Friday, December 13, 2013

EPRC raises the bar for oil discussions in Uganda

By Esther Nakkazi

Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development officials have commended the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) for the research on oil for intergenerational equity. They say EPRC researchers have raised the level of discussion in the oil and gas sector taking adequate stock of what has been done and giving a positive look at what will happen.

The research is in a published paper entitled ‘Accelerating Growth and maintaining Intergenerational Equity using oil resources in Uganda,’ presented in Kampala on 10th December 2013 by Lawrence Bategeka, a senior Research Fellow at EPRC and Joseph Mawejje a Research Analyst at EPRC.

The paper suggests things Uganda should do right to avoid the natural resource curse and to ensure that the benefits from oil accrue equally to the current as well as future generations.

“It is good to have the academicians and researchers talking about oil. The country can now have an engagement between the people who know and people who do,” said Ernest Rubondo, the commissioner for Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD) at the Ministry of Energy.

“We have only walked the journey of exploration and this has been done well.”

The paper focuses on three issues: resource, oil revenue and environmental management. It explains the legal and regulatory framework - the National Oil and Gas Policy, which proposed three key institutions; Directorate of Petroleum in Ministry of Energy to provide monitoring and policy direction, The Petroleum Authority – as regulator of the sector; and the National Oil Company – to manage the commercial aspects of the petroleum activities on behalf of the state.

Rubondo says the paper by EPRC researchers is an improvement of the discussion about oil in Uganda. “The arguments are better, it is readable and since oil is becoming a big animal, all of us should participate,” said Rubondo.

He corrected the impression about Uganda oil licensing moratorium and said it was an effective licensing strategy –taken since 2007- and it is a disciplined decision as Uganda had to first of all put the necessary legal framework in place. ‘This effort also provides for intergenerational equity.’

Ronald Kaggwa the director Policy, Planning and Information at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) said the report is tilted more to the economic side and less on the environment.

While Bategeka said NEMA lacks capacity with only 13 of the 38 staff required to do a good job, Kaggwa said NEMA is not the only manager of the environment in Uganda. He also said he was disappointed that the paper does not talk about what has been done in terms of readiness to the environment and concentrates so much on conservation ignoring other areas.

He emphasized that all projects implemented in the Albertine Graben undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by NEMA, which does not necessarily always approve applications as was alledged.

“Investment in the ecological infrastructure is a public good we need to invest in. There are risks but the returns are high and it is the best way to achieve rural development,” said Kaggwa.

Ms. Pamela Natamba a senior manager at Pricewaterhousecoppers (PwC) said management of oil resources needs a delicate balance. She said the paper was clear with goals of different actors well spelt out but even if the revenue management policy had been well written nothing was said about its implementation.

Member of Parliament for Buliisa Stephen Biraahwa Mukitale suggested that Uganda should not keep its oil money in a dollarized account because it will finance foreign economies and said he supports a single account for oil revenues.

Interesting, he also suggested that ‘Uganda should use oil money in creating a national airline?’ and that more investment should be put into knowing what Uganda has in other sectors. “If you know what you have then you are at the stronger side and can negotiate better. I suggest that government should give money to the have-nots,” said Biraahwa.

He also wanted to know about the development plan and suggested that there should be a road map, coasted with time lines because that is ‘what business is’. Oil is about leadership and it is about a balancing-act, said Biraahwa.

Currently, the debate on oil in Uganda is about front loading funds in form of a big push, a Marshall plan to fix the infrastructure. IMF says they are limiting Uganda’s front loading to $1.5 million commercial borrowing and the World Bank says Uganda should just get concessional money.

More issues were raised during the discussion about why Uganda should build a pipeline, which will be useless when oil that will only last for 30 years is finished. Why not build a railway? Meanwhile, Rwanda is already negotiating with Uganda on prospects of the pipeline.

Some participants asked why we should not front-load development. Why not front load and we finish the infrastructure problem? Clarity on the forecast of how much money is expected from oil during its production life -$10 billion, $50 billion, over $250 billion was also raised.

Ivan Mugabi from NAPE was sure that since oil waste is accumulating, Uganda is already in the production stage. “Waste is accumulating to levels that suggest production,” said Mugabi.

