Have you seen this? BP is out to win the hearts and minds of Gulf Coast residents with upbeat videos on YouTube. Everything is great! Based on the comments I’ve read so far, it doesn’t look like their campaign is having much success.
Recent news accounts also paint a more nuanced picture of Gulf Coast “recovery”: BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Tar balls washed onto Gulf of Mexico beaches by Tropical Storm Lee earlier this month show that oil left over from last year’s BP spill isn’t breaking down as quickly as some scientists thought it would, university researchers said Tuesday.
The U.S. government has released its report of the federal investigation of the Macondo well blowout. Although the investigators hold BP, the well’s owner, responsible for the accident, Transocean and Halliburton share the blame for many of the mistakes that led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
Both Transocean and Halliburton are active in Ghana. Transocean got a bit of (bad) publicity in June when its Marianas rig, operating in Ghana, had to be evacuated after it began taking on water.
On the African continent, a more nuanced appreciation of Gaddafi and the Libyan rebels.
While fighting continues across Libya, grisly details of the NATO-backed assault on Tripoli are beginning to emerge. At the same time the rush for Libya’s oil is on and it appears that the countries who provided early support for the rebels will have a competitive edge for new oil contracts (read The rush to grab the trophy is on! in Arab News for more details on likely winners and losers in the post-Gaddafi era).
Chatham House has released a new study on the impact of oil companies on health and the environment in Africa. The study, prepared for the European Parliament, covers the problems associated with oil production in Africa and suggests what European citizens can do to affect change. There are a number of ways that Europeans (and Americans) can engage with their oil companies and governments to push for more effective regulation and better business practices. The article I’ve posted below, from IDN, reminds European readers that they need to take an active role in working for a better (cleaner, safer, more transparent) oil industry in Africa.
An update on Ecuador’s innovative proposal to leave its oil under the soil, from The Observer:
When large reserves of oil were discovered under Yasuní national park, Ecuador offered the world a choice: give us money and we will not allow drilling. Now $60m must be found by December.
I took a trip to Axim today. Axim is a town about an hour’s drive west of Takoradi. It’s a major fishing port, one of the largest in Ghana. There are 800 fishing canoes operating out of Axim and some of the big canoes have 20 person crews. So from Brewire to Apewosike, there are literally thousands of people fishing in the Axim area.
I met with Nana Kojo Eshun, the chief fisherman of Lower Axim. I wanted to talk to him because I’ve heard some stories from fishermen recently about health problems in Axim that some here blame on gas flaring in the Jubilee field.
Justice is slow in coming in the Niger Delta — it has been 15 years since Ken Saro-Wiwa’s murder — but in the last few months there are signs of change in the air. On Wednesday, Shell formally accepted responsibility for two major oil spills in the Niger Delta (in 2008 and 2009):
In the first case of its kind, a British high court sitting in London has ordered oil major, Royal Dutch Shell to pay compensation of potentially more than £250m ($410m) to the Bodo community of Rivers State, after the Anglo-Dutch oil group admitted liability for two spills aroun the community, following a class-action lawsuit brought in England by the Niger Delta community. (from Nigerian publication, The Leadership)
Oil reserves in Uganda, where Tullow Oil is also a major player, may be significantly larger than original estimates and that doesn’t make everyone happy. Here’s an interesting article from the Center for Global Development. The Center supports direct payments of oil rents to citizens; it’s what they call “Oil-to-Cash,” and I’ve included a link to one of their reports on the topic.
Last week there were news reports of a standoff between the Yayaso community and personnel of the Ghana Police Service. The incident was triggered by the refusal of the community to move out of their ancestral homes to make way for Newmont Gold Ghana Limited to begin their Akyem Project. Under the watchful eyes of the Chief of Adausena, Nana Boni Abankro, Newmont Gold Ghana Limited was in the process of relocating the cemetery at Yayaso to a resettlement camp at Adausena when the people objected to the relocation. The said cemetery includes the Royal Mausoleum where past chiefs of the community have been laid to rest.
Ghana’s gold mining history is not a pretty one: exploitation, pillage and pollution are the trademarks of an industry that has brought great wealth to a few while wreaking havoc on local communities and ecosystems.
Turns out that one of my most popular blog posts ever is a piece called “La Saveur” that I wrote back in November 2009.
La Saveur, the name of an inexpensive and delicious dining spot in Yaounde, was a post about Cameroonian food in general and ndole in particular.
The World Bank has announced a significant funding package (US$ 53.3. million) intended to support Ghana’s fisheries. Among other things, the funding will support efforts to reduce illegal fishing off the coast of Ghana and to improve sustainable management of the country’s fisheries. This is important news for Ghana’s fishing communities.
Now that Ghana has become a middle-income country, the West African nation is taking stock of the many challenges it faces, including uneven development. Authorities are consulting with experts at home and abroad on how to ensure that oil revenues benefit all Ghanaians in a sustainable manner.
This morning I came across an article in the Guardian, Africa must build industrial sector urgently, warns UN agency, and the timing could not be better. I’m in Guangzhou, China, marketplace for the world, and if you ever needed a reminder that manufacturing is what creates jobs and wealth and leads to real economic development, come here and look around.
There’s a lot of talk in Ghana about Norway, the country that has made oil work for its citizens. Ghana is looking to the Norwegian experience for insights into how best to manage its oil resources. The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation has an Oil for Development Program in Ghana that seeks to develop long-term institutional cooperation in the oil sector. Through this program, the Norwegian government is providing assistance in competence and capacity building within resource management, revenue management and environmental management.
What happens when an economy grows rapidly without generating jobs?
