Free Connection Alone Won’t Increase Electricity Access; Off Grid Solar Offers Better Option

By Cirrus Kabaale

I recently read a story that noted that government is planning to resume the electricity connection policy (free connection policy) to enable Ugandans to connect on the national grid. The story pointed out that the free connection policy aims at addressing the challenges of low connection rates that previous policies did not address.

The policy was unveiled in 2018 with aim of increasing the number of connections made annually from the average 70,000 before the policy to 300,000 customers annually at full implementation.

However, the initiative was suspended last year in 2020 because government had failed to increase the rural electrification rate in Uganda. The policy had only managed to attain 7% rural electrification yet 80% of the Ugandan population lives in rural areas. The failure had left the majority of Uganda’s rural population without power.

The government intends to increase demand for power through increasing the number of industries in industrial parks in addition to expanding the domestic consumer base through implementing the ‘Free’ Electricity Connections Policy. However, just last year, UMEME informed electricity sector players that while the company experienced an average growth rate of 16% in its domestic customer base between 2012 and 2018, consumption only grew by a half, at 8%. In addition, the manufacturing sector has consistently complained about the high power tariffs.

As you are aware, a poor and highly indebted country that is struggling with COVID-19 impacts, citizens cannot afford to for high power tariffs.

While I commend the government’s efforts to increase access to clean energy, the government must increase investment in off grid solar energy to meet the energy needs of all Ugandans.

Access to clean and affordable energy is crucial in the eradication of poverty through advancements in health, education, water supply and industrialization, to combating climate change.

Initiatives such as the sustainable Energy for All, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal seven and others highlight the need to have equal access to clean, affordable and reliable energy.

Although the Government of Uganda is making heavy investments in the construction of hydro-power dams and extending the grid across the country to provide electricity to all Ugandan, Government needs to broaden its scope and focus more on investing heavily in other renewable energy sources particularly off grid solar energy. 

Electricity access in the country stands at 24% in urban and less than 7% in rural areas and of the population with access, over 90% cannot afford to use electricity for cooking or to meet other key energy needs due to unaffordable high power tariffs. They remain stuck on using biomass to meet most of their key energy needs such as cooking, boiling water and others.

Increased investment in off grid solar energy would not only increase access to affordable and clean energy for, especially rural households in Uganda, but it would also help to reduce carbon emissions from use of fossil fuels especially urban centres, thereby, addressing of the biggest drivers of global warming and climate change.

Secondly, increased investments in solar powered water irrigation systems could improve agriculture production in rural areas, thereby addressing poverty and the challenge of food insecurity, contributing to the SDG on zero hunger.

Further, solar powered water pumps would enable rural households to access clean water and would improve the quality of education and life of girls and women respectively. With less household chores such as fetching water from wells, girls would better be able to stay in school.

Good health and wellbeing would be ensured through increasing access to safe water and sanitation as poor sanitation contributes to diarrhea, the second leading cause of death in children under five worldwide with Uganda not being spared.

Therefore, for Uganda to achieve the current Rural Electrification Strategic Plan target 2013-2022, which is to achieve electrification access of 22 percent and contribute to the global initiative of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) seven, the Government must plan and invest in off grid solar energy. We must know the energy sources that are more relevant to the needs of the poor. 

Cirrus Kabaale, Project Officer at Environment Governance Institute (EGI)

 

 

 

Invest In Clean Renewable Energy To Fight Climate Change

By Patrick Edema

The government of Uganda with UK signed the Compact Agreement in line with power Africa and Energy Africa in 2016 under which the country committed to promoting and expand investments in off grid solar opportunities for people as opposed to reliance on hydro and fossil fuel based grid.

It was recognized that the grid electrification could not improve access to clean energy for Ugandans especially for vulnerable groups such as women, youth and others where over 80% of the population remain reliant on biomass energy and other dirty sources.

The agreement was a recognition that grid electricity and use of fossil fuels were the biggest obstacles to improving clean energy access to uplift the living standards of people especially for the vulnerable groups such as women.

It is clear that grid and fuel based electrification remains unaffordable, unreliable and consequently this undermines efforts to improve services in education, health, clean water, environmental conservation and others.

The country is richly endowed with abundant energy resources, which are fairly distributed across the country with an average of 5.1 kWh/m2 of solar energy, access to quality solar energy remains low with progress in the sector curtailed by a number of challenges like poor coordination by government for off-grid connections.

