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15 Dec 2022

Abigail Sunshine Nalule, The Diplomat

(Commentary) China Should Invest in a Green Transition, Not the East African Crude Oil Pipeline

China Should Invest in a Green Transition, Not the East African Crude Oil Pipeline

On October 12, 2021, President Xi Jinping of China made a remarkable speech. [...] Xi made the following promise: to “let the green transition drive our efforts to facilitate global sustainable development.” “We need to build a low-carbon and circular economic system,”


In Uganda, however, Chinese oil and construction companies that are operating in the country have not aligned their actions with the aforementioned promises from Xi. [...] Currently, Chinese companies such as China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) are engaged in efforts to extract oil in Uganda by 2025. CNOOC is engaged in efforts to develop the Kingfisher oil project, under which oil is expected to be extracted from the Lake Albert area.

Together with TotalEnergies, among others, CNOOC is also expected to commence construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in 2023. [...] Aside from CNOOC, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) and others have built roads in one of Uganda’s major national parks, Murchison Falls.


A Chinese bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), is also acting as a financial adviser for the EACOP project. After over 24 banks, especially from Europe, indicated that they will not fund the EACOP, Chinese banks are being looked at as the last resort financiers for the controversial project.


In relation to oil extraction in the Albertine Rift, the following impacts under CNOOC’s Kingfisher oil extraction and the EACOP projects are expected or projected: habitat loss (both aquatic and on land), pollution of lakes such as Albert and Victoria from waste run-off, and failure to compact soils to their original state, thus affecting plants’ ability to grow. Other impacts include introduction of competitive plant species and oil spills that could pollute ground and surface water among others.

The fisheries sector, which employs over 5 million people in Uganda, and from which $156 billion per year could be earned (from the sale of fish maws, whose market is China), has also been endangered by CNOOC’s Kingfisher and EACOP projects.


The social and biodiversity concerns over the oil pipeline led to anti-EACOP student protests in October 2022 and caused 2,591 oil-impacted communities to write to Ugandan and international human rights bodies as well as the Chinese Ministry of Commerce in May and June 2022.