Enforce The Law To Fight Climate Crisis In Uganda

In July 2021, the cabinet through the minister of state for environment Beatrice Anywar banned all agricultural activities in wetlands across the country.

But even with the ban, people have continued practising farming in wetlands especially growing rice and animal rearing. This is putting the environment at stake leading to the growing climate change crisis we are experiencing today.

Many wetlands in Uganda have been encroached on for human activities and the response from the authorities looks to be lacking as evidenced by the continued destruction of wetlands to grow rice, sugarcane and other crops.

For example, the Lwera wetland on the Masaka highway has been reclaimed to grow rice; the Mpologoma wetland in sub-regions of Busoga and Bukedi has also been destroyed to grow sugarcane and rice.

The ongoing destruction of wetlands around River Rwizi in western Uganda is well documented. Nyakasura swamp has been reclaimed for farming activities.

The destruction of forests like Bugoma forest in Hoima district and Lutoboka forest reserve in Kalangala district to create space for a beach are contributing to the rising climate change crisis we are experiencing today.

Uganda’s wetland coverage has reduced from 17.5% as was in the 1990s to 8.5% today. The forest cover has dropped from 24% to 12%. These figures are appalling and leave the country facing dangerous climate change outcomes.

Currently, the environment is being destroyed across the country and the concerned authorities are not taking action. The government has continued to issue permits for investors to practice farming and establish factories in wetlands.

Many people have been arrested and no charges opened against them yet they continue running their projects on wetlands and clearing forest reserves.

It should also be noted that section 31(4) of the National Forestry & Planting Act 2003 and section 36 of National Forestry & Planning Regulations (NFTPR) 2016 prohibit any dealing in reserved trees species without permission from the line minister or relevant authority.

So should we say that these people encroaching on our forests are not approved by the authorities? If they are approved then where are we heading if the whole environment is destroyed, wildlife extricated and water reservoirs dry out.

The recent international energy agency global roadmap to net-zero by 2050 shows that the world's demand for oil will need to decline from more than 90m barrels a day to less than 25m by 2050.

This will result in a 75% plunge in net revenue for oil-producing economies which are dominated by public sectors that rely on energy exports for revenue.

Such a target can’t be reached with the increasing deforestation rate in Uganda for charcoal production that increases greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

The ministry of environment, the National Environmental Management Authority and other agencies have to come into action and change the way the country is behaving towards climate change.

The government has to invest more in clean energy like solar that is sustainable to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The cities and districts and other agencies have to monitor and arrest all people that engage in environmental destruction activities. There is also a need for more funding to strengthen enforcement to prohibit deforestation and farming in wetland areas and forests.

All stakeholders have to understand that the future is up to us, so I encourage everyone no matter the age, position in society and size to join hands together for better planet earth.

For god and my country

Gerald Barekye, Research Associate at AFIEGO

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Can The Big Elephant In The Electricity Sector Be Conquered?

By Patrick Edema

Recently the minister of Energy and Mineral Development tabled the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 for the first reading. The Bill seeks to amend the Electricity Act, Cap. 145. It will, amongst other things, increase the fund allocation to the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) from 0.3% to 0.7% of the revenue received from generated electrical energy. This is meant to provide the ERA with adequate funds to regulate Uganda’s electricity industry.

In addition, the amendments to the Bill also include extending the functions of the Electricity Regulatory Authority to empower it to impose fines to licensees who breach the terms of their licence before they suspend or cancel said licence. It will also provide the Electricity Regulatory Authority with the ability to issue deterrent penalties for theft of electricity and vandalism of electrical facilities.

If the Amendment Bill is enacted the line minister will also be empowered to prescribe the procedure for the transfer of generation assets to the government and prescribe the circumstances under which a holder of a generation licence or transmission licence may supply electricity to persons other than a bulk supplier.

For over two decades, four problems have been haunting the Uganda’s power sector namely, inadequate availability and frequent disruption in supply, financially stressed power distribution companies, increasing dues of independent power producers (IPPs) and high cost of electricity supplied to Ugandans. Although the government has tried to address them, it has not succeeded in making any dent. Meanwhile, the problems have assumed menacing dimensions.

Let us look at some harsh facts to gauge their intensity. For the last ten years, government has allocated over Shs. 16.87 trillion to the energy sector. Some of that said money has been borrowed and invested in the construction of dams with the view that electrification will address poverty among Ugandans. About 30.4% of Uganda’s $10.7 billion debt burden covers for only three dams including Bujagali, Isimba and Karuma dams.

Absurdly, the $1.7billion 600MW Karuma dam whose commissioning has been extended three times is set the be commissioned in June 2022 according to the government. The delayed completion of Karuma dam shifting its expected date of 5 years to now over 8 years has cost implications on government about $12m (about Shs44bn) in expenditures and $17m (about Shs62.4bn) in lost generation revenues.

