There’s been a flurry of excited news coming out of Ghana the past few weeks. Ghana’s growth rate hits 16%. Ghana signs the first $1 billion of its $3 billion loan agreement with China. An additional $6 billion Chinese loan is in the works. The $1.2 billion gas plant project will soon move into high gear. Vice President John Dramani Mahama says Ghana will rake in $1 billion from gas annually and that will allow Ghana to pay off the $3 billion loan ahead of schedule. He predicts the gas industry will create hundreds of thousands of jobs. (Check out Ghana Oil Watch for articles on all this and more.)
Wow! All sounds amazing, but is it too good to be true?
The dearth of oil jobs in Ghana is back in the news again.
“Youth angry over elusive jobs in oil industry,” was the title of an article published in the Ghanaian press on March 12th.
The article cites Ebow Haizel-Ferguson from Sigma-Base Technical Services, who urges the rapid development of “ancillary industries.” I interviewed Haizel-Ferguson for “Ghana: Will oil mean jobs?” a short video I produced for the Pulitzer Center .
Oil brings in huge amounts of money, of course, and along with that comes expectations of many, well-paid jobs. The problem is that the industry – at least as it exists in Ghana now – doesn’t generate much work.
Sigma-Base Technical Services, a private job-training center in Takoradi, recently held a graduation ceremony (or a “passing-out ceremony” as it’s called here) for its first class of 913 trainees. The students, trained in welding, pipefitting, electrical work or specialized construction, were participants in a new program intended to create a qualified labor pool for Ghana’s new oil industry.
With the Sigma-Base training under their belts, the graduates can pursue jobs with any number of companies servicing the oil and gas sector.
“We are already qualified to perform 60% of the jobs in the oil industry,” says Ebow Haizel-Ferguson, the Corporate Affairs and Community Relations Director at Sigma-Base. He disputes claims from officials that Ghanaians will not be qualified for wide-scale oil and gas employment before 2020.