Managing the high expectations of young people
....in the oil and gas sector
The news about the discovery of oil in this country in 2007 rejuvenated the aspirations of most young people who had high hopes of ending their unemployment life. The jubilation and excitement were however cut short when issues such as qualification and number of people the sector can accommodate were raised. Right from independence in 1957, all successive governments adopted one strategy or the other to mitigate unemployment among the youth but such policies seem to have done little to the situation. Therefore the oil discovery in commercial quantity came with a very high expectation among the youth and the Ghanaian populace in all the ten administrative regions of Ghana. Shaxson, (2007) posits “the news of oil in an economy makes people’s minds go crazy creating a mirage in people’s heads” There were other Ghanaians who also expected the oil revenue to quickly improve road networks, health facilities, education and a general expansion of the Ghanaian economy.
Former president, John Agyakum Kufuor, is reported to have declared that Ghana would become an ‘African Tiger’ and the discovery would make the country ‘fly’ by giving it the needed boost to improve its economy drastically. (The 19 June 2007 edition of the Accra Daily Mail newspaper).
According to Oteng-Adjei (2010), it is expected that the development of the oil and gas industry will be a source of accelerated growth, job creation, poverty reduction and general prosperity to the people of Ghana.
These assurances from government officials contributed significantly to the high expectations Ghanaians had from the oil discovery.
Some social commentators and analyst have blamed the government and the media for engineering this high hopes in Ghanaians.
The situation worsened in 2008, a year after the discovery which unfortunately happened to be an election year. This is how
Joana Ama Osei -Tutu (2012) in her paper on managing the expectation on the oil find in the western region puts it “The government’s response to the discovery gave citizens a high level of expectation about the impending oil revenues, particularly inhabitants of the Western Region. In the run-up to the 2008 general elections, all the major political parties in the country made specific promises to the region on the intended development from the oil revenues. These included the promise of job creation in the oil and gas sectors, with the proposed establishment of petrochemical, fertilizer and liquefied petroleum gas cylinder industries. The establishment of these industries was expected to address the high levels of unemployment in the region and to consequently reduce levels of poverty”
However after the country went into full operation in 2010, we are beginning to face the realities on the grounds.
According to Darkwah (2010) “it is imperative that Ghana learns from both the successes of countries such as Norway, Canada and Botswana as well as the mistakes of Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and others for countries in the global south which are rich in natural resources seem to suffer from what Auty (1993) has famously identified as the resource curse thesis”. Auty and Mikesell (1998) states that ore-exporting resource rich economies record a lower average GDP growth per annum than small resource poor countries between. Collier and Hoefller (2000) argue that natural resources do not only pose challenges to the economy of a state, but also have a tendency to generate civil conflict.
WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD FOR THE GHANA OIL AND GAS SECTOR?
There is the need for us as a country to adopt a strategic approach to manage the high hopes of the youth especially those in the frontline communities in the western region. The national youth conference on oil and gas engineered by the Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES-GHANA) in May this year was timely since it served as an eye opener for most participants who came with all sort of expectations. As a matter of fact some participants questioned the essence of the event after they were exposed to the realities on the grounds and realize the sector can only employ only few Ghanaians directly.
For the purpose of this article, I will discuss some of the issues which cropped out during the conference.
Education-It was revealed that most young people don’t even understand the issues with regards to the oil and gas industry in Ghana. Issues relating to the oil revenue, local content, exploration etc are not properly understood by the youth. There is therefore the need for stakeholders’ especially civil society organizations to educate our youth across the country to have a practical knowledge on the oil and gas sector so that their expectations are based on realities.
On the other hand, our educational system should be able to equip the youth who have genuine interest in working in the sector with the necessary skills and qualification. This is the only possible means through which we can get our own people to work in the industry and placing them at the heart of the oil and gas economy.
Diversification- Government was encouraged to use the oil and gas revenue to build and strengthen other sectors of the economy such as agriculture which has the capacity to employ a majority of the unemployed. The youth who are in the frontline communities especially should be encourage to venture into other areas of the economy which can absorb them than to put their entire hope on the discovery. This is just to say we must not put all our eggs in one basket.
Advocacy-The youth should assume an advocacy position for the oil and gas sector so that the revenues are managed in a transparent manner for an improvement in the national economy. The youth must advocate for the use of oil revenue to support the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which we are lagging and may not be achieved before 2015. The youth must empower themselves and develop their own advocacy tool since nobody is ready to do this for them. Youth led organistions can join the voices of youth coalition or the civil society platform on oil and gas for this purpose.
ALI TANTI ROBERT
YOUTH ALLIANCE FOR DEVELOPMENT, OBUASI