Tips for reporting the energy transition in Uganda

The continent of Africa finds itself at a critical juncture, grappling with a myriad of challenges including poverty, debt, and the devastating impacts of climate change. These challenges have been exacerbated by the dual crises of COVID-19 and the escalating effects of climate change, hindering the region’s progress towards sustainable development. Despite these formidable challenges, Africa also presents several exciting opportunities. Africa is rich in natural resources, including renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal potential. Sustainable exploitation of these resources can provide clean energy for domestic use and export, fostering energy independence and contributing to the global green transition.

In this context, the energy transition takes centre stage as a crucial component of Africa’s path to inclusive and resilient development. Africa’s rich mineral resources are crucial for producing clean energy technologies like solar panels and batteries, driving industrial and job growth. The continent’s abundant reserves offer a unique opportunity for investments in extraction, processing, and related sectors. This positions Africa at the forefront of the global shift towards green energy. Here are key African countries and their critical mineral contributions:

  • DR Congo: Over 70% of global cobalt production.
  • Gabon: Second-largest producer of manganese.
  • Guinea: World’s largest bauxite reserves.
  • Mali: 700,000 tons of lithium reserves.
  • Mozambique: Third-largest producer of graphite.
  • Namibia: Leading exporter of uranium ore.
  • South Africa: 90% of global platinum group metal reserves.
  • Zambia: Largest exporter of unrefined copper.
  • Zimbabwe: Third-largest exporter of chromium ore.

Uganda, as a new mining player, holds significant potential in rare earth minerals, which are essential for various clean energy technologies and electronics manufacturing. However, the nascent state of Uganda’s mining sector raises questions about governance, regulation, and sustainable practices to ensure that mineral extraction benefits local communities and minimises environmental degradation. Moreover, Uganda is banking on profits from its nascent oil sector to fund the energy transition, highlighting the country’s dual challenges and opportunities in managing its natural resources for sustainable development.

As Uganda embarks on its energy transition journey with ambitious goals outlined in its Energy Transition Plan (ETP), journalists have a crucial role in scrutinising the implementation of these plans, highlighting potential pitfalls, and advocating for inclusive policies that prioritise environmental protection, social equity, and economic development.

Key considerations for journalists

In the face of a complex and nuanced story like the energy transition in Uganda, the role of journalists cannot be understated. They serve as bridges between technical experts and everyday citizen, translating complex data and challenges into digestible narratives. They humanise the issue, showcase solutions, and frame the narrative within relatable contexts. This critical role demands careful consideration of reporting pathways to ensure the delivery of balanced and engaging information in accessible formats. Here are some ideas for you to consider:

  • Humanise the transition – Showcase the experiences of those impacted, both positively and negatively, to connect with audiences on an emotional level. Connect the energy transition to everyday life, showcasing its effects on energy bills, cooking habits, and transportation options.
  • Engage diverse audiences – Make complex information comprehensible through charts, graphs, and maps. Combine text, images, audio, and video to create immersive experiences. Encourage audience participation by inviting them to share their own stories and experiences with the energy transition.
  • Contextualise the story – Explain complex terms and concepts by translating technical jargon into easy-to-understand language. Link the Ugandan transition to the broader fight against climate change and its global implications.

Information sources

This is not an exhaustive list, and new studies and reports are likely to emerge as energy transition plans progress.

Reports, policy papers and policy documents

The environment

Challenges and opportunities in Net Zero ambitions: Unpack Uganda’s long-term climate goals, including its pathway to achieving net-zero emissions. Interview climate policy experts, economists, and government officials to understand the challenges and opportunities involved. Explore policy measures, technological solutions, and international cooperation needed to address challenges and seize opportunities in the transition to net-zero emissions.

Balancing short-term gains with long-term environmental protection: Investigate the challenges Uganda and other countries in the region face in prioritising environmental protection over short-term economic gains. This could involve in-depth investigations, explanatory reporting, and Q&A sessions with policymakers, economists, and environmental NGOs to explore real-world dilemmas and potential solutions.

Environmental considerations in mineral exploration: Investigate the relationship between mineral exploration and environmental sensitivity in Uganda. Report on how discovering new reserves in less sensitive areas could alleviate pressure on environmentally fragile regions like rainforests and sea beds. Interview environmental experts, conservationists, and mining industry representatives to discuss the impact of mineral exploration on sensitive ecosystems. Provide examples of successful cases where exploration was conducted in environmentally responsible ways.

Carbon emissions and mining: Analyse the mining sector’s current or potential future impact on global carbon emissions. Conduct data-driven investigations, interviews with environmental scientists and industry exports to analyse trends, and explain the complexities involved.

