In a couple of weeks, Ghana could join the privileged group of oil and gas producing countries like Kuwait, Iraq, Brazil, Nigeria, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Angola, and many others who constitute the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Since June, 2007, when Kosmos Energy discovered oil in commercial quantities at its Mahogany 1 Well, there has been growing expectation that this country will soon put a halt to its globe trotting quest for financial aid from the Breton Woods institutions and other development partners.
Whatever hopes Ghanaians entertained at the time received a further boost with the discovery by Tullow Oil at its Hyedua 1 Well and four other discoveries in four different offshore blocks that put Ghana’s oil and gas revenues at a staggering $20 billion over a 20-year life span. Simple mathematics translates this into a conservative figure of some $1 billion a year.
For the past two or three years, the question on he lips of Ghanaians is when the real oil will start flowing and how this is going to change their living conditions and the destiny of this nation. Government, metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, workers, non-governmental organizations, civil society, transport unions, farmers, and the media have all been waiting eagerly for this new wealth.
The reward for oil and gas is thus huge as it is expected to turn our embattled economy around to give respite to inflation and recession weary corporate and individual citizens.
In the latest flurry of activities to welcome the boom, government, through the Ministry of Energy, has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with TCC China to build a new $1.8 billion refinery capable of refining 120,000 barrels of crude oil a day. This new wealth plus the revenue we are already getting from gold, cocoa, timber and agricultural produce must certainly catapult this nation into its much awaited middle-income status and an appreciable per capita income and higher living standards.
Whether this is a dream or a reality depends on how prepared we are to deliver the unborn oil and how well we manage its revenue over time. Ghana has a lot to learn from countries like Angola, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria, where oil revenue and operations have run into serious trouble. However, it has the benefit of learning from best practice examples from Botswana, Chile and Indonesia, which have managed their oil revenues without much crisis.
Already, a number of workshops for all the stakeholders are being held and they would continue until we are satisfied that we have the requisite levels of knowledge, skills and capabilities to manage the anticipated oil and gas products and revenue. There certainly will not be any overkill of such workshops so long as we intend to remain and oil and gas producing and exporting country.
It was in view of these developments that the International Business Event Management (IBEM) Ghana Limited, in conjunction with the Oil and Gas Soft Skills Limited, Abuja, Nigeria, held a five-day workshop in Accra for senior leadership of oil and gas companies, banks, ministries, departments and agencies, investors and consultants to the oil industry under the theme: "21st. Century Leadership Development for Oil and Gas Executives".
Mr Kelvin Fiifi Ampah, Chief Executive Officer of IBEM (Gh) Limited, agreed that more of such workshops must be held to ensure that Ghana develops its full human capacity to manage its oil and gas productions.
Mr Ampah said the workshop enabled participants to examine the oil industry from a leadership and change management perspective, identify the leadership qualities for harnessing the opportunities in local content and industry reforms. It also enabled them to leverage leadership strengths to initiate and manage change.
He, therefore, emphasized the need for regular training at all levels of society, including all areas that would be affected by oil and gas operations, to acquire skills and knowledge so as not to be overwhelmed by crises in the emerging industry.
Mr Emmanuel Emielu, Managing Partner of Oil and Gas Soft Skills Limited, with offices in both Nigeria and Ghana, warned that the oil and gas industry was a peculiar one that required finance, experience, knowledge and capital because it was a very risky and expensive business where politics, religion and business were all mixed up.
He acknowledged that, in view of opportunities in the oil industry, everyone was expectant of flowing oil money but warned that "money without responsible, proactive and forward-looking leadership could be problematic for the nation".
"Leadership to drive the industry at the national, company and individual level is very important because if you can’t lead yourself, you can’t lead anyone else."
Mr Emielu, who is a trainer of trainers in the oil and gas industry, said leadership was about setting a vision or target and getting people to the desired destination, adding that, though making laws was necessary, it was not a sufficient condition to attain the desired result.
The human factor, though very important from the angle of the lawmaker or implementer, must be complemented by integrity that should go with the law.
"It is people and not just people by birth or nationality that matters but people with real knowledge and experience, and we need to build that capacity now," he emphasized.
Mr Emielu said it was prudent for Ghana to avoid the mistakes made by Nigeria that had culminated in the formation of Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which has been battling the Nigeria government and investors over local rights, employment, and missed opportunities, saying lack of local expertise and concerted effort had led to the crisis in that country.
Mr Donald Ekpo, Chief Executive Officer of Dellion Shipping resources, Nigeria, expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the workshop, saying it had given an added value to their experience as leaders, which he considered an achievement.
"We learnt new ideas of doing things, new challenges, met people and exchanged lots of ideas and added productivity in terms of earnings and growth of our organisations."
Mr Ekpo urged Ghana, as a young emerging oil nation to acquire some knowledge from Nigeria, saying: "If Ghana would learn from us by way of leadership, attitude and character, it will avoid some of the mistakes we made."
Nigeria, he said, over time, had become resilient and found new ways of doing things and urged Ghanaian to open up for Nigerian oil and gas companies to lead her, adding that Ghanaian oil companies must not necessarily have to go to Europe or elsewhere for consultants but look up to Nigeria to provide the requisite expertise.
"Our cultures are almost similar and our perceptions are almost the same and it is easier for us to assimilate each other’s culture. Such a move would be an advantage to Ghana."
Madam Hadjia Hadiza Belgore of the Department of Petroleum Resources, Nigeria, expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the workshop, saying it had imparted a lot of knowledge to participants. She believed that what they had acquired during the five days would impact positively on their respective organizations provided they were put into practice.
Madam Belgore said the idea of teamwork taught at the workshop was very necessary and something that could help Africa’s growth and development.
"We should embrace change as a positive element in every organisation," she said, and advised Ghanaians to brace up for the change that the anticipated emerging oil and gas industry would bring. The workshop looked at several topics such as leadership and its critical role in oil and gas operations, technical versus organisational measures of success in the oil industry, globalisation and its impact on energy and markets and firms and leadership and talent management in the oil industry.
Other topics were strategic thinking for effective leadership, paradigm shifts in strategic versus operational thinking, creativity, innovation and leadership competence and managing change in an increasingly volatile environment.
Certainly these workshops must continue to provide the needed knowledge and skills in Ghana’s oil and gas industry so that it does not fall into the same predicament as the ones that befell Nigeria and others.
As a result of the possible impact of oil and gas production on affected populations, particularly farming, employment, health, and the environment, there is the need to organize more of such workshops and sessions for them. These workshops are as important for the local populations as for metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies, and opinion leaders.
Perhaps one group that requires constant doses of such workshops is the media who serve as the watchdog of society because they must sharpen their skills to report adequately and competently on oil and gas operations and their environmental impacts.
The passage of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Bill and Petroleum Revenue Management Bills into law will hopefully prepare the grounds for Ghana to adequately set the oil and gas business in motion to make it a boon and not a curse on this nation. This must be well tailored to fit into the Better Ghana Agenda for the benefit of both the present and future generations of Ghanaians.