In the presence of COVID-19, the pandemic should be an opportunity for us to rethink our economic growth path that has come at a heavy cost to the people and planet to bring about a fundamental shift for the clean energy transition. The policy makers should not lose sight of the looming climate crisis, but rather design economic stimulus packages with social inclusion and environmental sustainability built into every decision in particular sustainable energy development.

It is clear that we are living in truly unprecedented times, and the country faces unique energy challenges that undermine the ability of government to respond to this crisis and build economic resilience. Renewables can underpin these efforts and therefore can play an instrumental role in both the response and the recovery.

According to International Renewable Energy Agency’s recently launched Global Renewables Outlook report, renewables can supply more than half of all power needs in Africa alone by 2030, boosting the regional economy by more than 4.4 per cent and growing jobs by close to 50 per cent in the process.

For instance, in the recent COVID-19 policy report for Asia and the Pacific, it identified renewable energy as one of the main sectors to stimulate countries’ economies with people’s standards of living.

Therefore, government should deploy renewable energy and if clean energy is rapidly and well-placed can support immediate crisis response efforts including electrification of public health value chains, improving the education system, improve businesses opportunities among others.

Patrick Edema, Environmental Engineer

 

 

Ministry Of Energy Should Amend The Electricity Act 1999 To Curb Power Theft

By Doreen Namara

On Friday April 9, 2021 Daily Monitor reported that UMEME loses Shs9bn to power theft in Jinja sub region between January and March and such a loss is greatly attributed to the out-dated electricity Act of 1999.

It should be noted with concern that the electricity act 1999 has weak punishment for those who steal power.

As much as the Utilities, Standards and Wildlife Court, which is supposed to prosecute culprits involved in stealing power and vandalism was created by the judiciary, the electricity act has got very weak when it comes to dishing out punishments to culprits.

Power theft, illegal connection and vandalism in Uganda are rampant crimes; wires are left exposed which at times lead to electrocutions and loss eventual loss of human life and property. This practice has been on-going for quite a long time which leads to loss of boss revenues and investment.

Section 88(1) of the electricity act 1999 imposes a penalty of thirty currency points or two years imprisonment or both to anyone who steals power. The act does not provide stringent punishments to culprits of power theft or vandalism to equipment from the network, despite the huge losses the habits cause to the company and the country at large.

The electricity amendment bill 2020 to repeal the Electricity act of 1999 was approved by the cabinet on July 20, 2020 but it is moving at snail’s pace yet the electricity sector is facing a lot of challenges that can only be addressed by amending the Electricity Act.

Over the years, ERA, electricity distribution companies, stakeholders and electricity consumers have come up to state that the challenges in the electricity sector are attributed to the out-dated electricity act 1999.

The electricity act 199 has since became an out-dated law  to address the emerging issues like deemed power, high power tariffs, issues of compulsory land acquisition, over-reliance on the grid, and economic setbacks  among others.

The power subsector still faces several challenges and these range from, faulty meters, constant electrocutions, power outages, constant old and falling electric poles, power theft and vandalism and cutting off of government hospitals which has claimed patients’ lives.

On top of power theft, the electricity sector is facing other challenges like:

  1. a) High power tariffs: even after commissioning the 183MW hydro power dam, the power tariffs remained the same as in the previous years. The prices include Shs. 751.9 per unit for domestic consumers, Shs. 645.6 for commercial consumers and Shs. 361 for large industries.

If the service fee and Value Added Tax (VAT) costs are added to the above prices, domestic consumers pay nearly Shs. 1,000 per unit of power. The cost paid by the commercial and large consumers also increases. These costs are too high and continue to keep 74% of the Ugandan population from accessing grid power.

Despite this, news of the high power prices that government refused to lower raised limited public debate. This is because of the promises by the president, ERA and other energy sector players that efforts such as refinancing of Bujagali dam, adding power from Isimba dam to the grid, increasing power demand through extension of power to industrial parks and others would reduce power tariffs; power prices have remained stubbornly high. Even when international oil prices, which determine power prices in Uganda, are lower, the price remains high.

Ugandans are too fed up by government’s failure and lies over reducing power tariffs and they blamed the high power tariff on the failure to amend the electricity.

b). Deemed power: some of the reason power prices remain high is the production of deemed energy. According the Auditor General, by June 2020 the deemed energy was 110.79B causing a strain on government resources.  This deemed power negatively impacts on the electricity consumers through high power tariffs which maybe a hindrance to electricity demand hence hindering economic growth.

