MFWA trains over 30 journalists on Reserve-Based Lending and Illicit Financial Flows

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The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has organised a capacity building training programme to enhance the investigative skills of Ghanaian journalists on Reserve-Based Lending (RBL) and Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) and their impact.

The training programme aimed at broadening the knowledge of journalists on RBL and IFFs in Ghana’s extractives sector to produce evidence-based and compelling data-driven stories.

Over 30 media practitioners from various Ghanaian newsrooms who report on economics, business, and finance benefited from the training programme held at Sunlodge Hotel in Accra.

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Dr Kojo Impraim, Programme Director for Media for Peace and Sustainable Development at the MFWA

It is part of a three-year Strategic Partnership Initiative for Ghana and West Africa, funded by OXFAM in Ghana under the Danish International Development Agency’s (DANIDA) Accountable Governance Programme II.

The initiative focuses on climate change, domestic revenue mobilisation, IFFs, and the extractives sector.

Programme Director for Media for Peace and Sustainable Development at the MFWA, Dr Kojo Impraim, emphasised the necessity of the training.

He said Ghana, rich in resources such as gold, oil, gas, bauxite, manganese, iron, graphite, salt, and recently lithium and other green minerals, has seen limited impact on its economic health and the well-being of its people.

Dr Impraim noted that although the government has enacted laws, established regulatory bodies, and implemented systems to ensure transparency, traceability, and accountability in the extractives sector, there are significant shortfalls.

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A cross section of participants at the programme

These include enforcement gaps, capacity issues within regulatory bodies, and systemic lapses that have led to losses or disappearances of funds, resources, and national investments.

These issues have resulted in accounting breaches, IFFs, misused or misplaced funds for national development, and incomplete development projects.

He explained that public awareness of the financial systems, networks, criminal activities, legislation, negotiations, contracts, loans, and benefits related to the extraction of natural resources in Ghana is limited due to the complex nature of these transactions.

Dr Impraim added that this situation is partly due to media personnel’s lack of capacity in data sources, knowledge in data gathering and analysis, monitoring and evaluation techniques in shadow economies, and investigative reporting.

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Participants at the training programme

He urged journalists to shift the focus on political discussions about the National Democratic Congress and New Patriotic Party to raise awareness about the country’s limited resources and their prudent use for national development.

“This training programme was designed to expose you to the multifaceted and alternative financial worlds of the extractives sector and to equip you with the prerequisite knowledge on how to effectively report, network, organise, and advocate for change towards contributing to national development,” he said.

Some beneficiaries were demoralised by the current state of the country’s extractives sector but expressed determination to increase awareness to enlighten the public and shape government’s policy for national development.

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Participants shared their thoughts after group discussions

“I will follow the budget to monitor the government’s use of resource-backed loans for development projects to ensure that these funds have not been misappropriated or misapplied,” said Thelma Dede Amedeku, a journalist with The Fourth Estate.

Other journalists committed to promoting compliance with the proactive disclosure provision under the Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989) regarding the disbursement of funds gained through resource-backed loan agreements and verifying the accuracy of disclosed information.

They also pledged to share the knowledge gained from the training with colleagues in their media houses.

Background

International oil and gas companies, including local exploration firms, rely on RBL from financial institutions to finance their operations. A 2020 study by the Natural Resource Governance Institute found that between 2004 and 2018, 52 RBL facilities totalling $164 billion were secured in 14 African and Latin American countries.

Ghana, a resource-rich country, has been a key player in the oil and gas sector since discovering significant oil and gas reserves in 2007 and started production in 2010. In 2020, Ghana produced over 173,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

In 2015, PetroSA secured a $200 million RBL facility through its Ghanaian subsidiary to monetise its offshore assets.

In 2017, Vitol, Eni, and the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation secured $1.35 billion in debt financing, including a hybrid project finance and RBL structure, to support the Offshore Cape Three Points Block project.

Tullow Oil reached a $1.7 billion reserve-based loan agreement in 2016 and 2020.

However, RBL is vulnerable to misuse, which poses a significant risk to Ghana’s oil and gas industry. Corruption and IFFs are prevalent in the extractives sector, with only 22% of the $1.2 trillion generated annually from oil and gas sales being remitted to government treasuries. This undermines domestic resource mobilisation and highlights the need for improved transparency and accountability in RBL financing.

Facilitators

Experts in the extractives sector, Dr Bishop Akolgo, IFFs Consultant, Ghana and Samuel Bekoe, Lead Researcher, Centre for Extractives and Development Africa facilitated the two-day training programme.

The MFWA has made available time-bound funding to support the development of investigative stories by journalists on RBL or resource-backed borrowing.

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