• Turning Kenya into a globally competitive exporter of crude oil will be a long and expensive process but worth the effort from the state, local government and communities.
• The wealth oil production generates will go back into our pockets through investments in projects; It creates an educated and skilled internationally competitive labour force.
The mid-May East African Petroleum Conference and Exhibition in Mombasa brought together private and public sector professionals from around East Africa as well as international representatives with interests in the oil and gas industry. More than 1,000 delegates discussed what East Africa’s oil and gas manufacturing industry will look like in the future. At the forefront of this biennial event was Kenya, a model for economic development amongst our neighbouring countries.
Cabinet Secretary John Munyes, Kenya’s Minister of Petroleum and Mining, discussed the role of the oil and gas sector in the economy. In essence, our Local Content Policy and oil and gas regulations legislation thrust Kenya forward by nurturing local companies to take part in the growing sector.
Turning Kenya into a globally competitive exporter of crude oil will be a long and expensive process. It will take teamwork and efficiency among government agencies, private sector manufacturers and communities affected by drilling and building pipelines. Legislation is needed to ensure environmental standards are high and communities get a share of the pie.
How is this feasible and how does it relate to our development goals?
First, let’s think about Kenyan oil manufacturing in terms of long-term goals. Once production begins, Kenya will sell crude to the highest bidder. Though prices can be volatile, states that effectively utilise oil production to put them on the world market are wealthier over time. By enabling Kenya to take control of our national resources, President Uhuru Kenyatta is demonstrating we are serious about becoming an established middle-income economy — as a global trading partner with successful national industries.
The wealth oil production generates will go back into our pockets through investments in projects such as those in the Big Four agenda. As CS Munyes noted, the Local Content Policy was created bearing in mind Kenya's Vision 2030, its Industrialisation Policy, the Big Four and the Investment Policy. Policy for the project took into account the needs and opinions of private and public sector groups at national and county levels to ensure this vast project will keep pushing us forward as a leading African nation and manufacturer in this century.
While appreciating these visionary ideas for Kenya as a whole, we should ask how will this benefit local communities? Or, how will it benefit me?
It all comes down to one of the pillars of Uhuru’s Big Four — Enhancing Manufacturing. This translates into more jobs, and consequently, more prosperity. Turning Kenya into an oil manufacturing state is a huge project, and it won’t happen on its own.
There's a vast range of technical skills needed for careers in the gas and oil industry. The industry needs men and women with expertise including administration and finance and groundwork such as welding and plumbing, transportation and security.
Skills training is one of the biggest investments Uhuru, Munyes others are highlighting for this ambitious project. Local professionals are not only the heart of national pride but also the gas that runs our economic engine.
It is critical Kenya continues to set an example for East Africa. We should strongly promote local participation. When local companies have a stake in manufacturing, it keeps the industry robust and prosperous for years. It creates an educated and skilled internationally competitive labour force. Most important, it means communities will thrive as young men and women become professionals.
Samburu West MP