Archive for the ‘Natural Resource’ Category

tea-plantation-2098741_1280

Tree Plantation in Mukono, Uganda

A country with immense natural resources endowed with concourses of opportunities but littered with countless abuses by politicians and public servants that have failed us to reach our potential. We lack the public will to secure own our food when hunger strikes hard. So we are a hungry nation with failed agricultural promises and policies. 
 
Our exceptional climatic conditions, fertile soils and two planting seasons make us such a potential agricultural rich country. We live in a country where 75 percent of our citizens male, female and youth are engaged in agriculture-related businesses. 72 percent of our sisters, wives and mothers are employed in agriculture and this even gets higher for the rural Ugandan woman. 
 
I have been privileged to witness the failed policies of this regime for a period of 31 years. As a young man who was born in Jinja. I grew up seeing Busoga Cooperative Society work for the farmers from that part of the country and as the sun fades away to let the night take its place was the promise from good to worse in the late 1990s for the farmers across the country when the work of cooperative societies started to be interfered with by the regime agents.
 
We have seen the fights between the Bugisu Cooperative Union where the agents of the regime took over and billions were stolen and it almost crumbled if it was not the defiant spirit of Hon Nathan Nandala Mafabi we stood up for the farmers of coffee in that sub-region.
 
My point here is how can you fail to see where your potential lies as a government? Uganda is a country at the heart of Great Lakes Region with a blessed fertile soil and a good amount of rains but still, we have failed to seize the opportunity of being the region’s food basket even if we had the rains. The waters of River Nile seem to be working miracles for Egypt and they are willing to go to war if anyone ever tampered with the flow of that water. But being at the source what have we done to utilise the waters of this river?
 
Our smallholder farmers are hard working men and women who have fought for their survival amidst failed promises and policies from the regime. The problem of our country has never been that we lack food or produce. No! Our farmers have been dealing with a huge Post-Harvest-Loss problem for a long time. Even when there is a huge harvest, there is no government policy to stabilise the prices of our produce so the only way would then be to sell cheaply in order to avoid the produce from rotting away.
 
A government that cares not for its people deserves not any mandate to manage public affairs.
This government has failed to see that food insecurity is such a big and costly problem. As the country is ravaged by a drought that has left many hungry and without food still there is no debate about food security and ways on how to help keep the country’s food secure for such hards times. As we seek to save lives by providing food to those in need we need to unite under a bi-partisan umbrella to care for those without food rather than shooting at those who have come with food to share it with those without. We cannot seek to secure our political images at the heart of those who are dying of hunger we must unite as a nation to save our own. Uganda Police should not be naive to the point of shelving away common sense, even robots have emotions and can judge good from bad, I implore our men and women in uniform to be smart. There are silly orders that can be ignored for the common good.
 
