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Opinion: Ghana must ensure oil benefits country

Environment must be protected from new offshore oilfields.

Local leaders are hopeful, but cautiously so.

“There have been so many promises that the oil will be used wisely,” says Awulae Annor Adjaye III, paramount chief of the Western Nzema Traditional Area—Beyin. “Those of us that know things don’t always go the way they should go, we are staying on our toes.”

Adjaye, a former teacher who trained in governance and negotiation, is developing a proposal for the Ghanaian government to start a petroleum college in his district, as well as four ICT centers. He believes that in addition to providing training for oil work, it’s important to develop industries downstream that can provide youth employment, including hospitality services.

Even if the proposal is approved, such educational centers will take years to build.

Meanwhile, Tullow Oil is speeding along toward producing its first oil in Ghana. It claims the Jubilee Field is the fastest development of deepwater oil pumping in the world. While lightning-fast development benefits the oil companies, it is of dubious benefit to the Ghanaian government, which would be better off with time to implement new regulations for the petroleum sector, as well as to build up the technical capacity within its environmental agency to monitor the oil companies.

In late July, Tullow Oil discovered another significant oil field at Owo, which could be as large as the Jubilee Field.

Ghana will need to manage the oil industry for decades to come. Slowing down the process will increase the likelihood that the oil will be the blessing so many Ghanaians want it to be.