Why Uganda May Not Escape The Oil And Gas Curse

By Patrick Edema

The government of Uganda has invested a huge amount of money in the oil and gas sector before oil production commences in the country.

An estimated $3.5 billion was invested in the sector during the first exploration phase and more investments are being made to explore for oil in the Kanywataba oil well in South Western Uganda and Ngassa which is found near Lake Albert. 

In addition, it is expected that up to $20 billion will be injected in Uganda’s oil and gas sector during the development phase before oil production commences.

This money, which will largely be borrowed by the Ugandan government and international oil companies, will be used to finance the construction of an oil refinery, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), the finished petroleum products pipeline, roads, an international airport, airstrips and other infrastructure needed to commercialize Uganda’s oil and gas.

With countries increasingly prioritizing the use of clean renewable energy over oil and gas, is it not financially viable for Uganda to invest a sum of money $20 billion that is only $9 billion of Uganda’s GDP of $29 billion? 

It is also important to note that Uganda’s 6.5 billion oil and gas resources are located in the eco-sensitive Albertine Rift. The rift is an important biodiversity hot spot that is a habitat for over half (51%) of Africa’s bird species, 39% of Africa’s mammal species, and 19% of Africa’s amphibian species.

The rift is also home to 70% of Uganda’s major protected areas including seven out of ten national parks, eight out of 15 forests, 12 wildlife reserves, 13 wildlife sanctuaries and five wildlife community areas. 

The above environmental resources and the biodiversity therein support Uganda’s $1.6 billion tourism industry, $2.005 billion agricultural sector and the $171 million fisheries sector among others (2018 and 2019 figures). The resources also provide employment to over 5.3 million Ugandans in the various sectors.

Furthermore, the resources and biodiversity also have cultural, recreational and other values that communities and Ugandans attach importance to. 

Because of the location of Uganda’s oil and gas resources, the above sectors or industries stand to be disrupted as has been seen in oil producing countries such as DR Congo, Ecuador and Nigeria where fisheries and agriculture were destroyed due to oil spills to the environment and water sources.

The oil and gas sector in Uganda risks billion- and million-dollar industries in agriculture and fisheries and at the same time threatening employment opportunities of over 5.3 million Ugandans. This, therefore, poses a question as to whether it is viable for Uganda to exploit oil especially in eco-sensitive areas especially at a time when countries that are expected to consume Uganda’s oil and gas resources are transitioning to use of clean energy. 

It is moreover estimated that Uganda’s oil and gas sector will only create just over 16,000 direct and indirect job opportunities and will earn the country $2 billion in annual revenues per year. It is not prudent to invest in the oil and gas sector when countries are aggressively planning to reduce the consumption of oil and gas among other dirty energy options. 

It is therefore no doubt that the energy transition efforts that are going on worldwide will have an impact on the viability of and job prospects in Uganda’s oil and gas sector. The profitability and job opportunities will reduce. 

Government’s investment in the oil and gas sector at a time when an energy transition is ongoing and even the European oil and gas majors are reducing investment in the sector will also mean that Uganda will be stuck with infrastructure that provides less value than the investment made in the infrastructure.

Ugandans could also be forced to continue depending on oil and gas, which has grave negative impacts on the environment, climate change efforts, health and human rights.

Therefore, for the country to prevent a resource curse, the government needs to rethink investment in the oil and gas sector and promote clean renewable energy particularly wind and solar power. 

Patrick Edema

Environmental Engineer at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)


How Cost Of Higher Education Is Expected To Affect Learning Post COVID-19

By Fred Kasirye & Bill Nkeeto

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Higher education is any postsecondary education form of learning that normally results into degrees, diplomas or certificates.

Higher educational institutions include not only universities and colleges but also various professional schools that provide preparation in fields as law, theology, medicine, business, music, accountancy and art.

Higher education also includes teacher-training schools, junior colleges, and institutes of technology. Normally the basic entrance requirement for most higher-educational institutions is the completion of secondary education.

Stakeholders in this sector are individuals or groups who have interest or concern for the institutions offering higher education.

These include administrators, lecturers, students, parents, families, community members, local business leaders, and elected officials such as school board members, council members while on the other side is the regulatory bodies like; NCHE, BTVET, Allied Health Council, to mention but a few.

These bodies perform their roles on behalf of the Government of Uganda, to ensure that quality education, that will eventually nurture professionals fit to take the country to the next level is delivered.

However, the circumstances under which these regulatory bodies and all other stakeholders have been operating, have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes by any standards, have come at a huge cost for all the players involved, something which requires to be discussed now, during the pandemic, than any other time; since no such an occurrence was envisaged previously to mitigate the current situation, which the entire education industry finds itself in.

