Established as a not-for-profit organization, the vision of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) is to have an Africa in which energy and extractive resources are utilized for economic transformation and sustainable inclusive development. The mission is to conduct evidence-based research, policy analysis, capacity development, and advocacy to ensure effective and equitable utilization of energy and extractive resources in Africa.
The policy think tank is built on values of professionalism, accountability, independence, cooperation, knowledge, and integrity. It engages in strategic collaborations with all stakeholders to deliver value, while ensuring independence in conducting activities on a non-partisan basis and without influence from other interest groups. ACEP believes in knowledge creation, sharing, and expertise development in the energy and extractive sector while upholding integrity.
The Centre’s journey began when it came onto the scene in 2010, at a time when the country had its first oil, after discovery in commercial quantities three years prior. There were no laws or institutions at the time to fully regulate the new sector. The penultimate petroleum law at the time was inadequate for the new terrain. This necessitated a relook at the emerging industry.
ACEP entered the arena when there was no evidence of oil and gas industry management in Ghana. Thus, taking cues from oil development situations, in terms of resource extraction, revenue utilization of oil and gas contemporaries on the continent, and the attendant economic consequences of such on their people, ACEP purposed to ‘fill-in-the-gap’ to avert the potential dastardly consequences of possible mismanagement in the sector. This was the thought process that led to the establishment of ACEP; to address the gap that existed between resource extractions and translate that into the well-being of Ghanaians and other African states.
Till now, ACEP has distinguished itself as a thought leader within the emerging oil and gas industry and mining sector in Ghana, and the West and East African regions. Quality and commitment have over the decade become characteristics of the think-tank: leadership from the Executive Director and the governing body, quality, and reputation of its staff, impressive research and analysis produced, its ability to recruit and retain elite scholars and analysts, its academic performance and reputation, its access to key institutions, the impact of its research and programs on policymakers and other policy actors, and the quality, number, and reach of its publications.
More Than Advocacy;
ACEP’s theory of change, how to achieve economic transformation and impact on people, lies in achieving robust governance of the extractives through effective laws and institutions, well-informed and active citizens in the control of the sector, all wrapped up in transparency and accountability.
Their work in the energy space has evolved from just working on laws that govern the sector to the entirety of contract governance – from extraction, contractor selection, and contract monitoring, among others. The Centre’s activities focus on providing advocacy, policy analysis, and research on resource governance and public financial management.
ACEP works on improving natural resource governance by promoting beneficial ownership disclosures, exposing corruption and tax evasion, curbing illicit financial flows in the extractive sector, capacity building of state and non-state institutions, and equitable distribution of resources and efficient delivery of development interventions.
ACEP’s focus areas now span contract governance, revenue governance, institutional development and corporate transparency, diversity, equity and inclusion in resource governance, and lately climate change and energy transition-promoting renewable and clean fuel sources.
Platforms that facilitate its work include the Africa Oil Governance Summit, ACEP’s Citizen Manifesto, OilMoneyTV, OurOilMoney, Open Tax Ghana, Petroleum Contract Monitor, and the Electricity Monitor.
ACEP together with the Ministry of Energy developed the new Petroleum Exploration and Production Act which introduces open contracting principles such as beneficial ownership disclosure, competitive bidding, and publication of contracts. Subsequently, ACEP has been monitoring the contracting process to ensure the implementation of the governance principles in the Act.
ACEP’s contract monitor launched in 2020, an initiative to monitor the performance of petroleum contracts to ensure accountability, has been useful in exposing questionable contracts.
ACEP has also been organizing the Africa Oil Governance Summit for the past five years. The Summit brings together civil society, government, academia, business, and the impacted communities including women and persons with disabilities to discuss the governance issues in the oil and gas sector.
The think-tank analyzed the expenditure priorities of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) in 2018, and as well proposed expenditure in 2019, through the lens of value-for-money and corporate accountability by the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA), 2011 (Act 815) as amended. Per their recommendations, Parliament slashed the budget, saving the country USD$80m.
