We knew the amount of oil sitting in Uganda’s Lake Albert basin. With proven reserves of two billion barrels, the country should soon become Africa’s fifth largest oil producer.
But what we really wanted to know when we set out to take a look at its upcoming oil windfall is whether the East African nation would be able to avoid the dreaded “oil curse.”
There are plenty of signs that it may be able to.
Its economy has doubled in ten years and in the process it’s become the darling of western investors. But President Yoweri Museveni is also one of the continent’s longest-serving leaders.
Stable yes, but his government has never been known for its transparency.
And now, as Tullow prepares to pull the first drops from the ground, there’s still very little known about the agreement between the Anglo-Irish oil company - quickly becoming a dominant player in Africa’s oil game - and the Ugandan government.
We asked Director of Tullow’s Uganda Operations, Brian Glover to give us details. He’d love to, was the gist of Glover’s response as he emphasized the importance of transparency. But the decision to release details of the agreement is ultimately in the government’s hands he told us.
If there’s any industry that’s adept at handling bad PR it’s the oil industry. Look no further than the recent disaster involving BP in the U.S.
And while Tullow said all the right things, the government isn’t saying much at all, which leaves the average Ugandan guessing on what billions of dollars in their own backyard will actually mean to them.
Trust in the officials, was the response of Uganda’s Permanent Secretary of Energy and Mineral Development.
“The people of Uganda have a government which clearly represents their interests,” Kabagambe Kalisa said.
But on a continent where the sweet black stuff has been anything but, trust is something many here are finding it difficult to do.
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