Uganda discovered oil in 2006 but disagreements between the government and oil companies have stalled its development
Kampala, Uganda | ISAAC KHISA | Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) plans to invest $840million in joint infrastructure projects in the country’s oil and gas sector, said its Chief Executive Officer, Proscovia Nabbanja.
Nabbanja, who signed a memorandum of understanding with Stanbic Bank on Feb. 05 to facilitate the two entities collaborate in training local entrepreneurs a head of oil developments told The Independent in an interview that the company plans to invest big.
She said a substantial amount of money either through the national budget or loans will go towards investments in the refinery, pipeline, storage tank, bulk trading as well as the industrial park.
“We hope that this level of equity will be spread in a period of five years in our national budgets to ease pressure on the country’s debt burden,” she said. “The investment will be based on the medium–term expenditure framework.”
Out of the planned $4bn and $3.5bn investment in the oil refinery and pipeline, UNOC will provide $480million and $258million towards their development, respectively. The company will also invest $71.4million out of the planned $1.6million in the storage tanks.
However, UNOC will singly invest $12million in oil and gas bulk trading and $19million in the industrial park. Nabbanja said UNOC will also need approximately Shs80bn annually to cater for day-to day operations.
This development comes as the government remains optimistic that its standoff with the joint venture partners – Tullow Oil, Total E&P Uganda and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) – will be resolved soon and the Final Investment Decision reached before April, 2020. Reaching the FID will unlock more than $20bn investment in the nascent industry.
Uganda discovered oil deposits estimated to be 1bn recoverable barrels in 2006 but have repeatedly stumbled over disagreements between the government and oil companies.
The latest was a tax dispute that threw the whole project into limbo, holding up the commencement of commercial production. The disagreement emerged from the transfer of assets between the three oil companies who are developing the fields.
Though Tullow announced to sell most of its interests in the Uganda project to its two larger partners, reducing its own stake to 11.76%, the government’s interest in the transaction to impose tax scuttled the deal.
Meanwhile, executives in the oil and gas industry say the delay to reach the FID in itself is a good opportunity for local companies to strengthen their capacity in terms of human resource and capital that would enable them tap into the industry once development begin.
Nabbanja, for instance, said UNOC’s step to partner with the Stanbic Bank to support local firms that intend to tap into the oil and gas industry is a gesture of the government’s interest for the local firms to benefit from the multi-billion dollar industry.
Commenting on their MOU with Stanbic Bank, Nabbanja said the partnerships with institutions such as Stanbic are instrumental in promoting national content through providing the necessary training and information on the opportunities for local businesses in the oil and gas sector.
“In this MoU, UNOC will provide subject matter experts to support the development of businesses on the Enterprise Development programme and also provide support to the Stanbic Business Incubator Centre’s training and research activities in Enterprise Development,” She said.
“It is important that local companies are kept abreast of the developments in such a dynamic industry to help them develop business models that are adaptable. This is fundamental if they are to remain relevant in such a competitive market place.”
Stanbic Bank’s Chief Executive, Patrick Mweheire said oil is a game changer in many economies and that it is through involvement of local companies in the sector that the local population stand to benefit.
“As a way of ensuring Ugandan companies participate in the oil and gas activities, we established the Business Incubator with the aim to reach as many SMEs as possible and continue to support their growth and development across the nation,” Mweheire said.
“The incubator trains and provides them with soft and hard skills necessary to improve their business operations and compete more effectively in the market place. It also deliberately prepares them to leverage the upcoming opportunities in Uganda’s emerging oil and gas sector,” he said.
He said the bank is grateful for the partnership through which the two entities will jointly develop and implement a series of initiatives on National Content through the Stanbic Business Incubator Centre and also cooperate in the development of National Content programmes.
He added that the Stanbic Incubator – which has so far trained 1500 entrepreneurs from 600 companies countrywide since the initiative was launched in 2018 – has opened regional incubation centres in Mbarara, Hoima, Gulu and soon Mbale to meet the interests of entrepreneurs who are unable to access the training in Kampala.