Of Africa’s natural resources, underdevelopment, and poverty.

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· Kwamina Panford: the brain behind a brave new book.

The exodus of U.S. based Indian and Chinese professionals and entrepreneurs to India and China to contribute and do bigger and better things there has initiated what has been termed “Brain circulation” as opposed to the nauseous “Brain drain” of the past. I have often been intrigued by the large numbers of African professionals in the diaspora and wondered how such energies can be turned homeward and harnessed to benefit Africa. Why must Africa continue to be poor and marginalised considering the continent’s substantial natural resources coupled with the mind power of its sons and daughters in the diaspora!

On first meeting Professor Kwamina Panford

 In 2012, while visiting Boston, I expressed the interest in meeting some influential Africans in the area. Right away the name of Professor Panford was suggested and his telephone number duly given to me. I called and met him at Northeastern University where he taught in the African Studies department. We had lunch at the Faculty Lounge in the company of a young Ghanaian he was mentoring.

Panford’s story reflects a case study of how Ghanaian professionals abroad can be of immense help to Ghana in particular, and Africa in general. He was born in Koforidua in the Eastern Region and attended Koforidua Catholic Schools, St Augustine’s College – Cape Coast, and the University of Ghana.

Since being abroad finishing his Masters and PhD degrees, he has contributed to Ghana’s higher education by donating books to University of Ghana and University of Cape Coast, and hosting over 400 Ghanaian students and faculty at Northeastern.


Liaising with Ghanaian compatriots

Panford is now on a sabbatical and fellowship leave to teach at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Cape Coast (IDS/UCC). His earlier visits to Ghana have entailed other assignments. From 1991-2003, for instance, he was engaged with the Ghana Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Government of Ghana / Labour Department to review and craft Ghana’s labour laws.

 With Ghana’s discovery of oil in June 2007, he shifted gears and became involved in this bold new sector. He started this journey of oil discovery and production in September 2009 on a sabbatical at IDS/UCC. Led by the then director, Prof J.V. Mensah and the new director Patrick Agbesinyale and other colleagues, they conducted a massive survey of Ghana’s six oil districts to provide a baseline for measuring the social and economic impact of Ghana’s new oil industry.

Panford literally commuted from Boston (from 2009 to 2014, and from 2015 to the present) to stay engaged with his Ghanaian compatriots.  Additionally, in 2010 – 2011, he helped the Ministry of Finance under the guidance of Prof Joe Amoako Tuffour – another Ghanaian diasporan expert and adviser to the Ministry of Finance – to draft the nation’s landmark Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) and the creation of the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC).

He then collaborated with the TUC’s leadership including the recently retired Secretary General Kofi Asamoah and the current one, Dr Yaw Baah, to get TUC a full recognition and representation on the PIAC.

About that same time, Panford was on the public lecture circuit – Daily Graphic Business Forum on Oil, and Institute for Economic Affairs’ Ghana Policy Journal Special Edition on Ghana’s Oil, and drafting the Ministry of Energy’s Local Content Legislation. He even liaised with the Catholic Bishops on oil at Takoradi in 2011, and addressed TUC’s Executive Board in 2012 at Tema.

Institute for Oil and Gas Studies

Panford was the lead consultant who together with Ghana’s current Minister of Natural Resources, Peter Paul Amewu and the current Deputy Minister of Energy, Dr Amin Mohammed, wrote Ghana/Africa’s first and one of the world’s rare government accounting for oil revenues and expenditures.

Coming from a labour background with experience from the ILO (Geneva, Switzerland), Panford led the TUC’s effort to write its maiden oil policy paper and as a resource person helped UCC to found Ghana’s first public university affiliated Institute for Oil and Gas Studies.

Although Ghana still has teething petroleum production issues, some of the measures and bills and institutions he was involved in – if managed as intended to perform – will assist Ghana to avert the proverbial resource curse.

The brave new book 

After reflecting on his experiences in Ghana and many African / non-African states’ experience and involvement with oil and other natural resources in December 2016, Panford has now completed his 249-page book, “Africa’s Natural Resources and Underdevelopment: How Ghana’s Petroleum Can Create Sustainable Economic Prosperity,” (Palgrave Macmillan, NY 2017, 249 pp.)

A candid book it unravels the myths surrounding a hugely popular but flawed theory called the resource curse and its application to Ghana and four major natural resource producing African nations—Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola.

Focusing on Ghana’s recent discovery of oil, the nation’s woes with “Galamsey”, and how to turn natural resources into assets for economic prosperity, the book is poised to contribute to discussions and policy formulation in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa. More importantly it is full of practical policy recommendations.  For example, at the time the new NPP administration seeks to eliminate the scourge of galamsey, illicit environmentally destructive gold and diamond miming, Panford provides a history of this social menace and lays out how Ghana can exploit its gold, diamond and now oil for the greater good.

{To be continued}

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

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