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Welcome to Oil City!

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The Sekondi Beachfront. Image by Christiane Badgley, Ghana, 2011.

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A view of Takoradi Port. Image by Christiane Badgley, Ghana, 2011.

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View from a terrace in Sekondi-Takoradi. Image by Christiane Badgley, Ghana, 2011.

It may not be Houston yet, but Ghana has its Oil City.

Sekondi-Takoradi is the capital of Ghana’s Western region and its largest urban agglomeration with some 350,000 residents.

Although Sekondi-Takoradi has been around for a long time (the neighboring cities of Sekondi and Takoradi merged in 1946), the city still has a bit of a Wild West flavor. The oil business has attracted money and fortune seekers, dreamers and schemers. The cost of living is skyrocketing, the roads are jammed with cars and yet, like one of those Western false-front towns, the facades can be deceptive.

Sekondi-Takoradi may one day be Ghana’s oil and gas hub, but for now this is a poor city with a large population of unemployed young people. Sekondi prospered in times past thanks to the railroad, which brought timber, cocoa and minerals from the interior to the coast. Today the station is a ghost of its former self and rows of railroad cars stand idle on the tracks, rusting reminders of better days. Takoradi, Ghana’s first deepwater port, still bustles, but containerization and mechanization have drastically reduced the employment rolls.

So into this twin city down on its luck came oil, and with it incredible hope and expectations. Will the oil industry bring the jobs and economic growth this place so desperately needs? And what will happen if oil ends up being like cocoa, gold or timber—yet another resource extracted locally but creating profit elsewhere?

These are some of the questions I’ll explore over the coming weeks and months as I look at Ghana’s new oil industry and its impact on Oil City and beyond.

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