Locusts, Climate Change & Oil Exploitation

On Sunday, February 9, 2020, media reports indicated that Uganda had been invaded by locusts. That same day, the 33rd African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government Assembly commenced in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The two-day meeting was held under the theme: Silencing the guns: Creating conducive conditions for Africa’s Development.

As the leaders deliberated on topics such as conflicts in the Sahel region, sustainable funding of Africa’s development agenda and others, scores of Ugandans panicked over the locust invasion.

A government inter-ministerial met to discuss measures to address the locusts, which the public was informed could eat food that could feed 2,500 people per year!

In addition, army officers and others were shipped off to Karamoja, the site of the reported invasion, to address the threat. Several other efforts were engaged in.


While some of the above was ongoing, the AU Heads of State and others deliberated on matters that would improve the wellbeing of African citizens.

However, they did not discuss how African Heads of State in alliance with national and international agricultural, oil and other companies are contributing towards climate change and are exposing Africans to more potential locust invasions.

With the permission of African leaders, activities such as destruction of forests such as Bugoma in Uganda for sugarcane growing and exploitation of fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) including in eco-sensitive areas such as national parks, lakes, rivers and forests in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria among others are ongoing in Africa today.

Both the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation are drivers of global warming and consequently, climate change.

Yet climate change is part of the reason that Uganda, Kenya and other Eastern African countries are in the predicament they are in today. Moreover, this is a predicament that African countries are ill-equipped to deal with.

As pointed out by the UN Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, warmer cyclones caused by climate change have created the perfect breeding conditions for locusts. Per information from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the warmer cyclones resulted in rains in Oman, which enabled the breeding of the desert locusts. 

The locusts invaded Eastern Africa thereafter and have caused serious damage. FAO estimated that 200 billion locusts invaded Kenya. The locusts, which eat their own weight in food every day, destroyed pasturelands which had only been rejuvenated after drought.

Further, the damage caused by the locusts in Somalia was so much so that the country declared a state of emergency after the insects damaged about 70,000 hectares of food supplies in the country and in Ethiopia.

Experience shows that when food and pasturelands, which are major sources of income for many households are destroyed, other impacts follow.  Incomes reduce, children’s education suffers as parents lack incomes to pay school fees, and even domestic violence due to increased poverty in homes is seen.


Now, several countries in Africa including Nigeria, Angola, Cameroon Niger, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and others are oil producers. In addition, several countries including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Togo and others are planning or are undertaking activities to become coal, oil and gas producers.

The above countries argue that they need to produce coal, oil and gas not only to create jobs but to generate revenues to support their respective economies among others.

However, the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas is the biggest contributor to climate change.

As earlier noted, climate change has been cited as the cause of the biggest locust invasion to be seen in Kenya in 70 years and in 25 years for Somalia and Ethiopia.

To continue to exploit oil to exacerbate climate change is to put the lives of African citizens at risk. Moreover, poorer African states are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. African states have too few resources to manage climate change impacts.

Indeed, the Ugandan government’s response to the locust invasion in Uganda on Sunday, February 9, 2020, was a testament to this. The country had no standby expert manpower and equipment such as airplanes to spray the locusts. Communities in Teso reported that they resorted to making noise to scare the locusts away.

One may argue that oil revenues could be used to make African states climate-resilient. However, experiences from Nigeria, Angola and other oil-producing countries show that oil revenues are never used for the benefit of citizens. Instead, they are largely abused by corrupt government officials at the expense of citizens’ wellbeing.

In line with available evidence that says that up to a 75% of known fossil fuel reserves including oil, coal and gas must be left unexploited for the Paris climate target to be attained, African countries must consider leaving fossil fuels unexploited. They should invest in other economic activities such as agriculture, tourism and others.

Further, in line with the AU’s 2020 theme, African countries should demiltarise oil production and should stop attacking citizens that critique oil activities in Africa.

The writer is the Senior Communications Officer at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO).

Why A Delay To Sign FID For Oil And Gas Industry Is Both Good & Bad For Uganda

By Michael Businge

FID means Final investment Decision. And these decisions are taken by the Board of Directors. It can include decisions about financial resources, by finding out whether they are sufficient or not. This is ascertained from developers and in this case oil developers such as Total E&P, CNOOC, etc.

