Trade Minister Commends Rosebud, Premier Roses

The state minister for trade and cooperatives Michael Werikhe has commended Rosebud and Premier Roses for the work they doing in floriculture industry.

The two firms owned by Ruparelia Group have continued to be the leading exporter of rose flowers to inthe international market. Because of their resilience, they have earned Uganda billions of shillings in foreign exchange.

"We  commend  both  Rosebud and Premier Roses for continuing to remain the biggest exporters of high quality Rose stems to the international market and do encourage their colleagues  to double their efforts in terms of improved products to attract better export returns" the minister said in an interview with Xpress Times, a local online news publisher.

He said that Rosebud did the country proud when they exported close to 16m high quality Rose stems to the World market during this year’s International Mothers day which falls every  May 13th, a season where the world flowers demand shoots up especially in  the Americas, Europe and the Scandinavian countries.

"Statistics emerging from the sector indicates that Rosebud being the biggest exporter of Rose flowers did our country proud by way of increasing their export capacity down from the normal 13m stems per month to over 16m respectively  just within that one month of International Mother’s day festive," he revealed.

"My ministry which is strategically charged with responsibility of observing  figures of all types of exports from Uganda shall continue to work with these investors to ensure that all necessary technical and logistical support is extended to them because of their pivotal role of empowering our people in fighting household poverty by way of creating thousands  of jobs for them not only in the flower sub sector but other key areas of the economy such as education, Real Estate, hospitality industry, Insurance among others” noted Werikhe.

The farm manager Ravi Kumar exclusively told Xpress Times recently that they have stepped up their corporate social responsibilities [CSR] efforts by way of helping the community of  Namulanda which surrounds both  their two farms to  benefit from a special pack  of free social services like access to clean water, healthcare, education and sports among others.

"We  sincerely appreciate the close cordial relationship we enjoy with the community of Namulanda at large as we closely ensure that they access free social services like access to water, financial services, education, healthcare and sports respectively as these are part of our official company corporate social responsibility work of giving back to the immediate communities’’ noted Kumar.

Rajiv Ruparelia the managing director  of Ruparelia Group said Rosebud is now well placed and has capacity to export more high quality Rose flowers to the World market because they have increased on their acreage output, fighting pests on farm and the deliberate introduction of new high quality flower species.

"Rosebud assures the country that they have developed full capacity that enables them to export more volumes of flowers to the world  and promised to continue creating more jobs especially  empowering the women who are vulnerable to poverty as they carry the biggest burden of nurturing their families" Rajiv observed.

Bududa 2010 Landslide Victims Demand Kiryandongo Land Titles

By George Businge

Victims of the 2010 landslide that devastated Bududa District have tasked the government to process land titles for the land allocated to them in Kiryandongo district.

They say that they are living under threat from Bunyoro Kitara Reparations Agency- a pressure group that is fighting to rectify historical injustices committed against the Banyoro.

More than 600 households were relocated from the landslide prone area in eastern Uganda and taken to start a new life in Kiryandongo, after the March 2010 disaster which claimed 300 lives, destroyed crops, and buried several houses in Bududa.  Each family was allocated 2.5 acres of land, agriculture in-puts and equipment.

However, the group has noted that they have been discouraged from developing the land in the absence of proof of ownership, due to warnings from the pressure group.

Julius Werekha, the Chairperson of the Bududa mudslide victims in the Panyadoli settlement area says the threat imposed on them by (Bunyoro Kitara Reparations Agency)  BUKITAREPA is making life unbearable. He says they need full control over their land.

Deo Wambalya, another resettled victim from Nametsi in Bududa says the mudslide victims feel marginalized and wonders how an organization can force them out of the land that government lawfully acquired.

State Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness Musa Ecweru says his office will provide letters of allocation to each household in the Settlement Area so that they gain direct control over the land as they wait for the titles.

He downplays threats by BUKITAREPA saying that the government of Uganda legally acquired the land in liaison with the Kingdom of Bunyoro.

But Doviko Batwale, the Coordinator of Bunyoro Kitara Reparations Agency challenged the government to prove that it legally acquired the land from Bunyoro Kingdom and that the Kingdom consented to the relocation of Mudslide victims from Bududa.