Uganda’s total installed capacity currently stands at over1,268.9 MW Per December 2020 statistics from ERA, the peak domestic and export demand for power is 723.76MW. In effect, as at December 2020, Uganda was producing 545.14MW of excess power that was not being consumed, but had to be paid for. The excess power (deemed energy) that is being produced has increased dams such as Achwa II.  you must be aware that the old 1999 electricity Act cannot address such emerging issues in the electricity sector.

c). Over-reliance on the grid: Uganda is over reliant on grid-based hydro and other power. While Uganda’s grid-based installed capacity is over 1268.9MW, Uganda produces only 13.9MW of off-grid power. To meet the energy needs of the majority of citizens who cannot afford grid-based power, it is important for government to undertake measures to increase investments in the off-grid energy sector. Therefore amendment of the electricity act will help government to increase investment in the off-grid energy.

 

d).power outrage: Other challenges such as power outrage that saw Uganda experience four nationwide power blackouts in May, June 2020 and February 2021. This caused by lack of transparency and corruption  while signing power purchase agreements  with power companies and land acquisition challenges through which communities resist to give out their land  without payment of prompt, fair and adequate compensation in conformity with Article 26 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution .

e). Constant disconnection and unreliable power supply in hospitals:, hospitals are still facing a challenge of electricity disconnection due to unpaid bills but the underlying problem is the weak Electricity Act of 1999 because the Electricity Act of 1999 does not have any provision to ensure hospitals access affordable and reliable electricity. This has led to major hospitals which serve mostly the poor in all the regions of Uganda to be disconnected from electricity supply due to unpaid bills.

 

f). Economic setbacks: unaffordable and unreliable power supply in Uganda has caused a lot of economic challenges. Ugandans have suffered  economic setbacks  because of the out-dated Electricity Act of 1999 and other electricity failures like Faulty meters, bad Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), unfair concessions, inflated and delayed monthly bills, weak regulation, ignoring the  recommendations of parliament without justification,  delayed justice by the  judiciary that takes years to determine cases, among other failures.

It should be noted that affordable and reliable electricity can drive economic production, has the ability to increase the country’s tax base, can enhance the competitiveness of our goods and can increase our export earnings.

g). Old poles, transformers and wires: On several occasions, electric poles, wires, and  transformers have fallen and damaged people’s property and causing injuries to people’s lives and there is no law to determine the size, duration of the poles and transformers to ensure safety and standards for the quality service.

It is very clear that wooden poles are weak and do not last long.

On Sunday, March 3, 2021, daily monitor reported that about 2,000 residents of Wakawaka Landing Site, Bulidha Sub-county in Bugiri District risk being electrocuted as two electricity poles remain in the lake for close to a year.

Therefore, the in the new proposed electricity act, the new act must enforce the use of metallic and concrete.

f). Impacts on the environment: Due to high power tariffs, the majority Ugandans has resorted to use of firewood and charcoal for cooking. This implies that the forests are degraded for due to charcoal burning and firewood. It was reported that 94.2% of the households in Uganda use biomass (firewood and charcoal) for cooking and tadoobas (paraffin candles) are still the main source of lighting in rural areas.

This has not only seen Uganda lose her forest cover at an alarming annual rate of 100,000 hectares per year, it also means that women and our ailing healthcare system are burdened with respiratory illnesses, heart disease and cancers linked to use of firewood in cooking.

 

Recommendation

 MEMD should work with ERA and present the Electricity Bill 2020 to parliament and the bill must address the following;

  1. Provide for tougher and deterring punishment for power theft and vandalism.
  2. The distribution companies should be panelised for power outrage and compensate the affected users for the loss suffered due to power blackout.
  3. The Bill should also make provisions on alternative power supply specifically off-grid energy sector.
  4. The Bill should also provide for compulsory land acquisition in line with Article 26 of the 1995 constitution to solve issues of deemed power.
  5. The Bill should also put a limit on borrowing money to invest in grid power that leads to high return on investment that make power very expensive.
  6. The Bill should also provide for that complaints filled in the electricity tribunal must be concluded in 30 days from day to filling and appeals from the tribunal to High court in 40 days from the day of filling the appeal.
  7. The Bill should to hold government officials who sign bad power purchase agreement that cause losses to government through corruption to be personally held liable.
  8. The Bill should also provide for the alternative ways the distribution companies can be paid their bills other than cutting off power like to withholding monies owed to Uganda Electricity Transmission Co. Ltd (UETCL) to offset debts by hospitals. Previously, UMEME has withheld money it owes to UETCL to offset debts owed by government entities.   
  9. Provide for standard electricity meters and makes it punishable for a supplier that delivers substandard meters.
  10. Make it mandatory requirement to use of metallic and concrete and replace all the wooden electricity poles within a year from the passing of the Act.