As I conclude I would like to call on Parliament to engage into constructive policy debates that can only put our country first and it is time to debate about an agricultural policy that solves problems like lack of food for our people. 
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The quality of a country’s policies and governance depends on the strength of its Institutions and those appointed to led in those institutions. The ongoing Parliamentary inquiry into the Presidential Handshake tells you how easy it is for a patronage system to misuse institutions to share or loot resources meant for the entire nation.
As a country, we have a crumbling economy that was brought due to systematic indolence and incompetence. In a normal functioning country, institutions can easily change their policy instruments to be able to rectify emerging problems or challenges. In a serious country where good governance is taken seriously heads roll, people lose jobs for abusing their authority.
Power is in the hands of a certain socio-economic group, that controls institutions to their benefit rather than the entire population of Uganda. The fact that millions of dollars were signed off to the pockets of a few people using unlawful means entirely reveals the oil presidential handshake a true image of a patronage led economy and an act that has robbed the entire population.
The Presidential Handshake is just but the smallest question in the oil tax scandal that Ugandans should be asking. The question is why should a tax body Uganda Revenue Authority whose job was to make sure that Uganda gets her taxes amounting to US$407 million in capital gains tax in a such a big case that had been heard and won before Uganda Tax Appeals tribunal be pulled out from the same court where Uganda won a case against Heritage Oil? The precedent set by the Heritage Oil case would have been the guiding principle to stay the Tullow Oil versus Uganda Revenue Authority case in the same court hoping to win it for Uganda.
The reason Government of Uganda took this case to the International Tribunal they were convinced they had a good case, why would they go in for settling out of court through a confidential Memorandum of Understanding with Tullow Oil for a lesser amount?
On 15 March 2011, they rushed to the International Tribunal and applied to withdraw the case and settle of out of court? And Tullow made an announcement on their website; Tullow settles Capital Gains Tax dispute in Uganda
We are setting our eyes on just US$20 million but there is a problem, those who might have benefitted from the out of court settlement must have walked away with millions of dollars close to US$157 million. We must ask serious questions in whose interest was that memorandum of understanding between Tullow Oil and Government of Uganda? Why has that Memorandum of Understanding been never made public? Was it a private or personal document and yet it was made on behalf of the people of Uganda?
So this so called Presidential Handshake is just a mirror of other handshakes and that is why it points back to the patronage. You see if that case had not been tampered with, the money it would have brought would have benefited the entire population, but because we are living in a patronage led economy the economic fortunes of many are shared with those who they know rather than what they know and can do for the whole country. The continual circumvention of the tax laws is abused in order to favour their group.
If you look at the way the list was generated the biggest number of the beneficiaries depend on the good will of their master and personal contacts within the group. You have seen that everyone is questioning how the list was generated but no law was followed in generating the list and so the same happened with the way they accessed public funds to reward themselves. That group of people have a problem with a well-functioning government and institutions, that would make it difficult for them to be able to circumvent the laws for their personal gains.
We live in a system that does not care about educational qualifications, that doesn’t care about hiring people on merit because of their skill-set, where institutions are led and controlled by a certain class of people and the socio-economic group that is interested in enriching themselves as opposed to serving the population. This group is behind the Presidential handshake on oil and their role is to cover up for the bigger handshake.
We must ask the real tough questions regarding our oil money. Over US$180 Million was stolen and that is what we should be looking for not just US$20 Million.
Hon. Nathan Nandala-Mafabi Chairman BCU & MP Budadiri West

