South Sudan has ordered NGOs and businesses operating in the country to fire foreign workers by mid-October and give their jobs to South Sudanese.
In a statement published Tuesday in several newspapers, the government ordered "all non-governmental organisations, private companies, banks, insurance companies, telecommunication companies, petroleum companies, hotels and lodges working in South Sudan ... to notify all the aliens working with them in all the positions to cease working as from 15th October."
Some of the jobs vacated by the foreign workers should be filled by "competent South Sudanese nationals," the statement said. Those jobs include the positions of executive directors, personnel managers, secretaries, human resources officers, public relations officials, procurement officers, logisticians, front desk officers and receptionists, the order says.
Labor and Public Services Minister Ngor Kolong Ngor, who issued the order, said it was aimed at protecting the "rights and interests of the people of South Sudan."
Labor Under-Secretary Helen Achiro said the order simply implements existing government guidelines, which state that 80 percent of employees of private companies in South Sudan should be South Sudanese.
NGOs, companies, workers react
Juba resident Emmanuel Okot said the government order would give him a and other South Sudanese a better chance of finding a job.
"We have very many youth in South Sudan who went to school, they attained the right qualifications but they don’t have a job. I think this circular is going to be a very significant thing for the youth of South Sudan," he said.
But an official at an international insurance company, who asked not to be named, said he was surprised that the position of executive director was one of the jobs that the government said should be given to locals. He said most South Sudanese do not have the qualifications for senior management jobs.
Tarique Rieble, the South Sudan country director for international anti-poverty group, Oxfam, said said the timing of the government directive was bad. With large tracts of South Sudan facing severe food shortages and with hundreds of thousands displaced by nine months of conflict, NGOs like Oxfam need to expand operations, not curtail them, Rieble said.
Firing foreigners 'won't help'
Emma Vickers, a researcher and campaigner at the Global Witness NGO, said firing foreign workers in key industries, like oil, will push South Sudan even deeper into crisis.
"Removing foreign workers from key positions in oil companies will not help the government achieve the goal of better employment for South Sudanese," she said.
"We can foresee more damage to an already damaged economy and even further dependence on oil revenues," she said.
South Sudan is said to have the most oil-dependent economy in the world, with more than 90 percent of government revenues coming from oil.
Vickers said that while it is a good idea to train and educate South Sudanese to take on management roles in the oil industry, now, in the middle of a crisis, was not the time to do it.