But Rubondo assured that oil waste is produced at every stage of oil production. For instance at the exploration stage now there is already waste or cuttings.

Rubondo said the paper focuses on specific aspects but it should focus on other aspects too so that these are not seen in isolation. He also said some of the recommendations made the researchers have already been put in the oil policy.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Young Professionals can now apply to join the Movement for Health Equity

Applications for the 2014-15 Global Health Corps (GHC) fellowship are now open. It is the sixth class of fellows and young professionals who want to make an impact in global health and development should apply for its fellowships in Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and the United States.

GHC is creating a new breed of health sector leaders - a global community of changemakers - that develop innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging health problems.

GHC now seeks to engage young professionals with skill-sets that are often viewed as outside of the traditional health field, such as financial managers, communications specialists, architects, computer scientists and supply chain analysts.

Through the fellowship, these professionals apply their expertise to help address urgent global health challenges by working with Ministries of Health, non-profits and other health organizations. Fellows work on issues such as HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, agriculture and health financing.

“Global Health Corps is proud to recruit its sixth class of outstanding fellows,” said CEO and co-founder Barbara Bush. “The GHC community is comprised of young leaders who share a common belief that health is a human right, and we invite passionate young leaders who are committed to social justice to apply for the fellowship and join the fight for health equity.”

According to Barbara Barungi Kayanja the CHC East Africa Regional Director, they have contributed to increasing employment opportunities for they youth in Uganda as all the fellows who have gone through the program are now employed.

“We provide an entry point to fellows interested in working in Global health although they may not have a health background. So far 37 Ugandans have found jobs after our fellowship with their placement organization, government or another health organization,” she said. CHC started in 2009.

For instance fellows developed and implemented ACODEV’s inaugural communication strategy, which formalized internal and external communications, promoted documented accountability mechanisms, improved knowledge management, and increased visibility of organizational impact.

They also built the capacity of ACODEV staff and partners in resource mobilization through the creation of a decentralized Resource Mobilization Team that has thus far submitted nine grant proposals of over $1.3million. Another team of Fellows procured over $2M in paediatric and EID commodities for public sector patients.

While another one directed two youth camps for over 60 youth from vulnerable backgrounds, and created a Slam Poetry group for high school girls in Mukono, which aims to teach them skills in public speaking, creative writing and provided a safe space for them to come together and share their stories.

GHC offers young leaders year-long paid fellowships in partnership with internationally renowned organizations, including Partners In Health, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and USAID, who are working on the frontlines of the fight for global health equity.

 Each international fellow is paired with a fellow from the host country in which they work to promote cross-cultural knowledge sharing and support. Throughout the fellowship year, GHC provides training in partnership with The Global Health Leadership Institute at Yale University, mentorship, and professional development opportunities to ensure that fellows are equipped to be global health change makers during the fellowship and beyond.

“What makes this partnership special is that it brings together talented young people and organizations working on the ground to create innovative solutions in global health,” said Adrian Stuart, Country Director of CHAI Malawi.

“Our Global Health Corps fellows work seamlessly with the CHAI employees to bring fresh ideas to the table and implement new strategies to ensure that individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis have regular and affordable access to life-saving medicine."

Since 2009, Global Health Corps has placed 322 fellows to work in non-profit and with government partners focused on healthcare delivery. The fifth class currently in the field consists of 106 fellows from 16 countries, who work with 44 non-profit and government partners.

The fellows are working on a range of projects, including developing electronic medical record systems in Malawi, counseling homeless youth in New Jersey, and constructing a world-class hospital in rural Rwanda.

“Global Health Corps is a unique opportunity not available anywhere else,” said Lisa Grossman and Neil Malilwe, 2012-2013 fellows with Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ). “During our fellowship, we worked directly on complex problems like the need to improve women’s health and service delivery, while simultaneously gaining a better and broader perspective on the complex issues of social justice and equity.”