Dubai Sues China's Merchants Port

By Paul Nyakazeya

UNITED Arab Emirates' (UAE) DP World Limited and its subsidiaries has taken legal action against China for building an international free zone on a terminal being disputed with Djibouti.

The lawsuit was filed in the High Court of Hong Kong for unlawfully procuring and inducing the Republic of Djibouti to breach various agreements between the African country and DP World.

In the lawsuit, DP World sought damages, interest, and a declaration that China Merchants unlawfully procured and/or induced Djibouti's breaches of its agreements with DP World.

When the contract between DP World Limited and the Republic of Djibouti was signed, both parties seemed happy and satisfied with the business deal and pledged to respect the terms of the agreement.

Under these agreements, Djibouti granted DP World Limited exclusive rights over port and free zone facilities within Djibouti, including container handling facilities, and DP World constructed, developed, and managed a state-of-the-art container terminal at Doraleh ("Terminal") that is jointly owned by DP World (33,34 perent) and a Djibouti state-owned entity, PDSA (66,66 percent).  

In 2013, China Merchants bought 23,5 percent of PDSA from Djibouti.

China, which has the only foreign military base near the Red Sea terminal,  developed and financed the free trade zone as it considers Djibouti an important part of its $1 trillion "Belt and Road" global investment initiative.

DP World said its concession agreement over the terminal "remains in force" and warned that the "illegal seizure of the facility does not give the right to any third party to violate the terms of the concession agreement." DP World Limited, operates 78 ports in more than 40 nations.

UAE ports operator DP World Limited has vowed to continue defending its rights as a shareholder in Djibouti's Doraleh Container Terminal, after it was nationalised.

In a statement the government of Dubai said: "DP World will continue to pursue all legal means to defend its rights as a shareholder and concessionaire in Doraleh Container Terminal in the face of Djibouti's blatant disregard for the rule of law and respect for commercial contracts."

The president of Djibouti enacted a decree on September 9 purporting to transfer the private entity Port of Djibouti's shareholding in the Doraleh terminal to the country's government.

The move to nationalise the terminal and escalate the battle with the UAE company comes after a UK tribunal ruled that Djibouti's cancellation in February of DP World's contract to run Doraleh terminal was unlawful.

On August 31, the High Court of England and Wales issued an injunction against the Port of Djibouti ordering it not to wrest control of the terminal from DP World, or act as if the joint venture agreement with the port operator had been terminated.

DP World said the transfer of ownership to the government of Djibouti appeared to have been made in an attempt to "flout" the injunction.

"Investors across the world must think twice about investing in Djibouti and reassess any agreements they may have with a government that has no respect for legal agreements and changes them at will without agreement or consent." said the Dubai company.

In 'violation' of DP World's exclusivity rights, Djibouti has in recent years partnered with China Merchants to construct, develop, and/or operate six new ports and free zones within Djibouti.

Youth entrepreneurship Conference Addresses Unemployment

Due to Africa's growing population, every year a high number of young jobseekers enter a labour market which cannot provide a workplace for all. To create jobs for youth and foster a prosperous Africa, skills development and youth entrepreneurship are key.

In order to address youth unemployment, more than 160 representatives of youth, business, investment, education, policy-making and civil society from all African regions as well as European partners convened at the African Union Commission (AUC) in Addis Ababa from 30 to 31 October 2018.

The participants discussed how to provide Africa's next generation with relevant skills that increase businesses' productivity – including ways to engage the private sector in skills development – and how to promote entrepreneurship and youth-led start-ups.

The AU Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, H.E. Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, emphasised that "strategic partnerships and collaboration with the private sector is the key to optimally harness the youth demographic, create employment and promote youth entrepreneurship".

