Industry view: Unlocking talent in developing countries

By Drew Leitch, managing director of MDT International

The population of the Ghanaian city of Takoradi is increasing fast, doubling in the last 10 years.  People have moved to the western regions of the country hoping to gain employment in the emerging energy industry.

Promising discoveries suggest oil revenues will soon surpass those from Ghana’s historically dominant cocoa and gold industries.  There are high expectations among Ghana nationals, who anticipate significant collective and personal benefits from their country’s new found wealth.

Drew Leitch

Despite noteworthy oil and gas prospects, this will not happen overnight, and the expectations of the Ghanaian citizens must be managed.  We must also ensure we equip capable nationals with the skills and experience to turn the discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the country into benefits for its people.

The so called “resource curse” is well documented and suggests countries with an abundance of natural resources can meet a number of challenges, often resulting in worse development outcomes than achieved by countries with fewer natural resources.  But Ghana’s political stability, history of good governance and relatively strong institutions are signs that the country will manage its new source of wealth effectively.

Governments must carefully consider local content policies to manage and harness the power of oil and gas resources for the benefit of the current population and for future generations.   In Uganda, an example of legislation aiming to do this is the Petroleum Exploration Production and Development Act which became effective in April 2013.  It encourages oil companies to employ Ugandans, provided they have the right qualifications to meet the job specification.  It also makes it mandatory for firms to plan for new technology and transfer skills.

At MDT International we believe information and knowledge is key to unlocking the benefits of mineral wealth in frontier areas.  
Our goal is to help organisations, whether they be governments or national or international oil companies, build capacity in the industry.  We do this by providing training courses in the business of oil and gas which we have delivered in more than 70 countries.  

We regularly deliver training courses in the developing environments of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda and in 2015, for the first time, these open courses will also be available in Ghana.

All of our trainers have the human factor.  They are seasoned travellers and understand no matter where they visit around the world, people are more alike than different.  Our courses use industry knowledge and realistic industry examples and can equip nationals with the intellectual knowhow and skills to build a strong, local workforce.

At the beginning of a nation’s journey to becoming an energy powerhouse it rarely holds all the knowledge or funds to go it alone.  It becomes essential to open the door to foreign investment and skills.  This is not a bad thing, but it is a matter of timing and eventually a country should begin to stand on its own two feet.

As well as harnessing the talent of international experts we must pave the way for capable nationals too.  At MDT International we can play a part in helping locals unlock their talent and shift the power balance in their nation’s favour.

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