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Use Covid-19 to develop capacity in oil & gas sector – experts

Contractors and suppliers in the oil and gas sector value chain have been advised to use the slowdown in activity occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to build competencies to fit in the highly demanding sector writes DERRICK KIYONGA. 

The Oil and gas sector is one of the most affected by the slowdown of the economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic but the situation also offers immense opportunities.  

Last week’s seminar on business continuity in the sector was a timely boost for stakeholders, who got valuable information from various experts. Tullow Oil, Total E&P and the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum organised the online seminar that was followed by hundreds of stakeholders in the sector.

Charles Ocici, the Enterprise Uganda executive director, advised players engaging across the value chain about the need to build capacity to deliver functional solutions that are consistent in terms of quality, deadlines and quantities at all times and which meet buyer expectations.

He noted that although Uganda is yet to sign the Final Investment Decision (FID), that may not be far away. Ocici also urged them to ensure that they consistently improve on the solutions offered to remain competitive in the market.

“Know that you will have to compete with the most competent, most resourced and most funded businesses which also have highly trained staff and the best technology. Competition is not among the equals,” Ocici said.

He also urged businesses to be agile to survive shocks and ensure business continuity, saying Covid-19 has shown that no business is too big to be challenged.

Have continuity plans

Peter Ssempebwa, the Tullow Oil Supply Chain advisor, said business continuity is more pertinent now than ever before given the disruptions experienced at both personal and business levels over Covid-19.

Ssempebwa urged businesspeople to have continuity plans to ensure business continuity, saying the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted activity in both the service and production industries, among others.

“Imagine when you run a Covid-19 test and your entire staff test positive or those of your supplier. This presents certain risks and vulnerabilities that could ultimately end in either you closing the business or having to work at a fairly constrained level,” he said.

This, he added, businesses need to design a tailor-fitted business continuity plans to enable them assess the level of risk and vulnerability to their staff, processes and the partners. He said this will help businesses develop an effective risk and contingence plan to counter the risks that have been identified and the vulnerabilities therein.

Among the key business pillars to be assessed include people; assessing whether they have a safe working environment and whether they are not exposed to Covid-19.

“You need to insulate your business in all ways so that it does not suffer much because of the disruption; where you cannot insulate, develop a fallback position, evaluate the extent of the impact and devise measures to survive so that the business does not suffer,” Ssempebwa said.

The National Content Officer-Contracts at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda, Alex Byamukama, also alluded to the need for continuity and sustainability, saying it is key, especially in the oil and gas sector.

“In the operations of the oil and gas sector, there is a peak and a slump into the operational phase because we know that oil is a finite resource. So, we need to plan to ensure business continuity even during the slump,” he said.

Invest in people

On the other hand, Daniel Kakuru, the Tullow Uganda operations supervisor, urged businesses to invest more in human resource, supply chains and processes to ensure business continuity.

He noted that the more adaptable people, processes and supply chains are, the higher the chances of a business to withstand any uncertainty such as Covid-19 or any other that could come the businesses’ way.

“Oil and gas is an evolving business and thus you need to hire people that will be able to provide the right skill sets you need today but also those you will need in future because the business must survive the different shocks in the different transitional stages,” Kakuru said.

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