– by Festus Tumi

December 15th 2010……a great day for Ghana.  It was my younger sister’s -nth birthday (her being of a certain age, it would be wrong of me to state which particular birthday).  Oh, and it was also the day that (and I quote from the Agricultural Development Bank’s advert in 20th December 2010 edition of the Daily Graphic) “Ghana joined the illustrious band of oil exporting nations….” [my emphasis] Full page, colour advert too!

Illustrious? Does this illustrious band include Nigeria, Venezuela, Sudan, Angola, Gabon, Libya? Nations that… well, in my opinion, although having far greater reserves and having been exporters for far longer are not what I would call illustrious nations in terms of national and personal development.

When one applies for a position, recruiters usually use one’s previous performance as a basis to determine whether one will be able to perform in the future.  Based on this premise, I for one will not be celebrating Ghana’s entry into the so-called illustrious band.  Why such pessimism?

Although to claim that the offshore oil is “within” Ghana’s western region stretches the imagination a bit (after all 60km out to sea is long way out) the Western Region certainly produces the following:

100% of Ghana’s rubber;

almost the same percentage of Manganese and Bauxite;

55% of Cocoa;

50-55% of Gold;

45% of Timber;

30% of Oil Palm;

30% of Coconut;

10-15% of fish.

Apart from these resources, I think 7 of the 15 historic forts and castles are in this region.  Some of the world’s finest beaches are also in the Western Region.

Lets now add 97% of Ghana’s petroleum.   What is my point, spouting off all these statistics and numbers?

My point is simple really.  Despite all the gold, cocoa etc, etc, the Western Region remains relative to resources GHANA’S most deprived region.  Despite having all of the above how has this wealth translated to the well being of the people? Tarkwa, Bibiani, Prestea, all gold mining areas, are some of the most deprived townsites.  Agona, centre of the rubber plantations just the same.  Enchi, Asankagra, cocoa producing areas, same.  In fact the only sustained development in this region was during the governorship of Guggisberg, and even that was purely to ensure that the resources were accessible for export.

Oil will be just the same.  President Mills basically said so himself.  He is going to do what is necessary BEFORE he will do what is RIGHT! [my emphasis].  What is necessary is to expand the Takoradi Port (ongoing I assume, same with the airport for “oil related operations” and er, that’s it.  No improvement in local non oil related infrastructure)

In terms of income, oil will bring in $1bn per annum.  As additional income that is welcome, but still some way behind gold, cocoa, international remittances and tourism.  Apart from gold most of the supply chain is locally produced and managed. Oil? Nope.  Local content bill? – we wait and see.

Festus Tumi publishes the magazine, “Destination Ghana” and the “Ghana Hotel Directory”. He is also a professional photographer.