Ghana pumps oil for 1st time
Takoradi - The impoverished West African nation of Ghana became the world's newest oil producer on Wednesday, pumping crude for the first time from an offshore field worth billions of dollars in the Gulf of Guinea.
President John Atta Mills turned the oil valves on Wednesday during an inaugural ceremony broadcast live from a storage vessel off Ghana's Atlantic Ocean coast.
British-based explorer Tullow Oil is leading a consortium that will start producing 55 000 barrels per day from the Jubilee Field, which was discovered three years ago and holds an estimated 1.8bn barrels of oil.
Daily output is expected to increase to around 120 000 barrels over the next six months.
"After a long wait, the day has finally come," Mills said. "This demands hard work for those of us in leadership positions to ensure that the oil becomes a blessing and not a curse."
Already rich in gold and cocoa, Ghana is one of the most stable countries in Africa, but many of its 23 million people struggle to survive.
Analysts and aid groups warn the country has yet to pass crucial legislation to safeguard the oil windfall and avoid what is known in Africa as the "resource curse."
In places like Congo and Nigeria, oil or mineral wealth has fuelled conflict instead of boosting desperately needed development.
Oil revenues are expected to bring in around a billion dollars annually for the next few years, and those figures are likely to rise. In September, Tullow confirmed the existence of a second large offshore oil field called Owo that holds as much as 550 million barrels under the waters of the Gulf of Guinea.