To apply for a 2014-2015 Fellowship, please visit All applicants must be 30 years or younger, have earned an undergraduate university degree by July 2014, and be proficient in English. Applications close on January 26.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) launches third FinScope Report:

By Esther Nakkazi

The Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) has launched the third FinScope Uganda 2013 Survey Report on 28th November 2013 at the Kampala Serena Hotel.

Under the theme ‘Unlocking Barriers to Financial Inclusion in Uganda’ the report examines the demand, access and usage of financial services in Uganda through four major access strands namely: saving and investment; credit and borrowing; remittances and money transfer; insurance and risk management.

In addition, the FinScope report also establishes the level of financial literacy among the adult population and their perception of consumer protection offered by financial institutions.

Sarah Ssewanyana the executive director EPRC said that they hope that the FinScope III survey Report will contribute to enhancing the landscape of financial inclusion, and assist in the development of appropriate products and services, including the design of relevant policies and necessary regulatory frameworks to bring those that are financially excluded into the mainstream of development.

“The importance of this survey results is underscored by the high levels of financial exclusion prevailing in the country. In Uganda, Financial Inclusion remains a challenge in spite of the many gains and successes we have achieved in the financial sector in the last 20 years,” said Maria Kiwanuka the minister of Finance.

The FinScope III survey for Uganda follows two previous surveys' FinScope I and II carried out in 2006 and 2009, respectively. And like these two earlier reports, FinScope III gathered detailed information from the adult population (individuals aged 16 years and above), relating to: financial and risk management strategies; financial discipline and knowledge; preference for financial service providers; usage and attitude to mobile money technology; rural and agriculture issues; remittances; and asset accumulation patterns.

Unlike earlier FinScope surveys, the 2013 FinScope III included a specific section on mobile money as well as additional questions to reflect the new changes in the financial landscape. It is expected that the survey will provide deeper insights and understanding on the behaviour of people and their needs for financial services, said Dr. Ssewanyana.

FinScope surveys are being implemented in a number of African countries with the objective of determining the levels of access to, and use of, financial products and services by adult population 16 years or above.

“Increased financial inclusion can be achieved through opening bank accounts, increasing the level of savings and investments and securing loans from formal financial institutions, which are registered and regulated,” said Justine Bagyenda, the executive Director Supervision Bank of Uganda.

“Some of the findings from this 2013 FinScope survey have shown that we might need to accelerate our reforms or perhaps review them, said Ms. Bagyenda.

For instance the FinScope report says a relatively small proportion of adult Ugandans, i.e. 20% or 3.4 million are the only ones currently using the formal financial institutions including banks. The low level of using formal institutions (i.e. commercial banks, MDIs and credit institutions) is reflected in the recorded low levels of savings, borrowing and access to formal insurance.

“Clearly, there are some economic implications arising from this situation and Bank of Uganda is committed to studying the results and providing further guidance for improvement,” said Bagyenda.

The report notes a tremendous improvement in financial access through the non-bank formal institutions and outlets including SACCOS, Micro Finance Institutions, FOREX Bureaus, Insurance companies as well as mobile money. Mobile money services have contributed over 90% of the growth of these channels put together.

“Mobile money services could be improved further by linking to formal banks through new innovative products which can increase access and use of financial services in Uganda,” said Kiwanuka.

She also noted that SACCOs are growing as an important avenue for improving the number of adult Ugandans holding accounts. Hence, reviewing the regulation and product structure of mobile money services and SACCOs could enable a larger proportion of adult Ugandans to access formal products and services.

Financial services such as savings products, credit and loans, payment and money transfer services, provide the population with greater capacity to stabilize and increase their incomes. In addition financial services help individuals and communities to build assets and cope with shocks. Financial products have proven to be great tools that mitigate the effects of low, irregular and unreliable incomes which keep many people below the poverty line.

According to the survey findings, only 20 percent of adults in Uganda had access to a formal bank account and only 12 percent borrowed formally in the last 12 months. Only 2% of adults had any form of formal insurance.

The small numbers suggest a critical need for a further push to the financial inclusion agenda to ensure that the people at the bottom of the pyramid join the formal financial system, reap benefits and improve their financial well-being, said Ms. Kiwanuka.

Financial inclusion is a central theme for all of us because most of those in poverty do not have access to financial services.