Professor Mwangi Kimenyi, a senior Fellow and director at the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) thoughts about the forum and the East Africa oil sector

Professor Mwangi Kimenyi, a senior Fellow and director at the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI), Brookings Institution, based in Washington D.C, was in Kampala 23rd to 24th January 2013 to attend the regional forum on Oil and Gas with a theme management for inclusive and sustainable development of the oil sector.

Esther Nakkazi got his thoughts about the forum and the East Africa oil sector, below are the excerpts:

1. What is the main purpose for holding this regional oil and gas conference at this point in time?
The main objective is to bring different stakeholders--civil society, private sector, government, the general public, media, donors, etc, to discuss the pertinent issues concerning the management of natural resources and in particular oil and gas.

This is motivated by the concern that new oil producers do not have the necessary institutional and legal frameworks that are necessary to avoid the natural resource curse. We also want to start a conversation as to how regional cooperation could improve the management of oil and gas.

2. Has it been achieved?
The goal is achieved by sharing views amongst experts and stakeholders. The idea is to have broad participation so that we can get the views of all concerned.

3. Why is participation key by all citizens in this sector?
Participation is extremely crucial. The problem that has characterized the poor management of natural resources in many countries is the lack of transparency and accountability. You cannot have transparency unless there is broad participation so that the public can also hold the government to account.

4. Is there a particular model or best practice that African governments can use to ensure transparency? What about a model for managing revenue, do you have any recommendations?
Unfortunately, we do not have many models of transparency in oil in Africa. Botswana is an exception and it has managed to exploit natural resources under conditions of transparency. Ghana, seems to be moving in that direction but still has to deal with some issues. However, the two countries are much better than the majority. They also have good frameworks for revenue management.

5. Why do we need a regional approach in the exploitation and management of oil resources?
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). Cooperating on these aspects lowers the costs and is also more effective.

6. Some participants felt that not all EA countries should exploit their oil resources at the same time, basically to avoid competition and because there may not be a viable market. Should a country like Uganda leave its oil resources in the ground and stick to its comparative advantage of food production?
Yes. For as long as the institutions are in place to ensure that the resource is exploited efficiently. Ideally, it is important to make sure that the resources go to productive sectors that help in the transportation of the economies. The market for oil and gas is not just local or regional it is international so there should be no fear about the size of the market or completion amongst the East African countries.

7. The minister of Finance Maria Kiwanuka emphasized continuous dialogue to build trust. What efforts should governments put in to ensure this?
The Minister made a very crucial point that is at the heart of good management of natural resources, which is continuous dialogue to build trust. The problem in many countries is that governments do a lot of things in secrecy and without involving the public. Such an approach creates mistrust as citizens assume that governments are hiding something. We must have continuous dialogue to exchange views and for government to provide information to the citizens. This is the only way we can ensure that there is trust between governments and its citizens.#

8. After the conference what is the way forward?
We hope that participants will continue engaging in their home countries. in particular we hope that we shall have communicated the message of the importance of governments to open up to the participation of stakeholders. It is a start or a conversation that should continue. Ultimately, we hope that we can impact on the way governments relate to the citizens in the management of natural resources.

9. What are some of the key lessons you have learnt from this forum?
There are several lessons that are coming through. The first is that transparency and accountability in the management of oil and gas is critical. Such can only be entrenched in the society if there is flow of information from government and also if there is effective stakeholder participation.

The other important message if that it is crucial to carefully evaluate how revenue from natural resources are invested. finally, we hope that it will be clear that all the countries in the region can benefit a great deal from region cooperation in the management of oil and gas.

10. Who are the sponsors of this East Africa oil and gas conference?
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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