Hon. Nathan Nandala-Mafabi Chairman BCU & MP Budadiri West

  1. On behalf of Ugandans who value knowledge and on my own behalf, allow me to congratulate Hon Dr. Ezra Sabiti Suruma, for availing this sincere piece of knowledge to us. It takes a lot of wisdom, courage and thinking above -self to come out with such a damning and insightful writing if you are a member of the ruling party and an Economic Advisor to the President. Suruma, I salute you and hope that others will come out to give their candid opinions about the affairs in our country.
  2. This is a comment on chapter 17 “Oil: Blessing or Curse”. I will mention the areas I agree with the author then move on to give some other considerations about Uganda’s oil management.
  3. My first point of agreement is that indeed, Uganda’s unemployment and under employment levels are turning into a security threat and as Dr. Suruma’s statistics on students enrolment show, in five to seven years, if nothing is done, the situation could go out of hand. If 366,423 students completed national secondary program in 2010 and only half proceeded to post secondary, it means that about 183,211 youth entered the job market[1]. This number is then added to the thousands   who graduate every year but find no employment. In simple terms, we are talking about thousands of young people on the street every year. These energetic but idle youth pose a bigger threat similar to Al’ Shabab, yet, government continues paying lip service to productive sectors like agriculture that could absorb this labour.
  4. I agree with the author that the oil sector if well managed will create a lot of opportunities such as drivers, wielders, accountants and many others as listed by Dr. Suruma on pg 138[2]. Yet, as discussed, this will also come with other distortions as many people are likely to be excited over oil money. We draw the example from Gabon, where oil money has created a feeling that other menial jobs are below standards of the people of Gabon[3]. Artisan work is left to other African migrants from neighbouring states like Congo, Togo or Ghana. Also, while the per capita income of Equatorial Guinea rose from $ 368 in 1990 to over $2000 in 2000 as a result of oil, it is documented that the country slipped ten places  down the United Nations Human Development ranking[4] and the country’s   agriculture and manufacturing sectors  fell to less than two percent[5]
  5. On ‘who has the right to oil money’ I again totally agree with Dr. Suruma that some of this money must go directly to address the dehumanizing conditions in which our people have been condemned to live. Actually government should not wait for oil money to address the plight of the unemployed, people with disabilities, the terminally sick and all other vulnerable groups.  We should have started this yesterday so that oil money can only make a boast. The money that the President carries in bags and dolls out to his cronies during his internal travels must be put in a fund and given to the very deserving vulnerable people.
  6. Indeed, corruption and absorption capacity are big threats to our oil revenues. The raging Mukono/ Katosi saga is an eye opener of what would happen if over $2bilion was allocated to the infrastructure sector. But beyond poverty and income insecurity causing corruption as highlighted in the book, there are other underlying factors that the author fails to bring out. In Uganda, corruption is on the increase despite the extensive institutional mechanisms aimed at curtailing the vice because of the lack of will by those in power.  Uganda is now the second most corrupt country in East Africa after Burundi[6]
  7. Having noted the above, I would like to state that Dr. Suruma has written with a lot of reservations perhaps due to his position in government. I am more inclined to think that Uganda’s oil has already turning into a curse and I have reasons to think so.
  8. Countries like Norway whose citizenry has benefitted from oil and other mineral resources are very transparent. This is missing in Uganda. Much of the information about oil is held by very few people. The country is yet to sign the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) agreements. The minister for Energy has in several foras promised to do so but nothing has materialized. The other guiding pointer to this oil curse is to consider the institution and persons guarding the oil fields in the Albertan region. Is it the Uganda police or some other security entities and why?
  9. Also, good oil management has been exercised in democratic  countries like Botswana which is in contrast with the stark dictatorship in Uganda. Eventually, it has become a reality that whoever aspires for the top leadership of the country is treated as an enemy of the President! I laughed when I read on pg 145, Dr. Suruma saying, ‘The NRMs original philosophy rested on two pillars; anti sectarianism and anti totalitarianism[7]. Am sure Dr. Suruma would want to revise this sentence given the circumstances that have unfolded in the last five days. President Museveni has already emulated the late Umar Bongo, whose management of oil was done by his family and a few loyalists in State House. Before he passed away, the late Bongo acted like a village super chief, resolving disputes, intervening in students’ strikes and handing out cash![8]
  10. Remember why Hon. Ssekikubo, Hon. Niwagaba, Hon. Tinka and Hon. Nsereko were expelled because they raised governance issues in oil sector. Umeme contract renewed for 20 years, without due diligence by same Minister of Energy who approved the contract while a Civil servant. This is same person managing oil sector.
  11. The other issue that I felt Dr. Suruma should have addressed is the role of the international agencies in Uganda’s emerging oil sector. Many times, development partners, multi-nationals companies, the World Bank and IMF have ignored local voices demanding for democracy and instead chosen to entrench the dictators who serve their interests[9]. We know that while oil is a cause of conflict, external actors like Private Security organizations, mercenaries, International traders, armed suppliers and other powers pursuing strategic and economic interests have fueled these conflicts[10] . Is Uganda able to maneuver these international lobbyists with multi-layered interests to ensure that Ugandans benefit from the oil resource?
  12. I agree with Dr. Suruma’s call that the opposition should “stand shoulder to shoulder with government to maximize an opportunity that at best arises once in a life time”[11]. However, this can only be possible if government revisits its perspective and begins treating opposition like partners in this country rather than foes. If government allies with particular multinational companies to oppress the opposition, there is no way the opposition will not ally with another.
  13. In Conclusion, I agree that oil is a great opportunity for Ugandans which could lift many Ugandan lives from the tortuous unemployment and humiliating poverty levels. I also have agreed that in using proceeds from oil, we need to think beyond roads and dams and provide immediate needs to vulnerable groups in the country; and that there is need to strengthen capacity and fight corruption which pose a threat to the countries oil sector.
  14. I however think that given the increasing totalitarian tendencies exhibited by the President and his ruling class, there is no hope that Ugandans will benefit from the oil resource. I have highlighted that as a country, we need to be keen about multinational companies and lobbyists who often fuel internal conflict in oil resource countries for their selfish interests. I support the issue of transferring 50% directly to the population and putting 50% to support the budget.
  15. Once again, I thank Dr. Ezra Suruma for finding time to piece up this very enlightening book.

Nathan Nandala Mafabi

Chairman Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU) 

MP Budadiri West

[1] Suruma E. Sabiti; Advancing The Ugandan Economy: A personal Account pg 135

[2]  Ibid pg 138

[3] Nicholas Shaxson (2007);  Poisoned Wells: The dirty politics of African  oil pg 66

[4]  Ibid pg 142

[5] Nicholas Shaxson (2007), Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African  Oil pg 142

[6]  http://www.google.co.ug/#q=corruption+index+2014

[7] Advancing  The Ugandan Economy: A personal account pg 145

[8] Shaxson  (2007), Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil  pg 76

[9] Massey &May, (2010) Oil and War in Chad  in Southall Roger & Melber Henning  ; The Scramble for Africa, pg 223

[10]  Obi Cyril (2010), Scrambling for Oil in West Africa in Southall Roger & Melber Henning; The Scramble for Africa pg 199

[11]  Advancing The Ugandan Economy: A personal Account pg  146

This is according to Steve Harley, President of the Energy Sector, for DHL Customer Solutions & Innovations (http://www.dhl.com). Harley says that these energy finds provide many possibilities for local businesses, to echo the express operator’s own marked increase in the transportation of energy-related material in the region.

