JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN — South Sudanese President Salva Kiir called in a speech to open a new parliamentary session for unskilled jobs to be reserved for South Sudanese, not migrant workers from other countries.
“We do not need foreigners to work as housekeepers, washer women, drivers, gardeners and shopkeepers," Kiir said Tuesday.
"These jobs should be filled by our own people who badly need work," he added.
Kiir said Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, John Luk Jok, will propose a bill in parliament to reserve unskilled positions for South Sudanese.
But he also called in his speech for South Sudanese youth to pursue an education, and for legislators to make quality schooling accessible to all, so that the youth of South Sudan may contribute to the development of the country.
“Without well-educated young men and women, we will continue to rely on foreigners to bring us development," he said.
"We must prepare the coming generations to take full control of our affairs. I expect you to do your part in this by supporting legislation which advances education for all boys and girls,” he said.
World Bank consultant on private sector development Kenyi Spencer said many South Sudanese youth feel immigrant workers are depriving them of a key dividend of peace after decades of war.
South Sudan became independent in 2011, six years after a peace deal was signed ending more than two decades of civil war in Sudan.
The long conflict has left South Sudan in desperate need of a skilled workforce to secure the country’s future.
Today most mechanics, electricians, plumbers are from the neiighboring countries, especially Uganda and Kenya.
"To see these jobs falling in the hands of a foreigner does not augur well with the spirit of development of this country," Spencer said.
"This is why most youth feel left out of the whole formula for development.”
But Jok Madut Jok of local think-tank, The Sudd Institute, said some immigrant labor is essential. The last time foreign workers who do menial tasks walked off the job, Juba, the capital, was brought to a standstill, he said.
“When the Eritreans who are bringing water to homes in Juba went on a strike, the whole town was almost shut down," he said.
"I don’t know what dividend of peace there is in having South Sudanese sitting on their hands, not working, when some of these jobs are seen as beneath them.”
Many young people in Juba are, however, getting trained in technical skills, which would allow them to help rebuild their country.