A research intended to establish the extent of potential business prospects available in the oil industry for the local population in Bunyoro region is underway. Shem Byakagaba, the Managing Consultant at Lantern Consult International, says the research is meant to help fill the gap on reliable information about what opportunities the oil industry has for the local population and how such opportunities can be exploited for the benefit of the area residents.
Shem Byakagaba, the Managing Consultant at Lantern Consult International, says the research is meant to help fill the gap on reliable information about what opportunities the oil industry has for the local population and how such opportunities can be exploited for the benefit of the area residents.
Byakagaba, who also doubles as the Chairman of Kitara Heritage Development Agency, explains that the findings of the research, which is due for publication soon, will help inform all the actors involved in the oil industry on areas where they can intervene. He added that currently, even government institutions and relevant ministries concerned with investment and the oil sector do not have reliable baseline data on what prospects the oil industry has for the local population and small and medium enterprises in the region.
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The research comes amidst an outcry in the region about isolation by both government and the oil exploration companies from any benefits in the services associated with the petroleum industry. The residents of the Bunyoro region are complaining that even the food and other basic amenities supplied to the workers at the oil fields are airlifted from Kampala yet they say they too want to cash in on the oil money.
Desceo Tugume, the Project Officer of Caritas in Hoima district, says that the community requires relevant information regarding the oil industry to enable them prepare adequately to exploit the opportunities that the new industry will present especially since an oil refinery will be built in the district for the oil wells located in neighboring Buliisa district.
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Beatrice Rukanyanga, a Project Coordinator for Rwakitanga Women’s Farmers Group in Hoima district, says they are concerned that both the government and the oil companies have frustrated the efforts by the community to access the relevant information on the activities in the new oil industry.
She said she was part of a group of local leaders in the region who travelled to the offices of Tullow Oil but were sent away by the company officials who said they needed to get authority from the ministry of energy.
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However, Tullow Oil, the company conducting exploration activities in Bunyoro region, insists that it has always ensured the community is aware of its activities. Cathy Adengo, the Tullow Oil Corporate Communications manager, says they have regular meetings with the community members to update them on developments in the region.
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But Byakagaba says because of the absence of relevant information on the prospects associated with the oil activities in the region, the community has failed to develop its capacity to benefit from the business opportunities.
Abdu Katuntu, MP for Bugweri County, explains that even among legislators there is limited capacity to effectively handle and respond to matters related to the new industry. He said majority of MPs do not have the talent and experience required from competent legislators. He added that the matter is made worse by a new breed of legislators joining parliament straight from school with no experience.
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A lot of anxiety and debates continues to exist about the need to build the capacity of the citizens to benefit from the oil industry since 2006 when the first commercial discovery of oil occurred in Uganda, although preliminary exploration of petroleum begun in the 1920s.