Owing to the type of foreign direct investment prevalent in the country, the working climate in Uganda is becoming more competitive, which presents a number of opportunities for companies, says integrated infrastructure delivery company Aecom Uganda MD Bridget Ssamula.
“The biggest opportunities for the country lie in the oil and gas sector. Aecom’s global skills, expertise and project experience, coupled with its local entrenchment and local content commitment, are key strengths to capitalising on these opportunities.”
She notes that the boom in the oil and gas sector is owing to the various infrastructure projects that are taking off or that are in the final stages of design. “Global oil and gas engineering and construction companies have set up offices and some are delivering projects in Uganda, so interest is rife.”
Moreover, she indicates that there is a growing trend of delivering projects through private-sector involvement and varying procurement methodologies, such as public–private partnerships; design and build; engineering, procurement and construction; and engineering, procurement and construction management.
“This has unlocked opportunities for various sectors that support the construction and services industry,” Ssamula notes.
However, operating in Uganda is not without its challenges. The procurement delivery methodology for envisaged government infrastructure projects is difficult to predict and/or build a pipeline of projects, as often there are no published capital programmes or masterplans, for example.
Moreover, owing to the competing social services needs for funding, the procurement timeline for infrastructure projects becomes difficult to predict, and the targets and timelines are not managed, known, or even adhered to, in many cases.
To mitigate these risks, Aecom is identifying a project that will be funded by private- sector and/or donor funders as the core of its business strategy of growing a pipeline in Uganda.
The company is also following its global and/or Southern Africa clients’ operations in Uganda, providing value-add on how to meet in-country requirements, while understanding their global standards of quality and delivery of infrastructure projects, thereby adding value to their project delivery models.
Ssamula highlights that Aecom has been involved in the environmental- and social-impact project for integrated oil and gas company Total and independent oil exploration and production company Tullow in the Tilenga oilfield development project, in western Uganda, since 2014.
This project showcases how Aecom uses specialised global teams with skills specific to the oil and gas sector to deliver complex projects in a local context. Aecom deployed local partners, whose target spend grew from 26% of the project cost to about 40%, thereby demonstrating the consultancy’s commitment to local content and, in the process, provided knowledge transfer unique to the oil and gas sector.
Ssamula notes the unique environmental challenges, as the oilfield’s project area is mostly in the wildlife conservation areas of Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth national parks and a major waterbody, Lake Albert.
However, she commends the experience and assistance of the local teams in working in such environments, where skills transfer was provided to the global team.
She points out that Aecom’s local partner also gained experience and training from the project, and can subsequently tender for similar projects in the oil and gas sector independently.