* Govts require companies to hire local staff
* Uganda, Tanzania pay for people to study abroad
* Kenya wants training at domestic universities
By Drazen Jorgic
NAIROBI, Oct 30 A shortage of trained oil and
gas workers in East Africa is slowing development of new fields
following a series of major discoveries and may force
governments to relax rules requiring companies to employ local
Governments are now investing in programmes to train skilled
oil and gas workers, but they are hampered by weak education
systems and the high costs involved.
Rolake Akinkugbe, head of energy research at Ecobank, said
it would take at least 10 years of training programmes to make a
lasting impact on employment in the oil and gas industries in
"It's a major problem and it will take time to solve," she
"I certainly foresee a situation where the east African
governments might have to relax their local content rules around
employment and contractors, certainly in the early stages of
development of hydrocarbons resources."
But any move to weaken laws requiring energy companies to
hire a certain percentage of local staff could prove to be a
political hot potato as well as reduce the industry's potential
benefits to the region's economies and workforces.
If given a choice, foreign companies would prefer to hire
local staff because they are substantially cheaper and help them
gain political capital.
"As you would expect, getting a skilled workforce is
challenging, especially for the highly technical oil and gas
fields like well engineering," said Martin Mbogo, country
manager for British Africa-focused explorer Tullow Oil
Tullow in Kenya. Tullow plans commercial production in Uganda
and announced in March that it had struck oil in Kenya.
Global oil and gas producer BG Group, which in March
announced a vast gas find in Tanzania, has said two-thirds of
its 75 member staff in the country are expatriates.
TRAIN ABROAD OR AT HOME?
Hakim Muwonge, a partner at Kampala-based law firm Kusaasira
& Co, said oil businesses routinely get around the rules by
using local businesses.
"Or they employ locals in the simplest of tasks such as
driving," Muwonge told an oil and gas meeting in Dar es Salaam.
Governments are now instituting different policies to train
workers, but all these solutions are costly and slow.
Uganda and Tanzania pay for workers to study in Western
universities, where training can take several years and cost
over $100,000 per worker, a significant sum in a region where
nearly half the inhabitants live on less than $1 a day.
Uganda says its domestic private universities were slow to
start oil-related courses because they are expensive.
"The profit motive does not always coincide with uplifting
the masses, which is the government's responsibility," Charles
Kwesiga, head of Uganda's institute for petroleum studies, said.
The institute has so far paid for 30 Ugandans to study in
oil-rich Trinidad and Tobago. Another 60 will follow suit once
they have completed basic skills training.
Gas-rich Tanzania is also offering up to 50 scholarships for
masters courses abroad under a 2012-16 government plan.
Kenya, by contrast, plans to establish energy-sector
university courses at home.
"(We must) establish the need of that sector and then train
according to the needs," said Wanjiku Manyara, Nairobi-based
head of the Petroleum Institute of east Africa (PIEA).