Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with large and medium contractors who will be working on the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). The MSMEs were selected from the ten (10) districts where the pipeline passes.

The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) has been implementing an African Development Bank (AfDB) project for MSMEs Business Linkages training along the EACOP project. The AfDB and the Government of Uganda signed a US$500,000 grant agreement to finance the capacity building of MSMEs to boost business linkages along the EACOP.

Mr Ernest Rubondo, the Executive Director (ED) at the PAU, in a speech read by Mr Michael Otonga, the Director Finance and Corporate Services at the PAU said the overall goal of the project was to support local MSMEs along the EACOP to develop capacity. It is also to open access to new market opportunities through the creation of business linkages between micro and small medium enterprises together with linkages between SMEs and larger national, regional, or international companies.

“Today, we witness the signing of the MOUs between some of the medium and large enterprises which will enable the medium-sized companies to offer goods and services to the large companies while learning how to tap into the various oil and gas opportunities,” Mr Rubondo said.

The project, which was launched in Mubende district in January 2021, has seen over four hundred (400) SMEs in the EACOP districts trained. Of these, one hundred, and thirty-seven (137) are women and youth-led enterprises.

Mr Martin Byaruhanga, team leader of ESTEEM International Consultants, who undertook the Business Linkages training for the MSMEs revealed that they surpassed the set targets of the number of MSMEs trained and partnered with the large contractors.

“A total of one hundred and thirty-eight (138) MoUs were signed between between Micro and Small Companies with fifty (50) medium-sized companies against the targeted total of fifty (50) MoUs, thus, exceeding the target by eighty-eight (88) MoUs (276%),” Mr Byarunga explained.

Under the second cluster, a total of forty-one (41) MoUs were signed between medium-sized companies and large companies, against the targeted twenty (20) MoUs, thus, exceeding the target by twenty one (21)  MoUs (205%).

Rev Enock Kasirabo Mushaija, the Director Kisirabo Holdings, one of the beneficiaries of the Business Linkages training program from Mubende District expressed concern over the conclusion of the program which he said would be beneficial to others who missed out especially the vulnerable groups.

“There is a need for sustainability of this project. Many of your sons and daughters plus the women didn’t fully embrace it. Government should continue with this training to empower more youths and women,” Rev Kasirabo pleaded.

However, Mr Otonga confirmed that plans were underway to lobby for more support from the Government and other development partners to continue with the project.

“This is a big milestone. We need to work on ensuring that we maintain quality, quantity and consistency in whatever we shall be doing,” stressed Mr Otonga.

The signing of the MoU is a positive development for the Oil and Gas industry in East Africa. It is a clear indication that there is a growing recognition of the important role that MSMEs play in the development of the industry. With the support of the AfDB and the Government of Uganda, capacity-building initiatives and business linkages, training will be provided to more MSMEs.

Overall, the MoU is a significant step towards the development of a sustainable oil and gas industry in East Africa. It is anticipated that more MSMEs will come on board, leading to further growth and economic development. The Authority and other stakeholders are committed to supporting local entrepreneurs and ensuring that they benefit from the O&G industry.