The stakeholders outlined the following key policy recommendations to promote skills development and entrepreneurship:

  • Given the imperative of a conducive entrepreneurship ecosystem, the African Union and member states should enhance policy frameworks and implement appropriate policy, institutional and regulatory frameworks to promote youth entrepreneurship.
  • A paradigm shift regarding the role of the education sector in preparing young people for entrepreneurship has to take place. Emphasise entrepreneurship education throughout the entire learning system from early childhood to TVET and higher education. Adapt the curricula and pedagogy so as to underscore hands-on learning experiences and the acquisition of practical skills.
  • Strengthen partnerships between the private sector and education providers to leverage technical and financial resources for the support of youth-led start-ups through establishing national and regional incubation hubs and entrepreneurship centres.
  • Implement the TVET Policy Framework to address the need for both the formally and informally educated.
  • Strengthen data gathering and access to the use of accurate, relevant and reliable labour market information (LMI) for decision making and job matching.
  • Involve more youth in the dialogue and formulation of development pathways for career orientation and employment.

 

The recommendations were handed over to H.E. Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, who thanked all participants "for marking our one-year Africa Talks Jobs anniversary with concrete steps on how to translate talk into action". To follow up on the policy recommendations, the African Union will continue exchanging good practices and driving action as part of the "Africa Creates Jobs" platform.

Premier Recruitment Dives Into Labour Export Business

Premier Recruitment, a Ruparelia Group subsidiary, has entered into the labor export industry and will be helping Ugandans get good jobs in the Gulf States of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Rajiv Ruparelia, managing director of Ruparelia Group has revealed.

Rajiv noted that new labor recruitment firm and labor export company will begin its operations by getting 1300 jobs for maids and other domestic workers.

“We have finalized all the requirements to export labor from Uganda. We have also secured ourselves a license from the ministry of labor and social development which is number 52,” Rajiv said.

“We call upon all Ugandans especially women to come and apply for these jobs. We are located at Crane Chambers building on the ground floor”, Rajiv added.

He said that the company will be running on the principles of transparency and professionalism. “We shall remain strict and stick to the rules and guiding principles of our contract. Like we have always been doing in other Ruparelia Group establishments, you will get total confidence in us.

“We shall not only be sending workers abroad but we shall also arrange and open up liaison offices in the host export countries to cater for all our migrant workers”, Rajiv added.

Smarter Cities For Better Life

The 31st of October is celebrated as World Cities Day. It is an opportunity to raise awareness of the trends and consequences of increasing urbanization and the challenges and opportunities urbanization brings to sustainable development. It is also a chance to promote best practices, new ideas and partnerships between cities and different stakeholders.

According to a report released by UN in May, today 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050, with 90% of this increase taking place in Asia and Africa. An earlier report by the organization also projected that Africa and Asia together will account for 86 per cent of growth in the world’s urban population over the next 4 decades.

As the human population gradually shifts from rural to urban areas, this unprecedented increase has already posed new challenges in terms of jobs, housing, and transportation. Cities are finding it increasingly complex to effectively manage the city and provide good services to citizens at the same time.

With the development of information and communication technologies (ICT), the “Smart City” concept is emerging as a critical phenomenon in urban development. Using various ICT or innovative solutions, the Smart City integrates the city's constituent systems and services to enhance the efficiency of resource allocation and utilization, optimize urban management and services, and improve the quality of life of citizens. 

Smart cities can be likened to a living organism with a “nervous system” (the network and sensors), connecting its “brain” (the control center) with “limbs and organs” (departments and institutions), enhancing the city's management and services. In this process, ICT solutions can play a critical role in connecting the digital and physical worlds across city administration, public services, and industries. Using new ICT including cloud computing, Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI), these solutions drive unified coordination, cross-sector collaboration, and intelligent analysis for effective management of city services.

In some parts of Africa, due to low fertility of African soils, before planting corns, beans or cassavas, people usually need to fertilize the soil. Similarly, if we want to see more applications that make cities smarter, we need to lay the foundation for them to “grow”. Huawei believes that connectivity brought by ICT infrastructure including mobile networks and fiber is the “soil”, which provides the fertile ground for important value-adding “crops”, which in this case are applications and services including Public Safety, E-government, E-education, E-health, E-agriculture and so on.

We must keep enhancing the ICT infrastructure so that ICT services and applications can be more available, accessible and affordable to every ordinary citizen, and that these applications can enable the improvement of livelihoods, ease of doing business, and increase productivity.

How can we make cities smarter to better meet the needs of their growing urban populations for housing, transportation, energy systems and other infrastructure, as well as for employment and basic services such as education and health care?

