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‘Wapakabulo has left UNOC on solid ground’

Dr. Josephine Wapakabulo

She learnt quickly that the oil and gas sector is highly politicized and came up with strategies to counter it to achieve set objectives. 

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | When Dr. Josephine Wapakabulo was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda National Oil Company in August 2016, few individuals with knowledge in the oil and gas sector expected her to deliver a solid performance. This was due to the fact that she did not have prior experience of working in the oil and gas sector.

But it turned out that she performed beyond expectation in an entity that in effect was a start-up. Regrettably, she was not able to stay longer to push further development of the company she literally started from scratch three years ago.  She resigned in May this year citing personal reasons.

Wapakabulo left office on Aug.13, with Proscovia Nabbanja, who has been serving as the company’s Chief Operating Officer, taking over her role in an acting capacity.

Local industry technocrats and observers that The Independent spoke to about  UNOC’s outgoing CEO say Wapakabulo was not only a manager but a reliable leader who excelled in developing systems that will be tested over the coming years.

Don Bwesigye Binyina, the executive director of the African Centre for Energy and Mineral Policy (ACEMP), a Kampala-based non-profit that has interest in Uganda’s extractives sector said on Aug.16 that considering the fact that Wapakabulo joined an industry which is quite young, she should be commended for kick-starting the business side of the local oil and gas industry.

Robert Kasande, the permanent secretary in the energy ministry also told The Independent that Wapakabulo worked towards creating a corporate culture at UNOC, ensuring that the right people are recruited in the right positions as well as building partnerships in Uganda and around the world in a very short time.

“Considering that she did not have a background in the oil and gas industry, I found her a good listener and she really got a grasp of the industry in quite a short time,” Kasande said.

Key responsibilities

At the time Wapakabulo was appointed as UNOC’s first CEO, the company’s Board Chairperson, Emmanuel Katongole, noted that she had vast knowledge that needed to be tapped into to build a solid national oil company.

She was tasked with setting up UNOC and managing its transformation into a world class oil and gas company modeled on successful national oil companies of Malaysia (Petronas) and Sonangol (Angola) ahead of commercial oil production, which is now scheduled for 2022.

Not lost on the appointing authority was the fact that Uganda’s oil and gas sector expects investments to the tune of US$20bn in the coming years. This outlay which is expected to be sunk into an oil refinery, crude oil export pipeline, storage terminal and an industrial park is just US$ 7bn shy of the current value of Uganda’s economy.

Armed with over 15 years’ experience in implementing inventive solutions and achieving business objectives through effective leadership, team building, strategic, operational and project management expertise in leading multi-national companies, Wapakabulo also worked extensively on standards for the petroleum industry focusing on integrating life-cycle data for oil and gas production facilities.

She quickly developed a five year corporate strategy for all operations and also initiated and instilled a corporate culture fit for a commercial company.  She also put in place procedures such as the “Balanced Score Card” performance measure to ensure work efficiency.

Wapakabulo is also credited with building a strong team of professionals with local and international experience. This is perhaps her most important contribution to UNOC, observers of the sector say.

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