The delay of FID is good anyway, but why?

 It is a blessing in disguise because it has enabled Uganda to put together necessary systems and structures for good oil governance and management.

For instance, unlike countries like Ghana which began oil production without proper oil laws, Uganda had to get enough time to have good laws governing the sector.

Key institutions to oversee proper licensing, regulation and management have been established. Petroleum Authority of Uganda, Uganda National Oil Company, Petroleum Directorate have all been established. This is a plus for us as a country.

It has also given us considerable time to put necessary infrastructure like roads, acquisition of land for pipeline development, preparing people to set up companies to provide goods and services in the oil and gas sector.

It has given us the necessary time to build capacity and manpower to work in the oil and gas sector, for instance, there is an inbuilt capacity for petroleum engineers, tax experts, negotiators, goods and service providers, and so much more.

However, there is has been some recorded negative impact due to the delay to sign FID.

There is a loss of employment for people who were working on the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, in oil camps as cooks, drivers, and so on.

This has also led to fewer goods and services being provided to the oil industry as I write this. Why? There is no much "physical" work taking place due to the delay to reach a decision.

The uncertainty from a section of Ugandans about when the first oil will come out is rising. This is due to the anxiety created where they have continued to ask themselves as to when the potential of 6.5b barrels will be translated to actual tangible values.

Remember, some communities were displaced for oil infrastructure such as the CPF, oil refinery, pipelines, roads and so on.

Therefore, as we wait for the FID, the first oil to drop, communication about concrete processes and decisions have to be told to various stakeholders in time to reduce on the anxiety, for proper planning for masses to benefit from the oil and gas sector.

The writer works as a coordinator at Youth4Nature Uganda

Youth4Nature Uganda is a youth movement that ensures maximum utilization and management of Natural Resources (Land, Forests, Wildlife, Soils, petroleum resources and minerals in Uganda.



Overcoming Price Volatility: Harmonising The Balance Sheet With Investment

The impact of the energy transition on the mining industry has been profound. It is one of the most energy-intensive industries in the world, accounting for an estimated 6.2% of the total global energy consumption.

It has also historically been a disproportionately large contributor to global warming, through the intensive use of fossil fuels to power operations. But now there is a spotlight on the sector, with increased pressure to move towards renewable energy.

While developments have been made, there remains increased pressure to reduce emissions. Just last week consultant McKinsey reported that mining companies need to go further to diversify their portfolios in order to meet Paris climate goals.[1]

Coupled with this pressure, there has been a period of significant volatility in commodity prices which has resulted in miners needing to keep down costs and improve efficiency. Overcoming this challenge in a context of ongoing decarbonisation is no mean feat, but adopting a rental model could be a way of harmonising balance sheets and keeping operations running smoothly.

Decarbonising versus cost

Aggreko ( recently conducted a global survey to better understand the priorities of decision-makers in the energy sector. Of those surveyed, 50% said that cost is their primary consideration. But with the need to also meet carbon emissions targets, inaction isn’t a possibility. The knock-on effect has been a reluctance across the sector to invest in new green power sources with concerns it could soon be out of date as the pace of change seems to only be accelerating.

Mine operators are therefore facing a dilemma: how to integrate renewable energy into power solutions which require significant CAPEX investment when there’s a backdrop of commodity price volatility making investment unattractive.

The Syama gold mining complex in southern Mali was able to balance this well. Aggreko having recently signed a contract with Resolute has been able to support its ambitions to reduce carbon emissions and improve overall efficiency for the site.

Once installed, Aggreko will operate and maintain a 40 MW thermal power plant and a 10 MW battery storage system, with a further 20 MW of solar power planned in 2023.

The hybrid solution will reduce Syama’s power costs by an estimated 40%. Once all the renewable power sources are fully installed it will also reduce carbon emissions by approximately 20%. By using a rental option, Syama were able to de-risk the investment into greener energy due to not having to invest capital into the power solution.

