Oil and gas education qualifications essential for East Africa

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“You hear discussions at all levels where now there’s appreciation that there is a significant gap in capacity, and if Kenya is going to head to production, then this gap needs to be covered,” National Oil Corporation of Kenya former managing director Mwendia Nyaga told CNBC Africa on Wednesday.

“The industry somehow can afford to wait but it will be at a cost. It will mean that we will have to use expatriates for all types of labour that are required in the industry, which will certainly be quite expensive.”

Oil and gas courses are rarely taught in East Africa universities, which have led to an insufficient number of oil and gas engineers in the region. A number of initiatives and programmes are however being established to fill the qualification gap.

“The first initiative that we saw started in Uganda, with the response by the Makerere University  in establishment of BSc programmes in Geosciences and also some setting up of a middle level college in North-western Uganda that was meant to train middle-level for technical jobs,” Nyaga explained.

“Looking around Kenya, we have seen quite a number of initiatives going on, though most of them are very much at infancy. Universities are discussing curriculums for some different types of BSc programmes, and also some petroleum engineering courses that universities are planning.”

A lack of sufficient programmes and learning opportunities for middle-level technical jobs such as welding, mechanics and plant operators is also a concern as local capacity will need to be built to manage oil and gas exploration and exportation.

The international oil and gas industry is however responding positively to East Africa’s oil potential, and has already begun forging partnerships local universities, as well as carrying out studies of what is likely to be required in future.

According to Nyaga, Africa needs at least 10 years of intensive oil and gas programmes before its countries can fully operate and manage oil and gas exploration.

 “The capacity that doesn’t exist is to move things ahead after exploration, discovery, then a different set of decisions need to be made for resource optimisation, the development planning and approval of development plans and revenue management. That is where the gap is very significant,” he said.