Do you see the country readying itself before commercial production of oil starts?
I think we can be ready. Any sector of the economy that is not ready must start preparation now. Since 2013 we have been developing capacity and enhancing knowledge especially in management aspects of oil among other areas of training. We believe by the time the commercial production begins, we shall have made huge strides. So, to answer your questions, we are in good time but that does not mean high gear should not be engaged to do more before the oil wells begin to flow.
Are you saying the capacity we have thus far is good to go should we embark on production?
What I am saying is that we have a good number of trained professionals from various universities around the world but that is not enough. We must beef up knowledge and ensure that we have expertise in all areas necessary and that is what we are trying to do here.
What kind of expertise does the country need to sufficiently tap the benefits that oil accrues?
Our efforts are in enhancing the management side of it because we think that is equally critical. There will be issues of arbitration, energy economics, let alone issues of occupation safeties. So, we are making sure that people have the skills and knowledge to deal with these situations. These are things we can do. We don’t have to rely on foreign expertise on things we can do ourselves.
Some people believe that the country is not yet ready for oil production despite having commercially viable deposits. What is your view over those sentiments?
We need to do more in preparing for commercial production. I believe as a country, we are on our way to being ready. We need to have proper infrastructures in place before the commercial exploits begins. However, it is important for us to take our time until we are ready to go instead of making mistakes because we are under the pressure of time. Being slow sometimes is good. What good is it to mess up because you claim time is not on your side? Be prepared and then get set to fly.
What is your take on oil being a curse rather than a blessing?
This is why we are focusing on the management aspect of the courses. Poor management has always been associated with the management of oil and gas; that is why some people believe that the resource is more of a curse than a blessing.
Do you see Uganda attracting the curse side or harnessing the blessing aspect of the oil resource?
Look, any other resource can be a curse or a blessing. I am not aware of any resource that does not have two sides to it, depending on how it is handled and managed. It all depends on how we manage it. All sectors should be prepared and developed. Poor management and corruption must be fought and eliminated. Local content must be enforced through deliberate organisation and capacity building. If that is done, then there shouldn’t be a fear or a curse.
Issues of environment degradation are some of the challenges that come with exploiting the oil resource.
This is a real challenge that must be addressed. Sensitisation is one way to go as lack of information can cause panic. The same applies to issues of compensation. Money should not just be thrown to people. They should be educated on why it is important to use that money wisely or else you will have people misusing there compensation then refusing to vacate. Then you will be thrown back into back and forth settlements again.