Oil Governance in Ghana: Exploring the Politics of Elite Commitment to Local Participation

  • Ishmael Ayanoore

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores the politics of elite commitment to promote local content and participation within Ghana’s oil and gas sector. Since Ghana discovered commercial quantities of oil in 2007, debates over whether it would avoid the ‘resource curse’ have primarily taken place within a neo-institutionalist frame of analysis that emphasises the importance of establishing certain types of institutional arrangements which can help constrain and shape elite commitment to developing petroleum resources in the national interest. This thesis seeks to go beyond this framing by deploying new forms of political analysis which show that elite commitment is shaped not by institutions but by the wider configuration of power. It employs an extended ‘political settlements’ framework (incorporating ideas) that explains how elite interests and ideas shape developmental forms of political commitment to governing oil in the national interest. The analysis is based on three main cases - the politics of formulating and adopting local content legislation, the process through which this legislation was implemented and the effort put into building the capacity of Ghanaian firms to participate in the sector. The thesis argues that the underlying tendencies within Ghana’s competitive clientelist political settlement (electoral incentives, coalition building, patronage politics and ideas) directly shaped the levels of political commitment to secure greater oil rents. Ghana’s competitive political settlement generated incentives for politicians to use local content policy promises as a strategy to bring certain civil society and private sector elites within what would become a ruling coalition. This move, along with the resource nationalist ideology of the coalition in power at the time, in turn helped to generate relatively high levels of elite commitment to developing ambitious targets within the legislation. However, the process of implementation has been shaped more directly by incentives than ideas, particularly in terms of pressures to distribute participation opportunities in line with the clientelist logic of the political settlement, benefitting politically connected firms. In applying an extended political settlements approach, this thesis offers deeper political economy insights into the drivers of elite commitment to governing oil in the national interest, and shows how Ghana’s efforts to avoid the resource curse have and will continue to be closely shaped by ‘power relations’, ‘elite bargaining’ and ‘ideas’.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSamuel Hickey (Supervisor) & Tomas Frederiksen (Supervisor)


  • Ghana, oil and gas, local content, political settlements, elite commitment, elite interests, ideas

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