Openness is the key to development projects in the energy sector
Uganda’s energy sector has suffered several set backs in projects due to lack of information sharing. Bujagali, Karuma, oil refining, e.t.c. are some examples. A number of things has led to this.
First and foremost, we have a sector that is fairly young. The power sub sector underwent serious re-structuring in early 2000. The electricity implementing agencies are still primarily still young. The oil sub sector is also fairly new and in early stages of oil production. The youthfulness of the sector means that there are yet to be seasoned through experience.
Second, there has been a shift in industry practices for energy project development. Players in Uganda energy sector have been hit hard with changes in the sector that are fast and furious. Safeguards were imposed on most infrastructure projects in the last decade. The practitioners in the sector looked at these new changes as impediments to infrastructure development.
Third, the regulating agencies and watchdogs took on a punitive approach. Projects that did not meet good safeguard practices were labeled to be poorly conceived. Watchdogs lobbied among donor communities to halt these projects. This left a bad taste in the mouth of project developers.
The result is a sector that has stagnated. Key stakeholders in the sector see each other as enemies. Investors run away from the sector. This has caused an impasse for a number of energy sector developments.
As we move forward, the different stakeholders in the sector namely developers, implementing agencies, regulators and policy makers need to create platforms where they can all express their interests. Once, all the stakeholders have put all their cards on the table there shall be a common understanding amongst all. Once this is reached the sector will gain traction and attract more players.
The status quo is currently hurting Uganda’s energy sector openness through dialog and discussion is a key lever to disarm impasses and project delays that not only delay development of energy projects but also blow up the cost of the developments.