Business News Wed, 30 Sep 2009

Oil Better Benefit Ghana

The fact still remains that the land of Ghana was described as a "geological miracle" by early European explorers especially Germans. Many of us have been aware of on-shore and off-shore oil deposits and many other mineral resources in Ghana. It is not by accident that the oil find of 2007 was described as "significant." It may be recalled that oil was discovered as far back as the 50's, on the shores of the Volta Region in the Keta basin. This was at a place specifically called Amikupe in Anloga. Although, oil exploration in the area has since been abandoned, land acquired by government have not been paid for, replaced nor returned to the original owners. Even as I write, there is a further interest in the prospecting for oil in the area. After some time it was discovered that the coastal rock formations favoured large oil deposits towards the eastern corridor and more offshore. Crude oil is increasingly obtainable in larger deposits from Saltpond and beyond as it is the case of today's Jubilee Fields 160 nautical miles west of Cape Three Points.

This preceding period is what I call the lost decades for Ghana oil. Although all is not lost, albeit I hear some consoling each other that at least Ghana did not contribute to fueling global warming therefore, it's not a culprit in the environment crisis. I believe this the same mentality that propelled African leaders preparing for United Nations environment conference shamelessly propose to receive a "dole" of $67 billion annually from developed nations. At the pretest that they suffer most I think we do not deserve a dole because we do not have proper use for it. Besides, it is booty as little as over one billion per country in Africa. Indeed, it amounts to the volume of business that a single pharmaceutical wholesaler in the business district of Accra makes in five weeks. This goes to buttress the fact that if the public sector is less corrupt, partnership could be developed with local private businesses to pick-up the money lying all around us. All too soon we have forgotten how the pledge of 0.7 percent budget outlays towards the environmental impact from developed countries never materialised and promised foreign direct investment does not get to our part of the world? As such, this country should look more inwards to depend on its own funds, most of such funds are everywhere and we must know how to get it. I mean every little business yields results in a structured economy, with disciplined people who respect authority, care for their environment and do the right things in good time.

Furthermore, it is sad when Ghanaian politicians refer to Malaysia and Singapore as if it is by sheer luck or some modern day miracle that they got to the advancement they have achieved. We live in a country where persons in public service and especially politicians enjoy all the freebies of association but would not accept being invited, called and even if it means an arrested by a state mandated body like the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) to account for alleged criminal behaviour. Who dare anyone in the USA to put up a challenge when the FBI comes on a raid? Let everyone consider the case of the respected Harvard trained Mr. Schilling and sixteen others case for instance and the swiftness by which justice was carried out in the Enron fraud. Also as similar fate that followed top executives of WorldCom and Anderson in our recent past. And the most recent anti-corruption raid that took place in New Jersey involving Mayor Peter Cammarano and forty others. This included politicians, officials and several rabbis.

It was far back in 2000, long before the NPP won its first elections in the Fourth Republic that one of the parties top scribes heard me say these words, "for Ghana's progress we need discipline and not just the mention of names like Malaysia, Singapore, and so on." He absolutely was impressed and offered me his business (complimentary card) to see him in his office. We just heard on August 24, 2009 the story of a young Malaysian lady who was to be "flogged" in public for tasting beer. Upon considerations the court postponed the punishment of six strokes in the back to be carried out only after the month of Ramadan. This story only goes to emphasize the high sense of instilling discipline in the country for the lady's mishap to make headlines. On the other hand probably it might not have been so if not for the critical publicity of Amnesty International. Though the citizens in that country are clear in their minds, in the same vain as we all would agree it is an unacceptable behaviour for a Moslem. Just as I think its unfortunate, my other worry is a woman had to suffer again in another male dominated but democratic Malaysia. There is such high discipline that, this became a story especially if you think about the remorse shown by the young victim or villain depending on how it is perceived. It is the highest internal discipline that has aided developed countries to be where they are now. There are no exceptions, be it the largest economies of the USA, Canada and even in smaller countries like New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. All these countries among others instilled core discipline in their people during their development but in subtle ways as time went on. So I ask, is there a direction towards achieving Ghana’s vision?

I was privileged to have watched a programme on American television in 2006 exactly a year before Ghana hit her oil find. It was a documentary which stated that the USA has drawn a strategic crude oil map of the world. This encompassed the whole of West-Africa (the Gulf of Guinea) with Ghana as an epicenter to as far as Angola. All this effort stems from the fact about the turmoil in the Middle East, the instability in Iraq, uncertainty in Iran's Hermoz Strait (sometimes known as Strait of Hormuz), the erratic political situation in South America and understandably the proximity of West Africa to the Americas. Many countries with oil have had their share of havoc on the African continent like Angola, the Biafra war of Nigeria and the until recently the attacks on oil companies and oil workers by the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MENDS) are among some of the troubles that should be averted in the Ghanaian situation.