The money

Uganda’s dilemma of oil dependency in funding sustainable energy: Interview government officials, policymakers, energy experts, and environmental advocates to understand the rationale behind Uganda’s energy transition plans and the role of oil revenues in funding renewable energy initiatives. Conduct in-depth research on the economic implications of oil dependency versus investments in renewable energy alternatives. Gather perspectives from civil society organisations and community representatives on the social and environmental impacts of prioritising oil extraction over sustainable energy development.

Navigating uncertainties in a volatile market: Explore the potential impact of fluctuating oil prices on Uganda’s energy transition plans and economic outlook as the country prepares to commence oil production. Investigate the factors influencing global oil price dynamics, including geopolitical tensions, supply-demand dynamics, and market speculation, and their implications for Uganda’s fiscal sustainability and renewable energy investments. Seek perspectives from policymakers and financial experts on strategies for diversifying Uganda’s economy and reducing reliance on oil revenues for funding the energy transition.

Energy transition investment mechanisms: Explore innovative financing mechanisms and investment models for promoting renewable energy development and sustainable extraction of critical minerals in Uganda. Investigate the role of public-private partnerships, blended finance instruments, and impact investment funds in mobilising capital for mineral exploration ventures. Examine successful examples of public-private partnerships and innovative financing models in other countries and evaluate their applicability to Uganda’s context.

Financing the energy transition: Explore the structure and purpose of green bonds, assess investor interest and market demand, analyse the impact of green bonds on funding renewable energy projects. Interview government officials from the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development responsible for green bond initiatives, financial experts, and representatives from international development organisations. Report on research related to climate finance, debt management and climate resilience planning.

Alternative revenue generation and allocation: Conduct interviews with economists, tax experts, government officials, and representatives from civil society organisations to analyse Uganda’s fiscal tools and policies related to the extraction and management of critical minerals. Investigate case studies of other countries that have implemented progressive fiscal measures to address environmental externalities, promote local content development, and ensure fair revenue sharing in the mining sector.

Debt sustainability and the energy transition: Assess Uganda’s current debt situation and its implications for funding energy transition projects. Investigate the role of external debt in financing energy infrastructure, and explore strategies for debt restructuring and managing debt sustainability risks.

Competitiveness through regionalism: Explore how Uganda and other African countries are exploring regional cooperation and integration to enhance the competitiveness of their critical minerals sector in the global market. Investigate initiatives aimed at synthesising reserve bases and pooling resources across borders to optimise exploration, production, and infrastructure development for critical minerals used in renewable energy technologies. Investigate existing regional initiatives, partnerships, and agreements related to mineral resource management and development in East Africa and the broader African continent.

The players

Corporate influence and accountability: Examine the extent of the involvement of multinational corporations in Uganda’s energy transition projects. Assess their compliance with environmental and social impact assessments, and analyse the regulatory frameworks governing their operations.

The influence of foreign actors: Assess the extent of foreign involvement in Uganda’s energy projects, analyse the motivations and agendas of key foreign actors, and investigate the implications of foreign investment and assistance on Uganda’s energy sovereignty and long-term development. Interview government officials involved in energy policy-making and negotiations with foreign partners, representatives from foreign embassies and international development agencies operating in Uganda, energy experts with knowledge of global energy geopolitics, and civil society advocates monitoring foreign influence in Uganda’s energy sector.

Unexplored potential of Africa’s minerals: Investigate the untapped potential of Africa’s mineral wealth. Examine the opportunities that increased exploration could bring, both for accelerating the energy transition and generating wealth for African nations. Interview geologists, mining experts, and policymakers to gain insights into the untapped mineral potential in Africa. Utilise visual aids to compare Africa’s mineral wealth with other regions.

Evaluating past benefits and challenges of mining booms: Investigate how Uganda or countries in the region have historically benefited from mining booms. Examine studies and indicators like the Human Development Index to assess the socio-economic impact. Highlight variations in performance across different countries, using case studies from other countries to illustrate the potential consequences of poor governance.

The land

Land rights and corporate accountability: Keep an eye on and investigate a land rights concerns associated with mining projects in Uganda’s quest for renewable energy transition. Scrutinise the adherence to international best practices, human rights standards, and environmental safeguards in their operations, particularly in areas designated for renewable energy infrastructure development. Engage with industry experts, legal scholars, and civil society organisations to analyse the legal frameworks, regulatory gaps, and mechanisms for ensuring corporate accountability in the mining sector amidst the transition to renewable energy.

