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Friday, 27 August 2010 14:04

We Must Study the History of Oil Exploration in Africa

By Phionah Kesaasi

KAMPALA, Uganda, August 27, 2010 (Buziness Africa) - Many African states have suffered setbacks in their attempts to exploit their resource endowments from oil to diamonds. This is what has been termed as "Africa's resource curse"!


It is in the same regard that the former Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) president, Juan Pablo Perez, referred to petroleum as "the devil's excrement that brings trouble".


Africa has, indeed, experienced the resource curse. From apartheid in South Africa to civil war in Angola, militants in Nigeria and civil strife in DR Congo, all because of mineral wealth- a curse largely fuelled by colonial legacies coupled with external interests and influence.


How can Uganda avoid the demons of resource curse that have afflicted other African nations in its bid to explore and exploit its oil and other mineral resources?

First, Uganda is a sovereign state and should have domineering discretionary powers over its resources vis-à-vis oil companies like Heritage Oil, in determining optimal modes of oil exploitation for the benefit of its citizens.


Second, Ugandan leadership, at every level, should take time to study and learn lessons from the history of resource exploitation in Africa and its associated problems in order to ably handle similar challenges. We must, therefore, negotiate good deals with oil-extracting companies, set appropriate taxes for company profits and put up mechanisms for distribution of oil revenues for equitable development for all regions in Uganda.


Third, the government must seek to identify and promote the means by which oil can be safeguarded and managed. This is because resource governance, especially mineral resources, needs transparency at all levels to generate benefits to all Ugandans. This calls for smooth coordination by all organs of government--Executive, Judiciary and Parliament-- in initiating and enacting appropriate laws and policies.


There is also need for disclosure of information regarding commitments involving the government and oil companies to all stakeholders and citizens as the primary beneficiaries of the country's natural resources!


Fourth, we must strengthen our human resource capabilities, management systems and administrative infrastructure that will guarantee limited losses of oil revenues from the Albertaine region to benefit every Ugandan.


Fifth, the government should institute a negotiating body for its oil resource exploitation commitments. Such a body should contain representatives from the Executive to give it a political mandate, the Legislature and Judiciary to ensure the commitments meet national legal obligations.


Short of the above, the belief that projected revenues from oil shall rescue Uganda from economic hurdles may well come to naught. In the words of James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), mishaps (oil) are like knives that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle.


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