By Abigail Edelman
There is a great divide within Uganda. There are in fact two Ugandas, the north and the south. The south benefits from being home to the capital Kampala and the majority of the nation’s infrastructure. The north has suffered from drought and decades of conflict between the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) and government forces. The result has been massive displacement of northern Ugandans, higher rates of disease, lower rates of literacy and weak infrastructure, including proportionally less access to electricity. This is one of the primary reasons Solar Sister will be targeting this region in their expansion strategy.
On a recent trip to northern Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park members of both TEM Labs teams witnessed this stark contrast firsthand. We observed almost no buildings, no electrical lines and limited planting due to drought and poor soil quality. While enjoying the national park, we learned of some of the current realities of the Ugandan political economy. As some people know, Uganda has been in the headlines in the last couple years because of the recent discovery of oil in northern Uganda along the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border. Some of these drilling sites fall within Murchison Fall National Park. Many park rangers we spoke with were concerned with the effect of the drilling on local wildlife, in addition to the local populations that will be displaced by the drilling and export of the oil. Though many people voiced these concerns, some were hopeful of the economic development that the discovery of oil will bring to the region.
Many T-birds who have taken Moffet and Inkpen’s Global Energy class have learned about the ‘Curse of Oil’ that has plagued Africa and other oil rich countries. Countries like Chad and Nigeria, where large oil reserves have been developed and exported, have seen an exponential increase in government revenues, but this newly found wealth has not been shared with the nation’s poor.
As protests in Kampala are underway against high imported oil prices, these reserves theoretically provide the resources in country to meet the current demand. However, the reality of actually developing these resources for self- sufficiency is still a long way off. This leads me to wonder if the export of Ugandan oil will help to bring the economic development that northern Uganda so desperately needs?