In 2010, when then Ghanaian President, the late John Evans Atta Mills turned on the valve at an offshore platform in Takoradi, Ghana, not only was it symbolic for the nation's oil production in commercial quantities, but for one George Owusu, it was the culmination of years of sacrifice, grit and persistence.
Speaking to a cross-section of students, staff and faculty at Ashesi's Norton Motulsky Hall, Mr. Owusu reflected on his story in playing a lead role in Ghana’s oil discovery.
Since the late 19th century, Ghana had been the location of countless unsuccessful oil explorations, making the country an afterthought in the global oil industry. However, in 2007, George Owusu left his job in Houston, USA and spearheaded a team of geologists from Kosmos Energy, a Texas based oil exploration firm, to Ghana, for a successful exploration, unearthing Ghana’s commercial oil deposits.
“I left my family and a pretty comfortable life in the United States to chase a dream in Ghana, a dream that had eluded many companies,” shared Mr. Owusu, who in the 1970s, had relocated from Ghana to the United States. “Essentially I had a 0% chance at success, but it was a risk someone had to take. One of the things you need to learn early on in your lives is the need to take calculated risks. You’ll fail multiple times, but you should still persist. In seeking the right company to work with, I could have given up after numerous companies refused to explore Ghana. But through persisting, working out of my car and internet cafes, Ghana has oil today.”
Following the initial exploration, Mr. Owusu continued working with Kosmos Energy in Ghana, helping to identify leading global expertise and professionals for the oil production and further exploration.
“You have to think outside the box if you want to make a difference,” he said. “You don’t become successful by doing what everyone else is doing, or doing the things that may come easily. Do something different. What made me successful was my perseverance. You think about what you want to do, and go for it.”
In 2010, Mr. Owusu’s journey took a testing turn when he came under investigation from national authorities on his role and gains from the discovery. According to him, lessons of integrity and ethics he had imbibed growing up were values that absolved him of allegations wrought against him.
“Integrity is very important,” he said. “Don’t cheat, don’t lie, don’t steal. There are no shortcuts; you have to do it the right way: follow the rules and go through the front door. You never know when the records will be checked. Money and success are great, but getting them the right way is more important.”
“Now that, I’m almost 70, the opportunity to speak to the younger generation has become very important to me,” he said. “We’ve done our part; and we had to do it the hard way. As we phase out, you’ll replace us, and it’s our duty and responsibility that the next generation is well resourced to take care of the country.”