The oil industry in Ghana has already started on the wrong note. The important issues of ownership, purpose, local participation, training, data, quantum and transparency are all questionable, late in the day and will be inadequate to capture the opportunities even by 2010. So the Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) need to step up the act and be up to scratch on all the above. A clue could be taken from Nigeria, because long before crude oil production a petroleum technology fund had been setup in 1943. There is an urgent need for collaboration with the Regional Maritime University especially because our oil is deep into the ocean and every worker on the rig should be trained in the maritime safety. The other training institutions that need to be involved is University of Mines and Technology also the establishment of the Oil Fields Training Centre in Takoradi is a step in the right direction. The Ghana government is also applying to the UN Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS) for expansion of the continental shelf from 200 to reach 350 nautical miles. The prognosis of revenues accruing I am afraid, shows that it will not transform the Ghanaian economy to any appreciable extent.


Unless the estimated barrels of 240,000 barrels a day increases considerably after 2013. Our oil is coming at a time when more emphasis in on renewable energy sources, biofuels, solar, wind ocean currents as in New Zealand and the use of compact electric (battery) powered cars being tested in Israel and Malta. Ghana's oil production horizon is estimated to last between 20 to 30 years. So any child can do the arithmetic because if crude oil price fluctuates in the range of between US$50 to US$100 a barrel at the New York mercantile exchange that will not allow Ghana to make a fortune. I wonder if this includes crude oil, since refined oil costs more per gallon or litre. Ghana imports US$2 billion barrel of fuel annually (Ghanaian Times July 20, 2009). Whereas, Nigerian is producing 2 billion barrels of oil a day and has the 7th gas reserves of any country in the world but her citizens is swarm by an unbridled poverty.

Above all I must say though that Nigeria was able to build a federal capital in Abuja, which is good. Ghana's share agreement in the oil I am told is pegged at 15 per cent of production, whereas all the numerous companies like Kosmos Energy, Tullow, Anardarko, with all other parasitic agencies taking the rest of 85 percent. Recently it was announced that either Tullow or Kosmos is offloading its shares to Shell in the bid to raise funds for its shareholders because of the credit crunch. The issue of knowing which type or benchmark crude Ghana will produce will come handy in determining revenue. From this rather low ebb of pessimism one wishes to know if it is meaningful to engage in this industry at this time of un-preparedness. I must mention that credit goes to the Manager of Saltpond Oil Mr. Quincy Sintim Aboagye whose entrepreneurial prowess and vision has kept the only all African oil drilling company afloat producing 60,000 barrels or so a week in Ghana. We know with the current only 45,000 barrels/day oil refining capacity at Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) is not going to make Ghana a significant petro-economy without quickly implementing the proposed expansion to 145,000 barrels/day.

Let me come to how Ghana can benefit from oil, I wish to sound a strong note of caution to those who have ears to hear that the only way Ghana make oil meaningful is that the outcomes should not target only today but many decades beyond. Let us consider that the oil is just a bonus and must treated as such, with this I mean if the oil was not discovered Ghana would have gone on. So, all other projects and programmes of the country should continue by improving the downstream, midstream and upstream activities of oil production. The use to put oil revenues should be purposive; outcome oriented and makes an eternal impact. Such that I wish to recommend the total overhaul of the road (urban and rural) network of Ghana. There should not be from 2013 any settlement and housing development built without tarred roads, water supply, sewer and electricity. There are over 16 by-products that could be obtained from the catalytic distillation and by C-Stream processing of crude into refined oil. These include lubrication oil, crayons for schools, paraffin, wax, asphalt, industrial fuel oil, heating oil, diesel, Kerosene, jet fuel, gasoline or petrol among others and Ghana's own innovation the premix for fuel.

We could use all the by-products especially asphalt (bitumen) exclusively to build our roads into a top-notch roads network irrespective of where one lives invariably to every nook and cranny. The second is the environment which will be tackled holistically to eradicate malaria. I will narrow it down to refuse collection and sanitary services that will bring about closed drains, with the aim of bringing a closure on open drains forever. With this avowed aim of total elimination of malaria through whatever means (for example aerial spraying) such that in twenty years when all the oil and even gas is exhausted we can be proud that in two decades our leaders solved two major problems in this country. I am particularly concerned about malaria and its attendant difficulties on lives of children and adults like myself. By the middle of 20th century malaria had been eliminated in UK and most of Europe so it is not like elimination has not happened before. It was not surprising that the main character, the Scottish Richard Hanny in the book "39 Steps," while going on his escapades in England at one stage had malaria in as far back as the 1800s. Today in the UK all of Europe including the other 25 countries that I have ever lived in has no malaria. I also learnt that Cuba eliminated malaria a long time ago and even Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world besides it DDT-pollution problems was able eliminate malaria. My personal experience with malaria and experience during childhood in Ghana is painful because I used to have two malaria attacks a year. As recent as August, 2009 I almost died on my holiday to Ghana after a 2 weeks ordeal with malaria in Accra. But I do not want to vow not to return home yet.

By this vision of top-notch roads and elimination of malaria (equals our environment protection), I believe we would have leap frog our development into the rank of middle-income plus country. This is the way the United Arab Emirates did it, they concentrated on two areas by bringing everybody around the world into Dubai by their world class airline EMIRATES with so many hundreds of planes in their fleet and a second thing I have been impressed about every time I am in the country is the advanced real estate development through which they built three palm cities on the ocean; Palm Jebel, Palm Deira and my favourite Palm Jumeirah a medium size city, shown in this article by courtesy of TEN Real Estate.

Source: Doe James, W Email: worlator44@hotmail.com

Source: Doe, James W.