Discussing the cost of higher education on stakeholder needs during Covid-19 times - specifically identifying how this is expected to affect learning Post Covid-19, has a bearing on all the above-stated stakeholders alike.

Available facts show that as of March 25th 2020, over 184 countries closed doors to schools globally. According to the African Population and Health Research Centre; 1.576 billion learners worldwide at all levels of education, could no longer access their learning institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of all the learners affected, 297 million were from Africa, a number so significant for any country to ignore taking any action. Until this current Covid-19 pandemic, institutions have been running structured annual academic calendars in the form of terms and semesters.

Institutions now have to cope with huge losses owing to the lockdown. At the beginning of every term/ semester institutions of higher learning normally make adequate preparations as they await the term/ semester opening. These include but are not limited to: - purchasing of supplies to go through the period, -paid or on credit, which is another discussion. Contracts for staff have already been signed off to guarantee effective teaching and learning.

Lecturers in public Institutions will most likely still be paid despite closures, implying that these expenses, for the most part, do not translate into learning or other Institution related services, however long a period the institutions may be closed.

If for instance the 2020 exam cycle cannot be completed, then the full year’s spending will be impacted yet cash flows are grossly affected. The effect on private Institutions is even more drastic since for them to stay afloat, they have to cut expenses largely baiting on essentials and none essentials. Cancelling contracts, renegotiating repayment of Institutional bank loans, laying off staff and counting losses from students who left mid-semester without completing their fees/ tuition along with the fear of semester/term overlaps becoming evident every day that passes.

For as long as the vaccine to curb the COVID-19 pandemic is not discovered, the risks related causing all forms of the losses in all sectors will keep mounting globally.

Away from disrupting the teaching and learning calendar, is the need to manage the costs of mitigating the consequences of Institutions closing. A prominent model has been the jump to distance learning alternative. The costs of which differ based on the available infrastructure.

There are enormous lessons to pick from this none the less. Just all of a sudden, the need to ensure that learning continues, has seen institutions invest in unprecedented online study options thus making many mistakes as is the case with learning on the job since at this point in time there is need to walk as well as run at the same time.

Staff are largely not well tooled with the skills to manage online studies and have to learn at the same speed or even slower than their millennial students. A glaring large oversight in 21st-century learning, when digitisation has swept through other sectors like a wildfire, education largely stayed conservative in defence of a need to maintain quality and efficiency. However, the need to address the problem beforehand, to ensure business continuity, invites additional costs that could be marginal in one end of the world and very high in another.

It is these business continuity dynamics that require to be properly assessed and analysed at country level to inform a business continuity plan if inequalities are to be avoided, but at such short notice, multiple huddles for all sector players tend to unfold with regards to accessibility,  affordability and in some cases competence ability with regards to the staff expected to roll out the learning on these new platforms.

These present as short term costs, yet the long term presents more costs relating to stakeholder losses ranging from a dip in government revenues, failure of parents to pay for the immediate semesters/ terms as many have their incomes greatly dented, and even the service industry affected due to low demand given the challenged balance sheet of many of the Higher Education Institutions threatening the collapse of some, and others settling for acquisition or mergers for others.

Even with dipping revenue governments are squarely focused on containing the spread as other sectors wait, which in itself is a wise approach Health First. Economy next but surely not education for now with limited resources.

This national formula will not in any way spare the nationals/citizens who will have a trickledown effect of the severity caused by the pandemic. In homes across countries, families will bare the unfortunate pain of cancelling school for the year, to concentrate on soliciting for resources to enable them to start with the next year. The trickledown effect will without a doubt affect all stakeholders in ways rather drastic post-Covid 19. This will have a sustained effect on each of the various stakeholders. Ultimately the quality and quantity of education, especially in Low developed countries, is at a risk.

In conclusion, looking at the unforeseeable future, Institutions of higher learning have an early opportunity to find their feet towards survival and continue to serve, the already negatively affected stakeholders as a result of Covid-19.

The Covid-19 uncertainty could be the door to greater success for institutions of higher learning, if among many things; distance learning is embraced through the usage of online technology (webinars), creating parameters required for making quality module packs for learners, and mechanisms for online assessment, module packs moderated and qualified for academic delivery, facilitators empowered, and state of the art infrastructure put in place to support the new status quo.

This way the cost of education will not only become more affordable but also, institutions will have the capacity to ensure mass enrolment and make more people ready to receive it through the various Distance learning channels especially on the various online platforms.

This will also require the government and where possible the private sector to massively invest in high-speed internet and making it cheaply accessible to almost everyone in every corner of the country.

