The participants, seven Ghanaians and seven Ugandans, working for newspapers, magazines, radio and TV, are the second class in RWI’s media training program. They were selected for their track record as journalists with a demonstrated interest in some aspect of oil, gas and mining.
The workshop, which runs until 26 October, was organized with local partner PenPlusBytes and offers a combination of knowledge- and skill-building sessions. “Knowledge” topics covered so far have given the journalists a stronger background in topics such as oil and gas contracts, key industry actors, the geological formation of oil and gas and community interests in mining areas. Expert lecturers also discussed topics including industry operations, accountability and the experiences of communities in oil-rich areas like the Niger Delta states and western Ghana.
The “skills” sessions so far have focused on journalists’ tools of the trade, with seminars on conceiving and implementing story ideas, evidence-based reporting, handling figures effectively and investigation and analysis.
Ebow Haizel-Ferguson, an activist and social entrepreneur who runs Sigma Base Technical Institute, a training project for young people seeking to work in the oil and gas sector, spoke about the conditions in Takoradi, Ghana’s oil and gas capital. He emphasized that most benefits from oil and gas would come from ancillary services, like job creation and infrastructure, rather than from the core of the industry. He advised journalists to convey this idea so that communities can have a clearer understanding of potential benefits from allowing oil industry in.
“There is going to be a fertilizer factory that will require about 2,000 people to build,” Haizel-Ferguson explained. “There is a government gas processing plant that will cost one billion U.S. dollars.” Such investments, he continued, present employment and business opportunities for the locals.
Gabriel Dedu, the governance adviser at the World Bank office in Ghana, listed a number of “accountability hotspots,” such as the need for publicly-agreed revenue management guidelines concerning how to spend oil revenues.
“Within the framework of the law,” Dedu said, “there is a window for political decision-making.” The potential for loopholes in accountability safeguards, he continued, means that journalists must be prepared to hold the government accountable if provisions in revenue management legislation are violated.
Halima Abdalla Kisule, a Ugandan journalist who won the 2010 CNN Multichoice African Journalist Awards prize for environmental reporting, is using the training course to deepen her understanding of how oil and gas extraction in Uganda will impact the environment.
“In Uganda, oil exploration in the Lake Albert area is going on in a protected area with a lot of wildlife,” Kisule said. “Are we going to move all these animals to other places? How will all these hippos and elephants survive?”
Ghanaian journalist Benjamin Tetteh reflected on some of the issues that got him thinking. “The discussion about the various types of oil contracts has been my best part. It’s been very exciting.”
Below is a full list of RWI’s new class of journalists. Check back on the media training page for story links and bios.
Felix Basiime, Daily Monitor
Isaac Imaka, Daily Monitor
Mary Karugaba, New Vision
Halima Abdallah Kisule, The East African
Assad Mugenyi, The CEO Magazine
Moses Talemwa, The Observer
Coletta Wanjohi, WBS TV
Lorrencia Adam, Choice FM
Edward Ameh, Net2 TV
Adams Bashiru, The Finder
Ivan Awudu Domasaa, Radio Progress
Jeorge Wilson Kingson, Businessweek Africa
Pascal Kelvin Kudiabor, Ghana Business News
Benjamin Piorgah Tetteh, Joy FM