Small-scale gold mining in what is modern day Ghana can be traced as far back as the 15th century. It continues to be an important means of livelihood for many relatively low-income Ghanaians and is highly significant for the economy as a whole. In fact, its economic importance has increased dramatically in recent years.

Under Ghanaian law mining is “reserved for Ghanaians”. Despite this, over the last decade there’s been a notable development – the arrival of large numbers of foreign miners, particularly from China.

In 2006 small numbers of Chinese and other foreign miners came to Ghana to engage in gold mining. Then a hike in gold prices from 2008 onwards led to a veritable gold rush and the arrival of significant numbers of foreign miners. Most were working on an illicit and illegal basis. Foreign miners came from countries in West Africa, as well as Armenia and Russia. But the largest concentration was from China.

By 2013, the scale of Chinese citizens’ involvement in informal gold mining in Ghana was inviting increasingly hostile media coverage as well as outbreaks of violence. The government was finally forced to act. Then President John Mahama established an inter-ministerial task force to combat illegal small scale mining. The President was careful to include both by Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians. But the subtext was clear – this measure was primarily aimed at foreign miners.

By mid 2013 significant numbers of foreign nationals, the majority of whom were Chinese, had been arrested or deported. Many more left voluntarily. As a result the visible presence of foreign miners in small scale gold mining declined. But, as research we’ve been involved in over the past 15 years shows, there have been enduring legacies of this short, intensive period of foreign involvement.

Our research ranged from looking at conflict, collusion and corruption in small-scale gold mining, specifically in relation to Chinese miners and the state in Ghana. We also looked at the impact of China’s informal gold rush in Ghana as well as the militarisation and criminalisation of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

Our findings revealed that the sector is rife with corruption. We also conclude that closing off foreign involvement in small-scale mining in the face of extremely low local investment and high unemployment is unlikely to work. Our view is that the government may have to shift its focus. Instead of trying to ban the activity, it should allow it, and accompany this with better regulation.

The mining sector

Last year Ghana overtook South Africa as the largest producer of gold in Africa. Artisanal and small scale mining accounts for 35% of Ghana’s total gold production.

For many years, small-scale mining suffered benign neglect from the state which focused on large-scale mining. Local financial institutions also remained uninterested, and very little was done to advance production technology.

Small-scale mining was illegal until 1989 when a new law was passed to legalise and regularise the sector by introducing a licensing process. This was then consolidated in the Minerals and Mining Act in 2006 which enabled artisanal miners to apply for a concession of 25 acres maximum in designated areas through the Minerals Commission.

But it’s estimated that less than 30% of small-scale miners are formally registered. Most remain informal and illicit, known as “galamsey”.

Big changes happened at the beginning of the new millennium. Ghana’s small-scale mining got caught in the vortex of globalisation which led to increased movement of people across continents, easier movement of finance, technological migration and intensification of mining. A sector that had been deprived of investment for so long suddenly discovered new suitors.

Among them were miners and business people from Shanglin County in Guangxi Province of China, who were already familiar with small-scale gold mining in their home country. They had developed more advanced technology to increase gold production, and were able to obtain loans from Chinese banks to invest in the activity.

Conflict, collusion and corruption

In our research on conflict, collusion and corruption, we looked at how Ghanaian artisanal miners quickly seized the opportunity and entered into informal partnerships with the Chinese investors. Most partnerships were illegal because Ghana’s laws reserve small-scale mining for Ghanaians.

But there was one exception: foreign companies were allowed to act as “support service providers” to small-scale concession holders.

After the spike in the gold price in 2008, an astonishing illicit, free-for-all ensued. Both Ghanaian and Chinese miners engaged in both conflict and collaboration over access to gold. The situation was described as “out of control” and characterised by “a culture of impunity” at its height in 2012 and 2013.

Chinese miners, in particular, numbering tens of thousands, introduced mechanisation and new technology.

Looking at the impact of this period, we found that irregular migration into an informal sector had long‐lasting effects. Irrevocable changes happened in a short space of time.

One consequence of the developments was that the economic rewards became greater. Another was that inequality among Ghanaians involved in small‐scale mining also increased substantially. This included a gendered dimension, as women, children, and many young people were left to extract the “scraps” left after mechanised alluvial gold mining.

Another affect of the rise in small-scale mining has been that many acres of cocoa farms have been lost. This has led to a significant drop in cocoa production.

Another consequence was incalculable environmental damage to land and water bodies. Streams and rivers being diverted for mining purposes, and surface and ground water was polluted with hazardous chemicals, notably cyanide and mercury for gold processing.

The Ghana water company reported that between 2008 and 2018 there was a 50% loss of water available for treatment. It warned that if illegal mining was left unchecked, Ghana could be importing water in the next 10 years.

Already in some villages in the western and central regions of Ghana, residents have to travel to urban areas to buy sachet water for drinking and basic staples such as cassava to feed themselves due to mercury and diesel pollution of land and water resources.

The government’s taskforce has done little to stop the activity. Recent evidence of worsening water quality shows this. Ghana’s media also continues to report recurring arrests of illegal miners, both foreign and locals.

