The Deputy Commander Operations, Wealth Creation, Uganda, Lt. Gen. Charles Angina, in this interview with Peace Obi states that his country would find Nigeria's experience very handy as the country joins the comity of African oil producing states. Excerpts:
Uganda in addition to the discovery of oil has also discovered commercial deposit of natural gas, what is your country's plan towards tapping these resources?
Our government and President, Yoweri Museveni, have said that these resources would be committed towards infrastructure development in order to create conducive environment for investment and also for smooth running of businesses in the country.
Are you considering a business relationship with Nigerian government, having been in the business of oil for some years now?
Absolutely yes! Nigeria is our admired African country who have demonstrated and exhibited local content in building and running its energy sector. And they have managed to promote this particular sector to a point that Nigerians now actively involved in different segments of the nation's oil and gas sector. We felt Nigeria is the best country to come and learn from as well as work with our brothers and sisters of Nigeria, so that we can be able to do the same in building the local content in Uganda, so that together we benefit as Africans.
Has the Ugandan government taken any practical steps to that effect?
Yes, we have done so through our brother, Engr. Emeka Okwuosa who has visited Uganda in a number of occasions and we are at an advanced stage in operationalising this move.
Are there lessons your country can learn from Nigeria's over 50 years' experience in oil business?
Yes, we stand to learn quite a lot from the Nigerian experience. One is that Nigeria has built the capacity of running this sector of oil and gas. And they have run it for many years on their own. They have also gone through some ups and down in the process and have come out fine. As it stands today, most of what we see in the field today, in terms of operators and operations in the sector were formerly dominated and run by foreign companies like Shell, Total, ExxonMobil, but today, Nigeria has gained substantial control of this sector. And we believe that if we work with Nigeria in this journey, it will be the best way for African to go.
Are you considering some of the Nigeria's policies in oil and gas sector management?
That is the bottom line. We do not want to reinvent the wheels when our brothers and sisters from Nigeria have already gone through this experience. We are learning lessons from Nigeria's experience and we believe that together as Africans and in the spirit of PanAfricanism, we need to take lessons from the success of Nigeria in order to quickly redeem time and be able to take advantage of this discovery.
What plans do you have in place towards developing the human and material resources needed in the sector to guard against overbearing dominance of foreigners operators as well as capital flight?
The process is on-going and we have already put up policies towards ensuring that this is checked. And we would want to quickly train and provide skills for as many Ugandans as possible so that most of the personnel involve in taking these resources out are done and utilised within the country and the region at large. We, on our own as regional countries will be able to control most of these resources when we have quality manpower in strategic areas. And if we are to develop our industries, our businesses and different sectors, certainly, we would need quality and competent manpower to effectively run the petroleum sector. So, it is one of the prioritised areas of focus of the government and the President of Uganda to rightly equip her citizenry with the needed skills to harness its resources to the benefit of every Ugandan citizen.
Education is said to be the basic tool for both individual and national development; is your country considering adjusting its educational policies to accommodate the emerging demand?
Yes, in our educational curriculum, we have put all of this in place, only that it is still at its infancy stage. And we believe learning lessons from Nigeria we will be able to catch up and implement some educational policies that would aid proper development of this important sector. We appreciate the strategic role education plays in the developmental process of any people. This is because when people get educated, they have their capacity developed and improved upon. You would also realise that it makes the attainment of the developmental goals easier and achievable within a reasonable time frame.
At the moment, are you considering a direct business relationship with the country or do you have a go between your country and Nigeria?
At the moment, our flagship is Oil Serve Limited. They are the ones who have made an effort to link up with Uganda and we feel that it is divinely orchestrated and through them we will be able to connect with different government's investment platforms in Nigeria, together with the private-sector driven economy of Nigeria. And we will be able to do much, much more together from both fronts - government and private sector engagement.
As Uganda joins the league of African Oil Producing Countries, where do you see the African continent in self-management of its God-given resources in the next 20 years?
Certainly, we will become self-sustaining given that Nigeria has proven to be a lead in this aspect of local content. So, it leaves us with no other option than to take this particular direction so that in the next 20 to 30 years, we will be able to maintain and sustain this oil and gas sector to the benefit and development of the continent. We would also be able to attain self-sufficiency in human and material resources such that we would be able to build the pipelines, gas capacity and to continue to have trainers of trainers as we come to Nigeria, learn from some of her experiences and go back, my rain and build more capacity.
Nigeria has come a long way in oil production, however, one of its major challenges has been inability to sufficiently refine its crude oil internally, what is Uganda's plan in setting up to deal with this aspect of the oil sector?
That one is for certain. The refinery is under procurement and we will not have our oil go out of our country in crude form, it is going to be refined in Uganda. It is some of the things we have in the pipeline as gear towards tapping the resources.
Where do you see African unity with your country's intended bilateral relationship with Nigeria?
This certainly will create more solidarity and give Africa the aspect of being proud of what we have. And I believe we shall be able to negotiate better with the western world and all those other big economies that are outside our continent. Because our unity is our strength, our unity gives us room to negotiate better. We shall be able to choose what we think is good for the continent rather than as we were conditioned in the past because of lack of unity, capacity and resources. All these are coming handy for us to have an upper hand in this situation.
Are there some mistakes you feel African continent made in the past that your country would like the young Africans to guard against?
The past failures of the continent has more to do with lack of unity and Africans accepting to be used against themselves, like in wars that diverted us, took our time, caused us to fight among ourselves and we lost out in both human and material resources. The other aspect that has affected Africa for a long time is corruption that is greed; a situation where people want to have more than they needed. But all these things are being addressed and I see Africa with a much brighter future with the current crop of leadership we have across the continent.
So, do you think Africa's democracy is growing and moving towards better leadership?
Absolutely; And we can see African democracy taking root, and which will certainly be able to work very well for us, rather than being forced with democracy that does not bring reality with the situations we face on the ground. We need democracies that are grounded to our culture and to our tradition.