Secondly, let’s us look back in 2019 when government commissioned the $78.8m 42MW Achwa dam. The hydropower dam was completed without the evacuation or transmission lines put in place which is costing tax payers’ money of about 10million loses per hour of deemed power.

Currently, the total installed electricity generation capacity in Uganda stands at about 1300MW. On the surface, that looks quite alright but it is a load of balderdash. Firstly, installed capacity isn’t synonymous with generating capacity. Different systems have different efficiency rates, but most operate at least 30 percent below installed capacity. So, the figure people need to hear is that of potential generation capacity and not installed capacity.

I doubt whether there is any time when any of the power plants in Uganda can have all generators operational. That infamous Ugandan factor which guarantees that nothing ever works properly in our hands is material here, too.

This has also affected the economy known for instance declining productivity where factories are being forced to produce far below their true capacity because of power reliability. The competitiveness of the whole economy is being compromised by the current state of energy.

The cost for Ugandans is much higher. Apart from being forced to suffer regular power blackouts, to purchase generators, to pay for fuel, to lower productivity, they are now suffering unemployment and underdevelopment just because they can’t start-up small business that can improve their livelihoods and also adopting the new technologies in different sectors such as agriculture where over 7o% of Ugandans rely for their living.

Furthermore, about 17% of power generated on transmission and distribution is lost as a result of technical hitches, old wires and others. For example, instead of transmitting power within 100km, it transmits for up to 400km. What do you expect? That’s hundreds of billions of shillings every year.

With all the eyes focusing on Karuma dam hoping that it will provide a permanent relief, it is a mistake to rely on it too much as well as only grid-based power. The true capacity demand will most likely be below than what is supplied and I suggest for the government to start shifting her focus to off-grid power supply especially to rural regions where the topography can’t favor the transmission poles. The work that needs to be done in this sector goes far beyond the issues of generation.

So, these elephants that need to be captured for Ugandans to benefit from the “so-called” surplus include addressing the issues of high electricity tariffs, high levels of corruption, deemed power, cancelling UMEME contract, addressing issues of constant disconnections and unreliable power supply in hospitals among others.

Finally, as government is in the process of amending the Electricity Act 1999, the new law should have provisions such penalizing the distribution companies for power outrage and compensate the affected users for the loss suffered due to power blackout, affected users for the loss suffered due to power blackout, provide for alternative power supply specifically off-grid energy sector, limit on borrowing money to invest in grid power that leads to high return on investment making power very expensive, hold liable government officials who sign bad power purchase agreement that cause losses to government through corruption among others.

Patrick Edema, is an Environmental Engineer & Project Assistant at AFIEGO

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COVID-19, Conflicts & Climate Change Leading To Food Insecurities In Our Country

By Ireen Twongirwe

Africa is still far from meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture because of the impacts the continent has faced.

According to a new report by the humanitarian information source relief website, the number of hungry people in Africa continues to rise, spurred by conflicts, climate change and economic slowdowns. Food insecurity is exacerbated by conditions such as poverty, inequalities and inappropriate policies.

Furthermore, the report recommends beefing up humanitarian assistance across the board, putting up social protection measures to improve food security, nutrition and focused investment in agriculture, water, health, and education to reduce vulnerabilities.

More so, the report shows that after a long period of improvement between 2000 and 2013, hunger worsened substantially between 2019 and 2020, driven by conflicts, climate extremes, economic slowdowns and the unaffordability of healthy diets.

It’s important to note that in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic further undermined efforts to reduce hunger and malnutrition. The pandemic disrupted the economic activities in the service sectors such as tourism, agriculture, fishing, remittances among others.

Additionally, food insecurity is a significant underlying cause of malnutrition  in Uganda. The causes of food insecurity in Uganda include poverty, landlessness, high fertility, natural disasters, high food prices, lack of education, and the fact that the majority of Ugandans depend on agriculture as a main source of income.

What can we do? 

We, therefore, need to ensure a legal and policy framework for improved nutrition, including reviewing and integrating nutrition in the Agriculture Sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP) and the National Agriculture Policy. 

Also, developing guidelines for integrating nutrition in the sector, district and sub-county plans, policies and agricultural activities is important.

And providing strong political and technical leadership and a commitment to nutrition within the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries and strong coordination with other ministries can help.

Additionally, allocating more resources for implementing proven household-level agricultural interventions that can improve household food security and nutrition is also good.

We also need to strengthen the capacity of agricultural extension workers to implement household-level agricultural interventions, including integrating nutrition into pre-service and in-service training curricula for agricultural extension service providers.

We also need to put in place a monitoring and evaluation framework to track the implementation of nutrition interventions for development.

Women’s access to and control over productive resources, capital, and income generation can also reduce food insecurity. therefore, we need to promote the use of labour-saving technologies to enable women to manage competing priorities.

I, therefore, call upon the government, civil society organizations and the private and public sectors to promote opportunities and train women in agro-processing at the household level.

