As a dominant model of economic growth, development and economic diversification, extractivism continues its enormous existence and influence on the ecosystems and conservation approaches of the environmentalists and health activists in Africa. With the overwhelming ambitions of boasting the Countries’ Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) and nations’ income per capita especially among the emerging global-south economies, a heavy parallel diversion has existed over the years between the environmentalists and political-economic approaches to extractivism in Uganda. The economic impact that comes along with the valuable economic rent gains of extraction ventures elevate and strengthen the State’s economic growth stages especially from the pre-conditions to take-off economic stage through the drive-to-maturity economic stage.

This paper further high-marks the unimaginable awful climate dynamic implications that come lengthwise with the mining activities that cause human-induced destructions.

Mining in Uganda is mainly done for exportation of the raw-form minerals by the multinational corporations through private sector investments to the foreign markets and highly industrialized global-north nations that have highly-advanced appropriate technology to convert mined minerals into finished valuable treasurable products. This paper postures a heavy juxtaposition question on the two extreme ends of extractivism gains, that is, positive and negative gains through critically studying and analyzing the adverse health costs of extractivism in developing countries like Uganda.   According to (Arquinego, 2014), climate change does not affect the global South and global North equally, and within those hemispheres not everyone is affected equally either. Climate impacts affect people according to their race, class and gender. Responses to climate change need to begin from this recognition.

This paper continues to explore the gaps and issues underlying management and exploration of natural resources through natural resource governance, and approaches to extractivism, and its dangers on the Uganda’s ecosystem with oil exploration as the major area of focus. Further we discuss the health effects of extractivism as one of the physical environment determinants of health in the vulnerable communities and low-resource settings around the oil and other mineral fields, the displacement of the local natives due to dominant civil corporate controls with amplified militarization of resource regions and transnational corporations’ influence in the conservation policies of the environment protection authorities

 By Michael Ssemakula

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, and Health Rights Advocate

Alliance of Women Advocating for Change, and PHM-Network






Background and Introduction

Extractivism is the mining or extraction of natural resources that are intended to be sold in the country’s export market.  This comprises the extraction of minerals and fossil fuels, deforestation for lumbering, agro-industry, and megadams. Down-the-factual lane, extractivism disastrous consequences are more eminent in Low-Income Countries (LICs) compared to the High-Income Countries (HICs), this is reflected in the LICs’ native communities and penniless disadvantaged women especially countries in sub-Saharan Africa like Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo; and in contrary, this has benefited the rich and wealthy HICs at the expense of the poor and destitute countries henceforth environment conflicts and resource-wars.

As an emerging economy with the ambition of achieving the well-laid down Nation Development Plan or Vision 2040 (NPA), of   Transforming Ugandan Society from a Peasant to a Modern and Prosperous Country within 30 years, and following the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #1 of end poverty in all its forms everywhere, there has been a praxis dynamic development in Uganda’s diversification vehicle through exploring and embracing all sorts of economic ventures that best suit the structure of Uganda’s economy with the major focus on main unindustrialized income generating ventures such as extractivism. The extraction industry in Uganda has several minerals including the colonial era minerals such as copper and gold which have been bracketed in several generations of national incomes and GDP computations, however, in the historic shift, the petroleum (oil and gas) exploration in the mineral sub-sector especially in the Albertine rift has shadowed the entire picture of the extractivism industry since its discovery in 2006. Oil and gas in the Uganda National development plan is referred to as oil industry. Through the health and conservational protection lenses, exploration activities are taking place in ecologically protected areas which makes the resource landscapes become the major concern and areas of extreme significance to the environmental and health advocates.

Uganda announced the discovery of commercially viable oil and gas deposits in and around the North-Western shores of Lake Albert, a region known as the Albertine Graben. (Holterman, 2013) In a report, (EPRC, Feb, 2015). Albertine Graben region, which stretches along the entire western border of the country, is host to endangered biodiversity. At least 5,793 different plant varieties have been recorded in the region, and 551 of these species are endemic to it. The Albertine Graben’s Lake Albert has 53 different fish species, and approximately 10 of these are unique to the lake and thus are found nowhere else in the world. The region’s residents depend on these critical natural resources for their livelihoods—in agriculture, fishing and tourism—all of which could be adversely affected by oil exploitation.

These new and fresh explorations in the western part of Uganda are magnified by further recent past discoveries in the northern parts of Uganda which traverse diverse ethnic, environmental and political lines with a storyline dissimilarity concerning the oil deposits’ location thereby bringing an immensely a parallel historic viewpoint.

