On a story that was published in Daily Monitor citing farmer’s complaints’ against Total EP for rejecting their produce, the Total public relations officer refutes the allegations but affirms that Total EP will only accept foodstuffs that fit their food procurement standards. The question is, which standards are they referring to? This incident without doubt exposes the contentious issue of lack of a local content policy for the oil sector in Uganda.
As Ugandans, we appreciate the work government has been doing in the sector specifically the formulation of oil laws. However, there is no denial that there has been delay in the formulation of local content policy for the oil sector. The pressing issue now remains on what the government is doing to fastidiously address this considering that for the past nine years since oil discovery, Uganda has lost a lot of revenues accruing to lack of a local content policy. This is because Ugandans in other sectors do not have clear avenues for participating and the local content policy which is supposed to streamline these avenues is non-existent.
The agricultural sector, which is the backbone of our economy, has not been well-positioned to gain from the oil sector. How is the government helping farmers in areas where oil activities are taking place to prepare for the current and projected future high demand for quality foodstuffs? What measures has the government put in place to ensure farmers produce high quality variety food that meets the oil companies’ food procurement standards? How is the government addressing the quality of the Ugandan workforce that is searching for jobs in the oil sector? All these questions should be effectively answered by the implementation of a local content policy.
It should be noted that the oil sector cannot benefit all Ugandans in different sectors without a clear, dynamic and comprehensive local content policy .The oil sector isn’t strongly entwined in enriching other sectors like agriculture, tourism, trade, and education.
Surprisingly the government is silent as local contractors continue being denied contracts in the oil sector, farmers produce rejected on grounds of poor quality, Ugandan job seekers deemed inefficient for jobs by oil companies and most importantly the gender question ; are women and other vulnerable people benefitting from the oil sector?
Therefore, government should put in place a local content policy that has a wide input of all stakeholders, create an institution to manage and monitor compliance with the local content policy and most importantly ensure it is aligned to other sectors within the National Development Plan.
In addition, an independent report indicating jobs forecast in the sector, opportunities for local businesses, individuals and other avenues should be availed.