Uganda, Tanzania and French oil company Total signed agreements Sunday on building a heated pipeline to carry crude oil from western Uganda to the Indian Ocean coast. Construction of the pipeline, which would be the world´s longest at 897 miles, is expected to begin this year. Tanzania’s new leader, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, was in Uganda to witness the signing of the documents, perhaps her most important executive action since her inauguration last month. Ugandan authorities and officials from Total, a majority shareholder in Uganda’s oil fields, also signed the agreements that had been long held up by tax disputes, administrative delays, and the death of Hassan’s predecessor. Suluhu described the event as “an auspicious occasion” that would unlock development of the region’s oil resources. The shareholder agreements cover the construction of the $3.5 billion pipeline designed to connect oil fields near Lake Albert to the Tanzanian seaport of Tanga. Despite anxiety over falling crude prices in recent years, hopes have remained high in Uganda over the potential for oil exports to lift the East African country into upper middle-income status by 2040. Annual per capita income in Uganda was less than $800 in 2019. A 2015 World Bank study emphasized that the economic benefits would be considerable if local companies are competitive enough to win lucrative service contracts in the oil sector. Total and its investment partner in Uganda, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, must honor commitments to award about 30% of the contracts to suppliers of Ugandan origin, said Robert Kasande, permanent secretary with Uganda’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development. “We believe that this should be a catalyst” for economic growth, he said. Watchdog groups and others also have warned against the personalization of Uganda´s oil resources and heavy borrowing by national budget authorities anticipating oil revenue. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has led Uganda since 1986, has sometimes suggested that the discovery of commercially viable quantities of oil in 2006 created an opportunity for him to remain in power. “They are targeting my oil,” he said of his challengers in the country’s 2016 presidential election. It remains unclear when Uganda will export its first drop of crude, since developing storage sites, processing facilities and other key infrastructure will take time. The agreements signed Sunday also also must be codified into legislation in both Uganda and Tanzania.