The geopolitics is at the center-edge of mineral exploration in Uganda’s oil and mineral regions depicted through the vivid existence of major multinational corporations in the region such as Ireland’s Tullow oil Uganda Operations Pty Ltd, the French company Total and Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), making up the tripartite and other oil companies (Pulse, 2015). The Ministry of Energy and Minerals Development (MEMD) through the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) and the Uganda National Oil Company (NATOIL) with the investment advisory assistance of the Private sector, are planning to permit more firms through a request for proposal and modal production-sharing agreement documents (NPA), as a way of streamlining the oil and gas extractivism activities, and clearly drawing the guiding policy for the corporations’ activities. All the companies will thrive on the presence of the oil in the oil regions, new explorations, political and macroeconomic outlook of the economy. In the recent past, findings show oil exploration has marked a fruitful end through oil discoveries in the Albertine rift for Uganda. By 2014 (Patey, October 2015) the Ugandan government estimated that there were 6.5 billion barrels of oil in place, but recoverable oil is estimated to be between 1.8 and 2.2 billion barrels with an annual revenue forecast of 2billion US-Dollars. Oil production is expected to reach heights of between 200,000 and 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) based on current discoveries. This places Uganda in the position to be a mid-level African producer, comparable with present day levels in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The global oil price rise in the previous decade was influential in revealing Uganda’s oil resources thus beguiling intercontinental oil corporations to set their direct oil investments to the virgin Ugandan oil and gas sub-sector in the-face of the economic and political security challenges.

Underlying Social, Economic, Political, Health and Environmental Implications

The extractivism gains is a long time-anthem of economic growth that is being hummed by millions of Ugandans and the national economy planners due to the backward-forward economic linkages and the mining outward-looking industrial-strategy economic benefits associated with oil, and accompanied by the anticipated positive dynamic shift in the income elasticity of demand of Ugandans to reduce the deflationary-economic gap that is being experienced due to the low effective aggregate demand and income inelastic demand. Oil and gas top the scale of economic ventures that the country is expectantly waiting to improve its balance of payment position in the global economy and stabilize its ever deteriorating Terms Of Trade (T.O.T) due to the excessive reliance of the economy on agricultural sector that is ever faced by price fluctuations in agricultural products that results in low price exchange for imports thereby increasing currency depreciation.

Across the globe especially in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil prices have experienced a positive wave trend through minimal volatilities with the barrel of oil expected to rise from the current $72 to $82 in October 2018 (Amadeo, 2018). The attractive price movements heighten the expectations of the citizenry from the extractivism sector with undoubtable immediate primary benefits such as employment creation by the oil companies and service providers, scaling-up foreign direct investments, supplies of goods and services by Ugandan companies, capacity development of Ugandans through training in the sector (to enhance their capacity fortunes to work in Uganda or abroad), infrastructural development, and growth of a petrochemical industry to reduce expenditure on global north product importation and rawmaterials thus increasing the overall national income, national income multipliers (Savings, investments, government expenditure and consumption multipliers), GDP growth rate, GDP per capita, improving the economy fiscal performance and closing the gap in the Uganda’s deficit budget to reduce the country’s reliance on public debt and foreign tied-aid, thereby giving the government an edge through political forces to defend for oil exploration at the expense of ecosystem conservation. The World Bank (BankWorld, 2016) through the Country Economic Memorandum (CEM) projected a GDP growth rate bracket of 7-10% when the oil production starts which will improve our investment multiplier effect. The Country Economic Memorandum also points out and highlights experience of other countries in the African continent and other parts of the world, which had large scale production of oil, gas and other mineral resources that created great economic opportunities. However, the Country Economic Memorandum presents foremost challenges as in the foregoing. A case in point is Angola where high oil production and high international prices boosted gross domestic product (GDP) growth during most of the 2000s but a massively expanded, incompetently managed, public investment program created congestion, inefficiencies and inflationary-gap in the country, instead of developing the long-term physical and human capital necessary to replace non-renewable resources.

The new century contemporary switch in the economic diversification drive through new extractivism discoveries, has forecasted enormous projected benefits to revitalize and fortify the national social economic and political building blocks for Uganda, to strengthen its influential footprint in the sub-Saharan Africa region and Africa in its entirety. The countless ugly gory tales have come along with oil explorations due to the untamable ambitions of the economy’s targets and development goals through indescribable ecologically unfriendly and harsh extraction undertakings which is intensifying the foul misconceptions of the environmentalists and health activists about extractivism activities vis-à-vis the great gain projections as discussed in this paper in the preceding discourses.

Internal displacements of people in the oil regions has been the foremost point of concern in the social adverse effects of extractivism. This has resulted in creation of group-temporary roofs commonly termed as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps due to land grabbing and conflicts fueled by well-connected island of unscrupulous civil corporate controls. In (Nalubega, 2014) Buliisa the Member of Parliament, Stephen Mukitale (2011-2016) questioned the manner in which his constituents were being evicted. There’re over 120 land cases in Buliisa district and we all know that the grabber is working with some of the district leaders because he would not know where these oils would be set up, and there is an escalating number of land conflicts. In Nwoya District which started in 2006, around the time oil was found, farming activities are diminishing every passing day due to the restricted access to land in these areas yet people must find means of survival.