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Harley says that forecasts expect African oil supply growth to continue over the next 25 years, with predicted ranges of growth over the period of between 0.5 million and 2.0 million barrels per day. “Africa will need to adapt in order to keep up with the demand, as well as evolving trends in this highly competitive sector.”

He says that globally, the steady and reliable supply of energy is critical to economic activity, and due to Africa’s availability of the resource, it is expected that the continent will see continued and steady economic growth.

(more…)

Palm on_1378875277

Centre for Management Technology, with supporters OLAM and Gabonese Ministry of Agriculture will host 2nd Palm Oil Africa on 17-19 Oct, 2013 in Libreville, Gabon, a fast emerging key palm oil investment hub. It will unravel challenges as Gabon aspires to become the largest agriculture producer by 2020.

Africa is tipped to emerge as a global palm oil hub due to influx of investors seeking diverse participatory models in the Africa palm oil chain. Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria are all tapping into new palm driven opportunities. Will this lead to Africa shifting from a net importer to an exporter? With sustainable protocols at its infancy in Africa how soon will it conform to RSPO norms? To what extent will Africa with inherent limitations in climate, infrastructural and production models catch up with dominant Indonesian and Malaysian players?

Held under the Patronage of His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon, 2nd Palm Oil Africa held on 17-19 Oct, 2013 in Libreville, Gabon and supported by OLAM, will address sustainability and viability of palm oil business models in the region; define evolving structure of the palm oil industry, foreign participation and the palm oil value chain from seeds to high end products. Gabon is fast emerging as a key palm oil centre attracting big investments and is poised to emerge as one of the largest producers by 2020 with favorable agriculture investment policies.

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Hon. Maria Kiwanuka

Hon. Maria Kiwanuka – Minister of Finance

Today I was privileged to be part of the conference organized by Global Rights Alert and Oil in Uganda on Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative – EITI a mechanism that fosters transparency amongst oil companies and oil producing countries. This is meant to create an avenue where the people of a given country see through the oil revenue and proceeds in a transparent manner that creates no suspicions or even could turn out to be a source of conflict in any country where transparency has lacked.

This conference opened by the remarks from the Vice Chairman of the committee on oil Hon. Michael Mawanda of Igara West MP also Member of Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas (PFOG) who invited the Hon. Peter Lokeris, Minister of State for Mineral Development. And in his words; “This conference comes at the right time when government is preparing to enact more laws to regulate the oil sector. Transparency is key in making sure the oil sector moves in the right direction.”

Uganda estimates to have more 3.5 billion barrels and US$0.2 billion so far has been invested in the oil sector. According the existing legislation, Uganda is expected to start a national oil company but there is fear that the process of the company is not on the table yet transactions are being carried out.

There is fear that the oil proceeds will be all kept in the consolidated fund, where taxpayers’ money has never been safe at least not when the president of Uganda still harbors strong financial indiscipline towards taxpayer’s money. The Minister of Finance Hon. Maria Kiwanuka reviewed that the proceeds of oil will be sent to the consolidated fund as she made her remarks and presented on Government’s preparedness for transparency in the oil sector. As a citizen I may ask what grantee I have if the president raided the consolidated fund in the past and went ahead to purchase jet fighters without the approval of Parliament. (more…)

Such an inspiring piece.

The FARA Social Reporters Blog

“It isn’t where you came from,
its where you’re going that counts.”
—Ella Fitzgerald

Few young people raise to a position, early in their career, where they can inspire others and make a change. For those who do, even fewer dare to take the risk then, to stand up, and push for changes.

Idowu Okheren Ejere is one of those few. As a young Nigerian diplomat and researcher, she is presently the Communication and Public Awareness Officer at FARA. Given the opportunity to coordinate the media outreach at the upcoming Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), she took her task as an opportunity to use young people’s enthusiasm for social media, and pull them into the conference’s social reporting team.

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