This will increase wages for male and female agricultural workers and also ensure that men and women receive equal pay for equal work to increase families’ ability to buy nutritious foods.

There is also a need to ensure safe working conditions for agricultural workers, including proper sanitation. In the same manner, there is also a need to provide opportunities for diversification of household income and promote the adoption of high-yield nutritious crops, including biofortified staples like iron-rich beans and orange sweet potatoes.

Equally, there is a need to increase food production, especially staples such as millet, sweet potatoes, sorghum, matoke, and maize which remain affordable for families and which are long-lasting to reduce soil erosion.

In conclusion, the above-mentioned interventions will help to improve food production hence achieving the sustainable development goal 2 zero hunger and poverty.

For God and my country

Ireen Twongirwe is the executive director of Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda.

Ambitious Uganda Must Balance Oil Activities With Environmental Concerns

By Gerald Barekye

Uganda continues to progress with its long-awaited plan of commercializing its crude oil and gas estimated to be 6.5bn barrels. Commercial quantities of this oil and gas were confirmed in 2006.

And as the country struggles to become a middle-income country by the year 2040, its focus is on exploiting these oil and gas resources commonly referred to as the “black gold” to facilitate this ambitious development target and agenda.

To achieve this dream and plan, Uganda has had to endure the delay of realizing first oil by establishing all the necessary legal and regulatory frameworks, infrastructure and building local content capacity. This has since been achieved and the development phase leading to production has since kicked off. 

This progress has got environmentalists worried and calling on everyone to show concern about how these oil activities will affect the environment.  

As the oil activities kick off in the Albertine region, a lot of environmental destruction is happening through the cutting of forests, destroying swamps and physical displacement of communities from their ancestral land leaving the area exposed to climatic changes. 

The most dangerous and widespread environmental risk is pollution which is associated and happens throughout all stages of oil and gas production – for example, oil refinery activities, gas emissions among others are unfriendly to the environment.

Also, the release of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere results in acid rains leading to groundwater contamination. This is very toxic to both flora and fauna.

The oil and gas activities have also contributed to the loss of biodiversity leading to the destruction of the ecosystem; for example most forests, wetlands, homes, wildlife are being destroyed.

Oil projects like the crude export pipeline have affected members of the community in terms of unfair land compensation and forceful eviction from their ancestral land as the affected persons are complaining.

It should be noted that everyone in the country wants oil and its economic contribution but we should put more emphasis on addressing the environmental risks that come along with oil production.

In my opinion, therefore, the following has to be done in response to the environmental concerns that are coming up during the oil development and production phases.

An oil spillage contingency plan should be instituted and requisite response structures and equipment should be put in place. And all people should be trained on how to deal with an oil spill in case it happens. 

The training should cover procedures for reporting a spill, health and safety issues and the use of equipment’s in case the spill happens.

The government should carry out culture heritage impact assessment study at the highest standard possible that protects both livelihoods of local communities and sites history as well cultural resources. 

The oil companies should ensure that environmental friendly ways are followed while drilling temperature gradient holes and conducting drilling surveys during oil production.

The funding companies should put environmental considerations before funding such projects to save our country from the climate change crisis.

A sustainable forest management strategy that aims at reducing deforestation and forest degradation while ensuring that more trees are planted in much-unused land should be adopted.

This should include the planting of fruit trees to provide food, creating employment opportunities to improve the lives of people.

A cost-benefit analysis needs to be done as this will provide a framework to identify, quantify and monetize all impacts of a project including environmental and financial impacts. This will help the comparison of losses and gains of the project that all stakeholders can relate to.

Finally, it should be noted that oil is considered a blessing and at the same time a curse in different countries depending on how it's handled. Proper management of resources has caused overall development in many countries, and improper handling has led to devastating effects.

Gerald Barekye is a research associate at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)         

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We Need To Talk About Africa’s Energy Crisis: Why Is Production Waning?

The final frontier for oil and gas exploration, a range of untapped resources awaiting exploitation, and opportunities across the entire energy value chain all represent key components of Africa's hydrocarbon market. For years, resource rich nations have been capitalizing on their resources, driving exploration and production alongside global players. Now, producing markets across the continent have started to dramatically underperform, with countries such as Nigeria missing production targets by a large margin. What will these production declines mean for the African continent and what can be done to mitigate this trend?  

Even at the start of 2022, producing nations in Africa continue to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand fluctuations, price instability, and the global reduction in fossil fuel directed capital expenditure have left many oil-reliant nations scrambling. While attempts to diversify economies have been noted – specifically through developments in natural gas, renewables, and associated sub-sectors such as transportation and logistics – in the short- to medium-term, oil continues to be a critical asset for many African countries.