Doreen Namara is the legal officer at AFIEGO

 

 

Hoima - Kibiro Oil Spill Geothermal Drill Project Affected Persons Must Be Compensated

By Sandra Atusinguza

Government through Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development on 11th November 2019 contracted M/s Royal Techno Industries Limited to drill and test 16 temperature gradient wells in Kibiro and Panyimur areas. 

As the company’s  operations  were underway in  Hoima district at Kibiro landing site  an explosion that resulted into oil spillage happened on the night of 22nd  March 2020  on one of the eight drilling sites which was an bungle  and  led to social -economic and environmental  impacts not limited to pollution.

The oil spill was estimated to be less than 300 meters between Lake Albert shores and the historical and cultural Kibiro hot springs. These were ongoing without an environmental and social impact assessment study a violation of the National Environmental Act No.5 of 2019.

The Kibiro oil spill comprised of a mixture of clay, water, crude oil and smelling gas which contaminated waters of Lake Albert, fishing nets, the sand soil and one household’s property and land.

Government officials from NEMA, PAU and Hoima district local government visited the site and evaluated the damage on soil and water however the one household of Mr. Kiiza Julius Rubanjwa that was affected up to date has never been compensated. This has put at risk the lives of the family and the neighbors currently suffering with the rising water levels that have resulted into floods people.

In a press release issued on April 15th 2020, the Mineral of Energy and Mineral Development directed the   contractor to halted her activities, clean up and establish  remedial mitigation efforts to restore the environment among others . The MEMD but did not commit itself to compensating the affected household, one year down the road nothing yet has been done. Therefore government through MEMD should take compensation action to the affected family.

Sandra Atusinguza is the AFIEGO field officer

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

Free Connection Alone Won’t Increase Electricity Access; Off Grid Solar Offers Better Option

By Cirrus Kabaale

I recently read a story that noted that the government is planning to resume the electricity connection policy (free connection policy) to enable Ugandans to connect on the national grid. The story pointed out that the free connection policy aims at addressing the challenges of low connection rates that previous policies did not address.

The policy was unveiled in 2018 with aim of increasing the number of connections made annually from the average 70,000 before the policy to 300,000 customers annually at full implementation.

However, the initiative was suspended last year in 2020 because government had failed to increase the rural electrification rate in Uganda. The policy had only managed to attain 7%rural electrification yet 80% of the Ugandan population lives in rural areas. The failure had left the majority of Uganda’s rural population without power.

The government intends to increase demand for power through increasing the number of industries in industrial parks in addition to expanding the domestic consumer base through implementing the ‘Free’ Electricity Connections Policy. However, just last year, UMEME informed electricity sector players that while the company experienced an average growth rate of 16% in its domestic customer base between 2012 and 2018, consumption only grew by a half, at 8%. In addition, the manufacturing sector has consistently complained about the high power tariffs.

As you are aware, a poor and highly indebted country that is struggling with COVID-19 impacts, citizens cannot afford to for high power tariffs.

While I commend the government’s efforts to increase access to clean energy, the government must increase investment in off grid solar energy to meet the energy needs of all Ugandans.

Access to clean and affordable energy is crucial in the eradication of poverty through advancements in health, education, water supply and industrialization, to combating climate change.

Initiatives such as the sustainable Energy for All, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal seven and others highlight the need to have equal access to clean, affordable and reliable energy.

Although the Government of Uganda is making heavy investments in the construction of hydro-power dams and extending the grid across the country to provide electricity to all Ugandan, Government needs to broaden its scope and focus more on investing heavily in other renewable energy sources particularly off grid solar energy. 

Electricity access in the country stands at 24% in urban and less than 7% in rural areas and of the population with access, over 90% cannot afford to use electricity for cooking or to meet other key energy needs due to unaffordable high power tariffs. They remain stuck on using biomass to meet most of their key energy needs such as cooking, boiling water and others.

Increased investment in off grid solar energy would not only increase access to affordable and clean energy for, especially rural households in Uganda, but it would also help to reduce carbon emissions from use of fossil fuels especially urban centres, thereby, addressing of the biggest drivers of global warming and climate change.

Secondly, increased investments in solar powered water irrigation systems could improve agriculture production in rural areas, thereby addressing poverty and the challenge of food insecurity, contributing to the SDG on zero hunger.

