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Shortage of skilled oil workers hits East Africa

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 people.

Report by Reuters

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 the region.

“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,” she said.

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.

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