The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) represents a critical solution to making energy poverty history in Africa by 2030. In addition to transporting much-needed oil across the region and improving energy security by connecting hydrocarbon-rich basins in Uganda with both its regional and international destinations, the pipeline will be instrumental for job creation, local community empowerment and wider socioeconomic growth. However, despite its significance, western environmentalist groups are demanding the abandonment of the project, citing environmental concerns. But at what point does Africa’s energy needs and the wellbeing of the people take precedence over sensationalist eco-socialism?
The EACOP – also known as the Uganda-Tanzania crude oil pipeline – is a 1,443km long crude oil pipeline that will link Uganda’s oilfields to the Port of Tanga in Tanzania. The pipeline, with capacity to transport approximately 216,000 barrels per day, is estimated to cost $3.5 billion, and once complete, will represent the longest heated crude oil pipeline in the world. Currently, Standard Bank of South Africa is advising the governments of Uganda and Tanzania, with the ownership of the pipeline shared between TotalEnergies (62%); the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) (8%); the Uganda National Pipeline Company (15%); and the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (15%).
Following the discovery of commercially viable quantities of oil in Uganda’s Lake Albert basin and the completion of exploration by the CNOOC, TotalEnergies and Tullow in 2006, the 1,443km EACOP was proposed. Comprising part of the wider Lake Albert Development Project, the pipeline will transport oil produced in Uganda to international markets, generating critical revenue for the entire East African community. The majority shareholder, TotalEnergies, proudly announced a $10 billion final investment decision for the project in February 2022, kickstarting development and ushering in a new era of energy security for the region.
For Africa, the pipeline represents the solution for addressing energy poverty while driving socioeconomic growth through the empowerment of local communities. During the construction phase alone, the pipeline is expected to create thousands of high-paying jobs and significant opportunities for local companies such as contractors. What’s more, Tanzania and Uganda are expected to see a 60% increase in foreign direct investment, with more capital expected to flow throughout the project’s subsequent stages. The long-term employment, guaranteed energy security and broader economic benefits brought about from construction emphasize its importance for driving development in Africa. Simply put, if EACOP fails, Africa will remain energy poor.
“Ugandans and Tanzanians should not have to pay the price for western, developed nations. It makes no sense to oppose the construction of the pipeline. If EACOP fails, there will be no guarantee of employment, with a lot of the population remaining energy poor for years to come, and investment directed towards East African exploration will dry up. Africa does not deserve this. Africa deserves the rights to develop its resources and that includes the EACOP,” states NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber (AEC).
The call by climate activists to #StopEACOP is detrimental, not just for East Africa’s energy future, but for the wellbeing of the regional community itself. In addition to fighting against the construction and operation of the project, activists are targeting the funding of the project, with 20 large-scale banks having been convinced not to finance the pipeline. Despite these attacks, project developers remain resilient, recognizing the value of the pipeline.
“TotalEnergies and partners have been very proactive and have invested a lot in building relationships at community level. They have a strong track record of robust environmental management and social engagement, and it gives the AEC comfort to back this project without hesitation. Citizens of Uganda and Tanzania are already benefiting from local content programs and community workshops, training programs and investments in local communities. This should not be stopped by zealots who believe that Uganda, a country that has been one of the lowest greenhouse gas footprints, should be punished and foot the bill for the wealthy nations that are now using coal to power their industries and homes,” continued Ayuk, adding that, “We are concerned that some want Ugandans and Africans to leave oil and gas in the ground while they are spending billions to fire up coal plants. Energy poverty is real. We are going to make EACOP a big part of the discussions during African Energy Week (AEW). We will push for African suppliers to sign Joint Ventures with Ugandans and grow together, using this project to promote intra-Africa trade and collaboration as envisioned by the AfCFTA.”
Let’s face it, Ugandans have a plan to use the revenue well and they should be given the right to debate how they do so within their societies, without the interference or lecturing by outsiders. Revenue from EACOP will build schools, hospitals and modern infrastructure, as well as finance the development of other energy projects such as renewables, helping Ugandans close the gap between struggle and success. TotalEnergies has put forward a safe and carbon friendly plan for this pipeline. The vast majority of Ugandans, Tanzanians and Africans are resolute in their support of EACOP, TotalEnergies and its partners when it comes to this project. The project is poised to bring significant benefits to Ugandans and Tanzanians, carrying with it, progressive socioeconomic growth, a diminished environmental footprint and risk reduction associated with oil transportation.
“Local communities and everyday people always struggle to make financial ends meet in Uganda and Tanzania. I believe TotalEnergies and EACOP is a Godsend. Income and opportunity already coming into families and communities will backfill many of the shortages that exist. Stop disrupting Africa’s development and let’s use the EACOP and every other oil and gas project on the continent to drive Africa into a new era of energy and economic success,” concluded Ayuk.