Recently, the Petroleum Authority of Uganda reported of the progress towards the release of an updated oil suppliers' database that is set to be at the end of this month after the process was digitalized with an online registration system available on the PAU website.
The release is set to be done even before government completes the National Content Policy (NCP), which has remained as a draft for over four years now since the process to put up the policy started.
In 2013, Parliament enacted Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Act (upstream law) and to Petroleum (Refining, Conversion, Transmission and Midstream) Act, (midstream law) which laws provided for the need to involve local participation of locals in the sector.
These laws launched the debate among the public on the type and content of the policy that must be put in place, different stakeholders were consulted including CSOs, university youth leaders, oil host communities among others, this resulted into the publishing of the Draft National Content Policy in July 2016.
The National Content Policy sometimes referred as Local Content Policy is meant to promote the active participation of Ugandans and Ugandan enterprises in the oil industry, it also mandates the oil companies to transfer technology to Ugandans in efforts to build local capacity to manage the oil sector.
However, with the policy remaining in its draft form, it is difficult for citizens to hold government and oil companies accountable for its effective execution including the implementation of the national content policy implementation plan where government made several commitments aimed at building the capacity of locals to meet the standards of the oil sector.
According to the budget framework paper 2017/2018, about 2,252 Ugandans have so far got direct employment opportunities in the oil sector with these numbers expected to grow once oil production starts, this show the potential the industry has in creating employment opportunities and stimulating economic development in the country.
It is evident that several companies and business are taking all means possible to ensure that they register and get onto the updated oil sector suppliers database to enable them get available opportunities.
However being just in database is not a guarantee, bust should be backed with strong legislative framework so that some opportunities are ring-fenced for the local enterprises who must also meet the minimum standards required by the sector especially at the expense of foreign companies who have been in these businesses for many years.
Therefore, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) should work with all means possible complete the National Content Policy and follow her commitments in the implementation plan to better prepare citizens for these opportunities.
This will help build the capacity of Ugandan companies and ensure standard are met and right skills are acquired and this will also contribute towards the realization of the policy goal of which aims at maximizing the benefits of oil and gas resources and contribute to social and economic development through national content.
Programmes and research coordinator
Africa Institute for Energy Governance