First, the construction of smart cities is a giant system that interacts across systems and is a “system of systems”. It requires coordination across departments through the overall strategy and design, including setting goals, priorities, and implementation paths. This is essential rather than optional to ensure the system is designed in ways that are user-friendly, with appropriate technologies, and can be maintained, integrated with other systems and upgraded over time to be sustainable.

Second, taking a two-step approach starting with Public Safety and then moving to other aspects of the Smart City. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety and security together with food and water are basic needs for all human beings. For a country and its cells, “Cities”, there is also Maslow-like hierarchy of digital needs. Ensuring security is a basic requirement for a country or a city. It lays a solid foundation for a competitive nation and a dynamic city.

Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities, the theme for World Cities Day 2018, is a call to action for all of us to rethink how cities may become better places to protect and enhance people’s lives, leaving no one behind. By making cites safer and smarter, ICT actually increases cities’ attractiveness. A report launched recently by UN Habitat (‘The State of African Cities 2018: The geography of African Investment’) indicates that ICT and investment in African cities correlated to each other closely. The report highlights that improving ICT infrastructure is critical to attracting FDI, whilst the ICT industry itself is also a crucial sector for FDI, since it offers the highest growth rates and highest number of direct jobs along with manufacturing, and that the two are closely linked.

A lesson from the development of China, a country that fast forward 40 years and has become the world's second largest economy from one of the poorest, is that problems can be solved in the process of development. With the help of technologies and innovations, we can solve common problems facing cities such as traffic congestion, high unemployment, crime, and environmental degradation by making cities safer and smarter.

Address DRC- Uganda Boarder Conflicts Before They Escalate To Anarchy

"We are living in fear, our families back in Uganda don't know if we are alive or dead; when we were arrested, some of our colleagues tried to run away and were killed and us who survived have not made any contact with our families; we have been detained for more than two month and not taken to any court."  Narrates the three Ugandan fishermen, Mr. Wambale Brian 31 years, Musah George 68 and Patrick ... 42 who were arrested by the Congolese soldiers in July 2018. 

This revelation was given to me during my recent visit to the province of North Kivu in Goma DRC where I was invited to participate in a cross broader meeting under the Great Lakes Coalition for the Conservation of Natural Resources (GLCCNR) ( a loose coalition of CSOs from Uganda, Rwanda and DRC).  From the meeting, I was given a rare opportunity to visit them in one of the military barracks where they are being detained waiting to be transferred to Kinshasa, the capital of DRC. 

The three fishermen insist they were fishing on the Uganda waters but the Congolese soldiers rounded them up and arrested them while those who tried to ran away, were shot dead. They have not did not get the opportunity to bury their friends instead they are being locked in a military barracks in Congo leaving their families in agony of their whereabouts.   

The unfortunate incident happened in July 2018, when the Ugandan soldiers and that of the DRC engaged in fatal fights around Lake Edward, which saw over 37 Ugandans and Congolese nationals die or go missing. Among those who survived are Mr. Wambale Brian, Musa George and Patrick (I didn't get his second name clearly) but have little or no hope if they will ever come back home, Uganda. 

It is very unfortunate that the fishing conflict around Lake Edward, which runs along the border between southwestern Uganda and northeastern DRC, has continued to raise tensions over the years with each accusing the other of illegally fishing in their waters. These conflicts stands to betray the good neighborly relations between the two countries, which share several natural resources including Lake Albert, Lake Edward, the greater Virunga National Park, Queen Elizabeth national park among others. 

The DRC and Uganda governments have diplomatic relations and agreements governing the use and conservation of transboundary natural resources which include the Ngordoto agreement of 2007 on Bilateral relations, the 1986 Agreement on establishing a joint permanent cooperation, the 1990 agreement of cooperation for the explorations of hydrocarbons and exploitation of common fields and the Luanda the Luanda agreement on cooperation and normalization of relations 2002. 

All these agreement signed by both counties provide basis for the diplomatic relations to manage  solve the conflict on the boarder but they are not following. In fact, both countries are party to the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region under the frameworks of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). This pact, which binds both Uganda and the DRC to promote peace and development, which should be used to promote peace is being ignored by both governments, resulting in the death, arrests and detention of several nationals. 