In our view, small-scale mining with foreign involvement is unlikely to stop. The state would do better by creating legislation for this mid-level group, which has claimed space for itself, and to regulate it.The Conversation

 

Gabriel Botchwey, Senior Lecturer, Political Science, University of Education and Gordon Crawford, Professor, Coventry University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Volta River project in Ghana was a symbolic embodiment of progress, modernisation, and development. It offered the opportunity for newly independent Ghana to develop a complex and integrated industrial base using local resources and materials.

While the initial concept was discussed as early as 1924, it was only in the 1950s that the feasibility report was written and work commenced.

The idea was to harness power generated from a hydroelectric dam to smelt bauxite into aluminium and to export it from the newly built port-town of Tema. For Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first post independence leader, it was a perfect blend of nationalist development and international trade. It was a means of throwing off the shame of an imperial past with an ambitious and prestigious infrastructure project.

The development was not only concerned with industry, Nkrumah was also adamant that housing provision was to be enhanced. The aluminium plant workers were to be housed in a purpose built new town at Kpong with an array of social amenities, parks, health and education facilities.

The problem, like with most idealistic visions, was funding the venture. Nkrumah had secured some, if limited, backing from the UK government, and was hoping for the UK-Canadian aluminium venture to provide the remainder.

Nkrumah’s commitment to high quality housing for the smelter workers was admirable – but the business consortium didn’t share this generous vision and was reluctant to fund even the most basic dwellings. The idea of providing extensive sports facilities and high quality infrastructure was an anathema. The negotiations eventually failed.

But the project was too important to Nkrumah and he persisted in seeking new partners, including Soviet support, which deeply concerned the UK and US. Eventually, US steel magnate and dam builder Henry J. Kaiser agreed to deliver the project. The deal involved moving the smelter closer to the new town of Tema, and using imported US bauxite. This destroyed Nkrumah’s aspirations to use local raw materials.

Nevertheless, a new town called Akosombo was built to house the hydro-power station workers at the dam site. To this day it has a carefully controlled town plan and highly accountable local government to ensure that the main town is properly managed, complete with maintained markets, roads and facilities.

The hydro-electric dam is still rightly a source of immense national pride, and the prestige of the project is reflected in the township. It is like no other town in Ghana, and its manicured landscapes, housing and commitment to being a well run town renders it a highly attractive place to live among the beautiful hills and within close proximity to Accra.

But not everything worked out this well. A town called New Ajena was also developed to house communities that were forced to move because of the dam. This was a much less successful project.

Useful lessons can be learnt from both. In our recently published paper we assessed the development of the high profile project from the perspective of providing housing. Housing was indeed provided, but not uniformly. In addition, extensive social provision was seen as a luxury item and quickly cut from budgets by the early 1960s. As a result housing for the most vulnerable was only deemed possible if it included a “self-build” contribution by the residents themselves.

The failures

The dam resulted in the formation of one of the world’s largest man-made lakes. 80,000 people living upstream were forced to flee their fertile farms and ancestral lands as the water level continued to rise and flooded their homes.

Nkrumah decreed that “no one would be made worse off” and a programme of replacement homes and villages commenced. But there was substantial delay.

The World Food Programme was forced to intervene. It didn’t simply hand out supplies, but instead distributed food in exchange for labour. Residents were forced to “clear” 450,000 acres (182,109 hectares) to make way for the first 18 resettlement sites. 739 villages were eventually consolidated into 52 townships to benefit from economies of scale for services, school provision, road maintenance and market stalls.

New Ajena was one of the first resettlement villages to replace the former Ajena now submerged by the lake. Sites were selected based on being easily accessible, close to good farming areas, and ideally at high altitude with a good water supply. This did not leave many options and most new settlements, like New Ajena, were simply placed at the lake edge. The housing stock loosely tracks the road and is arranged in informal clusters.

Core Housing at New Ajena. Iain Jackson, CC BY-NC-SA

The use of standard components and basic construction resulted in rapid production rates with over 200 houses built a week, and 11,000 units completed by 1964. The housing type was called a “core house” – effectively a single room and raised veranda. The idea was for the residents to gradually extend the houses as required, according to a prescribed plan and building standard.

As part of my research I spoke to some residents who have lived in the settlement since the early 1960s. They can remember the developments that have taken place. They can recall some larger families being forced to move from substantial multi-room structures to one simple room which resulted in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

Extensions and modifications to the core houses have been limited, although most have added an extra room and extended the front porch. Water is still obtained via a stand-pipe which serves as the local gathering place. There are shared latrines (which are generally unpopular) although many residents have constructed their own bathhouses.

Undelivered promises

The promise of material modernisation has still not been delivered. A small primary school was built along with the core houses and more recently a secondary school has been constructed by the residents. A shop provides basic supplies and most residents keep goats and chickens and grow fruit and vegetables. The settlement has been criticised for its unauthorised structures and land use, but without this cultivation, such a remote town could not have survived.