Therefore, they fight against these dominant structures for their only asset to secure their fundamental right to land as the only source of livelihood which is under attack. Land is a physical determinant of health through which one grows food to adequately meet his/her nutrition needs as one of the aims of the Sustainable Development Goal #2 and #3, and one of the significant components in Primary Health Care used to achieve Universal Health Coverage. During the dislodgments, the health of the vulnerable women and the children is the most affected in contrast to men. This is because land in most impoverished communities is the only source of food to feed households and generate income for them through farming. Therefore, land grabbing intercepts their subsistence and commercial farming activities which incapacitates and cripples their financial muscles thus making such societies deprived of access to fundamental basic necessities of life, adequate feeding and personal developments. This further exacerbates the gender disparity and income Gini-coefficient gap due to the gender structuralized economic violence against women through socio-economic system pathways that harm their welfare especially the penniless underprivileged and indigenous women.

The Resource Governance in Uganda which incorporates management and allocation of resources is being hovered by a micro- and personalized system of resource management through a tight terrifying resource militarization. This is evidently and heavily being felt by the natives in the resource regions, done to protect the interests of a group of black-to-black apartheid oppressive rulers, the Museveni-bush men and company. Since they are the country managers, they tend to owe unbreakable materialistic-allegiance to the transnational oil corporations, with the intent of expanding and strengthening their financial empires and grip on power. In return, due to the constrained and expensive regulatory and bureaucratic procedures, the transnational corporations in extractivism leverage on maximizing resource exploitation with limited inclusion of ecosystem protection into their management systems and programmes. Given their strong set-of-capacities and influence in the global oil and gas industry, transnational corporations tend to compromise the global climate change policy enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This undermines and violates the sovereignty of some states especially the LICs in the global-south because the transnational oil corporations tend to parade their economic interests above the environmental, health and social interests of people.

The oil industry is undertaking its activities within the communities and environs of the ecosystems. Destruction of the Lake Albert area’s ecological biodiversity is unescapable due to the poor and inefficient environmental governance which exposes the region’s rich wildlife ecologies to six-feet under degradation. Thus, creating a rift between the politicians, health activists and the environmentalists’ approach to extractivism. According to the report by (Patey, October 2015) Albertine Graben, along with eco-tourism in Murchison Falls National Park, where 40 per cent of Uganda’s discovered oil resources are located is under threat if the oil   industry does not follow the international environmental standards. By virtue of the fact that Uganda’s oil is waxy, groundwork infrastructure requirements are bigger, and they are at the verge of leaving a large black-mark on the natural resource environment, thus creating a need for extra power plants that will deal with heating, storage, and transport of oil, and the shallow depths of oil wells and weak natural flow pressures will require significant water injection for oil extraction.


Formulate and strengthen regulatory policies concerning extractivism

This provides space for checks and balances in the sector because oil companies are self-regulating due to the fact that Uganda’s system body that is National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is inadequately supported in terms of funding from the government and has deficiencies in its administrative authority to sufficiently penalize the ecology destroyers. Therefore, such regulatory policy helps to guide the oil corporations to frequently conduct environmental impact assessment and treat their wastes like oil spills that may be a health hazard to humanity and in long-run cause a cancer nightmare to the populace in the region.

Proper mapping and formulating a well streamlined compensation policy

Uganda has a land Act but does not have a compensation policy. In many incidents this Act works in favor of the bourgeoisie class over the interests of peasants on the land. Section 6(5) (b) of the Land Act provides that, where a person awarded compensation under this Section refuses to accept payment, the High Court on the application of the Attorney General may order payment to be made into court on such conditions as it thinks appropriate. Most of the times the compensation awarded is inadequate and this becomes a financial and a heavy wealth loss to the victims. Further, the property valuers who can help are government employees and the law does not provide for private property valuers. Most government valuers are easily bribed and manipulated by the rich and experts from the corporations to authenticate the unscrupulous results.  The outcomes out land evictions are often disastrous especially in the wave-length of health. Most of the times, evictions involve resettlement of the victims in distant and remote free lands secured by the government which are far away from the health centres. This limit people’s access to health care especially the HIV/AIDs patients who consistently need to visit the health centres to get health advisory services in regards to their CD4 counts and access to medicines such as antiretrovirals.


Oil discovery in Uganda is the newest economic gear in the diversification vehicle that has been embraced by economists and politicians as a heavy-rewarding economic undertaking to revive the Uganda’s economy. This will close the budgetary gap in order to reduce the country’s reliance on domestic and foreign public borrowing in the national budgets to stimulate the drive to economic self-sustenance. Contrariwise, the oil exploration drive under the environmentalists’ and health advocates’ approach has been sieged on the grounds of overwhelming adversative effects it may have on the ecosystems and health. Crude oil leakages and spills my cause escape of substances used in the oil production processes which detrimentally affect the habitats of flora and fauna in the freshwater and in-land biodiversity systems thereby troubling several living organisms’ functions like feeding, respiration, and body temperature-regulation. Meanwhile, the ecosystem in its entireness changes with time because of the chemical substances and compound-elements of the dripped oil that are noxious to the environs. Therefore, the government should come up with a stringent activity regulatory policy framework that standardizes and controls the activities of the oil companies to protect the ecologies against destructions by the oil and gas industry.



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