Ada Eze has been managing director of Total Uganda Limited for 10 months now, having previously served in Zimbabwe, Nigeria and in Europe. On the sidelines of her first press briefing in Kampala on August 27, she told The Independent's Julius Businge that this is an exciting time to be a player in Uganda's oil industry:
You have been in office for 10 months. What has been your experience so far?
It has been very interesting, challenging and enriching. I had never been to Uganda before so it has all been a personal discovery, a very pleasant and positive one.
What challenges have you faced?
The usual issues, bringing in new products and ensuring that our customers get to know about them and their expectations are satisfied. Our mission as Total Uganda is to ensure we give our customer goods and services in the quality and manner they expect. We ensure the products are on the market in time, that stations are welcoming, the equipment is working, etc... It is not an easy job but we are trying our best to satisfy our customers.
Your sister company Total E&P is involved in oil exploration and production in the Albertine region. Was that move strategic?
Of course it was because everyone is looking for opportunities from that sector. I am very sure both the country and the company will benefit. But I wouldn't want to speak for them as I know they will soon host journalists to talk about their work in the oil sector.
Uganda is vulnerable to supply shocks in the petroleum products chain. Where do you see the gaps that have to be filled to tackle that problem?
I think oil reserves should be utilised, dealers need to stock enough fuel all the time. Uganda has no pipeline yet, so there has to be a multiplication of storage facilities, among other measures. Once these are in place those shocks will become history.
How does Uganda's market compare with those in other countries where you have worked?
Of course each market is different. It is true the Uganda market is similar to some in Africa, say Nigeria and Zimbabwe, where I have worked, but each is unique in its nature. Compared to Europe it is quite different both in terms of products and other features. Partly it's due to the weather, which is different in Europe, and so the products sold and the demand for them, are different.
What is your market share in the petroleum industry in Uganda and how have you managed to maintain it?
Our market share is over 20%, but the exact figure fluctuates. We try to dedicate our time to customer service to ensure we provide quality products. We have continued our investment to ensure we have storage facilities, stations and ensuring that we are bringing customer services nearer to the customer for his convenience. We try all the time to bring in new services and products so we are at par with our customers.
What has changed since you acquired the operations that belonged to Caltex?
We have rebranded all the stations and they look good, and we are continuing to invest in them. The acquisition means we see our future in Uganda and we are going to continue investing in the country.
Where do you see Total in the next few years?
I see it as a strong player in the market. We have been here for over 50 years and plan to stay much longer. We will continue to innovate to improve customer service and products. We will continue with initiatives on road safety, education, health and to build partnerships with other companies and government.
What has been your main contribution to Uganda's economy over the years?
We pay taxes, employ people, do corporate social responsibility, etc. I do not have the figures with me but we do a lot and we expect to do more.
What advantages do female managers have over males?
That's tricky. But to me management has nothing to do with sex. I think the basic management principles - being able to listen, to exchange ideas, to encourage participation and solidarity, build partnerships, being available and accessible among others - apply equally to men and women.