Long term role of mines versus cost

Advances in technology are also driving change for the mining industry in terms of the pool of metals and minerals that are considered to be a worthwhile investment. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is leading to an increase in the need for cobalt, lithium and nickel, which are important component parts of lithium-ion batteries.

But, while this presents an opportunity for miners, this also means capital investment opportunities in some mines, such as coal, has become more difficult. There’s also a risk in investing in the latest technologies as and when they emerge due to the market changing regularly.

The Tasiast mine, one of the largest open-pit gold mines in Africa, located in the remote northwestern region of Inchiri in Mauritiana, was facing this dilemma. Its off-grid mine was powered by an inefficient fuel source and prone to regular breakdowns, incurring huge maintenance costs.

The life expectancy of the mine was expected to last another decade, and with the added consideration of diesel price volatility, Kinross needed to think about power for the mine longer term, as well as what they could do to alleviate the cost implications they were suffering short-term.

To address their immediate issues, Aggreko offered a solution that was easy to integrate into their current power mix. Kinross now has reliable, guaranteed power 24/7 to ensure its gold production is unaffected by power issues or further shutdowns. Given it was a rental solution, it also gave them the necessary breathing space and time to review longer-term power options for the remaining life of the mine.

Managing capital and project risk

It’s clear that mining is a sector undergoing a deep transformation as a result of the energy transition. The use of hybrid power solutions at mines is only set to increase, while investment will continue to be driven by innovation in green technology.

Mining companies are in the unique position of needing to deploy green energy sources whilst also being a key component in the supply chain for new low-carbon technology. Finding nimble solutions, such as hybrids or microgrids, provides companies with the agility needed to respond to the quickly-evolving energy landscape.

What’s more, a rental power model allows mine operators to do all of this whilst keeping energy costs competitive and only require an outlay of OPEX, rather than CAPEX. This means that companies have greater flexibility to respond to the rapidly-evolving market while keeping costs down.

John Lewis is the Managing Director, Aggreko Africa

How These Young Teenage Girls Are Making A Difference In Their Communities

A group of young teenage school-going girls, under their organisation Young Angels Network (YAN) are choosing to spend their holiday free time wisely by helping to address challenges in their communities.
On Friday 31th, the young girls aged between 12 and 15 visited and donated scholastic materials to orphans and underprivileged children at Divine Focused Church in Kalerwe. These children subscribe to a program known as Divine Restoration of Orphans Program   (DROP) that was started by Pastor Mukisa  Patrick in 2016.
The group of 8 girls in the company of some of their contributing partners took writing and reading books, pens, pencils, rubbers, rulers, mathematical sets and an assortment of foodstuffs such as bags of posho, sugar, sweets and sodas to help out the children as they prepare to start school. Also donated were some clothing items for both the children and their caretakers. 
According to the founder and CEO of the organisation, the 15-year-old Daniela Akankuda said they decided to come together to create a platform where teenage Girls can connect,  identify social challenges within their communities and creatively find solutions to these challenges. 
"We use part of our pocket money/ savings to do simple acts of kindness that impact the lives of people around us. Instead of spending most of our time on the phone, distracted by social media and engaging in early relationships, we choose to spend it helping our communities be a better place for us and those around us. In the past, we have cleaned hospitals, markets, and participated in fundraiser car wash activities to raise funds for terminally ill teenagers. Helping out gives us so much pleasure," Akankuda said. According to Akankunda, in future, the YAN plans to engage in policy dialogues around issues that affect teenagers in general, and girls in particular in Uganda. 
Gillian Ahakundire, a student at Makerere University who is a member of YAN and volunteers as the Operations Manager urged other young people to seek opportunities to do charity and help out the less advantaged as a way of growing themselves, socially and spiritually. She noted that you do not need to have so much to reach out to others. Even the little one gives can change a life. She offered to pay school fees for one of the children at the church school.
Pastor Mukisa urged Churches and pastors to use their resources and influence to help out the needy and solve challenges in communities where they operate instead of focusing on building bigger churches and mansions. He noted that after all, the body of Christ, are the people themselves.  
"Kalerwe is a slum area and we have a lot of children that are out of school, some because their parents died and they have no one to pay school fees but others have parents who are willing to take them to school but they can't afford because they are poor and have a lot of children. I decided to start DROP to help these children especially the girls because they are at a bigger risk if they are not in school. Most of them end up sleeping with older men who infect them and they infect their age mates," he said
The patron of the group, Ms. Jill Kyatuheire who is also the mother of Akankuda, urged parents to support their children’s passion and guide their ambitions to grow into people of influence and purpose. "As parents, we have lots of challenges especially in this era where there are a lot of distractions for children like phones, social media, drugs and alcohol. It is hard to keep the teenagers focused and most of them have ended up going a stray and damaging their young lives permanently. When my daughter told me she wanted to do charity with her friends, I was very excited and I decided to support them," she said
Ms Jeniffer Kwarisiima, a parent to one of the girls (Elizabeth Kamasiko) noted that “there are not many girls founded and headed organisations in Uganda, and to see these young girls be so focused and intentional in organizing themselves and their peers to engage in such life changing initiatives is amazing and should be highly supported”. 

