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In Ghana, are New Resources a Blessing or Curse?

Kwamina Pan­ford, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of African Amer­ican Studies at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, wants to know whether the African nation of Ghana will fall victim to the Resource Curse.

That is the phrase social sci­en­tists use when coun­tries plen­tiful in nat­ural resources mis­manage those resources, often resulting in unbri­dled con­flict and cor­rup­tion. Pan­ford has been awarded a Ful­bright schol­ar­ship to study in Ghana and deter­mine whether the country is likely to manage new­found resources wisely and well.

“Ghana today pro­vides excep­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties to social sci­en­tists inter­ested in the rela­tions between devel­op­ment, gov­er­nance and nat­ural resources,” said Pan­ford. “It is deemed to be suc­cessful at estab­lishing demo­c­ratic gov­er­nance while the nation pre­pares to uti­lize new rev­enues from its first com­mer­cial oil and gas fields, located some 60 to 70 miles from its shores.”

For these rea­sons, the country is becoming a test case for whether oil will lead to socio-​​economic devel­op­ment or be a source of new social and polit­ical ills, including vio­lent con­flicts that have rav­aged other African nations, he said.
Pan­ford will spend his sab­bat­ical studying how Ghana’s gov­ern­ment uti­lizes the oil and gas from the country’s newly dis­cov­ered deep-​​sea oil fields. He will also lec­ture about Africa’s polit­ical economy and the role of inter­na­tional orga­ni­za­tions at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Coast.

“Ghana’s pres­i­dent has said that he wants the oil to ben­efit all people in Ghana. The country has an oppor­tu­nity to become the model for country-​​managed resources,” Pan­ford said.

This year, Ghana’s par­lia­ment passed the Petro­leum Rev­enue Man­age­ment Bill, which promises greater trans­parency and account­ability. The bill gives the gov­ern­ment per­mis­sion to use 70 per­cent of oil rev­enues to sup­port its budget, while 30 per­cent is saved in “Her­itage and Sta­bi­liza­tion” funds.

As he studies in Ghana, Pan­ford is looking for­ward to wit­nessing first-​​hand how the country imple­ments the bill.

This new inter­na­tional research oppor­tu­nity will also mark Panford’s return to Ghana. He has been a con­sul­tant for the Insti­tute for Devel­op­ment Studies, where he trav­eled to Ghana’s coast to study the economy and envi­ron­ment and doc­u­ment the scene prior to oil pro­duc­tion. The Ful­bright schol­ar­ship will allow him to con­tinue con­ducting his research in an area of par­tic­ular pas­sion for him.

“I feel doubly for­tu­nate because the Ful­bright is not only an aca­d­emic oppor­tu­nity, but it also involves my life inter­ests,” Pan­ford said. “The award will enable me to study how Ghana and other African coun­tries are gov­erned and how oil impacts gov­er­nance, social and eco­nomic devel­op­ment. I will incor­po­rate this expe­ri­ence into my courses at North­eastern in African Amer­ican Studies and polit­ical science.”

– by Lauren Dibble

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