Further, solar powered water pumps would enable rural households to access clean water and would improve the quality of education and life of girls and women respectively. With less household chores such as fetching water from wells, girls would better be able to stay in school.

Good health and wellbeing would be ensured through increasing access to safe water and sanitation as poor sanitation contributes to diarrhea, the second leading cause of death in children under five worldwide with Uganda not being spared.

Therefore, for Uganda to achieve the current Rural Electrification Strategic Plan target 2013-2022, which is to achieve electrification access of 22 percent and contribute to the global initiative of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) seven, the Government must plan and invest in off grid solar energy. We must know the energy sources that are more relevant to the needs of the poor. 

Cirrus Kabaale, Project Officer at Environment Governance Institute (EGI)

What Impact Will The AfCFTA Have On The Oil And Gas Industry?

By Shantel Mufandaidza

Created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in 2018, the African Continental Free Trade Area ("AfCFTA") came into effect on 1 January 2021. Since the World Trade Organization creation, the AfCFTA is the largest free trade area globally, with 54 out of 55 nations of the African Union, many of which have already ratified the agreement. Estimations forecast that this free trade area will positively impact Africa's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), resulting in welfare gains for citizens, facilitate trade growth, and improve Africa's trade deficit. While Africa has substantial natural resources, it has not received significant benefits from the extraction and export of such resources, particularly in oil & gas. Will AfCFTA have an impact on oil & gas industry exports?

Oil and gas and mineral resources account for more than 75% of Africa's exports, and the continent's potential for growth in oil & gas is significant. Estimations at the end of 2017 indicated that Africa has 487.7 tcf of proven gas reserves (7.1% of proven global reserves), while Africa's proven oil reserves are in the region of 125 billion bbl [1].

While this is the case, countries, unfortunately, do not benefit from their resources. For example, while Nigeria is a large exporter of crude oil, domestic benefits are minimal. The citizens still stay in questionable conditions plagued by limited electricity supply and unemployment. Further, the estimated average of 22 hours without electricity per month means lost sales revenues of up to 10% or more for a large proportion of Africa's businesses. Africa's oil & gas resources can help accelerate growth on the continent if used strategically. With the AfCFTA in effect, intra-Africa trading will become much easier and benefit African countries more than it has in the past.

Trade barriers such as high import tariffs have left many African countries vulnerable to the international market, which resells our resources at higher prices. The AfCFTA will potentially curb this, as oil & gas producing countries will benefit from global markets and the domestic market. Focusing more on growing intracontinental oil and gas trade will give countries autonomy to govern their international trade agreements, which have often left African countries on the losing end.

Analysis indicates that the AfCFTA will make room for the generation of GDPs that can positively impact African economies', create employment, and impact infrastructural development. While this is a necessary benefit that will positively impact Africa, it is already a continent plagued by corruption, which has resulted in the delayed development of essential infrastructure required to facilitate the ease of trade through the AfCFTA. For example, Angola is the largest exporter of gas on the continent and stands to benefit much from the domestic supply of gas to neighboring countries; however, the rampant corruption in Angola has hurt the necessary infrastructure necessary for the country to supply its neighbors with gas.

The only way the AfCFTA would positively impact the oil and gas industry is by promoting significant investments in roads, ports, and other physical infrastructure. African governments must be serious about financing the regional infrastructure and investment needed to make AfCFTA a game-changer. They need to mobilize the continent's financial resources without increasing the risk of debt distress. While there is no universal formula for industrialization, African countries need to tailor-make their economic development strategy and industrial policy that fits their unique circumstances.

Africa suffers from an energy deficit which is unfortunate for a continent that is so rich in resources. Africa's problem lies in the inability to utilize these resources for domestic benefit, and the hope is that the AfCFTA helps achieve this goal. To attain such regional socio-economic development, governments need to have a strong commitment to tackle corruption and make firm commitments to developing their own countries to ensure the booming trade and supply of oil and gas. If the continent pivots from an extractive exportation structure with oil and gas, it can secure more sustainable and inclusive trade that is not dependent on the fluctuation of commodity prices on the international market.

The continent has countries rich in oil and gas and the capacity to have a firm footing on the sector with the assistance of the AfCFTA and more favorable trading terms intra-regionally. Nigeria has already set its intentions on becoming the largest oil refining hub on the continent, while Angola hopes to export gas to its neighboring countries. The AfCFTA will facilitate trade and the evolution of existing commerce lines within Africa and not necessarily radically revolutionize the space. However, in sectors like oil & gas, where corruption is rampant, this evolution will be crucially determined by transformations of existing governance structures and infrastructure. For as long as corruption is a continuing practice, the gains from domestically trading our natural resources might not be as significant as they could be.