Yesterday I was talking about Ghana’s economy with a Ghanaian who is doing business in Hong Kong. On paper things are booming:
Ghana’s economic growth accelerated to an annual 23 percent in the first quarter as the West African nation began producing oil for export, the country’s statistics agency said….Expansion was led by a 162 percent jump in mining and quarrying, which includes the oil industry, while agriculture grew 39.2 percent. Ghana began production of oil from its offshore Jubilee field in December. Output is about 70,000 barrels a day and may climb to 120,000 next month, according to the field’s operator, London-based Tullow Oil Plc.
Today I’m posting an article by Stephen Yeboah on the proposed Bonyere gas project. Yeboah, a Ghanaian development practitioner who focuses on the extractive industries, recently participated in a training program on oil and gas reporting funded by Revenue Watch Institute, Thomson Reuters Foundation and the International Institute of ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes).
First some background:
The Jubilee oil development project includes plans to pipe the gas released by the drilling to shore where it will be processed to generate electricity and eventually lead to further industrial development.
Will the oil industry bring jobs to Ghana’s Western Region? And when job opportunities arise will locals be competitive?
If Ebow Haizel-Ferguson has his way, the answer to both questions will be yes. Haizel-Ferguson is one of the founders of Sigma-Base Technical Services, a job training center in Sekondi-Takoradi. My latest video dispatch from Ghana features Haizel-Ferguson and Sigma-Base students. It is online at the Pulitzer Center: http://pulitzercenter.org/video/ghana-oil-industry-jobs
Anatolio Ndong Mba, Ambassador to the United Nations for Equatorial Guinea, recently wrote a letter to The New York Times in response to a critical article in the May 31st edition of the paper. Here’s his letter:
To the Editor:
“An Iron Grip in Africa, With Ties to the U.S.” (Malabo Journal, May 31) presents an unrealistic and outdated image of Equatorial Guinea, a country that is struggling vigorously to become more free, to modernize itself and to provide a better standard of living for its citizens.
The Center for Public Integrity and the Pulitzer Center have posted the first of my short video dispatches on Ghana’s new oil industry: http://www.iwatchnews.org/2011/06/10/4859/fishing-and-offshore-oil-industry-delicate-imbalance
There’s a dedicated “Oil City Stories” page at the Pulitzer Center and from there you can access articles and videos: http://pulitzercenter.org/projects/ghana-oil-city-hopes-challenges-takoradi
Please visit these pages and add comments, tweet, like, share, etc.! Increased traffic and comments help me convince funders to continue supporting this work. New videos will be out soon and we’re working on a longer film project. It’s crucial to keep up the momentum!
Thanks for your interest and support.
Days turn into weeks and I haven’t posted a thing. I guess I’ve got those oil blues…
Well, that and I have been editing video and preparing an article for publication. If all goes as planned, new material should be online in the next few days. I’ve also been to London to interview Stuart Wheaton, Ghana Development Manager for Tullow Oil, and Romain Chancerel, Project Manager for the Global Initiative for West and Central Africa (GIWACAF). GIWACAF is a public-private partnership working to develop and enhance oil spill response capacity in the Gulf of Guinea region.
During a visit to Sekondi President Mills announced that 10% of Ghana’s oil revenues would not be enough for all the work that must be done in the Western Region. Those are words intended to please the chiefs of the Western Region who demanded that 10% of Ghana’s oil revenues to regional development. Their demand was thrown out of parliament and local leaders have vowed to make this an election issue.
Earmarking 10% of the country’s oil revenues for the Western Region is complicated: What happens when drilling begins in other regions and what precedent does this set for other industries, like mining? But no one can argue that the Western Region is not in need of massive infrastructure improvements. And, some say, the 10% demand provides Ghana’s leaders to consider the problem of resource-rich areas that have never fully benefited from their resources (in the gold mining sector, most notably).
The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting has launched a project page for Oil City Stories, my work in Ghana. Please visit the page, subscribe, like it on facebook and retweet! I need people who care about these issues to make their voices heard — getting the word out helps me secure the funding I need to continue this work.
I haven’t been posting much the past few days as I’m editing photos and videos. Starting in a few days the videos will go up on the websites of The Center for Public Integrity and The Pulitzer Center, my partners on the Ghana work.
With these videos, I give voice to people and concerns rarely heard in U.S./Western media coverage of the oil industry in Africa. We read about the oil industry in the business pages (or in articles focused on the business side of things) and then we read about MEND operations in the Niger Delta. We rarely hear anything about what happens between the signing of lucrative deals and the rebellions, yet if we want to understand (and avoid) the so-called “resource curse” this is where we need to focus our attention.
Between — it’s where things happen and it’s where I’m working. Stay tuned and please spread the word!
Reuters ran a story several months ago on the key political risks of doing business in the Gulf of Guinea.
I posted the article then. The article has been updated and I’m putting it up once again. As I said when I originally posted this article, most coverage of the extractive industries (and cocoa, in the case of this article) is in the business pages and basically boils down to dollars and cents. What are the rewards, what are the risks?
The human side of the story is only of interest insofar as it impacts business and the investment climate. Ditto for the environment. What’s noteworthy here is that there is absolutely no mention of the the environmental risk of rapidly expanding drilling and mining. Kind of crazy when you consider that environmental mayhem will certainly lead to social unrest. Even from an investment perspective, one might think (wish?) that environmental concerns would be part of the risk assessment.
But rising rates of piracy, drug smuggling, and political uncertainty in an area ravaged by civil wars and coups have made it a challenging destination for investors seeking to benefit from the massive resources.
The Gulf of Guinea runs from Guinea on Africa’s northwestern tip to Angola in the south and includes Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cameroon.