As many journalists reported Tullow Uganda’s appointment of a national as its chief operating officer (thus going a step further in Ugandanizing its operations), a story run in the BBC that this innovative wild cat with ambitions of becoming the next British Petroleum had launched a “Invest in Africa” drive. This sponsorship was not promoted in Uganda in fact. The Tullow folks generally reached out on the appointment of Mr. Jimmy Mugerwa. However the separation of audiences is something broached in this comment by activist/analyst Taimour Lay who I know well. He writes in the mould of many who question the so-called new narrative on Africa as the next big thing-as the smog that hides the march forward of the old game of “exploitation”. Tullow is sponsoring Sunderland FC an English premier league club who will appear in vests with “Invest in Africa”.
“Creating an organisation like this allows it to frame its drilling operations in the rhetoric of “growth and development on the African continent” says Mr. Lay in his critique.
You can read it for yourself here. I have found myself discussing most things African not so much in terms of their merits ( is carbon trading for example what Africa really needs or should it pollute its way to a modern society like everyone else) but more in light of the participation of Africans themselves.
In this way Tullow’s invest in Africa may make sense if for example the company listed in Uganda or any other African stock exchange or gave nationals first priority on a piece of its growing African business. Maybe instead of doing the old dance or promoting its do-gooder status in Europe, it could have or should have approached this more aggressively here. There is a lot more to say about this eventually.
Aidan Heavey, the Tullow C.E.O correctly pointed out in the BBC interview that investment in Africa creates jobs and significant revenues remain in countries where oil is being exploited. This is nothing new and can be still said of countries like Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and DR Congo. But wouldn’t it be great if Africans owned the next BP, don’t you think? The difference today is Tullow is an Irish company doing business in Africa not an African company in the sense that most of its business is creating value out of African resources.