Africa's oil and gas resources are a blessing for the continent's socio-economic development, and yet production figures towards the end of 2021 represent a growing challenge. Nigeria, for example, with over 36 billion barrels of oil in place has the potential to produce upwards of 2 million barrels per day (bpd). Yet, during December 2021, the country was only producing 1.1 million bpd – resulting in an estimated 2.4-million-barrel loss for the month. Similarly, despite production targets of 1.8 million bpd by 2022, during December 2021 Libya also underperformed, producing on average 1.06 million bpd. However, this was largely attributed to blockades at key oilfields due to political conflict, and the country's production is starting to increase again.

The impacts of underperformance on African economies will be significant. Notably, with Africa contending with its own energy crisis – whereby over 600 million people are still without access to electricity – a production downturn could further accentuate the crisis. As Dean Foreman, Chief Economist at the American Petroleum Institute describes, "African crude oil and natural gas production adds value to the economy and is an engine for employment, investment, economic growth and innovation.  When this production underperforms, as it has recently, producing nations across the continent lose these benefits, and their global oil market position weakens. Moreover, nations that import refined petroleum products could end up with greater dependence and higher prices to attract products from global markets."

On the other hand, underperformance in Africa could impact production quotes. Energy Board Executive, Abdur Rasheed Omidiya, extends on this notion, stating that, "Continuous inability to meet OPEC production quota means OPEC may at some point review down the African countries quota and source increase in other member countries which will directly impact the economy as crude oil sales made up to one-third of some government budget revenue and 90% of export earnings."

These production trends, if continued, will have significant impacts on refineries, as well as domestic energy supply, in Africa. Omidiya describes the current situation as a "double-edged sword, as the shortfalls may impact crude supply with the current increase in demand pushing the crude price higher. This is good and bad news for a country like Nigeria, which should ordinarily earn more foreign exchange from the sale of crude, but now has to deal with paying more subsidy since there's a positive relationship between the international prices of the commodity and how much Nigerians get the product at the pump."

One of the primary reasons contributing to continent-wide production declines is the lack of adequate investment across the upstream market. COVID-19 coupled with the global push for an energy transition has led to many international investors pulling out of hydrocarbon projects, diverting capital to green energy. However valuable for the renewables market, this move has proved disastrous for African oil and gas dependent nations.

Sebastian Wagner, Managing Director of DMWA Resources, credits the production decline to a combination of factors, stating that, "The year 2021 brought along multiple divestments in the African upstream sector, which have since impacted production. In addition, the impacts of the pandemic are still being felt as the multiple shutdowns caused snags with restarting oil wells. A disturbing trend has emerged over the years. There has been a decrease in investments in the exploration and development of oil and gas, thus impacting infrastructure and hampering oil and gas production."

So, what needs to be done to mitigate this trend? Wagner notes that, "In anticipation to becoming a principal supplier and reviving crude oil output, African governments and policymakers can counter the pressure by attracting more investments into the upstream sector." Accordingly, the solution lies in the upstream market. Recent developments worldwide have not only emphasized the need to scale-up capital expenditure in African exploration, but have reaffirmed the role oil and gas continues to play in the global energy space. Europe's energy crisis, for example, and the European Union's decision to label gas as green could represent both a challenge and opportunity for African markets. While the new label could usher in a new wave of investment in Africa, trickle-down effects from Europe's crisis poses a new challenge.

Foreman explains by stating that, "The short-term spillover effect of Europe's energy crisis has been to raise natural gas and other energy commodity prices, and short of government intervention in markets that could have a cooling effect on prospective investments the current cycle likely needs to work itself out.  Longer-term planning across the African continent could have beneficial effects, both to develop greater resources for African consumption and exports but also potentially to position some producers as pivotal future suppliers to Europe.  Europe's energy crisis could motivate parties to develop African resources, elevating their market position as a counterbalance to supplies from Russia and global liquefied natural gas (LNG) that could be relatively more expensive to develop and transport."

In the meantime, the need for accelerated investment in Africa has never been more prominent. "The struggle to increase production is due to years of underinvestment in the upstream oil and gas sector with ageing infrastructure magnified by the recent pandemic and call for no new investment in fossil fuels. The government and oil and gas operators need to find a new way of stimulating investors' confidence and appetite with 3C's: Certainty and Consistency in policies and regulatory law and Competitive in business friendliness," states Omidiya.

The polarizing and misleading campaigns by powerful western groups like Greenpeace against Shell's 3D seismic survey off the Wild Coast South Africa is wrong. The science does not back their misleading claims and blocking Shell hurts South Africa and many poor people. Exploring for energy oil and gas reserves in South Africa does not hurt the country. South Africa is a net importer of oil and gas and depends on foreign countries. Its energy security, development and beating energy should be prioritized. When a responsible and leading explorer is being demonized, it sends the wrong message to investors, creates a volatile market and hurts everyone. Namibia has showed amazing maturity when it comes to Shell's work in the country and should be commended. We are confident that Shell's exploration well in the Orange Basin offshore Namibia will be successful. The Graff-1 well is located in Block 2913A in the Orange Basin where Shell is the operator and its partners are QatarEnergy and the national oil company of Namibia, Namcor.

