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Ghanaian Oil Project Developer Funds Health Care Projects


Earlier this year, a documentary film called "Big Men" came out and told the inside story of a small Texas oil company, backed by New York investment banks, looking for oil in a deepwater zone off the coast of Ghana. The success of the project transformed that small nation’s energy industry.

One of the key players was a native of Ghana who now lives in the large Texas city of Houston and is using some of his earnings to improve health care in his homeland.

Featured in "Big Men" is George Yaw Owusu, who assisted Dallas-based Kosmos Energy in obtaining permission to drill an exploratory oil well off the coast of Ghana.

There were a number of twists and turns in the story, including a change of government and an investigation of Kosmos and Owusu for allegedly bribing government officials. The investigation was ultimately dropped and Kosmos succeeded where many other companies had failed.

Owusu says he is happy with what the oil boom has done for Ghana.

“It has been nothing but positive for the country and I am glad that I was a part of it,” he said.

Owusu says Ghana has gone from producing negligible amounts of oil to producing more than 100,000 barrels a day, providing the nation with development funds and many well-paying jobs.

The boom was foreseen by Kosmos Energy’s Chief Operating Officer Jim Musselman when he visited Ghana in 2007.

“We hope that we can serve you well and we hope we can lead to a lot of prosperity for this country,” he said.

"Big Men" director Rachel Boynton says this scene captured a moment of truth.

“I think a lot of people in the oil business, and certainly the people that I filmed, do want to have a positive effect in the countries where they work; I think that is sincere,” she said.

Owusu says the film provides an accurate view of how the deepwater drilling project came about.

“We were busy doing our work and here somebody is following you with a camera," he said. "We did not know it was going to come out the way it did. I was very pleased to see the final product.”

The oil venture made Owusu a multimillionaire, but he has not forgotten his humble beginnings and the many children threatened by disease in Ghana.

“I want to make sure that so many curable diseases, which are easily cured in the United States, make people go blind in Ghana and other parts of Africa," he said. "[I want to] make sure we can help those people.”

Owusu is funding a number of projects in Ghana, including a new hospital, in collaboration with Sanford Health, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based organization that already operates a number of clinics there.

“It is going to be a $10 mllion hospital and we have already completed $2 million of it,” he said.

Thanks to the project he helped develop in Ghana, Owusu has now retired from the energy industry and has become a full-time philanthropist.

VOA's Carolyn Turner contributed to this report.

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