The fact that both Uganda and the DRC are signatory to the above pact makes it incumbent upon them to use non-violence means in resolving conflicts and disputes, undertake mutual defense where necessary as opposed to fighting each other, fight against the illegal exploitation of natural resources, and not fight fishing communities and engage in judicial cooperation among others. 

Instead of finding amicable solutions to the challenges, the two neighboring countries have continued to have tense relationship at certain points in time the Congolese have accused Ugandan forces of encroaching on their territory, while Ugandan authorities have complained that the DRC does not do enough to fight militia activity near the border. These conflicts could escalate further and affect negatively on the ongoing oil developments in the region. 

These continuous conflicts could negatively impact on the Uganda's oil industry where government and oil companies are in the advanced stages of commencing oil production where a number of key oil infrastructure is being put in place including the Tilenga project located at the tail end of lake albert just about nearly 15 km to DRC. In addition, the planned crude oil pipeline, feeder pipelines, central processing facilities. These facilities will be located around or near the border with the DRC, which has had a bitter relationship on the shared resources. 

Therefore, the government of Uganda and DRC should honor the signed agreement and speed up the full implementation and compliance to protect the communities and developments along the border for the peaceful coexistence of the two countries. 

The two government take all the necessary efforts to demarcate the boarder and or harmonize the fishing laws used at the shared water bodies ensure that the fishermen who use the lake as a primary source of livelihoods understand and implement them. This will prevent future conflicts and arrests undermining the security of these countries.     

Finally, the two governments must use their diplomatic relations and unconditionally release the fishermen who have been arrested in specific countries so to release tension and have them united with their families. 

Samuel Okulony 

Programmes and research Coordinator 

Africa Institute for Energy Governance 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

How Djibouti Like Zambia Is About To Loose Its Port To China

Beijing's cumulative loans to Africa since 2000 amounted to $124-billion by 2016, according to figures compiled by the China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI).

Djibouti is projected to take on public debt worth around 88 percent of the country's overall $1.72 billion GDP, with China owning the lion's share of it.

On March 2018, Djibouti signed a partnership agreement with a Singaporean company that works with China Merchants Port Holdings Co. or CMPort—the same state-owned corporation that gained control of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka—to build the Doraleh Multipurpose Port.

In recent years, China has emerged as a key investor and a generous, ready and easy lender to African countries.

Beijing's cumulative loans to Africa since 2000 amounted to $124-billion by 2016, according to figures compiled by the China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in the United States.

Angola, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively, were the top beneficiaries of these loans. Angola's oil-related loans worth $21.2 billion since 2000 total roughly a quarter of cumulative Chinese loans to the entire continent.

"Half of those loans were given in the past four years," Janet Eom, an associate researcher at CARI, told DW. "So Africa's debt to China is becoming more of a concern moving forward."

While African Presidents are  at least this time round somehow exempted from the indignity of being talked down while clutching their begging bowls at western capitals before a few notes is thrown into their bowls, the readily available Chinese loans are not entirely risk free. 

Economists and other international financial institutions are becoming increasingly worried that the East Asian giant under a careful disguised "debt trap" diplomacy is burying many developing and poor countries in massive debt and then forcing the highly indebted countries to hand over some of their key infrastructures' such as the case of Sri Lanka. 

One such African country that is exhibiting all the red flag signals of going Sri Lankan and now Zambian way is Djibouti. 

Djibouti lies more than 2,500 miles from Sri Lanka but the East African country faces a predicament similar to what its peer across the sea confronted in 2017, after borrowing more money from China than it could pay back. 

In both countries, the money went to infrastructure projects under the aegis of China's Belt and Road Initiative. 

Sri Lanka racked up more than $8 billion worth of debt to Chinese sovereign-backed banks at interest rates as high as 7 percent reaching a level too high to service.

With nearly all its revenue going toward debt repayment, in 2017 after being pushed to the wall, Sri Lanka threw in the towel and handed over the Chinese-built port at Hambantota under a 99-year lease with China having a 70 percent stake.

