shopping ads, Facebook/Instagram paid promotions showing dedicated stock catalogue, pricing and offers. Provides great monetizable visibility complementing influencer word-of-mouth channel

For fulfilling orders: offer customer pickups from retail store branch(s), arrange delivery with local dispatch rider, or neighborhood partner drops.

8. Launch Physical Retail Stores

To connect with customers looking for affordable refurbished devices from the UK in local neighborhoods, it makes sense to open physical retail showrooms. This helps with visibility, branding, and building trust.

  • Choose Busy Locations: Pick spots with lots of people, like busy streets or markets, to set up stores that sell used phones. This attracts young customers.
  • Create an Inviting Look: Make the store look welcoming with attractive facades, bright signs for used phones, and eye-catching window displays. Place it at the entrance to grab attention.
  • Use Digital Screens: Put up smart screens inside the store showing product demos, customer reviews, and special prices. Train sales reps with details about the latest phones, competitive deals, and warranty options.
  • Plan Store Events: Think about holding sales on weekends, special offers, or events tied to national holidays like Valentine’s Day. This encourages people to visit the store and emphasizes the good deals on refurbished devices.

Expect to spend around ~GHS 150,000 to secure and set up a 40-80 square meter store in cities like Accra and Kumasi. Start with a 3-6 month rental commitment to test if the idea works.

9. Projected Business Operating Costs

Once the end-to-end operations are in full swing, here’s a breakdown of typical monthly generalized cost allocations to consider:

  1. Import Batch Inventory Purchases:
    • Estimated Cost: GHS 100,000-250,000
  2. Local Refurbishing Enhancements:
    • Estimated Cost: ~GHS 25,000
  3. UK Shipping & Import Duties:
    • Estimated Cost: ~GHS 50,000
  4. Rent/Utilities for Retail Stores & Warehouses:
    • Estimated Cost: ~GHS 20,000
  5. Staff Salaries for Sales & Tech Teams:
    • Estimated Cost: ~GHS 35,000
  6. Digital Advertising and Influencer Promotions:
    • Estimated Cost: ~GHS 15,000
  7. Miscellaneous Supplies, Maintenance, Fuel Expenses, etc.:
    • Estimated Cost: ~GHS 10,000

Total Approximate Monthly Outlay: GHS 250,000-400,000 (Startup Phase)

These key cost components are expected to stabilize post break-even as sales conversions increase over the initial 12-24 months. It’s crucial to monitor and adjust these allocations based on actual performance and market dynamics. As the business grows, economies of scale and improved operational efficiencies may contribute to cost reduction and increased profitability.

10. Managing Cash Flow & Inventory

Certainly, managing working capital efficiently is crucial for the success of a high-volume import inventory-driven retail business, especially during the pre-profitability phase. Here are some tips to help achieve this:

  1. Maintain Adequate Local Inventory:
    • Keep at least a two-month stock inventory locally to avoid severe stockouts. However, exercise discipline in procurement to prevent overstocking and capital lockup in deadstock.
  2. Strategic Purchases during Auctions:
    • Take advantage of wholesale batches during ongoing auctions rather than fixed pricing through Buy It Now (BIN) options. This allows for more cost-effective procurement.
  3. Secure Working Capital Financing:
    • Establish working capital financing lines with local banks or private equity, typically worth around 40-60% of the asset value. This provides the necessary liquidity to cover operational expenses and inventory procurement.
  4. Optimize Overhead Costs:
    • Keep overhead costs variable by utilizing outsourced delivery riders, offsite warehouses, and offshore digital staff. This flexibility helps align costs with business activity levels.
  5. Offer Consumer Financing Packages:
    • Introduce compelling consumer financing packages to enhance affordability for customers. This not only attracts more buyers but also extends payment timelines, providing a positive impact on cash flow.
  6. Payment Partnerships with Mobile Money Platforms:
    • Pursue partnerships with mobile money platforms to offer flexible spend options for customers. This can broaden the customer base and facilitate smoother transactions.

Conclusion: Go Time to Tap a Billion Dollar Market

In simple terms, there’s a huge opportunity for Ghanaian entrepreneurs to make big money by bringing affordable used mobile phones from the UK and selling them locally.

As explained earlier, this business idea targets a market where people want these phones, and there aren’t many competitors doing it officially. The potential to make a lot of money is still wide open. Now is the right time to use your funds smartly, with a solid business plan focusing on a specialized supply chain for imports and using smart digital strategies for selling. If you act now, you could build a successful business and create significant wealth.

Before long, six figure revenues and beyond is within reach! Any questions, please let me know.

Image Credits: All images on this website are sources from Getty Images, Pexels and Unsplash.

You may also like

@2021-2023 Biztraction Consulting | Fixing business friction.