Wednesday February 22 2012

Govt should prepare Ugandans to benefit from oil, experts say

By Ismail Musa Ladu

With Uganda set to start commercial oil and gas production in 2015, questions regarding the country’s capacity to exploit related opportunities largely remain unanswered.

Although the government says it is doing all it can to prepare the country ahead of the production, local investors and analysts think more needs to be done in the next two or three years.

“The government has a big role in capacity and institutional building,” Mr Francis Kamulegeya, a renowned tax expert, said at the PwC oil and gas seminar in Kampala.

He said: “The government should not waste time on other things but avail information and train its people so that they can be able to compete.”

In his presentation, Mr Kamulegeya said if government does not step up its game—in terms of training, availing information and building institutions to among others regulate the oil and gas sector—multinational oil investors will have no choice but to give the jobs to foreigners elsewhere.

In a phone interview with the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) executive director, Mr Gideon Badagawa, said: “As SMEs, our general preparedness is far short of what is expected,” adding: “We have challenges in skills, entrepreneurship, and lack of general preparedness in value chain.”

According to Mr Badagawa, the government has specific roles in building standards, infrastructures and provide market information among other things while the private sector can prepare trainings—which he said is ongoing, and enhance SMEs skills across the economic sector.

Prof Augustine Nuwagaba, a Makerere University economist, asked Uganda to plan for other sectors as well due to the fact that after 20 years oil production is expected to have largely reduced.