Djibouti is projected to take on public debt worth around 88 percent of the country's overall $1.72 billion GDP, with China owning the lion's share of it, according to a report published in March by the Center for Global Development. 

At the end of 2016 China owned 82% of Djibouti's external debt. 

On March 2018, Djibouti signed a partnership agreement with a Singaporean company that works with China Merchants Port Holdings Co. or CMPort—the same state-owned corporation that gained control of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka—to build the Doraleh Multipurpose Port. 

That project was completed in May 2017. 

The port is significant not only because it sits next to China's only overseas military base  but also because it is the main access point for American, French, Italian and Japanese bases in Djibouti and is used — because of its strategic location — by parts of the U.S. military that operate in Africa, the Middle East and beyond. 

One concern is that the Djibouti government, facing mounting debt and increasing dependence on extracting rents, would be pressured to hand over control of Camp Lemonnier to China. 

In a letter to National Security Advisor John Bolton in May, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), two members of the Senate Armed Service Committee, wrote that Djibouti's  President Guelleh seems willing to "sell his country to the highest bidder," undermining U.S. military interests.  

"Djibouti's now identified as one of those countries that are at high risk of debt distress. So, that should be sending off all sorts of alarm bells for Djiboutians as well as for the countries that really rely on Djibouti, such as the United States," said Joshua Meservey, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

And that's not all, China is not done yet with Djibouti, Beijing has been earmarked the country as one of 68 countries set to be involved in its ambitious One Belt and One Road Initiative (OBOR).  

Problem is eight of the 68 countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative currently face unsustainable debt levels, according the Center for Global Development's report.  

The eight nations are Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.  

As past experiences have shown the eight nations will certainly be enticed to chew more than they can swallow and by the end of it end up being even poorer than they are now. 

As the cradle of mankind continues to sink deeper into debt condemning future generations to economic slavery, the late Whitney Houston feat Deborah Cox classic 'Same Script, Different Cast'  has never rang truer.

Total Commences Specialised Training Of Oil & Gas Manpower

Total E&P Uganda, the lead company on the Tilenga and EACOP Projects has unveiled the first batch of welding students to be trained as part of the welders training programme launched earlier this year.

The welders form the 1st batch of 25 out of the 200 students targeted for this initiative. The shortlisted candidates will undertake specialised training in 2G and 4G coded welding levels in line with the industry standards and requirements.

The training comes at a time when the company is preparing for a Final Investment Decision on the Tilenga and EACOP projects which will kick start the construction phase of the projects.

The training is therefore aimed at enhancing the employability of Ugandans from the Albertine region and East African Crude Oil Pipeline areas.

The commencement of the training follows a transparent selection process carried out by the training consultant The Assessment and Skilling Centre (TASC) with the involvement of the local leaders from the Albertine districts and along the pipeline route in Uganda.

So far, two training centers have been set up, one in Buliisa to cater for candidates from the Albertine districts, and the other in Lwengo district to cater for candidates from the pipeline districts.

Each batch of 25 candidates will undergo 3 months training which will involve technical classroom training as well as practical welding.

While speaking at the unveiling ceremony held at Buhimba Technical Institute in Hoima recenty, Total E&P Uganda Integrated Project Representative Jean Yves Petit said the programme is very important. 

"It signifies our commitment not only to the development of Uganda’s oil project but also to the empowerment of Ugandans to take an active and crucial part in the overall development of the oil project in Uganda.

“It is a strong commitment on our part specifically towards our host communities as all of the welders being trained here today originate from the areas around the pipeline districts and the Albertine region.”

The training will enhance the students’ knowledge and skills in order to meet the anticipated demands of the project as well as also ensure adherence to the highest standards of Quality, Health, Safety and Environment.

At the conclusion of the training, the students will be internationally certified welders of the American Welding Society Standard if they pass Certification tests. This will increase their employability not only within the oil and gas sector in Uganda but also in other sectors and in other countries.

“The training of the welding students comes at a crucial time in the project cycle as we prepare for the Final Investment Decision for the Tilenga and EACOP projects.

When this decision is taken, we can all expect that activities will rapidly increase shortly thereafter as we start construction of all the project facilities such as the Central Processing Facility and the pipelines.