Accordingly, as a whole, Africa needs to ensure both an enabling and attractive environment for investment. There is no need to wait until African Energy Week in October in Cape Town to find solutions. Despite the progress made to date in this area, more can be done to entice global players and international investors into Africa's market. In line with this, the African Energy Chamber (AEC) – a leading voice for energy in Africa – firmly believes in the role and value that oil and gas play in Africa's economies. A lot of changes are necessary to give oil and gas companies the incentive to explore in Africa during the current downturn. But we can't stop there. We need to consider other pain points that discourage foreign operations in Africa and find ways to eliminate those challenges as well. So why not remove this hurdle? Negotiating with trusted explorers would help them avoid unnecessary delays and bureaucratic red tape. Making these changes would still allow them to emphasize their own priorities, and it might also make IOCs more likely to keep exploring within their borders.

"Exploration, Exploration and Exploration. You can't produce oil and natural gas if you don't explore. You can't let radicals stop exploration campaigns and you can't let bureaucrats kick out companies with poor regulations like the CEMAC forex rules.  Let's face it, look at Algeria, where oil and gas production rates were already declining in 2019, before the pandemic, largely because of repeated project delays caused by, among other challenges, slow government approval. During four licensing rounds, Algeria saw minimal interest from investors" Stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber.

"Nigeria, too, is known for the less than speedy pace at which it sanctions exploration projects. Even before COVID-19, its slow movement on this front contributed to a decline in oil production over a 10-year period" Concluded Ayuk.

As the year begins and new opportunities across the continent emerge, the AEC remains committed to helping African producing states accelerate project activities, improve production, and usher in a new era of socio-economic growth and well-being.

Uganda Must Ensure Effective Utilization & Management Of Oil Revenue Resources

By Patrick Edema

Uganda expects to begin producing oil in 2025, and it is anticipated that government will earn significant revenues from the inflow of oil funds. If collected and utilized responsibly, generated revenues have the potential to uplift Uganda’s economic growth and development.

However, government has over the years been accused of misuse and violation of oil revenue laws. For instance, contrary to Section 58 of the Public Finance Management Act 2015, the government in 2017 and 2018 withdrew UGX 125 billion and UGX 200 billion from the Petroleum Fund without parliamentary approval.

The money was used to finance deficits of the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 budget. This was a violation of Section 59(3) of the PFMA which provides that oil revenue will only be used for infrastructural and other development purposes only. Further, since 2008, government has earned over $1 billion from signature bonuses, CGT and other oil revenue sources but government cannot account for most of this money.

This noncompliance with a binding law creates suspicion that Uganda’s oil will not achieve the expected benefits of reducing the poverty levels of Ugandans as well as improving the country’s GDP.

As Uganda works towards achieving a middle-income status, the National Development Plan is capturing every single important statistic that oil and gas will propel Uganda to middle income status as well as overall achievement of the country’s 2040 vision. But in 2016, the Ugandan government allotted Tullow Oil Company with five production licenses while Total was given three.

This brings the number of production licenses issued to nine after Uganda had offered one to the Chinese National Offshore oil company (CNOOC). And what one is asking is how much money Uganda has earned from the oil sector for the last eight years or so and what that money has been used for.

How much of this is kept on which account? The few times the oil-money issue has been discussed is when Uganda won a dispute against Heritage Oil company and another case against Tullow Oil. Therefore, disregard of the existing laws by the government harms public confidence in government’s ability to enforce laws in the oil sector to protect the environment, communities and the public. 

It should be noted that the theory behind local content laws and policies is to encourage the use of local labor, goods and services in the oil and gas industry. But there is a gap between theory and practice. Unfortunately, this gap currently exists in Uganda with poor infrastructure and lack of skills being two of the practical stumbling blocks in building local content, oil and gas companies having to invest time and resources in training local populations and building infrastructure to handle logistical issues. The government has to overcome the challenge of how local content laws and policies work for all stakeholders in the oil and gas industry to promote development of the country as a whole.

Although the government is highly applauded for the close attention to the energy sector and the consistent steps taken towards the historical production of first oil by 2023 as evidenced by heavy investments in the sector for the last few years and still going, there is need to strengthen and harness the energy sector.

The government should address the above issues both the immediate, medium and long-term so that the energy sector is vibrant and able to trigger the much-awaited economic growth and perhaps usher Uganda into lower middle-income status in the nearest future as highlighted in NDP III. It is envisaged that oil revenues will help in financing development projects and facilitate the meeting of NDP III targets and priority sectors identified.  

Patrick Edema is Environmental Engineer & Programs Assistant at AFIEGO

Electricity Tariffs Should Be Reduced To Promote Business Growth

By Ireen Twongirwe  

It’s important to note that electricity tariffs have contributed to the minimal business growth in Uganda. Clearly noted is, majority of the businesses are operating using electricity; and most of these businesses can’t afford to pay the high electricity bills.

