OPINION: Four years after France's Total persuaded Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to route his heavy oil through Tanzania a deal has finally been reached, with Museveni coaxing Tanzanian head of state John Magufuli to sign up shortly.
Construction of the 1443-kilometre East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) between Lake Albert in Uganda and Tanga port in Tanzania may now begin early next year, with first oil flowing in 2025 from the Tilenga and Kingfisher fields, operated by Total and China National Offshore Oil Corporation, respectively.
The $4 billion pipeline — 80% of which will run through Tanzania — will unlock some $8 billion of investment in oilfields and another $4 billion for a refinery at Hoima, Uganda, with multipliers rippling through the two countries’ service sectors.
At least, that’s the expectation.
After Uganda signed its host government agreement (HGA), Museveni and Magufuli promised to fast-track resolution of remaining EACOP issues, knowing that activists in both countries are far from happy with efforts to consult, compensate and mitigate the displacement of communities.
With environmental and social rights campaigners still waiting for the fine print, local contractors keen to tap into indigenous content provision have seen their resources badly eroded by the project delay.
Half a decade ago, Museveni told the 69th UN General Assembly that climate change was an aggression against the poor and a threat to his wetlands and forestation, but has always been adamant he would brook no opposition to the exploitation of ‘his oil’.
Total fought long and hard to agree a commercial framework for the Lake Albert project and last weekend’s HGA with Uganda and signing of pre-HGA accords with Magufuli bring that elusive final investment decision closer.
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The news resonates well in Paris as French ties with Uganda are expanding, not least in the military sphere, shoring up influence in the fragile Francophone states bordering Uganda’s Great Lakes.
France has long banned hydrocarbon extraction from its mainland and overseas territories, but still likes to bask in the world-class upstream expertise displayed by its flagship energy company, Total.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)