As I write this, my Ghanaian colleagues are huddled in the boardroom, in front of the TV sharing their reactions to the live program broadcasting the ceremony, where Ghana’s President Mills did the honours of turning the valve.
Many are excited. It’s palpable. What could this new beginning mean for Ghana? What possibility, opportunity, future is held in the frightening prospect of becoming Africa’s next big oil producer?
Being the skeptic that I’m apt to be after my 15 years in Africa, I think of the dangers. Oil in Nigeria virtually destroyed the agricultural sector — which now contributes only two percent of foreign exchange earnings. The same expansion of oil led to inflation and the growing culture of corruption. Ghanaian leaders are proving they are definitely not immune to such temptations…
David Throup of Online Africa Policy Forums Blog points out that:
Ghana urgently needs to improve its infrastructure: it needs new sewers and water pipes and ring-roads in Accra, a revamped electricity grid, improved generating facilities at Akosombo, improved rail-links from Accra to Kumasi and Tamale and on to Burkina Faso, and a renewed and extended network of secondary and tertiary feeder roads through the rural hinterland.
Others will argue for improving educational and health facilities. Such development spending would generate employment in construction and ancillary services, and hopefully promote sustained economic activity and growth. In a society where 60-70 percent of the population depends on smallholder agriculture for their livelihoods and 90 percent of the population in urban areas depends on the informal sector, such job-generating spending could be beneficial. But the money must be spent wisely and over a number of years if it is not to exacerbate inflation and exceed Ghana’s capacity to absorb the spending.
These are the first days of the rest of Ghana’s life. Ghanaians are proud and hopeful. The flag is flying high and the children are so full of possibility.
These are the days where the integrity of the politicians and the maturity of the decision makers will be tested. The results will follow in years to come. The judgments must be left to posterity.