Land use planning and the energy: Examine how government policies, regulatory frameworks, and spatial planning initiatives address the intersecting interests of mining companies, energy developers, conservationists, and local communities in land allocation and resource management. Assess the effectiveness of integrated land use planning approaches in reconciling conflicting land uses and promoting sustainable development pathways in the context of the energy transition.

The politics

Geopolitical competition and sustainable resource management: Explore the broader geopolitical landscape of critical minerals in Africa, examining the competition among global powers for access to and control over strategic mineral resources. Investigate how this competition is shaping regional dynamics, influences energy transition strategies, and impacting local communities and the environment.

Uganda’s role in the geopolitics of critical minerals: Investigate Uganda’s position in the geopolitics of critical minerals, focusing on the country’s role as a potential supplier of minerals crucial for the global energy transition. Explore how Uganda balances its economic interests with international relations, considering partnerships with both traditional allies and emerging players in the global energy landscape.

The value chain

Challenges in local beneficiation and processing: Investigate the difficulties faced by the Ugandan government in developing local supplier bases and adding value to raw minerals through processing. Report on specific cases where citizens near mining sites have struggled to benefit from mining activities. Conduct interviews with representatives from local communities, mining companies, and government officials to gather first-hand accounts of challenges and potential solutions.

Mineral processing costs and debates: How do high processing costs affect lower-income producing countries in mining? What strategies is the government of Uganda exploring to mitigate these economic challenges, especially in comparison to advanced processors like China? Analyse the impact of energy infrastructure on processing competitiveness in the regional and global market.

E-mobility and battery storage value chains: Investigate efforts to establish industries within the battery value chain for e-mobility and electricity storage. Report on the potential climate benefits and economic opportunities, as well as challenges, associated with these initiatives. Interview policymakers, innovators industry experts, and environmentalists to gain insights into the development of value chains for energy transition technologies in Uganda.

The rest

The place of the National Mining Company in the energy transition: Examine the government’s objectives behind creating the mining company, including strategies for maximising revenue generation, promoting local beneficiation, and ensuring environmental sustainability. Investigate the regulatory and institutional mechanisms being developed to govern the operations of the mining company and mitigate environmental risks. Explore case studies from other countries that have implemented similar state-owned mining enterprises to draw lessons and insights for Uganda’s context.

Balancing mineral exploitation with sustainable development: Investigate how African countries, including Uganda, are reassessing their fiscal policies to capitalise on the extraction and export of low carbon critical minerals while ensuring sustainable development and environmental protection. Explore the challenges and opportunities in aligning fiscal incentives, taxation frameworks, and revenue-sharing mechanisms with the goals of promoting renewable energy technologies and mitigating climate change. Engage with stakeholders to assess the potential impacts of fiscal policy adjustments on government revenues, private sector investment, job creation, and sustainable development goals.

Resource nationalisation: Investigate Uganda’s approach to resource nationalisation and the implications for the extraction and management of critical minerals in the context of the energy transition. Conduct interviews with government officials, mining companies, community leaders, and experts in natural resource governance to assess Uganda’s resource nationalisation policies and their implementation. Investigate case studies of other countries that have pursued resource nationalisation strategies and evaluate their successes and failures. Analyse the potential implications of resource nationalisation on Uganda’s energy transition goals and long-term development objectives.

Modernisation of energy systems: Report on debates related to modernising energy infrastructure and diversifying the energy mix to support industrial growth and economic transformation. Interview economists, policymakers from the Ministry of Energy, representatives from the private sector, and experts on industrial development to understand the role of modernised energy systems in driving economic growth in Uganda.

Africa’s role in the energy transition: Report on and explain Africa’s dominant position in global reserves of transition minerals, crucial for technologies like electric vehicles. Investigate the potential impact of these reserves on the continent’s role in the global energy transition. Conduct interviews with experts in the mining and energy sectors to explain the significance of Africa’s mineral reserves. Provide visual aids, such as maps or infographics, to illustrate Africa’s position in global mineral reserves.

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This tip sheet was developed by the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) with support from the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI). It is part of a comprehensive project aimed at equipping journalists in Uganda with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively report on critical issues related to energy transition, domestic resource mobilisation, and governance and transparency in the oil, gas, and mining sectors.

For more information about this project and additional resources for journalists, please write to training[at]acme-ug.org.

ACME Mwalimu

The African Centre for Media Excellence's training unit, known as ACME Mwalimu, scours news platforms and online resources to curate the best training tips and resources for journalists and media organisations, empowering them to become impactful contributors to public debate and development. If you have a training tip or question, you can reach out to ACME Mwalimu at training[at]acme-ug.org.

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