Why Obama’s going to Ghana

There are lots of great reasons to visit Ghana, as Barack Obama announced last week that he will do this coming July. The country was recently host to succesful democratic elections; its tourist industry is certainly one of the best in West Africa (not only is the country home to the Cape Coast and other ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
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585691_090519_ghana2.jpg
A rider entertains supporters of the National Democratic Congress in front of a banner bearing photographs of US president-elect Barack Obama and the newly elected President John Atta Mills of Ghana at the Independence Square in Accra on January 7, 2009. Atta-Mills, 64, hailed the "dawn of a new era" as he was sworn in as Ghana's new president at a ceremony attended by several African heads of state. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

There are lots of great reasons to visit Ghana, as Barack Obama announced last week that he will do this coming July. The country was recently host to succesful democratic elections; its tourist industry is certainly one of the best in West Africa (not only is the country home to the Cape Coast and other attractions, but the buses run on time); it has a great soccer team; and the country's economic growth has been impressive. As Ghana's Black Star News concluded: "Ghana is being rewarded for good governance, good economic management, and the rule of law."

But here's another interesting tidbit about Ghana: it just found oil -- estimated over 600 million barrels -- making it one of Africa's largest future producers. Production hasn't started yet, but when it does, the government will no doubt feel a boost in revenue, estimated as high as $1 billion annually. 

There are lots of great reasons to visit Ghana, as Barack Obama announced last week that he will do this coming July. The country was recently host to succesful democratic elections; its tourist industry is certainly one of the best in West Africa (not only is the country home to the Cape Coast and other attractions, but the buses run on time); it has a great soccer team; and the country’s economic growth has been impressive. As Ghana’s Black Star News concluded: “Ghana is being rewarded for good governance, good economic management, and the rule of law.”

But here’s another interesting tidbit about Ghana: it just found oil — estimated over 600 million barrels — making it one of Africa’s largest future producers. Production hasn’t started yet, but when it does, the government will no doubt feel a boost in revenue, estimated as high as $1 billion annually. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to buy oil from a country with a relatively clean record in human rights, governance, and economic management? That’s a far cry fro the United States’s third-largest current supplier, Nigeria, just next door. Of course, there are worries that Ghana could fall into the same rent-collecting state model, but it seems determined to resist that slip. And maybe that would be a good topic for Obama to pointedly discuss while visiting.

Who knows if this is really part of the reason for the visit, but it does seem like something that could figure into that “range of bilateral and regional issues” the White House plans to discuss with Ghanaian President John Atta-Mills.

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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