Ghana is planning to sell most of its future gold royalties


From The Economist, London
Saturday, September 26, 2020

When Portuguese mariners first dropped anchor in the mouth of the river Pra in what is now Ghana, they heard of goldfields so rich that for the following five centuries the entire region became known as the Gold Coast. The promise of wealth sparked a rush to grab land, build forts, trade slaves, and secure bullion, which poured into treasuries in Europe.

A somewhat more genteel rush is now underway to sell the rights to most of the government’s bullion royalties in Africa's biggest gold producer. The deal, which some see as a model for other resource-rich developing countries, is aimed at providing cash now against income from royalties in the future.

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The appeal to Ghana's government is obvious. It is struggling to cope with the economic hit of covid-19 and to sustain public spending under the crushing weight of debt that is expected to equal almost 70% of GDP this year. Yet it is also causing controversy, with critics raising questions over the rushed and opaque process, as well as its terms.

At stake is the roughly 4% in royalties that Ghana's government earns on every ounce of commercially mined gold. The ounces add up. In 2018 Ghana shipped almost $6 billion of the shiny stuff, its single biggest export. Now the government wants to bundle up the rights to 75% of the royalties from 16 big mines (including four under development) in a Jersey-incorporated company called Agyapa. It then plans to sell as much as 49%, with shares being floated on the London and Ghana stock exchanges, for about $500 million.

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