The time was 6.30pm on Thursday January 25, 2024. Gathered in the Crystal Palace Suite at the London Hilton Hotel on Park Lane were a collection of key United Kingdom (UK) corporate leaders with roots in Ghana – including High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland, Papa Owusu-Ankomah, and Tullow Plc Chief Executive, Rahul Dhir.
Other Tullow executives, including Director-People and Sustainability, Julia Ross; Ghana Managing Director, Wissam Al-Monthiry; his deputy, Cynthia Lumor; and External Affairs Manager, David Amoah, were also present.
It was the second time such a gathering was taking place in England’s capital during the last three years. Dubbed ‘The Ghana Energy Evening’, it is a platform created by Papa Owusu-Ankomah and Tullow executives that brings together key players with ties to Ghana – to collaborate and share ideas about the country’s energy future, and how to sustain investments over the next decade.
The first edition, held in 2022, threw light on critical topics including climate change, the energy transition and the search for an answer to the existential question of the energy trilemma – how to ensure secure, affordable and accessible energy for the world. Much of the discussions that year also focused on how to support countries like Ghana with the right investment to utilise its endowed natural resources for the wellbeing of its citizens and economic growth.
On this evening in 2024, however, participants were meeting at a crucial time for the energy sector in the world – especially in Africa. Questions around the trilemma still remain, but other emerging issues need attention: including how to ensure a just energy transition for African countries, amid talk of the fossil fuels’ phase-down.
Additional issues, including the need to promote the right investments in countries like Ghana, the commitment to clean energy by 2030 and empowering local resources to transform the sector, were all concerns on the minds of guests.
The main speakers at the event were immediately recognisable by almost all participants – Dr. Bassam Fattouh, Director at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies; and Yaw Nsarkoh, former Unilever Executive Vice President. Their presentations elicited the kind of engagement that such a crowd needed.
Dr. Fattouh was quite vocal about the need to recognise that a just transition for energy must allow countries in sub-Saharan Africa the right to transition at a pace that allows them to develop their hydrocarbon reserves in promoting industrialisation and energy access. He acknowledged expansion of the energy mix made possible by the growth of renewables and clean energy advocacy.
However, he was emphatic that oil and gas will remain an important part of the energy mix in most parts of the world, especially Africa, until around 2050. He added that a just energy transition is necessary if you consider that Africa has contributed less than 3 percent to the world’s cumulative energy-related carbon emissions since 1890.
Yaw Nsarkoh dissected the African leadership and governance problem, insisting that unless something is done about the mindset of political and economic leadership, it will be difficult to promote a just transition and progress for the energy sector. He also said despite being a committed defender of the climate change agenda, it should be pursued from a segmented approach or risk an entire collapse.
Yaw advocated that the decarbonisation agenda must be viewed as a means to an end – where the end means that an improved society gives a better capability to secure long-term health; which translates into improved livelihoods for the people. He added that to remain a relevant energy provider, Ghana must advocate to have a thriving society at all times.
The conversations that followed these presentations demonstrated the topics’ importance for the Ghanaian diaspora. Many of the comments signalled a recognition that Ghana’s energy sector is at an inflection point, requiring proactive measures to uphold its two-decade success story. Ghana’s High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland, Papa Owusu-Ankomah, acknowledged the role of leadership and governance; highlighting the need for Ghanaian diaspora talents to look toward home with their skills to transform the economy.
Fresh from announcing that Tullow is on track to deliver US$600million free cash flow in the next two years, Chief Executive Rahul Dhir said the energy sector is respected for what it does for humanity – and Tullow remains well-positioned to be a leader in the African energy industry and unlock value from hydrocarbon resources for its host nations and communities.
Rahul further insisted that challenges currently faced by Tullow will require much stronger collaboration between host governments and industry to address; adding that a natural alignment is needed to ensure the nation’s resources are developed in a timely manner and not stranded.
The Ghana Energy Evening, a joint effort by the Ghana High Commission in the UK and Tullow, brings key players together annually to collaborate and partner for the good of Ghana’s energy agenda. It also aligns with Tullow’s vision of building a better future for Ghana by linking the right minds and investments to reshape the country’s energy landscape.