However, this decision is not limited to private Institutions, it requires the blessing of the regulators and Government by providing an enabling environment as well as guidelines to ensure there is no compromise to quality, a concern that can have far-reaching implications.

The telecoms should leverage this to build partnerships that will ensure data is available to the vulnerable and the internet can be across geographies. Countries that shall be able to take advantage of this will prepare themselves well for the future of education in the 21st century, suffer a short impact and reap a long-term reward in the provision of education services.

While a lot seems to be washed away, this is the time to redesign the model of education delivery to fit the current needs, especially those brought to light by the current global pandemic.

About the authors:

Fred Kasirye is development management specialist &Dean Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Victoria University

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Bill Nkeeto is Business Management expert & Dean Faculty of Business and Management at Victoria University

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Institutional Focus On Family Could Be Solution To Global Problems

By Fred Kasirye

The family is seemingly easy to understand a concept, it is, however, an overstated term by both laypeople and professionals in the day to day life. It could basically be referred to as a group of individuals who share a legal or genetic bond, but for many people, family means much more, and even the simple idea of genetic bonds can be more complicated than it seems.

In this unit of society, the husband and wife are bound legally together in a relationship often time born out of love compassion and commitment. Such a relationship is often time registered and known by the state. It is also true that the nature of families in a given society by any measure and standard dictates the nature /state of society - calm, rowdy, disorganised or civil.

Family is the first source of hope when the future is unknown and yet also is the last safety net when all hope is gone. COVID 19 presents the latest proof to this. International Agencies and Governments have made the vital call to families to stay home and results show that where this call has been heeded to the infections have been low and are being better managed. Social distancing in homes has been followed to the later. Further evidence that family is a solution to many global challenges.

For probably most couples in this generation, except for the very elderly (over 90+ years), this season of the pandemic marks the longest period they have had to spend mandatorily together considering the stay home directives given by governments across the world.

The family principals (Husband and Wife) have therefore been put to the longest test of each other's patience and tolerance. But better still accountability and basic governance matters relating to a home from resource planning, identification, and allocation. Many are failing at this test and realise they just cannot subsist.

Media during this COVID 19 period is awash with stories of increasing domestic violence. The scuffles often shown are life-threatening, like probably never before. This is not to suggest that there has not been domestic violence in homes before the pandemic, but rather the rate this time around is very alarming. The clergy have noted this trend of events and have often directed their summons during this period to this end. It is not yet clear why domestic violence is on a drastic rise.

Sociology as a field of study teaches us to appreciate family in reflecting on the nature, character and growth of society. These unfolding realities not only show that sociologists have a greater role to play past this pandemic to reconstruct the family as is expected to be through offering services such as counselling and guidance but also seeks the increase in relevant research relating to the challenges, influencing factors and better still what the future of the family is envisaged to look like.

Further to this, religion shall actively take up its role to strengthen the fibre that makes a family by ensuring anti-social undertones are minimised through preaching good social practices as embedded in the teachings. It is only then that Science and Business initiatives and programs for society will thrive from generation to generation.

Away from that, policymakers have a role in this, owing to the fact that the current answer to the pandemic is stay home. Therefore, the home should be a safe and enabling place and a family has a role to play in this.

We, therefore, shouldn’t take any of the unfolding events relating to the family during this COVID 19 period lightly as we could be seeing the smallest and yet most crucial unit of society being put to irrecoverable test and trial.

Healthcare, Education and Gender-responsive policy, studies as well as family level initiatives and innovations should be promoted by governments all over the world. Any effort in the opposite direction is in vain and counterproductive.

Fred Kasirye, the writer, is the Dean Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences- Victoria University, Kampala

OPINION: Pressuring Governments To Stop Supporting Fossil Fuels Not Good For Africa

By NJ Ayuk

As African oil and gas countries struggle with Covid-19's devastating impact on demand, two international groups seem to be celebrating it.

Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) described the low oil prices caused by the pandemic as a "golden opportunity" for governments to phase-out fossil fuel support and usher in an era of renewable energy sources.

"Subsidising fossil fuels is an inefficient use of public money and serves to worsen greenhouse emissions and air pollution," OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said in a joint OECD-IEA statement. "While our foremost concern today must be to support economies and societies through the Covid-19 crisis, we should seize this opportunity to reform subsidies and use public funds in a way that best benefits people and the planet."

I would argue that the OECD and IEA don't necessarily know what's best for the people who live on this planet. Pressuring governments to stop supporting fossil fuels certainly would not be good for the African oil and gas companies or entrepreneurs striving to build a better future. And it could be downright harmful to communities looking at gas-to-power initiatives to bring them reliable electricity.

