February 27, 2024

Uganda courts Iran for its oil sector development

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (L) with his host Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni at State House Entebbe on July 12, 2023. The Iranian leader is in Uganda for a two-day visit. PHOTO | PPU

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Uganda will engage Iran for support to develop its energy sector, especially its oil and nuclear through technology transfer or financing of projects.

Faced with a lack of funding for the construction of a $4.5 billion refinery in the oil-rich Albertine region, President Yoweri Museveni extended an invitation to his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi to consider investment in the project.

President Raisi held talks with his host Mr Museveni at State House Entebbe on Wednesday during the Iranian leader’s tour of Africa in 11 years, which has seen him visiting Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Mr Museveni noted that Iran has vast experience in building oil refineries and has made significant strides in the development of the petrochemical industry. He asked his guest to share the technology with Ugandan scientists.

President Raisi, in response, said Tehran was ready to share and work with Uganda, a country he termed as friendly, to develop its oil industry.

“When it comes to energy in general and oil in particular, Iran enjoys expansive experience there and we are ready to share this experience with Uganda,” Mr Raisi said.

Uganda’s oil sector has faced criticism from the West and rights groups who are exerting pressure on global financiers not to fund its crude pipeline and refinery over environmental and human rights concerns.

Nuclear energy

The two countries are also in talks to share knowledge on nuclear energy development with Iran among countries considered to build Uganda’s first nuclear plant to supplement its energy needs as it races towards industrialisation.

Under Vision 2040 development plan, Uganda plans to generate 40,000 megawatts of electricity to meet its goals.

According to officials from the Ministry of Energy, Kampala views Tehran as a key partner to develop a 2,000MW nuclear generation capacity.

Other countries that Uganda is engaging in the development of nuclear energy are Russia, China and the US.

Museveni and Raisi also agreed to cooperate on security matters and fight against terrorism in addition to signing memorandums of understanding and agreements on agriculture, visa-free travels for diplomatic and service passports holders.

Agricultural produce market

President Museveni said he was keen on increasing trade between the two countries, especially in agricultural and industrial products.

Ugandan exports to Iran in 2020 were worth $395 million, mostly agricultural products, according to the UN Comtrade database.

The low volumes of trade between the two countries are attributed to a string of international and Western sanctions on Tehran. Last year, President Museveni proposed that the two countries engage in barter trade to evade these sanctions.

On Wednesday, Mr Museveni told President Raisi that Uganda’s agricultural products could come in constant supply.

“We are always ready to cooperate with Iran and the best area of cooperation is trade because the climate here is good and there is nothing on earth we cannot produce. We have the food, but our problem is the market for it,” he said.

The two leaders agreed to also share technology in the pharmaceutical sector, electric car manufacturing and agro-processing.

Anti-West stance

In their speeches, both Museveni and Raisi lashed out at the West over what they termed as neo-colonialism and deliberate efforts to frustrate the development of third-world countries.

Raisi, who lauded Uganda on its stance against homosexuality, said that Western countries are not generally interested in seeing other countries with resources entirely independent and they front human rights abuses to sanction them.

“They do not want to see you adding value to your resources and want you to only export raw materials which they themselves process and sell back to you at higher prices,” he said.

**The Observer**

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