By Francis Kagolo
ONLY about 150,000 Ugandans will be employed directly in the oil industry, the energy ministry has said, urging Government not to neglect other sectors that support the economy even as it focuses on oil production.
According to forecasts, majority (65%) of the oil sector jobs will be technicians. Bernard Ongodia, a senior geophysicist in the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD), said, contrary to public perception, the oil sector will not create millions of jobs directly.
“This means we need not to abandon other sectors especially agriculture which is the country’s biggest employer,” Ongodia told a group of journalists during an oil reporting training at the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) offices in Kampala .
A total of 3.5 billion barrels of commercial oil deposits have been discovered in the 111 successful wells drilled in the Albertine Graben. Of this only between 1.2 and 1.7 billion barrels (about 30%) of oil will be recovered (produced), according to Ongodia.
Activists and extractive industry experts have warned that Uganda’s oil resource could turn into a curse if the industry is promoted at the cost of other sectors.
Besides corruption and mismanagement, the oil curse in countries like Nigeria is majorly blamed on the Government and population focusing only on oil and neglecting agriculture and other sectors.
The World Bank has estimated that as a result of corruption, 80% of energy revenues in Nigeria only benefit 1% of the population.
The agricultural industry, which accounts for 26.8% of GDP and two-thirds of employment, has seen a decline in productivity due to years of neglect. Nigeria has immense potential to be a key exporter of food and livestock, yet it now relies on imports of food to support its rapidly growing population.
The country was once a lead exporter in cocoa, rubber, and palm oil but now production of all three has declined sharply over the past 25 years.
“Since we announced commercial oil deposits almost every Ugandan now thinks of studying oil related courses or setting up a business connected to the oil sector. This is not good for the economy,” warned Ongodia.
“As we continue advising Government not to neglect agriculture which employs over 65% of the population and other sectors, Ugandans should also know that oil is not the only sector to work in. First of all the 150,000 jobs are not many.”
Betty Namubiru, the national content and capacity development manager at PEPD, also advised those seeking opportunities in the oil sector to think beyond direct employment.
“Globally, oil and gas sector is not a mass employer. Only a few people like engineers will be employed directly. This shows we have to target indirect opportunities like offering hotel services and food.”
Namubiru however, explained that the ministry is developing a national content policy to further guide international oil companies on how to increase nationals in their job structures and use local products and services.
The policy, which is expected to be ready by June, will also lay strategies for supporting education institutions to produce graduates with the requisite skills to work in the oil sector.
“We want these companies to have succession plans for replacing expatriates with Ugandans workers. There should be a Ugandan to understudy a foreigner and the period should be known.”