While the development has not quite adhered to the plan and early proposals inflicted hardship on many, it is now very much a thriving settlement. Basic social amenities are slowly being added as the village sees fit.

Formal planning and the precise placing of buildings, overly prescriptive building regulations and rule-making have yielded to a schematic set of principles that devolve far greater control to residents and they should be commended for their efforts.

Lessons learned

The Akosombo plan is a pristine example of top-down planning with a highly controlled environment. But it only managed to house a small and privileged portion of society. If this model can be funded and delivered to a large community it is certainly a valid and attractive option.

Where this is not possible, New Ajena offers another route, one that is more inclusive and reliant on the goodwill and hard work of the community, but one that shows how large populations can be rehoused quickly.

Of course, it need not be a case of one or the other, and the planned Akosombo model, with associated satellite self-built villages, could deliver a sustainable and affordable solution to housing in Ghana.The Conversation

 

Iain Jackson, Professor and Architect, University of Liverpool

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ghana has a rich folkloric tradition that includes Adinkra symbols, Kente cloth, traditional festivals, music and storytelling. Perhaps one of Ghana’s best known folk characters is Ananse, the spider god and trickster, after whom the Ghanaian storytelling tradition Anansesem is named.

Ghana also has some of the world’s most restrictive laws on the use of its folklore. The country’s 2005 Copyright Act defines folklore as “the literary, artistic and scientific expressions belonging to the cultural heritage of Ghana which are created, preserved and developed by ethnic communities of Ghana or by an unidentified Ghanaian author”.

This suggests that the legislation, which is an update of a 1985 law, applies equally to traditional works where the author is unknown and new works derived from folklore where the author is known.

The rights in these works are “vested in the President on behalf of and in trust for the people of the republic”. These rights are also deemed to exist in perpetuity. This means that works which qualify as folkloric will never fall into the public domain – and will never be free to use.

The 1985 Act only restricted use of Ghana’s folklore by foreigners. The 2005 Act extended this to Ghanaian nationals. In principle, this means that a Ghanaian artist wishing to use Ananse stories, or a musician who wants to rework old folk songs or musical rhythms must first seek approval from the National Folklore Board and pay an undisclosed fee.

This is deeply problematic. Following independence in 1957, many artists have explicitly and habitually drawn on Ghana’s folk traditions to develop today’s creative industries. The 2005 Act means that the current generation of cultural practitioners must either seek permission to use and rework their cultural heritage, or look elsewhere for inspiration.

There is clearly a balance to be struck between safeguarding and access when it comes to the protection of a state’s cultural heritage. However, it is important to acknowledge that while Ghana’s legislation appears to tip towards protection at the expense of access, it restricts growth in the creative industries by discouraging artists from engaging with their national cultural heritage.

History of protection

Ethnomusicologist and musician John Collins has noted that the development of the 2005 Act was partly in response to US singer Paul Simon’s use of a melody taken from the song ‘Yaa Amponsah’ for his 1990 album 'The Rhythm of the Saints’.

Simon attributed this melody to the Ghanaian musician Jacob Sam and his band the Kumasi Trio. But on further investigation the Ghanaian government asserted that the melody was a work of folklore and so, belonged to the state.

From this, two things are clear. Firstly, in Ghana folklore belongs to the state and not the originating communities that predate the modern state. Secondly, Jacob Sam received no recompense for Simon’s use of the work, with all royalties owed on the work flowing back the government.

There are a number of issues here that set Ghana apart from other African states.

Many states allow for the use of folklore by nationals and if a fee is applicable then it is paid as a royalty based on revenue raised. This is the case in all three states bordering Ghana: Togo, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. Consequently, if an artist in one of these countries reworks folklore but makes no money, then no money is paid for that use. If the work becomes successful then the artist and the rights holder benefit.

However, in Ghana, the law states that payment is paid prior to use and so prior to any profits made. This potentially adds to the cost of production and so discourages use of folklore.

The other issue here is who owns the rights in national heritage. In many countries, such as Kenya, the originating communities retain the rights to their expressions of cultural heritage.

However, in Ghana the rights are vested in the office of the president. This means that any moral or financial benefit that results from uses of folklore flow to the office of the president, rather than being used to support continued safeguarding and growth of cultural heritage within communities.

Guarding against exploitation

Though Ghana’s present regime may appear draconian, there are compelling reasons why such protective measures are required.

Firstly, Ghana’s cultural heritage – its traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions – have been and continue to be exploited by non-Ghanaians in international markets with no beneficial interest flowing either to the state or to the originating community.

To give this some context, Simon’s use of Yaa Amponsah was only one use of Ghana’s cultural heritage in the developing of a new, and commercially successful, work. More recently, there were a number of press reports in Ghana that the Ghana Folklore Board intended to sue the producers of Marvel’s Black Panther for the unauthorised use of kente cloth in some of the characters’ costumes.

The Folklore Board clarified these reports in a press release, saying it did not intend to sue – but rather, wished to discuss attribution. Kente is specifically named as an object of protection under the 2005 Act and the current proliferation of unauthorised cheap kente designs entering global markets from China presents a significant challenge. Attribution, in this case, would ensure that cinema goers across the world would associate kente with Ghana, bringing a traditional craft to a global audience.