Too often, the discussion about climate change — and the call to leave fossil fuels in the ground— is largely a western narrative. It does not factor in the needs of low-income Africans who could reap the many benefits of a strategic approach to oil and gas operations in Africa: reduced energy poverty, job creation, and entrepreneurship opportunities, to name a few.

Ironically, a policy that would jeopardize Africans' ability to realize those benefits is being recommended at the same time protesters across America are calling for equity in some of the same areas. Although police violence against people of color is at the center of the protests — a response to the horrific death of a black man, George Floyd, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes — the protests also point to social and economic disparities between the races in America.

While I don't want to exploit the death of George Floyd, I do see parallels between the racial disparities in America and the struggles of Africans whose lives could be improved through oil and gas. I always see a common pattern of ignoring black and African voices.

Too often in America, the value of black lives was not given proper consideration until George Floyd's death forced the topic to the forefront and rightly so. And on the global stage, OECD and IEA are dismissing the voices of many Africans who want and need the continent's oil and gas industry to thrive. I would advise these organizations not to ignore the needs of poor people in African countries.

As it stands, African energy entrepreneurs, the African energy sector, and Africans who care about energy poverty are basically saying, "I can't breathe."

It's time to get the knees off their necks.

The Dangers of Energy Poverty

Consider the impact of energy poverty. Approximately 840 million Africans, mostly in sub-Saharan countries, have no access to electricity. Hundreds of millions have unreliable or limited power at best.

Even during "normal times," energy poverty is dangerous. The household air pollution created by burning biomass, including wood and animal waste, to cook and heat homes has been blamed for as many as 4 million deaths per year. How will this play out during the pandemic? For women forced to leave their homes to obtain and prepare food, sheltering in place is nearly impossible.

What about those who need to be hospitalized? Only 28 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's health care facilities have reliable power. Physicians and nurses can't even count on the lights being on, let alone the ability to treat patients with equipment that requires electricity —  or store blood, medications, or vaccines. All of this puts African lives at risk.

That's what makes gas-to-power initiatives so critically important: It only makes sense for African countries to use their vast natural gas reserves for power generation. And we're already making progress on that front. Today, about 13 African countries use natural gas produced domestically or brought in from other African countries, and there's every reason to believe this trend will grow.

In Cameroon, for example, Victoria Oil and Gas PLC already provides domestic gas for power generation, and its subsidiary, Gaz du Cameroun (GDC), has agreed to provide the government gas for a new power station with the potential to accommodate growing demand.

And in Mozambique, the Temane power plant, also known as Mozambique Gas-to-Power, is being developed now, and plans are underway to develop a second plant. Both will rely on Mozambique's Rovuma basis for feedstock.

I have heard calls, including some from the OECD, for the development of sustainable energy solutions to meet Africa's power needs. Great — let's go for it. I'm all for renewable energy solutions, but Africans should not be forced to make either-or-decisions in this area. Energy poverty is a serious concern, and it's wrong to make it more difficult for African countries to use a readily available natural resource to address it.

Investment — Not Aid

One of the benefits of oil and gas operations in Africa is they provide opportunities for both indigenous companies and for foreign ones. And as foreign companies comply with local content laws, they invest in the communities where they work. Africa needs those investments, particularly training and education programs that empower people to make better lives for themselves.

I want to be clear: Africa does not need social programs, even educational programs, that come in the form of aid packages. What's more, offering Africa aid packages to compensate for a halt or slow-down of oil and gas operations will not do Africans any good.

I tried to make that point recently during a friendly debate with Prof. Patrick Bond, a very bright man and a distinguished professor at the University of the Western Cape School of Government. He argued that Africa should keep all of its petroleum resources in the ground to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and prevent further climate change.

Developed nations, the professor continued, should compensate Africa for that sacrifice, and Africa could use that money to develop other opportunities. No. This is not the time for Africa to be calling for more aid. Africa has been receiving aid for nearly six decades, and what good has it done? We still don't have enough jobs.

Investment creates opportunities, meaning Africans aren't receiving, they're doing. They're learning, working, building, growing, deciding. We, as Africans, must be responsible. Our young people should be empowered to build an Africa we all can be proud of. Relying on the same old policies of the past, relying on aid, simply isn't going to get us there.

The truth is, no matter how you feel about the American Shale Revolution, Africans can learn from it. One of the reasons it succeeded is because you had small businesses willing to take a chance on new technology. They worked hard, and in the end, they boosted production. America became the largest crude oil producer in the world.

Those companies made something extraordinary happen, and so can African businesses. We need more entrepreneurs willing to seize opportunities and, in some cases, make mistakes. That's how we grow and learn. We need government leaders to do their part by creating a welcoming environment for foreign investors and establishing local content policies that result in opportunities for business partnerships, quality jobs, and learning opportunities for Africans.

