Boom time? Back to Takoradi, Ghana's oil city

  • 8 May 2013
  • From the section Africa

In 2011, shortly after Ghana began producing oil from a field offshore, the BBC's Rob Walker visited Takoradi, the hub for the new industry, and met four residents to find out who would benefit. Two years on, he caught up with them to see how things had changed.

Alberta Adjei Mensah, former student

In 2011, Ms Mensah was studying at Takoradi Polytechnic and looking for a job in an oil company. "It's very, very difficult to find a job," she said. "There are a lot of first-class students who have finished university or polytechnic sitting at home because they can't find jobs." She was hopeful that the oil boom would mean more jobs.

"I graduated. I got a job with Mantrac Ghana, a supplier of construction equipment. Companies building roads, or building hospitals and schools, come and buy our equipment. I am very happy because most of those I studied with have no job.

"The impact this job has had on me is very great. I never thought I could get my own apartment, my own TV, a fridge. It has changed my life drastically.

"Gone are the days when you can show a certificate and get a job. You need to show you can do the job. I make sure I do the work to my bosses and my satisfaction.

"Every day, you have to show your competence. Every day you have to be learning.

"In September, I am starting a university degree at night class.

"In three years time, I will have finished my degree, I will have gotten married. God has smiled at us, it's not everyone who has made it this far."

Nana Otu Gyandoh, radio presenter

In 2011, Mr Gyandoh had mixed feelings about the changes taking place. "Sometimes I get confused myself, whether I love the slow, easy nature of the city, or if I want to see the improvements," he said. "I'm scared at the rate things are changing, and we don't have any control."

"A lot has changed. I'm the general manager of Paragon 99.9 FM, a new soulful jazz, R&B station. It's a step up for me. At my old station, I was second in command. Here, I'm the number one.

"We want to be the radio station for the business community and that's what we've done. Takoradi people have woken up to the idea that everyone needs to get up and do something.

"My interest is the local economy, how much we can generate internally, even if we can't be part of the oil industry proper, and I think that the local people understand business very well now."

Alfred Fafali Adagbedu, engineer

Mr Adagbedu is a marine engineer in Ghana but had to go abroad to find work. He returned home after oil was found offshore, and established Seaweld Engineering, and said he saw enormous opportunities. The company went from four employees in 2008 to 150 in 2011.

"Over the past couple of years, our company has grown by 30% year-on-year. There are more foreign companies here than two years ago, a lot have come in, but the field has also grown bigger, there is more pie to share.

"The oil and gas industry deals with standards. If you can meet the standards, you will compete with the foreigners. We have gone into bids with all companies and where we were eligible we got the jobs. Locals have to come up to the standards

"Today, we have very trained professionals, doing the jobs foreigners were doing before and we were not able to do.

"But we have also expanded abroad. We were able to do that because we made money here and ploughed back the profits.

"We've moved into other West African countries and the Middle East, and we are able to offer similar services we've gained the experience to do here in those countries as well."

Vicky Hughton, salon owner

Mrs Hughton had high expectations in 2011, and made costly improvements to her hairdressing salon, Style Salon, in anticipation of a surge in clients working for oil companies. "It's a gamble," she said, "but I'm confident. In a year's time, my shop will have moved to the next level."

"I've not seen things well at all," she says now. "Things are slow. Everyone is complaining about money, there's no money.

"My expectations didn't turn up. There is a lot of competition. A lot of people are coming from Accra to open salons and spas. They are chasing the oil instead of leaving it for us!

"We don't see the oil workers. We don't know where they've hidden them. At first you could see them, there were a lot in the hotels. But we don't see them in town now.

"We haven't seen the oil. No-one has. I haven't benefited at all, not yet. Nobody has told me they've benefited from the oil. Just one friend has a very good job with the oil company.

"I don't feel disappointed because I know in the next years when Takoradi becomes what it is supposed to be, my children will benefit. I am telling my daughter she should go to university to study petrochemicals.

"We haven't even been five years [with the oil]. It's still new. We hope for better."