The board faces a particularly complex challenge. It must balance safeguarding traditional heritage with allowing creative artists room to reuse and rework elements of that heritage in a way that does not add to the cost or complexity of production.

Though the threat of unfair exploitation is real, equally real is the potential threat to the creative industries and the future development of Ghana’s living heritage if the country’s artists move away from their cultural heritage.The Conversation

 

Stephen Collins, Lecturer, University of the West of Scotland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ghana is one of the few countries in Africa where more than 50% of the population is permanently resident in cities. This urban population is located primarily in two cities; the capital Accra, and Kumasi. Both Accra, and Kumasi are home to 2 million people.

In the face of rapid urbanisation, the existing infrastructure continues to be extensively overstretched. This includes markets, housing, water, sanitation, roads and power. To meet the growing demand for urban infrastructure and services, the central and city governments have implemented a number of urban regeneration projects.

These include market redevelopment, reconstruction of roads, bridges and interchanges, and redevelopment of drains. They have been designed to address pressing problems of urban infrastructural decay. But the projects have also had a negative impact on the socioeconomic activities of urban residents.

Ghana’s national urban policy states that city authorities must include citizens whenever urban development activities are being undertaken. The reality, however, is different. Participation of residents in the development process is limited. As a result, urban regeneration projects are often met with citizen resistance.

Previously, resistance mainly took the form of street demonstrations during the early phases of urban regeneration. But this yielded very little. Governments knew that if they survived the early resistance, subsequent phases would be free of contention.

Urban residents, however, have begun to devise new strategies to push through their concerns. A recent study I was involved in examined the redevelopment of the Central Market in Kumasi. Our findings demonstrate that things can be done differently.

Making their voices heard

The Central Market in Kumasi, and its adjoining Kejetia Lorry Terminal, were built in Ghana’s colonial era. Over the years, the market fell into a state of disrepair due to overcrowding. The inability of the market to accommodate new traders resulted in a spillover into the terminal and onto the streets.

In 2014, the local authority, the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, secured funding to redevelop the market. The aim was to expand the market infrastructure to provide trading spaces for existing traders and to admit new or street traders willing to secure space in the market.

Due to the size of the Central Market, the metropolitan assembly took the decision – unilaterally – to undertake the redevelopment in three phases. The first phase affected the lorry terminal while the subsequent phases involved the demolition of the Central Market.

This decision led to a drawn out confrontation between Kejetia trader activists and city authorities.

In our study we found that trader activists didn’t confine their collective action to the early phases of urban regeneration. Rather, they extended it to subsequent phases. They deployed multiple and simultaneous strategies of contention, subversion and self-governance to attract public attention and seek positive responses from city authorities.

They delivered a petition to the regional minister. They also picketed at the inauguration of a major amusement park in Kumasi, calling for the intervention of then President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama.

The activists also ran a full scale media campaign. They made regular appearances on radio and television to counter the claims of the city authorities. They also organised press conferences and exploited social media to publicise their concerns.

They also made unconventional demands that required the collaboration of state institutions. One was for a written agreement which stated the compensation they were entitled to. This was based on the intervention of the paramount chief of the Asante, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, and his Asanteman Traditional Council. The chief compelled city authorities to cooperate with Ghana’s Lands Commission to achieve this.

As the project progressed, the trader activists modified their strategy from contention to subversion. Subversion took the form of quiet encroachment. Traders abandoned allocated stores in the temporary markets to secure trading spaces around the wall of the ongoing construction work. This action led to an intensification of street trading in the metropolis; an act that is considered illegal.

The outcome

The activism of the Kejetia traders achieved some positive results. The city authorities had initially indicated that the traders at Central market would be the first group to be allocated stores in the newly completed market. However, upon actual completion of the project, the Kejetia traders were the first to be allocated stores.

More so, due to the activism of the Kejetia traders, the Otumfuo and his Asanteman council have assumed oversightof the market project to ensure that justice is served to all displaced traders.

Our findings suggest that governments in West Africa should pay more attention to the recent waves of activism among urban residents.

In many West African countries there is legal, ideological, and policy support for collaborative governance of urban development. What is lacking is implementation by governments.

For example, in Ghana the government recently repealed an old law, the Local Government Act, 1993, Act 426 with a new Act that dedicates eight sections to participatory governance at the local level. But not much has changed since the passage of this new law.

We recommend that governments change their approach to governance by deepening collaborative delivery of urban infrastructure. This way of doing things is particularly important because it gives citizens the opportunity to participate in decision-making, seek accountability, and contribute resources to the delivery of urban infrastructure.The Conversation

 

Lewis Abedi Asante, Doctoral Researcher, Humboldt University of Berlin

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Isaac and Bless Boahen saved for months to fund her economics doctorate, but when the time came to cash in the investment, they were left empty handed.