Africa is capable of building a better future, of ending energy poverty, strengthening our economy, and improving the lives of everyday Africans. If we're smart about it, and we work together with purpose, our oil and gas resources can help us get there.

And that's why this is a horrible time for OECD, IEA, or any other outside organizations, to interfere with our natural resources.

Don't Stand in Our Way

I understand and respect the OECD and IEA's commitment to preventing climate change. But when you describe the chance to harm a major African economic sector as a great opportunity, there's something wrong.

When you put independent African oil and gas companies at risk, you're saying your objectives are more important than African livelihoods and aspirations.

American institutions are coming under fire for failing to recognize that Black Lives Matter and to work alongside African-American communities to create positive change.

I encourage the OECD and IEA to take a different approach.

This is an opportunity for all of us to join forces, to take a team approach to growing Africa's energy sector, and to do it without dismissing Africa's right to capitalize on its own natural resources.

NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group

Bobi Wine Speaks About Ziggy Wyne’s Death

People Power leader and presidential hopeful Hon. Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert also known as Bobi Wine has in a widely shared statement spoken out candidly about the death of his close friend and member of the politician’s singing crew Fire Base who died last year in a road accident.

Here is the full statement reproduced

All most one year since his demise, there are still no clues from the investigating authorities on whether the culprits will ever be brought to book.

Kalinda Michael commonly known by his stage name Ziggy Wyne was abducted and subjected to horrendous forms of torture. His left eye was plucked out, two of his fingers cut off and parts of his body were burnt with a flat iron. He was beaten and dumped at Mulago hospital by unknown people where he spent a week before being identified by his family. He was later pronounced dead.

Many other Ugandan political leaders and activists, countless other Ugandans who have openly identified with the #PeoplePower movement have been kidnapped, illegally detained and tortured. People Power candidates in the Makerere University guild election were kidnapped, only to reappear with severe torture marks.

These are only a few of the many supporters and comrades who have been victims of targeted attacks. We have received reports of people being arrested and detained for putting on either the red beret or t-shirts branded with our symbols or slogans.

Whenever we have activities such as attending court sessions or rallies, countless young people are brutalized, arrested and illegally detained in the various cells around the country. Many have reported being beaten up from police stations and asked to denounce People Power if they want to live. 

Indeed last year, a well-wisher released a video recording of police officers at Kajjansi police post beating up 30-year-old Kassim Migadde as they mocked him for associating with People Power.

It was the same story with Patricia Nakamyuka, an outspoken People Power activist who was beaten, dumped at Kira Police station before she went missing.  We fear she was killed although we’ve never found out like it was with Ziggy Wine.

All we are aware of is that she continues to feature on the police’s list of wanted people. Nakamyuka had earlier strongly participated in the Kyandonddo East by-elections and also travelled with us to Arua for the municipal by-elections that were marred with irregularities and violence on the opposition members.

Our calls to have these matters investigated by the authorities and perpetrators brought to book never yield much. Further, we have filed several court cases about these violations including the one about the murder of my driver Yasin Kawuma, but there has not been much progress. The Uganda Human Rights Commission has equally let us down in our efforts to put an end to untold levels of torture and brutality.

I must add that many other people, who have been vocal in opposing President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s regime of 33 years, regardless of whether they belong to his ‘party’ or other political formations have been equally assaulted, tortured and intimidated

As we draw towards the 2021 elections, it is apparent that the ruling party is determined to silence any form of dissent using extreme violence. Although they came to power castigating former presidents Milton Obote and Idi Amin of torture and extra-judicial killings of their opponents, they seem determined to out-do their record in terms of committing unspeakable atrocities against the wanainchi.

We call upon all peace-loving citizens of the world to join us in condemning horrendous violations against innocent citizens in Uganda.

We thank you all for your support and solidarity thus far and continue to call upon you to support us as we struggle for a better country which respects human rights and human dignity. We can and shall achieve this, God being our help.

For God and My Country!

Hon. Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert
People Power – Uganda

EACOP Affected Communities Demand For Quick Compensation, COVID-19 Relief Aid

By Sandra Atusinguza

The global diversifying COVID 19 pandemic impacts have not spared the oil and gas projects affected communities. In East Africa, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project has had its share of the COVID-19 pandemic negative impacts. 

In Uganda, Lwengo district is one of the EACOP project-affected villages across the 11 districts with over 700 Project Affected Persons (PAPs) whom government acquired there land to pave way for the construction of the oil export pipeline. 

Since 2018, to date, these persons have never been compensated and a cut- off date was set for their land and property.