Can Uganda’s Oil And Gas Companies Contribute To Clean Energy Transition?

By Sandra Atusinguza

One in every 7 people still lack electricity and most of them live in rural areas of the developing world according to UNDP  2020 report. Investing in solar, wind and thermal power, improving energy productivity and ensuring energy for all is vital if we are to achieve SDG 7 affordable and clean energy by 2020.   As we all wait the delayed announcement of the final investment decision by oil companies, this has greatly increased doubts of fast-track oil by 2020 /2021.

As government calls upon local firms to register with the National supplier data base and talent register for first priority for employment and  to supply good and services however there is limited technical capacity and specialized expertise to fully exploit the renewable energy resources potentials and this has been a great challenge to track faster the implementation of the local content policy.

Uganda’s oil fields have associated natural gas reserves estimated at 500 billion cubic feet and as some oil and gas companies like CNOOC plan to produce gas and use some of it to generate up to 42 megawatts of electricity for the company’s use and for sale to national grid.This natural gas can be used in several clean energy alternative projects which can help to contribute towards climate change mitigation, national energy security and global energy transition. Oil and gas companies must be adopting to the use of biomass, wind turbines and solar panels for oil field operations and other projects.

Ministry of energy and mineral development and ministry of transport must introduce a policy on low carbon transportation and ensure that oil and gas companies adopt it through use of high demand clean fuel vehicles mainly in natural gas( compressed natural gas  or liquefied petroleum gas) which is readily available in the Albertine graben in the next phases of oil production.

Climate change can also be mitigated amidst Oil and gas activities through carbon capture and storage, this solution to climate change help oil production with fewer emissions by capturing carbon dioxide and store it into oil reservoirs.

According to Uganda’s energy and mineral sector in its Midterm sector policy objectives, the oil and gas resources must be used to contribute to early achievement of poverty eradication and create lasting value to society.  The oil and gas industry must therefore heavily invest in new clean energy business models and technologies to transition to decreasing greenhouse gases emissions and promote energy efficiency in the next phases.

Sandra Atusinguza is the AFIEGO field coordinator

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AfDB Approves €8m Technical Assistance Grant To Support Rwanda's Ruzizi IV Hydro Power Project

The Board of Directors of African Development Bank Group has approved an €8 million grant drawn from the European Union's Africa Investment Platform (EU-AIP) to support the preparation of the Ruzizi IV Hydropower Project. The plant will be situated on the Ruzizi River between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and will supply electricity to the DRC, Burundi and Rwanda.

When completed, Ruzizi IV is projected to produce 287 MW of electricity and exploit the Ruzizi River's full hydropower potential. Two power plants are already in operation: Ruzizi I produces 29.8 MW and Ruzizi II, 43.8 MW; a third, Ruzizi III, with a projected 147 MW output is under development with Bank support.

The project will provide electricity to millions of households, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises and industries, thereby improving the living conditions of the regional population. Greater and more reliable access to electricity will also improve the quality of basic social service delivery including health, education, and improved security.