Furthermore, the AfCFTA will trigger substantial investment in the oil and gas industry from countries overseas such as the United States and other European countries, mainly because the AfCFTA changes investors' value proposition by providing a larger market with lower risk. Firstly, the AfCFTA expands the market by providing a single market with reduced cross-border barriers; investors can thus undertake larger revenue projects on a regional scale rather than a national scale. Before AfCFTA, approximately 25% of all intra-African exports in 2017 were for oil, gas, and electrical energy. With the effectiveness of the AfCFTA, the economies of scale are available for regional power solutions, Africa can reasonably expect the power export market to expand markedly.

The anticipated prospect of regional power solutions is already attracting increased investment in African power projects, which would have been unfeasible before AfCFTA. For instance, Botswana and Namibia are developing a substantial 5000MW solar project to provide and trade power with 12 neighbouring countries, supported in part by Power Africa and other World Economic Forum members.

This heavyweight project will create investment opportunities for every aspect of goods and services along the program's value chain. In this respect, the AfCFTA will provide a protocol for the reasonable resolution of investor-state disputes. This protocol should make the investment with African countries, particularly in capital-intensive oil and power projects, less risky for the investors and African countries. Before AfCFTA, in addition to regular business risk, investment in Africa's oil and power industries was subject to a host of additional risks, ranging from contract regulation to outright expropriation.

The current coronavirus pandemic has stalled the effective implementation of the AfCFTA, delaying the potential positive impacts of the free trade area. Also, acknowledging the continuous threat of global warming in the Paris Peace Agreement requires the oil and gas industry to innovate its operations, requiring extractive procedures that will not damage the communities where oil and gas is sourced. The oil and gas industry needs to look beyond itself to fully achieve the gains of the AfCFTA and overcome those challenges.

To conclude, the AfCFTA holds excellent potential for Africa. The benefits of improved efficiency on the continent and encouragement of competition on the markets will be significantly felt on the continent and boost development. Besides, the potential influence towards creating solutions to regional challenges through regional economies of scale is one of the most significant advantages of successfully implementing the AfCFTA. This would be a potential game-changer for the oil and gas industry and African commerce overall.

By Shantel Mufandaidza, Associate Attorney, Centurion Law Group

An Unintended Effect Of Covid-19 Pandemic To Employee Mental Wellness

In these times of the COVID-19, organisations should provide support for employees as a routine aspect of their operation, advises Arjun Mallik, MD Prudential East Africa. He adds that if staff members are cared for, the wider community is strengthened.

Mallik says that COVID-19 and its resultant ebbing lockdown periods have been a stressful time for people all over the world including in Africa therefore emotional wellness of people should be at the forefront of most companies’ plans.

While businesses are grappling with how to sustain themselves, they should simultaneously be taking care of their employees. For Mallik and Prudential, they have rolled out simple initiatives to address mental health among employees.

Below are excerpts of an interview in which Mallik explains what they are doing at Prudential East Africa to avert COVID-199 induced mental health issues.

What key learning lessons has Prudential Africa attained as a result of operating in the COVID - 19 pandemic?

Collective trauma as a result of COVID-19 happened at a societal level while making individuals more inward-looking. Our employees in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda are experiencing heightened trepidation due to everyday uncertainties, less interaction with colleagues and concerns for family safety. Inevitably, employee pressure equals business pressure.

We find that it requires more mindful work within our workplace to balance business objectives and life’s normal needs and responsibilities.

With 60% of its population under the age of 25, Africa is the youngest continent. The continent continues to offer businesses the best prospects for future growth. Human capital is a vital prerequisite for capitalising on opportunities ahead. 

To fully unlock the potential of the vast human resources available it is paramount that each individual is provided with an atmosphere to develop, maintain and grow their mental wellness, which has taken a knock during the pandemic.

Our experience shows that for employees to reach their potential, to contribute meaningfully and to create value in a workplace they must be in the right state of mind.

Shareholders and managers demand a lot from staff and excess stress of this kind leads to mental and physical break downs and sometimes burnout. If someone is anxious, stressed or depressed, they become less attentive and less productive and it sets back their growth potential. Awareness and acceptance of this stress is part of the key to the mental fitness of employees and should never be overlooked.

Although COVID has negatively impacted our lives, it has given people the confidence to admit that they need help and support and to recognise that mental wellness is a priority.

