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Oil companies try their best to hire locals


Total’s General Manager, Loic Laurandel, (L) flags off two Ugandans in June last year who were part of a group that the company sponsored to undertake oil and gas courses in France. Upon return, such Ugandans stand a high chance of getting employed in the oil and gas sector.

Protests against an influx of outside workers in Kenya’s Lake Turkana area, which forced Tullow to suspend its drilling operations there in October last year, underlined the strength of local demands for oil jobs and opportunities.

In Uganda, the situation appears more stable. Civic leaders in oil-bearing regions report broad satisfaction with job opportunities.

“The unskilled work is being done by our locals. The only problem is that the skilled work is given to other people, even when we have qualified people here,” says Isaac Nkuba, Chair of the Buliisa District NGO Forum.

Patrick Kiiza, Programs Coordinator of the Bugungu Heritage and Information Centre, also reports that the majority of the casual laborers hired by the oil companies in his area are local, Lugungu speakers. “Despite the fact that they are less than 50, we feel happy that they are from here,” he says.

According to Ahlem Friga-Noy, Corporate Affairs Manager for Total in Uganda, the company has employed 198 casual workers in Nwoya District, 211 in Nebbi and 570 in Buliisa.

“Total E&P Uganda has set up a lottery system to make sure that the selection process for recruitment through its contractors is fair and transparent and is within the immediate vicinity of its operations,” she explains.

Applicants have to complete a form which is signed by three local leaders, preferably the LC1 chairperson, women’s representative and youth representative.  The idea, Ms. Friga-Noy says, is to make sure that casual jobs go to people from the area of operation.

Applicants are then selected randomly from a ‘ballot box’ in the presence of community representatives.

Room at the top

All three of the major international oil companies in Uganda also express a strong commitment to employing Ugandans permanently in more technical, clerical and managerial positions.

“We currently employ approximately 250 direct staff out of which more than 50 percent are Ugandans, employed in positions varying from engineers to personal assistants, both in Kampala and in the area of operations,” says Ms. Friga-Noy.

Chai Wei, Corporate Affairs Manager for the China National Offshore Oil company (CNOOC) in Uganda, says her company regards national content as a critical part of their business, and tries to recruit people from oil-bearing regions for technical and managerial positions.   Around 70 percent of CNOOC’s staff in Uganda are Ugandans, according to Ms. Chai.

A senior official of the government’s Petroleum Exploration and Production Department, notes that CNOOC has overturned prejudices about Chinese employment practices.

“These Chinese surprised us,” he says. “People say they always carry their entire families and even cooks but this time when they came, they requested for six months to train Ugandans to operate the seismic equipment. Most activities on seismic operations are manned by Ugandans.”

Joan Namukasa, a Tullow Uganda drilling engineer, reviews technical reports with colleagues at a rig site (Photo: Tullow Oil Uganda)

Joan Namukasa, a Tullow Uganda drilling engineer, reviews technical reports with colleagues at a rig site (Photo: Tullow Oil Uganda)

Tullow most ‘local’

Tullow Oil has gone farthest in ‘localising’ their Ugandan workforce—perhaps not surprisingly, since the company has now been operating in the country for ten years, whereas TOTAL and CNOOC are relative newcomers.

88 percent of Tullow’s employees in Uganda are Ugandan and “over half of our Country Leadership Team are nationals,” according to a recent report by the company.

Tullow’s Uganda operations are headed by a Ugandan—General Manager, Jimmy Mugerwa—and other senior Ugandan staff include Corporate Affairs Manager, Conrad Nkutu.

Mr. Mugerwa is rare among Ugandans in already having extensive experience of the oil industry, gained through a career as an expatriate himself in other African countries.

But Tullow, Total and CNOOC are helping to building local capacity in the industry through a range of national and international scholarship schemes that will train up a new generation of oil experts.

Meanwhile, the companies continue to draw on Ugandans with management, communications and community  relations experience.  Examples include Ms. Marion Muyobo, who is Head of Stakeholder Engagement for Total E & P in Uganda and Zakalia Lubega, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for CNOOC.

Report by Beatrice Ongode, additional reporting by Nick Young and Flavia Nalubega