Rising homelessness, teenage prostitution, high unemployment, inconsistent water and electricity supply, uncollected waste, high food prices, skyrocketing cost of life, failed election promises, increasing number of Ghanaians seeking to get to Europe, violent crime, among others.
This is pretty much the current picture of Ghana, this West African nation of 26 million people, Africa’s fourth-largest oil producer and second-largest gold producer.
Expectations were high when huge reserves of oil were discovered in June 2007 – the largest oil find in the last decade offshore in West Africa. Many thought that at least half of the country’s poverty – currently standing at 26 percent according to the World Bank – will be slashed and a better life will rise.
But that was only an empty dream.
A Moon of the South investigation has found that poverty persists and life is getting harder every day, as the number of men and women driving or being driven in latest and expensive cars seems to increase day after day, a clear sign that oil money appears to benefit only the elite.
Ghana’s oil revenues stood at 581 million USD in 2013, according to the Real Sector Division of the ministry of finance. Ghana received a total of 444.12 million USD in oil revenues in 2011, the first full year of oil production, but the figure rose to 541.07 million dollars in 2012, Ghana Oil Online reported.
“Where is the oil money going?” asks Nelson Asamoah, a homeless man who spent the past five years sleeping in Accra’s Makola Market with his family.
“They said our lives would change for the better, and we will never be poor again,” he adds, as scavengers tore through a mountain of uncollected waste lying nearby, looking for food and other ‘valuable’ items to sell.
Accra, the capital city, becomes like Sodoma and Gomorra at night as dozens of young prostitutes – some as young as 14 – swarm the city’s dark streets looking for ‘customers’ for a modest fee of 7 Ghana cedis (about 2.75 USD). “My parents have no money for school and food, and this is the quickest way to get it,” Theresa (not her real name) says.
In many major cities, including Tema, Kumasi and Takoradi, the elite are busy building luxury homes thanks to the oil revolution, while disgruntled young Ghanaians gather at street corners every night to plot their way out of the country.
“This country is burning because the cost of life is fast rising as there are no jobs and everything is so expensive, the only way out is to get to Europe,” 24-year-old John Mensah told Moon of the South, as water taps run dry for three days in many parts of the capital city.
Many observers are worried that Ghana is taking the same direction as Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon, vital Africa oil producers, whose populations have been suffering for decades.
Mohammed Amin Adam, executive director for Africa Centre for Energy Policy, last year accused the Ghana government of not spending its oil revenues efficiently. “I don’t think Ghana is getting it right with the efficient investment of its oil revenue resources,” he told the media in December.
The government said last year that oil revenues collected for 2013 will be spent on expenditure and amortisation of loans for oil and gas infrastructure, road and other infrastructure, agricultural modernisation, and oil and gas capacity building.
Nothing on education, healthcare, housing and social programmes for poverty alleviation.
Road infrastructure has vastly improved in many major cities, but most of the country’s townships are still dusty, ugly, dark and seriously underdeveloped, lacking everything from paved roads, adequate sanitation, healthcare facilities, schools and librairies, and electricity.
Despite the curse, oil discovery in Ghana has not stopped. The Amitlaw Professional Development Centre reported on its website that a total of 16 new oil discoveries have been made in Ghana in 2010, and the most recent reportedly has about 200 million barrels of oil, positioning Ghana as a new hub for oil and gas industry in Africa.
“Now I’m convinced that oil discovery in Africa will never be a blessing for its citizens,” a University of Ghana student says on condition of anonymity.
Photo by Omgghana.com