In addition, Uganda is among the countries in Africa with the lowest electricity access rates. According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) report 2020, access to grid electricity by Ugandans stands at 19 % where only 40 % of urban households have access to electricity while only 5% of rural households have access to electricity.

It also important to note that the country also has the lowest electricity consumption per capita in the world. Consumption of electricity is partly affected by high power tariffs that cannot be afforded by the vulnerable groups including women, youth, elderly, disabled among others.

Considering the statistics above, it’s very clear that lower consumption of electricity has also increased o the poverty rates in communities and this has led to poor standards of living in families and increased destruction of nature such as forests for timber, charcoal among others leading to environmental destruction. Its also clear that increased electricity tariffs have affected the economy.

It’s noted that the profits made out of the business are being used to pay electricity bills and tariffs and so find the business working in losses.  In addition, Uganda is among the countries in Africa with the lowest electricity access rates and this has limited the accessibility of social economic development and environmental sustainability in the country.

In my opinion, the Parliament of Uganda and cabinet should dialogue with Uganda Revenue Authority, Electricity Regulatory Authority and the Ministry of Finance to lower VAT on electricity from 18 per cent to at most 10 per cent in order to lower the cost of living ,  I also call upon  MPs to urge Umeme, the energy distributor to increase the quantity of the first monthly domestic electricity units chargeable and reduce the current average electricity connection charges for both domestic and commercial consumers.

More so, Parliament of Uganda and Cabinet should discuss with the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) to lower the monthly Yaka service by 50 per cent from Shs3,360 to Shs1,680 so that business people both in private, Small Medium Enterprises and public sectors can be able to pay the bills and at the same time to make profits hence boosting the economy.

Importantly, reduction will boost livelihoods and economic growth by reducing the cost of living, putting more money in Uganda’s pockets and reducing the cost of doing business. Access to energy is also life-blood of any growing economy. Therefore, subsequent endeavors and strategies need to be put in place in order to expand the use of renewable energies for socio economic development and environmental sustainability in the country.

Henceforth, I continue calling upon government, ministry of energy to support both private, SMEs, communities and market vendors to further push for the clean renewable energy agenda to benefit communities especially women, girls, youth, affected local or host communities and others in Uganda.

For and my country,

Ireen Twongirwe  is the executive director, Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda. (WoGEM UGANDA)

OPEC's Barkindo Served With Distinction

By NJ Ayuk

Many will agree OPEC Secretary General H.E. Mohammed Barkindo walks in the same shoes as late world leaders Kofi Annan, who served as Secretary General of the United Nations, and Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, a former Nigerian Minister and OPEC Secretary General who has been described as one of the oil industry's most influential and respected ambassadors.

Barkindo, throughout his tenure with OPEC, has fought the good fight, finished his race, and kept the faith. After six years of what can best be described as remarkable leadership, he will turn over the reins to his successor, Kuwaiti Haitham al-Ghais, this July.

We knew the day was coming. After all, the position is term-limited, and no one can lead the group forever. Barkindo has always been against staying a day longer than his term.

Yet the industry has become accustomed to Mr. Barkindo's steady hand on the rudder, guiding OPEC through the volatile waters that global oil and gas producers must navigate, including growing public sentiment against fossil fuels.

If he had just maintained order during his term, that would have been enough, especially given the upheaval brought on by the pandemic. But Barkindo is not one to be satisfied with the status quo, even during the most trying times.

Granted, he could never have anticipated the global grip of COVID-19. But he did have the foresight to imagine how much impact OPEC could have through cooperation on an even more global scale — and that proved key to stabilizing the market when demand hit record lows.

Barkindo cultivated a very respectful relationship with oil-producing nations within and outside of OPEC, including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, China, and Russia, as well as U.S. shale producers. His talent for building bridges was just what OPEC, and producers worldwide, needed.

In 2017 Barkindo steered OPEC into a mutually advantageous relationship with 11 non-OPEC producers (10 nations since Equatorial Guinea joined OPEC in May 2017), including Russia. The benefits of the OPEC+ alliance were keenly apparent in 2020 when the pandemic hit and travel nearly stopped in its tracks.

It didn't help that an oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia flared up in March of that year, driving up production when demand was at a dramatic low. By April, oil futures plunged, at least for one day, into negative territory, and the oil industry was in jeopardy.

It was Mr. Barkindo who skillfully brought all parties to the table to find a resolution: The 23 members of OPEC and OPEC+ agreed to record reductions in output, a move that helped oil prices recover more quickly than they might have otherwise.

This outcome is a testament to Barkindo's skills as a leader, though, of course, President Trump took credit for resolving the crisis. OPEC's Secretary General knew that the longer the price war continued, the more economic harm would be inflicted on Africa and many poor people around the globe.

A Champion for Africa

As OPEC chief, Barkindo has a duty to be impartial. Yet it is no surprise that during his tenure, the number of member countries from Africa has increased. Barkindo's homeland of Nigeria joined OPEC 50 years ago.

