Heart-to-heart Cooperation: CNOOC’s housing project for residents in oil reach areas deserves Kudos

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After the government of Republic of Uganda announced that the country had discovered commercially viable oil deposits in the Albertine basin, many people especially in mid-western districts of Buliisa, Hoima and Kikuube where oil deposits were discovered welcomed the news with excitement. The government of Uganda also noted that the discovery of oil was a blessing stressing that many Ugandans would directly and indirectly benefit from discovered oil projecting that Uganda will earn between $2 billion and $3 billion annually once commercial oil production begins.

Due to speculation, cases and claims of land grabbing in the region were registered with some reports alleging people were being displaced from their land to pave way for oil production as was the case in Hoima where many were displaced to construct an oil waste plant. This resulted into fears among some locals fearing they may miss out compensation in case their land was selected to be used.

Today, even before commercial oil production, residents are already enjoying fruits of oil production activities, thanks to the companies involved in oil production projects.

For example, on top of compensating locals whose land fall in areas China National Offshore Oil Corporation or CNOOC is meant to drill oil or operate from there, the company has completed more than 56 modern house units with water tanks and solar power which will be handed to locals. Also, to benefit are communities, the company has separately constructed two modern toilets for the church and a school. With no doubt, the beneficiaries of the said projects in sub counties of Kabwoya, Kyangwali and Buseruka in Kikuube and Hoima district respectively is evidence that once companies that identify with locals’ needs working heart-to-heart, challenges that come with mega developments projects, in this context so-called oil course can be avoided as both locals and the nation gain from the project.

Arguably, for developmental projects to benefit the wider community or nation in this case, such development should start by benefiting the locals. In oil exploration project from Uganda’s perspective, CNOOC has scored and should be commended for not displacing and leaving local citizens in misery promising better in the “near future.”  As many waits for benefits that will come with oil production, at least those affected by the production preparations have where to stay comfortably with their families, thanks to CNOOC’s Heart-to-heart Cooperation.

In terms of employment opportunities, firms exploring Uganda’s oil are also fairly employing Ugandans. For example, in China’s CNOOC, Ugandan employees make up to 78 percent of the company’s total employees. Even in key sectors such as engineering and construction activities, the company is employing more Ugandans (581) which accounts to over 81 percent. From the above, whether CNOOC is employing more Ugandans as a way of complying with government’s policy of employing more citizens, CNOOC deserves kudos especially for putting Ugandans first in their work.

Another area that is always ignored in oil exploration activities is addressing environmental concerns. While in Kyabusambu, Kikuube district where we were collecting data for our study, we found CNOOC had mobilised their employees for a community clean up exercise and later donated cleaning equipments to residents. Beyond the usually social responsibility stunt, CNOOC involving community members in cleaning their community and collecting and removing plastic wastes from lake showers is a good gesture that should be emulated since it goes beyond social responsibility to showing concerns over our environment. Caring for environment is very key considering the fact that it helps to mitigates any environmental concern with possibility of compromising and affecting future generation needs.

Apart from direct early benefits of oil exploration to residents in Albertine region, driving through the region – from Hoima, to Buliisa and Kikuube, it is evident that Uganda is destined for big and good things. Just two months after the Final investment decision (FID) was signed which experts explain marked the unlocking a capital investment of $10b in Uganda’s oil related contracts, driving through the now famous rift valley located in Kikuube district as you head to the area with more oil fields – Kingfisher which is operated by China’s CNOOC shows how promising Uganda’s future will be.

At Kingfisher the feeling is clear and it is evident the place has changed and development is on high speed with drills and construction of mega oil well pads (a well pad is a graded area which is used in oil drilling.) One can only imagine and wait with excitement wondering how the place will look upon completion. CNOOC set 2023 as target period for completion of well pads and today, work stands at 11%.

Allawi Ssemanda and Katende Arnold Ricky are research Fellows at Development Watch Centre.





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