Ghana has discovered oil in commercial quantities as announced by Kosmos Energy, Anadarko Petroleum, and Tullow Ghana Limited – a consortium engaged in oil exploration west of Cape Three Points near Axim. Although the announcement has been greeted with joy, some sections of Ghanaians are sceptical that the country may be plunged into the resource curse syndrome. This is because, countries that have a large share of natural resource exports in GDP have a much worse growth performance than those that are less reliant on natural resources. Nevertheless, the experiences of countries such as Norway, Botswana, Thailand, and Malaysia give hope that the natural resource curse can be avoided if the quality of institutions as well as policy is strong before extraction begins. Also, given the extensive opportunities that the country has to learn from the broad experiences of oil-rich economies, there is ample opportunity to derive significant benefits from the discovery.
This however, is contrary to other held views that institutions in Africa are too weak to manage properly the significant and varied interests that evolve from the development of an oil industry or any extractive industry. Numerous poor examples have often been cited to support these views, and the most recurring ones being the situations in Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon. Thus, history of natural resource exploitation and management in Africa is certainly not a very positive one. Besides, Ghana’s own history with the extractive industries is quite contentious and this has led to debates about whether Ghana has been able to effectively apply the revenue from various extractive industries to finance its development agenda. This obviously, remains a question to be addressed properly with good research. This is especially so in view of the considerable deterioration in prominent mining communities such as Obuasi, Prestea, Bogosu to mention but a few. These are often referred as the “mining curse”.
The question of whether Ghana is properly positioned to manage the new ‘oil boom’ remains topical both on the policy front and in the public discourse. The extent to which civil society groups and academics can contribute in harnessing ideas to ensure effective administration and management of oil resources is critical. What specific policy measures and legislative instruments are required to engender transparency and accountability in the application of oil revenues, without unduly undermining private investment interests in the new sector? And, what could be a reasonable expectation about the likely benefits of the oil discovery to the public, particularly in the context of poverty reduction and sustained local development. How do we manage oil revenue to transforms the structure of the Ghanaian economy? How do we manage the likely environmental effects? How do we manage the windfall to avoid potential `Dutch Disease’ effects? These are some of the key areas for future research.