sharing in governance of extractive industries
Kampala, Uganda (CNN) -- The recent oil discovery in Uganda could signal an influx of unprecedented wealth for a country where more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line.
With proven reserves of two billion barrels, the east African state could
soon become an important oil exporter and potentially attract major
The biggest international player is Tullow Oil, a British-Irish firm that has signed contracts with Uganda to
develop its oil reserves, investing hundreds of millions in the country.
The company says it will produce the first oil by the end of 2011.
"What it means for Uganda, obviously we would like to think it's significant
revenues," Tullow's country manager for Uganda Brian Glover told CNN.
"We are talking about potentially $2 billion a year being yielded from this
world class asset. And given that that is roughly the revenue of Uganda
today, that could have significant potential."
That potential was suspected as far as back the 1930s but it's only recently that
Tullow and others discovered major reserves, lying mainly in the
Albertine basin on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Uganda's sizeable oil finds could be of major benefit to its development efforts
-- the country's economy has doubled in 10 years -- but some fear that
oil could still become a curse due to lack of transparency in these
According to independent surveys, graft is endemic in Uganda. The EU recently suspended some aid due to "slow progress" in the fight against corruption.
Angelo Izama, an investigative reporter with the respected Daily Monitor, is suing to force the government to make its production sharing agreements with oil companies public.
"Every Ugandan knows that public money is stolen," Izama told CNN. "The
government of the day is like Dracula in charge of the blood bank, it is
not exactly rocket science that oil money, just like donor money or tax
payers money can be stolen."
UK-based industry watchdog Platform recently obtained some of the production sharing agreements. It said
that the contracts "place profits before people," and called for more
environmental protection, greater accountability for military forces
protecting oil installations and more equitable distribution of
The watchdog, which concluded that the government will get much less than the 80 percent of revenues it expects, also claims
that the secrecy in the deals will foster corruption -- a charge the
Ugandan government vigorously rejects.
When asked why the government doesn't lay it open to say how the deals will benefit
Ugandans, Kabagambe Kalisa, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of
Energy and Minerals Development, said: "The people of Uganda have a
government which clearly represents their interests. The people of
Uganda have a parliament -- agreements are available to parliament.
Obviously an agreement can not be put in the press, it is an agreement
between the parties."
But the story of oil in Africa has not been a happy one. Nigeria has conspicuously failed to use billions of oil
revenues to develop infrastructure and services and oil has often become
a source of conflict, rather than development.
In the shadow of Nigeria's oil struggles, the Ugandan government says it won't make the
same mistake. President Yoweri Museveni has insisted on a refinery in
Uganda to help this landlocked country become energy independent.
And Tullow says its significant investment in the country deserves a return.
"One has to recognize that as we explore for oil, the company takes risks,
sometimes you don't make any money out of it at all and we've a
considerable amount of money here so far, some $750 million," Glover
"In order for us to go to development and production it will cost billions of dollars and at the end of the day we have to make some level of profit."
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