Participants at the oil and gas forum in Kampala have called upon governments in the East African region to combine efforts in the management of the newly found oil reserves.

Experts from Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania argued that the region needs a collective oil and gas master plan to effectively utilize the resource to combine advantages and save costs.

While opening the conference on Wednesday, Uganda's Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka said that Uganda was ready to corporate with others.

"I confirm that Uganda will be ready to incorporate a regional dimension to our petroleum strategy. Such a strategy calls for informed discussions based on research and evidence on how best to efficiently and effectively manage petroleum resources at the regional level," she said.

The participants noted that the exploitation of oil and gas in one East African country creates opportunities and problems that affect the entire region which can only be dealt with on the same scale.

The participants also recommended a regional refinery strategy, combined infrastructural projects like roads, ports and railways among others.

"A Regional approach is crucial to the effective management of resources especially as pertains to the issues of environmental management, infrastructure development (such as refineries and pipelines)," Mr Mwangi Kimenyi, director at the Africa Growth Initiative said.

"Cooperating on these aspects lowers the costs and is also more effective." He added.

Dr Sarah Ssewanyana, the executive director for the Economic Policy Research Centre said that there was need to think beyond geographical boundaries.

Mr Paul Adong Bith, the Managing Director, Nile Petroleum in South Sudan warned that governments could end up with nothing if they compete against each other instead of working together.

"If we start competing we end up with zero-sum gains. There are a lot of areas we can work together. Governments need to cooperate," he said.

Mr Elly Karuhanga, a legislator proposed that all East Africans should jointly own an oil refinery and also pursue joint projects in the sector.

The minister for mineral development in Uganda Samson Lokeris however noted that East African states under their community have been cooperating in the area of oil and gas exploitation for the last ten years.

Already, the East African Community approved a regional refineries development strategy in 2008.
The minister also noted other areas in which regional cooperation has been ongoing.

"One of the most notable areas is the biennial East African Petroleum Conference which was first held in 2003," Lokeris said.

The aim of the conference is to attract investments in the sector by demonstrating to the world the potential that lies within the region.

Due to expertise shortage in the various countries, the participants agreed that regional cooperation could help in sharing labour.

The conference participants however noted that transparency and accountability was key for each country in oil and gas management.

The conference is jointly sponsored by the Economic Policy Research Center in Uganda and the Africa Growth Institution at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, USA.

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