Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Tapping Wealth

Ghana's making movements and I'm so proud of them.

What am I talking about? Well, Tullow Oil sold many of their shares last month at a rate of GHC 31 (£12.59/$20.51) per share. They sold 3.5 million shares and raised almost GHC 110 million.

This is good news. I'm not sure how most oil companies fair in other countries and with other grades of oil but floating the company on the Ghana Stock Exchange gives Ghanaians a way of owning and benefitting from the oil find in another way than the often publisiced second-hand benefits (hotels, landlords, small local businesses). I'm just gutted that I wasn't aware of the offer because I've been awaiting the opportunity for years (buying shares at 19 years old FTW). It'll have to be at 20-years old if they don't put the last batch up before mid-August =[.

As with most things to do with Ghana I do have my reservations. A vast majority of the shares were bought up by large organisations who have the financial capacity to buy a significant percentage of the shares on offer, but as I grew up, I recall my father buying, tracking and selling shares- as ordinary as he is. My concern is that the ordinary Ghanaian didn't get the opportunity to buy into the shares. They first of all lack the finances to do so - my cousin earns just GHC 60 (£24/$39) a month and he has a family to support. How many months would it take for him to raise the money for just one share - and not neglect his duties as a father and husband?

And even if he could find a way by utilising the best of the African family structure, he doesn't have a  bank account. In fact many Ghanaians lack a bank account given the prevalence of the informal economy, irregular cash in hand work. So how does one go about transferring his/her money to the necessary parties in order to secure a share in Tullow Oil. The other negative of the informal transaction system, is when it's gone it's untraceable - false agents can decieve you and run away with you money and your so called investment may as well have been burnt away in the fires of Agbloboshie. Did the government think about these obstacles affecting the ordinary Ghanaian? Have they done enough to make sure that this oil find isn't another crank to widen the income gap? I don't think they have.

Ghana is about to see a number of other booms. I strongly believe there will be a property boom and tourism boom, given the number of returning Ghanaians (and those of heritage) as well as those here for the oil money. The National Mens Senior Football team will of course do much for our tourism if they continue to provide dramatic football a la their performance in South Africa last year, but is this government ready to make the ordinary Ghanaian benefit directly from these changes. I haven't seen evidence that will affirm this.

If you have ideas as to how Ghana can develop, or maybe you have an opinion on what they are lacking, then comment below. Let me know what your thinking, let's spark discussion and begin to change things.

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