"The African Development Bank played a major role in structuring and raising financing for Ruzizi III, and the lessons learned will be used to successfully develop and implement Ruzizi IV. The use of renewable and affordable electric power will help to reduce poverty, unemployment, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, as well as stabilise security in the Great Lakes region," said Batchi Baldeh, the Bank's Director for Power Systems Development.

The €8 million grant approval follows a $980,000 grant approved end-2018 by the New Partnership for Africa Development's Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility (NEPAD-IPPF), which is a multi-donor Special Fund hosted by the Bank, to co-finance this technical assistance.

Ruzizi Hydropower Plant Project IV meets the goal shared by Burundi, DRC and Rwanda to optimise exploitation of their energy resources by integrating electricity generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure. The project falls within the overall regional energy market framework being developed by the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme (NELSAP) and the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP).

Ruzizi IV also aligns with the Bank's High 5 priority to "Light up and power Africa", as well as the Bank's strategy on regional integration, and specifically, development of regional energy infrastructure. 

Cabinet Appoints Victoria University's Biribonwa As NIRA Board Chairperson

A cabinet meeting that sat Monday, January 13, 2020, at State House Entebbe approved the appointment of the Chairperson and Members of the Governing Board of the National Identification and Registration Authority(NIRA).

The NIRA board will be led under the chairmanship of Joseph Biribonwa. He will be assisted by Ms. Ruth Nvumetta L.M.Kavuma as Vice Chairperson, Dr. Betty Kivumbi Nannyonga as a Member, Maj. Gen. Apollo Kasita-Gowa as a Representative of the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control and Mr. James Saaka as a Representative of  NITA (U).

Others are Mr. Bemanya Twebaze as a Representative of the Uganda Registration Services Bureau, Dr. Paul Kintu as a  Representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Dr. Chris Ndatira Mukiza as a Representative of  Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

Biribonwa is also the Vice Chairperson of the University Council at Victoria University and his appointment delighted the leadership of the private university owned by the Ruparelia Group.

“We at Victoria University congratulate our Vice Chairperson of the University Council, Mr. Joseph N. Biribonwa upon his new assignment as the new Chairperson of the Governing Board of the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA). 

We know Mr. Biribonwa as a seasoned expert in democracy & governance, management & administration, finance, and corporate governance, with over forty (40) years of professional experience.

He also served as Deputy Chairperson of the Uganda Electoral Commission and Chairperson National Initiative for Civic Education in Uganda (NICE-Uganda).  The Cabinet of Uganda could not have made a better choice in appointing Mr. Biribonwa the Chairperson of NIRA Governing Board,” the Vice Chancellor of Victoria University Dr. Krishna N. Sharma said in a brief statement. 



Full Scholarships Now Available At Victoria University

Victoria University, one of the many education investments made by the Ruparelia Group, has announced that aspiring students can now get fully funded scholarships to study courses of their choice at the Jinja Road based institution.

Victoria University Vice Chancellor Dr. Krishna N. Sharma said students applying will, however, be mandated to pay a small application fee.

The university didn’t specify how many scholarships they are going to give out but last year, Victoria University gave out a significant number of scholarships through the Ruparelia Foundation and the beneficiaries commenced their studies.

 In December, to celebrate the festive season, Victoria University offered students joining the institution for short courses this festive season up to 20% discount on fees. The offer closed on 31st December 2019. And now, for the March-April intake, they return with big offers.

In a recent interview with News Today Uganda, the Vice Chancellor Dr. Sharma said the university is going in the right direction and is destined for greatness and wants parents and students to consider it because it is a university that ‘helps you identify where your strength lies as an individual.’

"Before going to a university, a student and parent should know what the child wants to do for the rest of his or her life. I suggest that parents should help their children identify their passion.

"At Victoria University, we help you identify where your strength lies as an individual. You don’t have to sit in a class with hundreds of other students, you can’t get that Victoria University.

"Victoria University has state of the art facilities. Our professors are well vetted before being recruited. Every lecturer is interviewed not just by anyone but the VC, faculty deans, university council and the appointments committee. We are so careful when finding a fulltime staff.

What's This All About?