The couple are among at least 70,000 investors who have become collateral damage from a cleanup of Ghana’s banking industry. The crackdown, which reduced the number of lenders by a third and saw the closure of 23 savings and loans companies, also triggered a run on fund managers, who couldn’t sell their holdings fast enough to meet demand.

That’s tying up as much as 9 billion cedis ($1.6 billion) of investments, more than a third of the 25 billion cedis in assets that private fund managers oversee for retail and institutional investors.

“My wife was very disturbed,” the 36-year-old said by phone from Kumasi in Ghana’s Ashanti Region. They’re not getting answers and are now worried they’ll never get back the 12,000 cedis they expected back from their investment. “If I knew this would happen, I wouldn’t have gone there.”

They’re in for a long wait. The nation’s markets regulator is looking into whether 21 fund managers violated rules by placing their clients’ money into illiquid assets. The Securities and Exchange Commission has stepped up the pressure, blocking these money managers from accepting new investments for fear they may use the funds to pay out existing investors.

“The harm has already been done,” Lord Mensah, a senior finance lecturer at the University of Ghana, said by phone. “Assets need to be protected.”

As much as 5 billion cedis is tied up in unlisted bonds, direct private-equity stakes and other deals with small- and medium-sized businesses, according to the SEC. Another 4 billion cedis is stuck in fixed-term investments with banks rescued during the clean up, savings and loans companies, and microlenders.

The SEC hasn’t yet released a list of all the fund managers it is investigating. An 11.2 billion-cedis bailout for lenders that were closed down and another package of about 925 million cedis for microcredit companies whose licenses were revoked is helping to release some of the funds locked up in those segments.

“It’s cutting across all the finance houses and when it happens like that the government needs to step in to build confidence again,” Mensah said. “There’s nothing we can do apart from making sure that we create that necessary environment to regain investors’ confidence again.”

That’s of little comfort to the Boahen’s, who were going to use the money to cover the costs of field-data collection for Bless’s thesis with the University of Ghana. After being promised a return of 26% a year on the investment, Isaac, an accountant, had to borrow money against his provident fund.

While he got the loan at a reduced rate of 10% a year, Boahen didn’t want to go the route of raising debt, he said. “It’s costing me more now.”

 

- Bloomberg

Ghana’s Atewa forest is one of the most beautiful and scenic landscapes in the country. It is seen as the better of only two Upland Evergreen forests left intact in the country, forming part of the six dominant vegetation zones of Ghana based on different climates zones.

The Atewa forest is part of the Guinean Forests of West Africa which stretch from southern Guinea into eastern Sierra Leone and through Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana into western Togo. Deforestation has massively reduced the size of the forests and the Upper Guinea Forest is now restricted to a number of more or less disconnected reserves and a few national parks acting as man-made refuges for the region’s biodiversity.

The Atewa forest landscape is remote and pristine, providing the habitat for a major collection of Ghana’s biodiversity. It has been named as one of Ghana’s 30 globally significant biodiversity areas.

But the forest is under threat. Last year Ghana signed a memorandum with China to explore Ghana’s deposits of bauxite – the primary ore in aluminium. The deposits are found in two locations – Awaso with very high deposits in the moist semi-deciduous forest zone of western region of Ghana, and Atewa, with minimum deposits and located in the Upland Evergreen forests in the Eastern Region of Ghana.

Under the memorandum Ghana will cede 5% of its bauxite resources to the Chinese. In turn, Beijing will finance $2billion worth of infrastructure projects that include rails, roads and bridge networks. The Ghanaian Parliament has passed the Ghana Bauxite Integrated Aluminium Industry Act which would provide a legal framework to exploit country’s bauxite deposits.

Yet the government says it still has to validate the true worth of the bauxite deposit in the forest.

As a botanist I view the Atewa landscape as a scientific gold mine. A recent impact assessment by the US Forest Service corroborates the concerns of several conservation groups about the potential damage that mining would cause.

I believe strongly that Atewa is not for mining and that it must be preserved. Firstly, it needs to be preserved as a living natural history laboratory. Secondly, it should be protected because it provides a vital resource – water. Thirdly, it is a precious gift whose value cannot be quantified, but which must be lived, felt and appreciated. Finally it is a naturally bequeathed heritage that must be protected for future generations to enjoy.

The forest

An interesting characteristic of the Atewa forest is that the canopies of its trees are not easily visible as they merge with the surrounding clouds creating a beautiful cloud cover line. This is very rare in the Ghanaian landscape. This feature is described in local parlance as the phenomenon in which the trees are in direct communication with the firmament of the heavens and bring good tidings to the ground underneath.

Scientifically, the phenomenon is responsible for the daily condensation of water vapour which falls as precipitation. As a result the mountain top is kept permanently moist. This in turn explains the interesting hydrological networks beneath the soil surface. The water percolates down to create under ground water ways as well as water falls and many streams and tributaries that coalesce or combine to form Ghana’s famous three rivers. These are the Ayensu, Birim and Densu.

The three eventually drain their basins as they meander through the forests and farm fields providing essential water resources to over 5 million inhabitants. They also deposit suspended clay and silt materials as fertile alluvial for crop production during the rainy periods when they burst their banks and overflow.