Moreover, at Prudential Africa we have realised that if we give our employees the opportunity to be heard and to heal emotionally, we create an atmosphere for them to bounce back quicker.

Prudential Africa, believes that the first step is to bring the conversation about mental wellness into the open – to acknowledge it, talk about it and, finally, in unison with staff, find solutions to improve. 

What has Prudential Africa invested in to support building staff emotional wellness? 

Prudential Africa has invested in a dedicated programme that ensures the following:  

  • Alleviates stress and builds tool and resources to help staff and managers recognise and act on emotional wellness issues.
  • Exhibit management commitment by providing holistic and sustainable solutions in order to foster a sense of community
  • Create a culture of openness for all staff to perform at their best.
  • Encourage all employees to be accommodating, to listen and to assist with the emotional issues their colleagues are facing.
  • Ensure that the programme transcends beyond the COVID pandemic.

What other tools has Prudential Africa inputted into the staff emotional wellness program to ensure its success?

  • Third party experts presenting on topics such as gratitude and how to balance work and play.
  • Provide staff with tools such as meditation techniques to handle stress.
  • Train managers to identify warning signs within their team or among colleagues - provide them with a toolkit to help them conduct a conversation around emotional wellness.
  • Introduce flexi hours which allow staff to do their work and remain in a safe environment – to be with their families and deliver at work.
  • Install a 24/7 confidential counselling line run by a professional third party for staff and their dependants.
  • Host more teambuilding activities that increase bonding among staff in and out of office to increase collaboration and to keep motivation high.

The ultimate message to staff should be – you are not alone – everyone has mental challenges in different ways and we are all in this together. You should be able to show up to work in the best possible form of yourself.

 

Conserve Environment To Absorb Gas Emissions During Oil Mining

By Paul Kato

Since 2016, most of the biggest wetlands like Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, Kafu and Nguse among others in the Bunyoro Sub-region have been encroached on by the likes of Hoima Sugar Limited and out-growers to pave away for sugarcane growing.

Charcoal and timber dealers are cutting down trees while oil activities especially East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project are expected to pass through wetlands like Kafu, Wambabya and others.

There is enough evidence to show that wetlands continue to be threatened by oil activities and human activities. Putting these critical ecosystems under threat is likely to contribute to gas emissions. This will result in human health problems.

Recently, Hoima Municipality became an (oil) city meaning that more wetlands are going to be cleared in favour of expanding the city and the development of the oil industries in the area. All these are likely to cause more air pollution and more destruction of wetlands in the area.

Uganda should know that currently, air pollution is exceeding the World Health Organization Limit before even the production of the first oil and the development of industries in the newly created cities.

These emissions are likely not to reduce because of the massive developments expected from the oil industry and the newly created cities in the country.

A lot of oil emissions during oil mining and air pollution resulting from oil industries, motorized transport among others are likely to increase therefore we need to conserve critical ecosystems in the Albertine region which will help in absorbing of the oil emission and air pollution from the industries hence reducing on the health problem.

Therefore, I call upon the government institutions like the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), National Forestry Authority (NFA), newly elected leaders, environmental police among others to lay out the strategies that are going to reduce the oil emissions during oil mining, air pollution from industries and protection of the sensitive ecosystems from oil activities and human activities.

Paul Kato is a Research Associate at Africa Institute for energy governance (AFIEGO)

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

Losing Of Fragile Systems Of Bugoma Forest To Sugarcane Growing

By Spencer Pedun

Recently, media reported that 405 hectares of Bugoma forest land were cleared by Hoima Sugar limited according to the GPS images in the hands of the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBFC).

Uganda losses about 100,000 hectares of forest cover every year and per USAID’s Uganda Biodiversity and Tropical Forest Assessment report, “approximately 25 million tons of wood are consumed annually in Uganda [with the] majority of that wood [being] used as household firewood (65%), charcoal (16%) and commercial and industrial firewood (14%).”

 Indeed as CSOs on the natural resources survey of 2020, indicated that forest cover loss has now increased to an estimated 200,000 hectares annually.

Forests are said to be the life-givers to human beings. But human beings are not paying any heed to this fact and are cutting them mercilessly and endlessly to satisfy their needs. With our population rising at a tremendous rate, the trees and forests are vanishing faster than the blink of an eye. A time will come when the earth will be devoid of trees.

Deforestation has led to many serious problems such as the depletion of the ozone layer. More pollution means more respiratory disorders, so on and so forth. Therefore, it is our duty to make Uganda a lush green country by planting more trees.