By Michael Businge

Most times in my language, we call this as Kwetera endobo-shooting ourselves in the foot!
On Wednesday, Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish Climate Change Activist during the COP 25 in Madrid (climate change summit) challenged leaders at all levels about our commitments. Of course, we have not done much on climate change.
She rebuked us about having done nothing. I don't think that we haven't done anything. She was bitter, very emotional and challenged world leaders on having destroyed the environment and having cared less. Is it true that we have done nothing? The answer is yes and no. 
Since we ratified climate commitment for a meeting that was held in Paris, we were meant to domesticate and come up with workable commitments. There is a climate change bill( not sure if this has been passed by our Parliament.
Of course, we have done some work such as creating awareness, but I feel that we can do more!
The journalists have written articles in the national media but there has been little debate on radio stations yet they're the most listened to media. Solar energy and clean cooking have been promoted but I feel we should do more. We must actually stop taxing clean energy technologies.
The car manufacturing industries are undergoing reforms to produce "clean" vehicles. Uganda is set to ban importation of second-hand cars. I want to live and see this actually happen. Campaigns have been on leaving the oil in the soil; but is this possible?
With infrastructural development which of course is meant to propel us (Uganda) to achieve Vision 2040 has to been done in a sustainable way. Unfortunately, we have destroyed carbon sinks such as forests, built-in wetlands. This will affect mostly the poor who can not afford medical care. 
Just recently, in New Delhi- India, pollution levels rose up and this affected major sectors of the country such as transport, people could not breathe well and the health centres were overburdened. New Delhi is far. Our own Kampala has declared a polluted city. Increased cases of pollution have been reported, air pollution is real.
Recently, I  got a Safe Boda from Mutungo to Namirembe, but after navigating through, I felt my eyes irritating, could not breathe well. I really wished to breathe Hoima air. But I realized that the atmosphere has no boundary much as there are concentration levels of particulate matter, CO2, and other clorofrocarborns in particular places. 
On a world scale, I feel that Africa has played her role. However, the west has acted as bullies and not willing to carry out reforms. Of course, on the negotiation table, we have come with little to offer and our arguments have been irrelevant for the West.
For carbon markets- why would they be paying us for the conservation of carbon sinks if they are unwilling to reduce carbon emission quotas? They do not want to invest in expensive clean technology, which is cheap in the long run!
The US has threatened to leave the  Paris Climate pact. This complicates the climate change campaign efforts. However, all is not lost because another major polluter (China) said it will reduce her carbon emissions.
Whether this is real or rhetoric, I do not know. But why would they (West) own oil companies extracting oil in Africa yet they preach to us about climate change? Why? 
We can intensively campaign for subsidies on clean energy technology, create an environment better for our innovative young people.  Most importantly, we need to walk the talk or else the talk will walk us out forcefully.  Maybe we need to learn the hard way! 
The writer works as a Programs Officer at Youth4Nature Uganda

Victoria University Offers 20% Fees Discount On Short Courses

Victoria University has offered students joining the institution for short courses this festive season up to 20% discount on fees.

The Ruparelia Group-owned university said this is aimed at giving back to Ugandans, but also to ensure that people enjoy the festive season happily.

The University Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Krishna N. Sharma, said the offer ends on 31st December 2019. He added that over 100 students have already applied.

“With a short course of your choice, you can access the offer. Registration is already taking place for students to grab the opportunity of the festive offer,” told Business Focus in an interview.

The University offers many short courses including but not limited to Digital Marketing and Social Media, Foundation Mathematics, English language for university students and Effective Writing and Communication.

Others are Understanding the World Today, Entrepreneurial Development Studies, SPSS-Statistical Package for Social Sciences, Introduction to the Oil and Gas Industry, Export Trade Promotion, Certificate in Sustainable Microfinance and Basic Computer Applications.

The university under the Ruparelia Foundation offers scholarships to Ugandan disadvantaged students. The scholarship launched last year saw over 120 benefit.

Rajiv Ruparelia, the promoter of Victoria University, noted that his team is committed to playing a leading role in bringing and developing high–quality, student–centred learning opportunities based on standards of excellence that are unique, innovative and difficult to match. 


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