By Sandra Atusinguza
In February 2017 government through Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development developed the national content policy for the petroleum sub sector in Uganda, whose goal is to promote the competitiveness of Ugandan labor and enterprises in the oil and gas industry and associated sectors of the economy and poverty eradication.
The national content policy stipulates that government has a key role in ensuring effective participation of Ugandan citizens in the petroleum sub-sector, local communities, individuals, professionals and enterprises have a primary responsibility to participate in the implementation of this Policy including: Participating in the provision of goods, services and human resources in the oil and gas industry.
In my observations during engagements, I have had with different stakeholders a question about local content has been – How is local content local?
Therefore let me briefly explain the local content. As the oil and gas sector shifts to the developments phase, in Bunyoro region many oil and gas activities have been taking place and currently the construction of the Kabaale (Hoima) International airport is yet to begin, the central processing facility in Kasenyi village Ngwedo sub county, Buliisa district and the pipelines from various oil wells to the central processing facilities and the refinery.
A number of employment opportunities have been promised to Ugandans when the development of these infrastructures kick off but the question remains unanswered. How and what recruitment procedures will be used to identify the local persons from these communities despite the presence of local political structures?
The National Oil and Gas Policy supersedes the Energy Policy for Uganda published in 2002 in matters of exploration, development, production and utilization of the country’s oil and gas resources. Apart from creating a conducive environment for petroleum exploration to continue in the country and the anticipated development, production and utilization of any discovered resources to take place, the policy also seeks to put in place a framework for the efficient management of the oil and gas resources as well as revenues accruing there from.
Previously sentiments built up on denial of Bunyoro communities to access jobs from oil company companies since the exploration started over the years. Many Civil Society Organisations, Human Rights activities and locals put up a spirited fight in order to have the local communities participate in activities of oil and gas. But some of the information have remained shielded especially to civil society organizations whom government views as conniving with the opposition to empower the local communities to demand for their right to Access to information on oil and gas.
The government and the ministry of Energy have for the past years since the discovery of oil and development of the industry has not provided certain information which they deem is classified.
But what accountability do they then offer for the communities whose land have been taken away to pave way for the oil and gas activities. It is imperative for government to realize and value the communities who need information and how the sector would benefit them from the revenues of oil.
There is need for Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and other key players in the oil and gas sector to come up strategic information disseminating channels, to ensure that communities / grassroots clearly understand the oil and gas policies and laws for effective participation in the industry, in most cases information is posted on the websites of different players in the oil industry and sometimes shared via the print media but how many people in our local communities can access or read this information.
In a nutshell, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development must build capacities of the other stakeholders such as the technical teams at the districts, sub counties and village leadership where oil and gas activities are taking place. This will enable them acquire the information about oil and gas laws and policies and later share with the communities for oil and gas resources to benefit both current and future generations.
The writer is a Field Coordinator for AFIEGO