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Interview: UNOC’s Wapakabulo: Uganda Has Not Felt Downside Impact of Lower Oil Revenues

Dr Josephine Wapakabulo is the first woman inaugural CEO of a National Oil Company in history.

She has more than 18 years’ professional experience in multinational companies in various sectors including, oil and gas, defence, aerospace and IT consulting.

Her executive level experience was gained in the UK, Germany, Australia and Uganda.

Josephine is a Chartered Engineer and holds a PhD in Information Science focused on big data.

She published a book on the adoption of data-exchange standards and knowledge management technologies in defence and oil and gas companies.

She has a Global Executive MBA from INSEAD business school in France.

As the national oil company of Uganda, UNOC’s purpose is to handle the state’s commercial interest in the oil and gas sector and ensure that the resource is exploited in a sustainable manner.

It seeks strategic partners who have the risk appetite, financing, technology and the necessary tools to enable it to deliver profitable projects and promote national content.


In an interview published by Africa oil and gas review – November 2018, Dr Josephine speaks about UNOC’s role as Uganda prepares for oil production.

QN: How do you see the role of NOCs in Africa?

The vision for UNOC is to have commercial interest across the value chain, in high barrier to entry, high skill areas, generating as much revenue as possible for the country, and separated from regulating and licensing.

UNOC has a critical role in building, empowering and supporting the local supply chain beyond the core oil and gas sector, so that even if UNOC is not there, they should continue to operate successfully across other sectors.

UNOC needs to find the right balance to gain as much value as possible from the sector on behalf of the state, ensuring that enough supporting sectors beyond the very core high barrier to entry are left to Ugandans to develop.

This will fulfill the strategy of the country at large.

NOCs should be cooperating on a skills and knowledge transfer level among themselves and IOCs.

They should also share potential commercial opportunities, such as resource-rich countries collaborating with countries with refining capacity. UNOC has already started developing relationships with other African NOCs and even beyond Africa.

QN: What role do you see hydrocarbons playing in Africa in future?

There is continuing investment in the hydrocarbon industry in Africa. In Uganda, hydrocarbon consumption rates are growing at 6-7%, and the population growth rate is at 3-4%. There will be alternative energy, but there will also be a place for hydrocarbons.

Emerging economies need to move at a pace so they do not get left behind in developing their hydrocarbons.

Africa is lagging behind the rest of the world – with limited electricity infrastructure, power generation and distribution capacity – and there will therefore be a longer lifespan for hydrocarbons on the continent.

QN:  How do you see the impact of digital transformation in Uganda?

UNOC relies on good credible partners at this stage to implement best-fit technologies, and we are fully engaged and up to date with developments in the digital transformation space.

QN: What do you see as current and emerging challenges of operating in Africa?

Access to state funding to develop an emerging industry is a key challenge. The demands for funding competes against basic education, healthcare and other social needs of the country.

This will remain a challenge until production starts and UNOC has a revenue stream of its own. A lot of international development funding bypasses UNOC due to its company structure of being a truly commercial limited company with shareholders, which is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

QN: How did the low oil price impact your timeline and how do you respond to the oil price scenario?

The oil price collapse and resultant spending cuts have resulted in services being offered at much lower rates to willing buyers.

As an emerging, pre-production player Uganda has not felt the downside impact of lower oil revenues.

We have, however, been able to take advantage of the lower costs of services. We are therefore very incentivised to reach FID and first oil as quickly as possible and lock in these services at the lower price.

QN: How do you see relationships between NOCs and IOCs? What is win-win?

Strategic partnerships with IOCs are key for UNOC to succeed.

Our upstream interests are usually carried, but we are full equity partners in the refinery, pipeline, industrial park and storage projects. The key to a win-win is trust and transparency to achieve the desired results.

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