The COVID 19 impacts have neither spared the host communities nor the surrounding villages, communities are very frustrated with the EACOP oil and gas project; this could be an opportunity for them to utilize the compensation or farm their land during the lockdown, as a result, some people have been forced to go back to the already government acquired land for agriculture.

The EACOP communities decry a big communication gap between oil and gas companies, their sub-contractors New Plan and ICS and the affected communities on updates of compensation and grievances handling.

The phone numbers that were provided to the communities were switched off three months ago to date. The district structures and resettlement committees that were established are now acting ceremonial leaders on matters oil and gas as they are of no help to their communities.

The project affected families are calling upon government through the line ministry, PAU and oil and gas companies to immediately compensate them and also provide them with food relief during the ongoing lock down.

 The project affected people are a special group of venerable people who have no choice on ether to use the land or not because of the delayed compensation and effects of the cut- of date.

These people, such as Ssegunja Ivan from Lwengo, believe that just as many companies have been donating food to the public oil companies should give out food to the oil projects affected persons awaiting compensation.

Sandra Atusinguza works as AFIEGO field coordinator

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Covid-19: The Best Opportunity For Solar Energy Transition In Uganda

The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic brought up reactions which ranged from fear and panic to actively coping up with the changing reality. And while the medical dangers are substantial, the full social and economic implications are still unknown.

In Uganda, it is clear that the spread of the coronavirus and social-distancing policies have led to massive ramifications, with many officials and executives in various sectors calling to do everything we can to mitigate the effects of the threat. One of the most notable examples is in the field of solar energy.

Over the past few years, off-grid solar companies have been gaining momentum, providing safe, clean, and affordable energy solutions to many people in different regions of the country and preventing millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions and indoor pollution caused by combustible fuels for lighting and cooking.

But the consequences of covid-19 crisis may lead to an unprecedented threat that could destroy solar companies and harm many. In strategy terms, this is a typical ‘freeze’ response. Indeed, the coronavirus crisis is drastically changing our lives, creating a new reality in which the entire economy, including the solar sector, should find new paths of operation. This reality is saturated with threats and dangers.

However, freezing and seeing the current period as a threat would be a mistake. In every business especially in off grid solar sector, each day brings a series of threats and opportunities. If we choose to focus on the former, we find ourselves in constant survival mode, putting efforts into extinguishing fires instead of innovation and creativity. This is the time to have a fresh look at current events and capture the many opportunities that come our way. And we must do it today.

It is clear that every crisis brings with it countless opportunities. The current one is no different, and it presents great potential for the solar industry. If we focus on opportunities and the potential to innovate and influence, the entire sector will prosper and impact the lives of people even more than it did before. Here are five opportunities for change and innovation:

Supporting medical teams with solar power

In this covid-19 crisis, the most important goal must be assisting medical teams in Uganda, especially in remote areas. Most of the populations living in those communities rely on underdeveloped health services, with medical teams lacking basic diagnostic tools and equipment.

The health sector is in dire need of technologies and tailor-made solutions. Solar companies are in a key position to assist those teams, with vast activity in thousands of remote villages in Uganda. The infrastructure of these companies provides them with the best starting point for initiating new projects.

Just like home solar energy systems that allow millions to enjoy affordable and sustainable home electricity, solutions for the needs of medical teams can be developed and tailored for remote health workers.

The unprecedented importance of home electricity

COVID-19 is not expected to go away any time soon, and the coming months and years are expected to bring a major social shift from the sharing economy that we used to know to an “isolation economy.” Without a vaccine or cure for the virus, people are likely to spend much more time at home, making home electricity more important than ever.

Our country is mostly to leapfrog over the stay-at-home one at a faster rate. Many people who previously used crowded kiosks to charge their cellphones or watch the news each day will change their habits, and staying at home without electricity will prevent them from listening to the radio or staying in touch with loved ones.

And for children living in homes without electricity, remote education is not even an option. This new reality will make home electricity more urgent and important than ever, and off-grid companies will have a great opportunity to expand both their operations and impact.

Expensive grid projects fading away

With many investors affected by the global economic crisis, donations and investments are likely to be cut. This might have a devastating effect on large grid projects for massive infrastructure that cost tens of millions of dollars. Off-grid companies will be able to fill in the gap quickly and affordably with their on-the-ground operations and solar energy systems to claim a massive chunk of the market.

Domestic production gaining importance

If the health hazards and social distancing were not enough, the coronavirus crisis has also led to a significant decline in world trade and cross-continental shipments, highlighting a weak point of the hyper-global economic era.

One of the major changes expected is a perceptual change that will make countries and companies less reliant on product imports and more focused on domestic production.

