A two-day forum on oil and gas has started in Uganda to discuss the management of oil resources in East Africa. The forum aims to initiate a dialogue between policymakers, civil society, and the private sector on various aspects of oil and gas management.

Specifically, the conference will look at the following general themes: (i) government transparency and accountability; (ii) biodiversity; and (iii) the balancing of local interests—all from a regional perspective.

It is envisaged that the conference will provide an opportunity for the participants to discuss best practices in oil and natural gas management and to identify key issues, policy options, and implementation modalities that the East African countries can adopt in order to institutionalize the equitable and sustainable management of their oil and natural gas reserves.

Regional think tanks in East Africa, specifically, Uganda-based Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy and Analysis (KIPPRA), in collaboration with the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at the Brookings Institution, are organizing this forum.

This forum aims to significantly increase the scope and level of participation in the design and implementation of policies dealing with the exploitation of oil and natural gas in the East African economies, said Dr. Sarah Ssewanyana the director EPRC.

For instance in many African countries, the process of negotiating contracts for the exploration and exploitation of natural resources, including oil and natural gas, is largely monopolized by elites at the center and the foreign-based multinational companies that actually produce and export the resources.

The primary stakeholders, civil society at large, the communities and villages, on which the resources are located, and the private sector, are usually not granted the opportunity to participate.

Quite often, the decision to exclude most of the population from participating in the design and implementation of policies associated with natural resource exploitation is based on the belief, although erroneous, by many governments, that secrecy and opaqueness are critical for national security. Unfortunately, such an approach to the management of natural resources results in sub-optimal decisions that can create serious conflicts in the communities.

Thus, this conference brings together key stakeholders from the East African community and provide them with a platform to examine oil and natural gas management from a regional perspective. The primary objective is to empower governments (as well as civil society) and help them appreciate the importance of evidence-based approaches to the management of revenues obtained from natural resources.