The Atewa landscape provides rich forest cover for climate regulation, a show piece to illustrate climate adaptation to avoid drought, reduce poverty and enhance sustainable livelihoods and improve human well being in its catchment area.

The landscape has been the subject of research by geologists, hydrologists and geo-morphologists. A geologist studies studies the solid, liquid, and gaseous matter that constitute the Earth while a geo-morphologist studies the earth’s surface. A hydrologist is a scientist who researches the distribution, circulation, and physical properties of the earth’s underground and surface waters.

Studies of the fauna and flora of the area have brought up new scientific discoveries of species like the critically endangered white-naped mangabey Cercocebus lunulatus. This shows that the knowledge of the faunal and floristic diversity and to a large extent the microbial diversity is still at the exploratory stages.

I would strongly argue that the Atewa landscape is an important species discovery destination, awaiting extensive research and studies. It should, therefore, not be disrupted or destroyed by mining.The Conversation

 

Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, Associate Professor of Botany, University of Ghana

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ghana’s Atewa forest is one of the most beautiful and scenic landscapes in the country. It is seen as the better of only two Upland Evergreen forests left intact in the country, forming part of the six dominant vegetation zones of Ghana based on different climates zones.

The Atewa forest is part of the Guinean Forests of West Africa which stretch from southern Guinea into eastern Sierra Leone and through Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana into western Togo. Deforestation has massively reduced the size of the forests and the Upper Guinea Forest is now restricted to a number of more or less disconnected reserves and a few national parks acting as man-made refuges for the region’s biodiversity.

The Atewa forest landscape is remote and pristine, providing the habitat for a major collection of Ghana’s biodiversity. It has been named as one of Ghana’s 30 globally significant biodiversity areas.

But the forest is under threat. Last year Ghana signed a memorandum with China to explore Ghana’s deposits of bauxite – the primary ore in aluminium. The deposits are found in two locations – Awaso with very high deposits in the moist semi-deciduous forest zone of western region of Ghana, and Atewa, with minimum deposits and located in the Upland Evergreen forests in the Eastern Region of Ghana.

Under the memorandum Ghana will cede 5% of its bauxite resources to the Chinese. In turn, Beijing will finance $2billion worth of infrastructure projects that include rails, roads and bridge networks. The Ghanaian Parliament has passed the Ghana Bauxite Integrated Aluminium Industry Act which would provide a legal framework to exploit country’s bauxite deposits.

Yet the government says it still has to validate the true worth of the bauxite deposit in the forest.

As a botanist I view the Atewa landscape as a scientific gold mine. A recent impact assessment by the US Forest Service corroborates the concerns of several conservation groups about the potential damage that mining would cause.

I believe strongly that Atewa is not for mining and that it must be preserved. Firstly, it needs to be preserved as a living natural history laboratory. Secondly, it should be protected because it provides a vital resource – water. Thirdly, it is a precious gift whose value cannot be quantified, but which must be lived, felt and appreciated. Finally it is a naturally bequeathed heritage that must be protected for future generations to enjoy.

The forest

An interesting characteristic of the Atewa forest is that the canopies of its trees are not easily visible as they merge with the surrounding clouds creating a beautiful cloud cover line. This is very rare in the Ghanaian landscape. This feature is described in local parlance as the phenomenon in which the trees are in direct communication with the firmament of the heavens and bring good tidings to the ground underneath.

Scientifically, the phenomenon is responsible for the daily condensation of water vapour which falls as precipitation. As a result the mountain top is kept permanently moist. This in turn explains the interesting hydrological networks beneath the soil surface. The water percolates down to create under ground water ways as well as water falls and many streams and tributaries that coalesce or combine to form Ghana’s famous three rivers. These are the Ayensu, Birim and Densu.

The three eventually drain their basins as they meander through the forests and farm fields providing essential water resources to over 5 million inhabitants. They also deposit suspended clay and silt materials as fertile alluvial for crop production during the rainy periods when they burst their banks and overflow.

The Atewa landscape provides rich forest cover for climate regulation, a show piece to illustrate climate adaptation to avoid drought, reduce poverty and enhance sustainable livelihoods and improve human well being in its catchment area.

The landscape has been the subject of research by geologists, hydrologists and geo-morphologists. A geologist studies studies the solid, liquid, and gaseous matter that constitute the Earth while a geo-morphologist studies the earth’s surface. A hydrologist is a scientist who researches the distribution, circulation, and physical properties of the earth’s underground and surface waters.

Studies of the fauna and flora of the area have brought up new scientific discoveries of species like the critically endangered white-naped mangabey Cercocebus lunulatus. This shows that the knowledge of the faunal and floristic diversity and to a large extent the microbial diversity is still at the exploratory stages.

I would strongly argue that the Atewa landscape is an important species discovery destination, awaiting extensive research and studies. It should, therefore, not be disrupted or destroyed by mining.The Conversation

 

Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, Associate Professor of Botany, University of Ghana

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tullow Plc has made oil discovery in its Jethro-1 exploration well, drilled on the Orinduik licence offshore in Guyana.