In his own words, the nation "played a major role in driving the organization's focus on cooperation, goodwill, a sense of belonging and unity, and in working towards achieving oil market stability, conscious of the benefits this brings to both producers and consumers."

Since then, that sense of belonging and unity has been extended to Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo. Today, those countries have a seat at the table, so to speak, a greater say in how their petroleum resources are used to benefit their people and grow their economies.

Recognizing his support of the continent's energy industry, in 2018 the Africa Oil & Power Conference named Barkindo their Africa Oil Man of the Year. His leadership proved that "if you want to go far, you go together," Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea said at the time. 

"He has been an enormous champion of African countries and giving them a voice to help stabilize oil markets," Obiang Lima added.

Barkindo also has been an advocate for Africa in the greater energy transition discussion. Having led Nigeria's technical delegation to the UN climate change negotiations for 30 years and serving three times as vice president of the Conference of the Parties — COP13 (Bali, Indonesia), COP14 (Poznan, Poland), and COP15 (Copenhagen, Denmark )— he is realistic about the way forward.

It is his firmly held belief that a world eager to meet the challenges of climate change must also accept that it will take all sources of energy to meet current and future demand, especially given that energy poverty remains a reality across great swaths of the continent.

Barkindo never shied away from visiting leaders around the world and making the case for abundant, cheap, reliable energy. Nor did he shy away from tough conversations. I remember him going against the advice of his advisors to have a civil discussion with a climate-change activist who insisted on protesting OPEC in Vienna.

You could hear a pin drop as he talked about energy poverty and his own experience growing up poor in Nigeria. His eloquence, transparency, and respectful approach gave many of us chills. He urged young demonstrators to hold fast to the idea of making the world a better place and welcomed them to be part of the solution to global solutions.

During the last year, Barkindo has been a particularly outspoken opponent of the current movement to restrict investment in hydrocarbons. Unless there is more spending on new oil and gas development, he has warned, the world should prepare for energy shortages and rising prices.

Shortly after the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Mr. Barkindo said oil and gas had been unfairly targeted at the event as unsuitable for the energy transition, a claim that is blatantly false. The global gas shortage that occurred in fall 2021 — when European countries grew increasingly reliant on burning coal in its place — should have been a worldwide "wake-up call," he said, that investment across the oil and gas industry is required.

During a visit to Congo Brazzaville, Minister of Petroleum Bruno Jean Richard Itoua and the current OPEC president described Barkindo as a true son of Africa, a man with a love for the continent who embraced Congo without reservations. There are so many stories that it would require a book to cover everything Mr. Barkindo does when it comes to encouraging investors to look at Africa and urging Africans to create an enabling environment to do business. I can tell you this: He does it with class.

He Served With Integrity

For many African businesses and countries, Barkindo has been a source of encouragement and inspiration: He expanded their belief that success is possible. He lifted their sights and encouraged them to serve with integrity and maturity.

In turn, leading OPEC has been a positive, life-changing experience for Barkindo. He has made amazing friends that he calls family, and I believe if you ask him quietly if he would do it again, the answer would be yes. He will still tell you, "I am proud of OPEC and I am a proud Nigerian and Africa is my home."

Although Barkindo has not said publicly what his plans are after Mr. al-Ghais succeeds him, his legacy is secure. A veteran of Nigeria's energy industry, equal parts businessman and diplomat, and a humble person of unerring faith, his wisdom, strength, counsel, and direction are greatly appreciated and will be sorely missed at OPEC. But, knowing Barkindo, he would be quick to ask us to be patient with him; he'd point out that God is not finished with him yet.

Uganda’s Oil Exploitation, Environment & The Economy

By Ireen Twongirwe

Two years after covid 19 reared its head, uncertainty has continued to dog the economy in 2022 as the specter of going back into lockdown, internally, and locally remains an ever-present danger.

 It’s also important to note that as Uganda pick up an activity in the oil and gas, the sector is expected to give some support to the economy on condition that oil activities are balanced with environment protection and conservation.

It’s noted that fossil fuels such as oil and gas, coal, electricity has led to massive destruction of forests, increased land grabbing, conflicts among families and compulsory land acquisition between government and citizens.

Importantly, Bugoma forest in south west of Hoima is being destroyed due to oil and gas exploitation in Uganda, Murchison falls in Albertine is also under destruction due to oil and gas. In this, wild animal habitants are being destroyed, 29% of flora and fauna are being destroyed leading to reduced government revenue through tourism sector.

Moreover, Uganda’s economy is basically dependent on agriculture, fishing, and tourism. According to Uganda Bureau of Statics (UBOS) research, agriculture sector, employs 7.4 million households amidst covid 19, the sector employed 34 million of over 42 million Ugandans according to 2021 Uganda’s parliament report on the national budget framework paper.

It’s also important to note that according to UBOS, agriculture employs 38% of youth and 90% of women of which they found out their survival during the pandemic. More so, fisheries sector is also a major employer of women and the youth. 