Due to deforestation, the weather conditions have changed abruptly and due to global warming, there is a great increase in temperature. Forests are the shelter of flora and fauna. With the cutting of trees of the forests, flora and fauna have been adversely affected.

Trees prevent soil erosion but the felling of more trees has caused soil erosion. So, each and every place is turning into a barren wasteland. Moreover, floods have become frequent due to the same reason. As brick laying is on the rise, the youths in Manafwa and in Bugishu land have started cutting down trees to seek firewood for burning bricks and also charcoal burning which has greatly led to deforestation.

In conclusion, l call upon the youth to desist from cutting tress and opt to using machines that are used for brick laying which doesn’t necessitate tress cutting

Therefore, we call uponNEMA to review Hoima Sugar’s activities with the view of cancelling the certificate that the authority issued to the company due to non-compliance to the certificate’s conditions.

Failure to do so provide environmental destroyers such as Hoima Sugar with an opportunity todegrade Ugandans’ shared precious natural environment.

For God and My Country

Spencer Pedun

Project Assistant at Environment Governance Institute (EGI)

Develop Mitigation Strategies For Reducing Air Pollution

By Patrick Edema

Reports indicate that the air pollution levels in Uganda have exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) limit. The emerging evidence has linked the smoogy skylines being observed in several cities and towns across the country to high levels of pollution. The fear about the hazy skylines was worsened by the KCCA announcement that detected pollution several times higher than the World Health Organization normal range of 25 microgram per cubic meters.

The results from the 23 air quality monitors across Kampala indicated that average particulate matter (PM 2.5) is at 75 micrograms per cubic meter than the WHO cut off. Particulate matter is the sum of all solid and liquid particles suspended in air many of which are hazardous to human health. Particulate matter 25 are the final inhalable particles.

Today, air pollution is the main responsible for environmental quality worsening in many cities all over the world, with adverse outcomes on people’s health. According to the last World Health Organization (WHO), more than 80% of people living in the urban context are subjected to air quality levels above the emission limits regarding air pollution. The primary atmospheric pollutants are carbon monoxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, ozone, and sulfur dioxide. The increase in emission amounts of these pollutants is due to the rapid industrialization and urbanization of developing countries.

Figures from the Real Time Air Quality Index for Uganda measured on a 24-hour basis shows that air in Kampala oscillates between 70 for moderate to over 162, which is beyond unhealthy for breathing. The air pollution has reached worrying levels and exposes people to health risks such as respiratory tract infections. Several studies have linked mounting respiratory tract infections such as asthma and chronic bronchitis to air pollution. Research shows a connection between air pollution and lung cancer, and suggests it may contribute to childhood mortality.

According to a survey conducted by Makerere University College of Health Sciences, 40 per cent of deaths in Uganda are due to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic lung diseases. Yet if there is a malady lurking in the backyard, it’s the air we are breathing, an invisible death-trap that continues to afflict the health of thousands.

Globally, 30 minutes of exposure to air in three cities of Gwalior and Allahabad in India plus Zabol in Iran are just enough to cause harm. For cities in Africa, Kampala City tops the list for cities with the most polluted air in East, Central and Southern Africa. Here, 90 minutes of exposure to the fumes are enough to cause damage to your health. Other cities in Africa include Bamenda in Cameroon where 45 minutes on the road are enough to cause harm.

According to statistics from the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics, close to 50,000 vehicles make their way to the city every day. This makes a total of more than 150,00 vehicles alone in the city, a day, that is spread across 189 square kilometers. Many sources of urban outdoor air pollution such industries and vehicles are well beyond the control of individuals and demand action by cities, as well as national and international policy makers to promote cleaner transport, more efficient energy production and waste management. The latest urban air quality database shows that 98 per cent of cities in low and middle-income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. Air quality is measured by the amount of particulate matter it contains.

Therefore, for the country to mitigate the air pollution problem, many efforts have to be taken with the aim to decrease the pollutants emissions coming from people. Each citizen may contribute to the mitigation of air pollution through behavioral changes in their lifestyle as the reduction of energy consumption in transportation, households, and supply.

It is also well known that vehicle emissions contribute to air pollution. In this scenario, besides the implementation of increasingly stringent standards for vehicle emissions, the most effective policy is the promotion of the zero-emission vehicle. In particular, by using alternative fuels, respect to the traditional fossil ones, like electricity, bio-fuels, liquefied petroleum gas, natural gas, and solar, this kind of cars can produce lower concentrations of pollutants.

Patrick Edema, Environmental Engineer at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)

 

Subscribe to this RSS feed

Kampala