The well is expected to hold 100 million barrels of oil in excess of expectations. Tullow Guyana B.V. is the operator of the Orinduik block with a 60 per cent stake. Total E&P Guyana B.V. holds 25 per cent with the remaining 15 per cent being held by Eco(Atlantic) Guyana Inc.

Mr Kweku Andoh Awotwi, the Executive Vice President, Tullow Ghana, said the initial discovery suggested that it was in commercial quantities.

Mr Awotwi was speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the Tullow Ghana Media Capacity Building Programme on Essentials of Upstream Oil and Gas Industry in Accra.

The two-day training is designed to equip participants with fundamental knowledge of the oil and gas sector. It is also to provide an in-depth understanding into technologies, coverage and operations, particularly in Ghana of the sector.

The event was facilitated in collaboration with the Aberdeen Drilling School and the RigWorld Training Centre. He said the discovery in the South American country meant that there are opportunities for people in the Tullow organisation.

“At one hand it is good for Tullow PLC and at the other hand it is good for staff of Tullow Ghana, currently half of the people on the rig are Ghanaians,” he said.

The Executive Vice President said more wells needed to be drilled to see what was in there.

A statement issued by the Company said the Jethro-1 was drilled by the Stena Forth drillship to a Total Depth of 4,400m metres in approximately 1,350 metres of water. It said an evaluation of logging data confirmed that Jethro-1 was the first discovery on the Orinduik licence and comprises high quality oil bearing sandstone reservoirs of Lower Tertiary age.

The well encountered 55m of net oil pay which supports a recoverable oil resource estimate which exceeds Tullow’s pre-drill forecast.

It said Tullow would now evaluate the data from the Jethro discovery and determine appropriate appraisal activity.

This discovery significantly de-risks other Tertiary age prospects on the Orinduik licence, including the shallower Upper Tertiary Joe prospect which will commence drilling later this month following the conclusion of operations at the Jethro-1 well.

The non-operated Carapa 1 well will be drilled, later this year, on the adjacent Kanuku licence to test the Cretaceous oil play.

GNA

Access to energy plays a critical role in economic development. But bad government policies have affected energy security in many developing countries.

It is estimated that two out of three households (almost 600 million people) in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity. Ghana has also had its challenges. A shortage of generating capacity led to rationing in 2014 and 2015, with serious consequences for the economy.

Nearly five years later the country faces the exact opposite problem: excess electricity. Ghana’s Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta set out the scale of the problem in his mid-year review budget on July 29. He said that the problem posed grave financial risks to Ghana’s economy. This is because the government is carrying legacy debt in the energy sector, which threatens to put a huge strain on its finances.

According to Ofori-Atta, plans have been put in place to deal with the challenges in the energy sector. A recommendation has since been made to Parliament to support the renegotiation of all take-or-pay contracts to take-and-pay.

How did Ghana move from not having enough power five years ago, to being burdened with a massive energy bill as well as too much electricity?

At the heart of Ghana’s problem was how it responded to the power shortages in 2014. These hit the economy hard, leading to the mining and manufacturing sectors contracting, and unemployment going up. To address the problem, the government fast-tracked private power plants. The current glut in electricity – as well as the cost overheads – can be attributed directly to the way in which the contracts were drawn up.

Ghana’s experience is a cautionary tale for countries that find themselves in a situation of having too much electricity at any given point. Without careful forward planning, proper data-driven analysis, and transparent, competitive, corruption-free contracting processes, any country could find itself in the same situation as Ghana.

Emergency power producers

Due to challenges with public financing of energy infrastructural projects, many countries – including Ghana – have been turning to the private sector for investment in the energy sector. As a result independent power producers are receiving much more attention on the continent.

At the heart of Ghana’s energy sector challenges were the take-or-pay contracts signed by the government. To address the shortfalls it was facing, it contracted three emergency power producers during the 2014 - 2017 period. The contracting was done without a competitive process. On top of this the government signed 43 power purchase agreements.

But the demand for electricity never went up at the anticipated rate due to tariff increases and slow economic growth. As a result, the plants ended up producing excess capacity. The installed capacity according to the Energy Commission of Ghana is 5,083 MW, almost double the peak demand of 2,700 MW. Of this, 2,300 MW has been contracted on a take-or-pay basis. This means that Ghana is contractually obliged to spend money for excess capacity that’s not being consumed.

The result is that the government is paying over US$500m (almost Ghana Cedis 2.5 billion) annually for power generation capacity that’s not being used.

There is also an overhang for gas. And because the government contracted gas supply on a take-or-pay basis, it must pay whether the gas is utilised or not. Thus, from 2020, if nothing changes, Ghana will face annual excess gas capacity charges of between US$550 and US$850 million yearly. This is even after the current government terminated two other liquefied natural gas contracts in 2017.

Independent power producers

Ghana’s excess electricity problem – and its solution – boils down to the arrangements made with independent power producers.

The contracting process failed to avoid a number of pitfalls. These included:

  • A lack of flexibility in contracts. The terms and conditions are often difficult to change once purchase power agreements are signed because of a fear of putting off future investors.

