In a bid to build capacities of local farmers in the oil-rich Bunyoro sub-region, Stanbic bank has opened an Agricultural Enterprise Development centre in Hoima district. Located in Bujumbura division, Hoima Municipality, the centre wants to empower farmers to tap the agricultural market in the oil and gas sector.
The centre will empower, train farmers and expose them to capital and partnerships that will enable them meet the standards required to supply food to the oil market. The centre is meant to expand the bank's incubation programme that is aimed at empowering and improving on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country, bank officials said.
The centre was launched in partnership with Tullow Uganda Operations Pty Ltd this November 2019 and it will train farmers in business management, expose them to financial resources and markets, says Tony Otoa, Stanbic bank's head of Enterprise Development.
"The centre will help in addressing agribusiness challenges in the Albertine graben districts. We have partnered with Tullow Uganda to amplify our SME training programme in the Albertine region" he says. According to Otoa, the bank and its partners have so far invested over Shs 500 million in setting up and operationalizing the centre. He said in partnership with CNOOC Uganda Ltd, Total E&P Uganda in collaboration with Self Help Africa and the Petroleum Authority of Uganda, Stanbic bank undertook a study in Hoima, Kikuube, Nwoya and Buliisa to assess the capacities of farmers to supply the oil and gas industry.
According to the study, many farmers were found to be engaged in subsistence agriculture, producing quantities of food that are not sufficient for consumption and meeting the commercial demands and standards of the oil industry.
The Stanbic bank Chief Executive (in Uganda), Patrick Mweheire says the bank will continue empowering SMEs to grow since they play a key role in economic development. "As part of our commitment to growing SMEs in Uganda, particularly in the agriculture value chain, we have taken the business incubator programme to regions starting with the Agriculture centre in Hoima. We shall also launch regional business incubation centres in Gulu, Mbale and Mbarara later this year" Mweheire shared.
He said the bank has so far trained over 1,000 SMEs and it will continue undertaking trainings that support small and medium scale enterprises. "We cannot achieve sustainable development without empowering and improving on SMEs which are playing a vital role in Uganda's economy. Since we are interested in inclusive growth, we are spending and training them so that we touch the lives of many people who are engaged in such enterprises" he says.
According to Jimmy Mugerwa, the outgoing General Manager of Tullow Uganda Operations Pty Ltd, during the oil exploration phase, Tullow partnered with Traidlinks to start an agriculture supply chain programme that improved on the capacities of farmers to be able to supply goods and services to oil operations. He says the centre had over 2,500 farmers supplying food to oil camps, Kampala and other markets.
"We are hoping that people will take advantage of this agriculture development programme to improve on their productivity, agronomy practices, post-harvest handling and marketing" Mugerwa hinted. He further said as the country prepares for commercial production, people should improve on their business operations and tap the opportunities in the oil industry, agriculture, tourism and business sectors.
Locals in the oil-rich Bunyoro region have been accusing oil companies of side-lining them in accessing opportunities in supplying goods and services in the oil and gas industry.
The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) which regulates oil developments is conducting registration of suppliers under the national supplier data base where oil firms and contractors source for suppliers. PAU's Corporate Affairs and Public Relations Manager, Gloria Ssebikari says all farmers, business firms and contractors who want to tap into businesses in the oil and gas industry should enrol on the National Supplier Database (NSD). Created in 2017, the database has over 1,500 registered businesses.
Estimated cumulative value retention worth $ 900 million (28%) is reported to have remained in the Ugandan economy arising from the initial oil and gas exploration phase. More than $ 20 billion are expected to be invested in the upcoming phase of development (of the up-stream and mid-stream segments). This value is phenomenal and definitely calls for greater involvement of local businesses and stakeholders so at to enable real economic transformation with a "human face"