For solar companies, this is a tremendous opportunity. Local production and assembly of solar energy systems could create tens of thousands of new jobs, shorten processes, and allow local companies to grow and prosper.

Utilizing solar power for food security

The food sector is also expected to change, with countries already investing resources to increase domestic food supplies for food security. In Uganda, where only a negligible percentage of all agricultural land is irrigated regularly, solar companies can play a key role in providing solar irrigation systems, which will drastically increase crops and efficiency.

The new status quo

All crises change the status quo. These changes include quite a few threats and dangers but also opportunities for innovation and creativity. If solar companies choose to treat the coronavirus crisis only as a threat, their response will follow accordingly.

But if we choose to fight instead of freeze, this crisis might be the biggest opportunity of the decade. Defensive moves will be replaced by innovation, and survival efforts will be replaced by business expansion, investment in new markets, and creativity.

This is the only way that the solar sector can do more than just survive but also thrive, while impacting the lives of millions more than before, preventing millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and leading Uganda into a cleaner, more sustainable and inclusive future.

Patrick Edema, Environmental Engineer at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)

Involve Youths In Fighting Climate Change Amid Covid 19 Pandemic

By Patrick Edema

Uganda has the youngest population of youths in the world, with 77% of its population being under 30years of age according to Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2017.

Climate change is one of the most critical challenges and it impacts range from affecting agriculture, further endangering food security, to sea-level rise and the accelerated erosion of coastal zones increasing the intensity of natural disasters, species extinction and the spread of vector-borne diseases.

As per the 60th annual DPI/NGO conference organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) in collaboration with the NGO/DPI, an executive committee met on “Climate change: How it impacts us all” held in September 2019, at the United Nations Headquarters.

It stressed the roles of youths, the next generation which inhabits the earth and inherits the responsibility to protect the planet, in fighting the complex problems and social quandaries presented by climate change.

Youth education represents one of the most effective tools to combat climate change and cultivate an international understanding among members of the next generation since it is a long term process that will impact an infinite number of future generations.

The United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC) which is the most prominent international coalition designed and regulated international action towards adapting to and mitigating climate change and while the youths are always on the forefront of climate change activism, it is mostly the older generations that are in the driving seat of the implementation of climate change policies.

However, the youth play a central role in the movement against climate change for various reasons. Most importantly the youth of today is the generation that is likely to experience the global shifts that climate change will bring in the coming decades.

Given the importance of the youth in understanding the policies behind climate change and acknowledging the role they will play in the coming decades, it is imperative for Uganda to scale up the involvement of the youth in national level policy making similar to what UNCCC has done on the international stage.

It is perhaps time that the older generation of climate diplomats hand over the button to the young generation or at least mentor them as they seem to be more driven and passionate about climate change matters.

In such hard times of Covid 19, the rate of deforestation has increased with communities continuing to depend on wood for cooking, heating and lighting. This is accelerating the risks of climate change effects with the presence of industries and old vehicles that are emitting greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere hence undermining the government’s efforts and commitments to reach a net-zero carbon in the atmosphere to safeguard the environment.

Therefore, youth should be given a chance to take an active part in decision making at both local and national levels because they can actively support initiatives that will lead to the passage of far reaching legislation. A more defined role should be given to the youth to prevent the impact of climate change at a time when the corona pandemic is affecting all the countries globally.

Patrick Edema, Environmental Engineer at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (afiego).

COVID-19 Pandemic Is Threating Access To Electricity

By Edwin Mumbere

The corona epidemic has been here for a few months but it has created a great impact on the access of some essential services like medical care, clean and renewable energy among others.

This has not only affected the end user but it has also affected the revenue of many governments which were getting taxes from the solar companies that were vending their solar products to the low income earners and the fallout from COVID-19 could derail efforts to meet a global goal to provide power to everyone on the planet by 2030, agencies warn.

One in 10 people lack electricity and the pandemic will likely make it harder still to meet a global goal of getting power to everyone by 2030, international organisations said on Thursday.

An annual report tracking progress on sustainable energy said more than a billion people have won access to electricity since 2010, with 90% of the planet connected in 2018.

But that still left 789 million people without power.

And even before the outbreak of COVID-19 threw up new obstacles, the report estimated 620 million people would remain without electricity in 2030, 85% of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Even before today's unprecedented crisis, the world was not on track to meet key sustainable energy goals. Now, they are likely to become even harder to achieve," said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

"We must redouble our efforts to bring affordable, reliable and cleaner energy to all – especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where the need is greatest – in order to build more prosperous and resilient economies," he added in a statement.

The report said disruptions caused by coronavirus lockdowns and their economic fallout would likely affect electrification, slowing and in some cases reversing advances.