  • Fixing prices in foreign currency exchange, typically US dollars.

  • Threatening competition. According to a World Bank report, independent power producers often suffocate competition once in operation. There is huge potential for inefficiencies if the independent power producers meet a large share of the load.

  • Inflated prices: the World Bank report argues that independent power producers often inflate supply prices for utilities, which raises end-user prices.

  • Currency risk protection: unlike other foreign investments, investors in independent power producers are often shielded from currency risk. Most negotiate take-or-pay contracts where all the power generated must be bought whether needed or not. Because payments are made in dollars, this becomes more like international debt than equity investment.

  • Corruption. This often creeps in when the stakes are high in contract negotiations. They are often done secretly and only become visible when there is a change of government. As the Public Services International Research Unit puts it: “Establishing power generation in excess of the country’s requirements is a feature associated with corruption ….if the process provides an income source for those negotiating the contracts”.

  • Political expediency. According to a Business Insurance report “the fundamental problem with creating independent power producers in developing countries is that initially it is based on political expediency. These things sometimes bear no relation to economic reality.”

Independent power producers have contributed immensely to Ghana’s quest to meet its power generational capacity. But lessons from Ghana’s excess electricity challenges show that unless negotiations are done with utmost transparency and care, agreements that are struck can pose financial risks and breed corruption.

This precautionary principles would save many countries from experiencing the same fate as Ghana.The Conversation]

 

Samuel Asumadu Sarkodie, Research fellow, Nord University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ghana has been chosen by the African Union (AU) to host the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area. It beat other competing countries including Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar and Senegal to win the bid.

As a free trade area, member countries have come together and agreed not to impose tariffs, quotas and other trade barriers on goods and services. The agreement is expected to enlarge markets and diversify exports, particularly manufactured goods. According to US-based think tank the Brookings Institute, intra-African trade stands at about 14%, while the share of manufactured goods to the rest of the world stands at 18%. Trade among Asian countries is much higher – at 59% – and even higher among European countries at 69%. The hope is that the African free trade area will boost trade across the continent by 52% by 2022 .

The core mandate of the secretariat will be to implement the free trade agreement, which has been ratified by 25 out of 54 countries. Once all have ratified the deal, it will create the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995.

Africa’s free trade area will cover a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$2.5 trillion.

The secretariat’s job will be to recruit personnel, train them, and develop organisational capability. The secretariat will also have to implement policies handed down by the governing body, keep the media informed, organise conferences and identify potential funding sources. It will also monitor and evaluate the progress of policies and programmes.

This is a first for Ghana which has not hosted a continental secretariat. The hope is that it can emulate the success of other African capitals that have befitted from hosting the AU and the United Nations. Addis Ababa is home to the AU headquarters while Nairobi hosts two of the UN’s biggest bodies. For its part, South Africa hosts the Pan-African Parliament.

The presence of the AU in Addis Ababa has been credited with an increase in property valuations as well as job creation.

In making its bid, Ghana took advantage of its strategic geographical location in West Africa. It has put a great deal of effort into making the country a gateway and a trade hub in West Africa.

Hosting the free trade area secretariat will come with costs and benefits - direct and indirect.

Why Ghana

In establishing its credentials to host the secretariat, the Ghanaian government would have set out the country’s most notable achievements.

These would have included the fact that it’s been an exemplary member of the AU. For example, in 2007 it was among the first countries to be reviewed by the African Peer Review Mechanism – the self-assessment mechanism used to measure good governance.

The fact that it put its hand up sent a signal to other countries that the peer review process was credible.

Other factors that would have played in Ghana’s favour are that the country’s economy has been showing strong growth.

It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world with an average GDP growth of about 6%. In addition, it comes second to Cape Verde in West Africa in terms of the United Nations Human Development index.

In one of the most unstable sub regions in the world, Ghana also has a tradition of relative peace and security, a key parameter for hosting a secretariat.

In addition, Ghana has had the advantage of learning about trade collaboration through its membership of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

Costs and benefits

Ghana has been part of the 15-member Ecowas since its formation in 1990. The regional body introduced a common external tariff in 2015 .

While Ghana has enjoyed benefits from the arrangement, like many other West African States, it has not been able to harness its full potential. For example, border controls remain cumbersome, delaying transits due to the numerous check points, huge unofficial payments at the borders.

The most direct cost to the country will be the $10 million pledged by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to support setting up the secretariat. The AU is also expected to contribute funds and appeals have been made to international funding agencies.

Ghana’s hope is that hosting the secretariat will boost the hospitality sector – and more broadly the services sector – and generate increased international exposure.

There should also be a boost for job creation as the secretariat hires staff; ranging from economists to translators, administrators and technicians.

There is no clear deadline on when the secretariat is expected to be up and running. The AU itself still has to clear a number of hurdles,, including adopting a structure, staff rules and regulations, and the secretariat’s budget.The Conversation

 

Adu Owusu Sarkodie, Doctor of Economics, University of Ghana

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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