ACEP’s advocacy and policy alternatives in the power and oil and gas sectors have made duty bearers more responsive to demand fiscal accountability of oil revenues and in the power sector. Evidence of positive outcomes from ACEP’s work includes the government’s response to GHS 400 million unspent ABFA in 2018 and the publishing in the budget, of projects scheduled to receive ABFA funding.
Again, ACEP evaluated the impact of oil-funded agriculture projects in the Upper East region of Ghana and facilitated the public’s access to insights on the utilization of petroleum revenues through an online platform (www.oilmoneytv.org) to enhance citizens’ activism and demand for accountability.
Furthermore, ACEP’s interventions on beneficial ownership disclosures and subsequent advocacy on the need to integrate the concept into extractive sector company registrations contributed to an eventual amendment of the Company’s Code to contain provisions on beneficial ownership disclosure.
A key innovative approach to ACEP’s work is the mainstreaming of disability inclusion in natural resource governance in Ghana. ACEP is unpacking the inclusion and equity concerns of resource governance to make sure resource revenues benefit those intended. The work of the organization, therefore, spans the entire spectrum of resource governance; from the issues around the extraction of resources to how the outcome of the resources impacts all citizens, particularly women, youth, and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
ACEP’s efforts in mainstreaming disability in the extractive sector have received wide commendations from the PWD community and some industry players like the Ghana Oil and Gas for Inclusive Growth (GOGIG) which have begun mainstreaming PWDs into their stakeholder engagements.
ACEP was also instrumental in raising awareness on the badly negotiated and controversial Ameri Deal which led to the sacking of the then Energy Minster. ACEP’s advocacy consequently saved the country US$ 51.3 million.
The Centre has also assessed the performance of all petroleum agreements signed between 2007 and 2016 against agreed minimum contractual obligations. Gaps that rob the State of resource revenues were identified. For instance, contractual breaches including non-performance, low level of required capital investment on the oil blocks, and non-payments of surface rentals by companies were uncovered.
It was also revealed that penalties for non-performance were not being meted out to non-complying companies. The think-tank engaged stakeholders and called on regulators in Ghana’s petroleum sector to review non-performing petroleum agreements to prevent speculation.
Comprehensive policy review of the mining sector, fiscal modeling, and advocacy for contract renegotiation did lead to the government renegotiating some contracts, and a comprehensive review of mining laws in Ghana-Act 703 being amended, with recommendations for regional documents such as the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) and the ECOWAS document on minerals and mining regulations.
Early on in its work, the Centre had to fight the general perception of being a government stooge, or ‘political baby’, especially since its founding figures were politically affiliated. Yet, with well-defined values and consistency, that image has been overcome.
Yet, regardless of how far they’ve come, ACEP still has to contend with some bottlenecks in its work; including a lack of willingness on the part of policymakers to engage with the think-tank, circumstances of dwindling financing from donors, right-to-information issues, and access to quality data.
Mark Of Distinction;
What sets ACEP apart from its peers and contemporaries has to do with the organization’s strict focus on its core objectives. It also has everything to do with the quality of its people and the values they imbibe; their ability to form partnerships both in and outside Ghana and Africa, as well as a veritable regional network.
Donors who believe in ACEP’s work also lend to the think-tank’s credibility and distinction. Solidly behind ACEP are its Board, the Ford Foundation, Oxfam, OSIWA, Star-Ghana, GOGIG Programme under DFID, and other donors, staff, and the media.
Acclaim And Awards;
The Centre has so far been recognized for its credibility and influence in the areas of research work, policy analysis, contract governance, inclusion, transparency and general advocacy, and overall output within the energy and extractive space in Africa in particular, and the world in general.
Recognitions include: ACEP 14th among Top 20 Global Energy & Policy Resource Think Tanks –Global Go-To Think Tank Index (GGTTI), 2019 Report, produced by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. The organization also received recognition as the Consultancy Service Company of the Year 2019 and 2020 at the Ghana Energy Awards; Policy Activist of the Year 2019, and Ghana Oil Gas Awards.