“Uganda’s oil” and Wakanda

Wakanda. Futuristic. It doesn’t rely on foreign aid. It is rich. Technologically advanced. Built local capacity. Local capacity is local content. They had a very rare metal. Could be a mineral. Vibranium. It is also fictional. In the Wakanda Kingdom, they seem to have managed their resource well (apart from the fact that they don’t want to export their technology).

The movie has received good reviews. Shattered movie viewings in the whole country. For two weeks plus, to watch Black Panther, you had to book in advance. In the history of Uganda’s cinema history, this is perhaps the best performing movie of all time. (I stand to be corrected since there are no known stats). It is a movie that has inspired many. For some Ugandans because there is Daniel Kaluuya. Born in the UK to Ugandan parents, Kaluuya is not Ugandan. Or is he? He is not a product of our theatre. Or even our investment in the arts. In Black Panther he is W’kabi. The leader of the tribe that keeps watch of borders. He is also a lover of “the General” (Okoye). But notice the name W’kabi. Isn’t that Wakabi? A Ugandan male name. The movie is also popular – among some Ugandans – for its setting. The belief is that Wakanda could be is in Uganda. You don’t have to be a Marvel Comics fan/enthusiast to watch this movie.

Back to Vibranium. Uganda has oil. It was discovered in 2006. It is a resource that can change Uganda. Vibranium is unique to Wakanda. However, it is a “natural resource” of some sort. Oil is not unique to Uganda but not every country has oil. It can change a country. Uganda is nearing that phase (by 2020, after 2020) when oil will start flowing. The question on many people’s minds is; “will I benefit from that oil?” Management of the proceeds from the oil will define whether this will benefit the people of Uganda.

The management of resources will define the future for Uganda. Estimates indicate that revenue earnings annually could be about $4bn (Shs14trillion), enough to lift the burden off the already strained tax revenue in a space of ever-increasing government expenditure. Uganda’s plans inlcude investing the money in infrastructure projects through the national budget. The other option is to save money and any windfall through investment proposals suggested by the an investment committee. The areas of Bunyoro (a Kingdom) that are in the oil belt will also benefit from revenue off the royalties of oil. All looks like a good plan.

Unlike the Vibranium, oil will run-out in Uganda. However that doesn’t mean the management of the resource should be any different. Wakanda is fictional. We do not know whether it is a corrupt society. What we notice is not good buildings and white elephant projects. It is transformational technology and resource allocation to the several clans that make up the Kingdom (could be Uganda). Is it the same in Uganda? Will this oil lead to skills transfer and perhaps in the future, the Uganda National Oil Company will be winning contracts to drill for oil or manage oil resource.

The revenues from the resources can also be used to invest in other sectors of the economy. Could Uganda perhaps industrialise? Could Uganda become self reliant by creating jobs in agri-business?

The Uganda government wants to refine its oil in order to wean off the petroleum related imports that tend to drive the import bill upwards. The benefits for the country will be affordable prices of fuel that can lower costs of production.

Wakanda had no debt. Wakanda did not need lectures on how to manage its resource. Uganda has debt. It plans to borrow to cater for salaries. Plans to borrow for a massive railway project. Already in debt, can Uganda’s oil be of benefit to its people?

It has to benchmark – Norway plus Botswana – on how to manage the resource. The two (Uganda and Wakanda) are different but that doesn’t mean lessons cannot be picked from a fictional country.


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