Some utilities and off-grid providers are expected to face financial difficulties, said the report from the IEA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the U.N. Statistics Division, the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

COVID-19 has also disrupted supply chains and limited the ability of many to pay for their services, it added.

"Governments, hand in hand with the international community, should be prepared to mitigate these adverse effects to safeguard the gains in (electricity) access," it said.

The crisis has shown the need for reliable and clean energy at hospitals, for schools to prepare children for the digital economy, and for communities to pump clean water, it added.

"Access to reliable energy is a lifeline, especially in the context of the COVID-19 crisis," said Riccardo Puliti, global director for energy and extractive industries at the World Bank.

"It is essential not only for preventing and addressing the pandemic but also for accelerating the recovery and building back better," he added.

The report showed that efforts to provide poor families, especially in rural communities, with cleaner cooking methods continued to stagnate, despite gains in large parts of Asia.

In 2018, 2.8 billon people were cooking with smoky fuels like kerosene, coal and wood, compared with 3 billion in 2010.

Under current and planned policies, 2.3 billion people would still not be using clean cooking fuels and technologies in 2030, falling short of a goal for universal access by almost 30%.

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to worsen the exposure of women and children to air pollution at home, which already causes close to 4 million deaths a year, the report warned.

International aid to developing countries in support of clean and renewable energy hit $21.4 billion in 2017, double its level in 2010, but only 12% reached the least-developed countries and small island developing states, it said.

Therefore ,to speed up deployment of renewable energy in those places, larger amounts of funding should be channelled to those most in need even more so in a post-pandemic world and it is at this point that our governments need to look at the post COVID planning and include renewable energy so that we can slowly archive our economic glory.

COVID-19 Pandemic Intensifies Uganda’s Urgency To Increase Clean Renewable Energy

By Patrick Edema

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the deep inequalities in Uganda in terms of access to clean, modern, affordable and sustainable energy.

Electricity has been a vital underpinning of the response to the public health emergency however, millions of people in the country still lack basic access to it with the majority in rural and semi-urban areas.

Even before today’s unprecedented crisis, Uganda has not been on track to meet key sustainable energy goals. Now, it's likely to become even harder to achieve.

This means as a country, we must redouble our efforts to bring affordable, reliable and cleaner energy to all especially in rural areas, where the need is greatest in order to build a more prosperous and resilient economy. 

Access to reliable energy is a lifeline, especially in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. It is essential not only for preventing and addressing the pandemic but also for accelerating the recovery and building back better by securing a more sustainable and resilient future for all.

Renewable energy is key to achieving SDG 7 and building a resilient, equitable and sustainable economy in a post-COVID-19 world. Now more than ever is the time for bold national cooperation to bridge the energy access gap and place sustainable energy at the heart of economic stimulus and recovery measures. 

Despite an increase in the number of people with access to electricity of 21.6%, under policies that are in place to increase access to clean renewable energy still lack sufficient implementation and enforcement which is an obstacle to achieve the universal energy access for all by 2030.

According to the Energy Tracking Report by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), significant progress had been made on various aspects of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 prior to the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

This includes a notable reduction in the number of people worldwide lacking access to electricity, strong uptake of renewable energy for electricity generation, and improvements in energy efficiency. Despite these advances, global efforts remain insufficient to reach the key targets of SDG 7 by 2030. 

Other important elements of the SDG goal also continue to be off track. More than 90% of the people remain without clean cooking in the country. Largely stagnant progress since lead to millions of deaths each year from breathing cooking smoke.

The share of renewable energy in the country’s energy mix is only inching up gradually, despite the rapid growth of solar power in electricity generation. An acceleration of renewables across all sectors is required to move closer to reaching the SDG 7 target, with advances in heating and transport currently lagging far behind their potential.

However, aaccelerating the pace of progress in all regions and sectors will require stronger political commitment, long-term energy planning, increased public and private financing, and adequate policy and fiscal incentives to spur faster deployment of new technologies An increased emphasis on “leaving no one behind” is required, given the large proportion of the population without access in remote, rural, poorer and vulnerable communities.

Therefore, in this time of a global health crisis, protecting the health of 47 million people without clean cooking solutions is more critical than ever. Government, foundations, donors, and the private sector need to combine their efforts to accelerate the transition to clean and sustainable fuels and technologies to protect the health of the most vulnerable population.

And as to the current situation, the COVID-19 pandemic can either widen the sustainable energy access gaps or accelerate the path towards achieving SDG 7 in Uganda, which will, however, depend on priorities of national economic stimulus packages. 

Patrick Edema, Environmental Engineer at African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)











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