Its therefore clear to note that agriculture, tourism and fisheries are the dominant economic activities for Uganda’s economy.

How will Uganda’s oil affect the environment?

Oil exploitation will increase on the land grabbing in Uganda, compulsory land acquisition, increased domestic violence in families and lastly environmental destruction.

However, Ugandans are eagerly waiting for the oil activities to start off because it will on some extent increase on the Uganda’s GDP through revenue, improved infrastructure such as roads, schools, healthcare, hospitals, employment opportunities, and scholarships to the lucky ones and others.

Hence forth, as mentioned above, Ugandans need to be sensitized, empowered, educated on the negative effects of oil activities on the environment. This will give them courage to balance the oil benefits as they protect the environment.

In my opinion, as we expect oil exploitation to start off in 2025 and wait for the economy boost, there is too much that have to be done on the environment and economy as mentioned above. 

Ugandans should not be expectant on oil benefits alone rather minding on the negative impacts that can result on the environment. This can be done through the ministry of energy and mineral developments to create public awareness on the both negative and positive impacts of oils exploitation in Uganda.

More so, jobs in oil and gas should be accessible to reduce on the level of unemployment among the youth, this will also help in increasing Uganda’s economy.

I therefore call upon oil companies and environmental agencies to plan strategically to protect our environment against oil activities. We deserve a decent and green environment amidst the oil exploitation.

For God and my country,

Ireen Twongirwe is the Executive Director Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda. (WoGEM)

Economic Arguments For Oil Exploitation Do Not Stack Up

By Diana Nabiruma

On January 11, 2022, the New Vision published an article, Why we need African energy banks. The article was authored by Mr. NJ Ayuk, the executive chairperson of the African Energy Chamber.

In the article, Mr. Ayuk observed that due to the climate change crisis, international financiers were increasingly withdrawing financing for fossil fuel (oil, gas and coal) projects.

At last year’s COP 26 in Scotland for instance, over 34 countries that provide at least USD 24.1 billion a year for fossil fuel projects committed to stopping international financing of the same projects by the end of 2022.

Some of these countries include France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Spain and others.

Prior to that, the UK ended international financing for fossil fuel projects by March 2021.

The withdrawal of international financing for fossil fuel projects, Mr. Ayuk noted, stood to stall African fossil fuel projects.

This led to his call for the establishment of African energy banks so that Africans can finance fossil fuel and renewable energy projects to: (a) end energy poverty and; (b) support governments to earn revenues to meet communities’ pressing needs.

While I do share Mr. Ayuk’s concerns over the energy and material poverty in Africa, and while efforts to end the above challenges deserve support, the benefits of fossil fuel development as presented by Mr. Ayuk are not reflected in various African countries’ realities.

Take Nigeria for instance. Nigeria is one of Africa’s largest oil producers. The country started oil production in 1958. Despite over 60 years of producing oil, 85 million Nigerians, representing 43% of the population, do not have access to electricity, per the World Bank. In fact, the World Bank says that Nigeria has the largest energy access deficit in the world!

Moreover, Nigeria’s unreliable power challenges are well-known! Businesses and households perennially have to rely on generators to power their work and homes!

Angola, another big African oil producer, doesn’t fare well either. As at 2019, Angola’s electricity access rate was 45.67%, per the World Bank.

How about Mr. Ayuk’s arguments on oil exploitation supporting governments to meet communities’ pressing needs? Well, a look at Nigeria and Angola points a bleak picture. In Nigeria, 40% or nearly 83 million people live below the national poverty line.

In fact, may communities in the oil-producing region face livelihood hardships as their traditional farming and fishing livelihoods were disrupted by extensive, persistent and unforgiving oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

The poverty rate in the oil-producing Angola is 41%, per the World Bank.

In both Nigeria and Angola, a small section of elite enjoy their country’s oil wealth.

Mr. Ayuk’s article ended on a poignant note. He observed that H.E. Macky Sall, the Senegalese president and incoming chairperson of the African Union, had, in light of the ongoing climate change induced fossil fuel phase-out observed that: “Our countries, which are already shouldering the crushing weight of unequal trade, cannot bear the burden of an unequal energy transition.”

In other words, African countries need to utilise their fossil fuel resources to develop.

While African governments must be supported in their efforts to end poverty, proponents of fossil fuel development sometimes give the impression that Africa can only develop if it exploits its oil resources.

First, not only do poor African oil producing countries show us that oil exploitation does not necessarily result in economic transformation, there are also other sustainable and inclusive sources of revenue that can be exploited.

Uganda for instance has a green growth development strategy through which it says that investment in the green economic sectors of agriculture, clean energy, tourism, forestry and others would boost GDP by 10% and deliver an additional four million green jobs among others.

These green economic options ought to be pursued.

The writer is the coordinator of the Inclusive Green Economy Network-East Africa (IGEN-EA).

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