The importance therefore of these welders cannot be understated. They are receiving training that is of international standards and this will make them employable not only in Uganda but internationally”, said Petit

"We are equally happy to announce that we have decided to train welder inspectors because quality control is absolutely key in the industry," Petit revealed.

The welders training programme is expected to equip 200 students with the highest level of oil and gas welding skills. The programme is fully funded by Total E&P Uganda.

Total E&P Uganda has also partnered with GIZ, the German development agency through a Memorandum of Understanding under which GIZ will use its expertise and experience in capacity building programmes to closely monitor the project’s implementation

Equatorial Guinea Warns Of African Asset Grab By Oil Majors

The return of oil majors to African exploration projects as upstream spending recovers threatens to slow down, rather than accelerate, the pace of new finds in the region, Equatorial Guinea’s energy minister has warned.

With oil prices recovering to $70/b this year, interest in Africa’s oil and gas potential has been reignited, with profit-making oil majors picking up exploration acreage abandoned by less cash-rich independents. 

But oil majors can often take longer to assess, prioritize, execute and appraise frontier exploration drilling compared to more nimble, tightly focused independent explorers, Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima told S&P Global Platts. 

“Majors are like big elephants, they are very slow. That means that the development of fast-tracking initiatives will slow down,” he said on the sidelines of an oil conference in Cape Town. 

Acknowledging that deep-pocketed global oil majors are well suited to developing existing discoveries, he said the return of oil and gas “superpowers” to African exploration drilling makes less sense. 

“Majors have big portfolios and take time to evaluate, they definitely slow down exploration, that’s the negative part.” 

SPENDING UPTICK

Oil majors have emerged leaner and cash-flow positive from the downturn, and competition is heating up for quality exploration acreage to rebuild resources depleted during the spending slump. 

Last October, Total took a majority stake in a Namibian block, and one in South Africa, from UK-based independent Impact Oil and Gas.

Shell secured its first exploration acreage offshore Mauritania in July while ExxonMobil acquired stakes in Namibian fields from both Portugal’s Galp in February and from minnow Azinam in August. 

Meanwhile Total has consolidated its position in Uganda’s maiden oil fields in recent years while BP is building its African natural gas assets in Egypt, Mauritania and Senegal. 

“What are the majors like Total, Exxon, Shell seeing that the rest of us are not? The independents are leaving but the majors are coming back, and are coming very aggressively,” Obiang Lima said. 

In Equatorial Guinea, ExxonMobil is still assessing the commerciality of its Avestruz oil find announced in late 2017, which lies close to the oil major’s Zafiro field in Equatorial Guinea’s northern maritime area. 

NEW LICENSING ROUND

Equatorial Guinea became OPEC’s smallest producer, behind its neighbor Gabon, in May last year and is currently pumping around 120,000 b/d of crude, according to S&P Global Platts estimates. 

But the Central African country is struggling to halt the decline in its oil production with new projects to offset an average 10% annual decline in output from its existing fields. 

Obiang Lima said he expects the country to be producing “at least” 120,000 b/d of crude in 2020 but is looking to new discoveries to boost the figure. 

Including condensates from its gas-rich producing fields and LNG, which don’t count under OPEC production targets, Obiang Lima said the country is producing a total of around 300,000 b/d of oil equivalent. 

He said Equatorial Guinea will launch a new exploration bidding round in January next year in the hope of attracting new upstream spending across the country’s oil and gas basins. 

Companies with existing upstream acreage in the country, which include ExxonMobil, Kosmos, Ophir, Marathon, and Noble Energy, will also be expected to commit to more spending as part of upcoming license extension talks, he said. 

“We need someone to go into the next cycle. We need to drill, that’s the only way and we want companies that are willing to do that. If you want to be in Equatorial Guinea, you drill. If you don’t want to drill, we’ll look for someone else,” he said. 

Equatorial Guinea began producing oil in 1995 and saw its production peak at 425,000 b/d in 2004. Before joining OPEC, Obiang Lima had said he hoped the country could recover its oil production to around 300,000 b/d by 2020, before raising it to 500,000 b/d within five years. 

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