Recently, Nigerians were buzzing with talk about Aliko Dangote. It comes as no shock, given his remarkable status as the wealthiest black man in Africa and his extensive ownership of various industries, including the pioneering Dangote Refinery. The refinery’s potential to bring about a substantial impact on Africa, especially in Nigeria, a major oil-producing country with insufficient operational refineries, further fuels the intrigue surrounding him.
Aliko Dangote is once again in the spotlight as his refinery has purportedly revealed plans to hire 11,000 skilled workers from India. Yes, it’s true – the Dangote Refinery is actively seeking a workforce of 11,000 expatriates from India.
Many Nigerians find it challenging to accept this move, particularly when taking into account Nigeria’s distressingly high unemployment rate. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the national unemployment rate experienced a significant surge, rising from 23.1 percent in 2018 to 33.3 percent in 2020. As of now, there hasn’t been an updated version of this figure from the official statistics authority in Nigeria.
However, KPMG, a multinational consulting firm in the country, reports that the Nigerian unemployment rate had escalated to 37.7 percent in 2022 and is projected to further increase to 40.6 percent due to the continuous influx of job seekers into the job market.
The outlook for unemployment in 2023 is predicted to remain a considerable challenge, primarily due to limited private-sector investment, slower economic growth, and insufficient industrialization. The firm expressed concern about the economy’s ability to absorb the 4-5 million new entrants into the Nigerian job market each year. The low level of industrialization in the country exacerbates the scarcity of job opportunities, leading to difficulties for many individuals in securing gainful employment.
Advocating for the decision, the Sub-Saharan African Skills and Apprenticeship Stakeholders Network explained that Dangote Refinery’s preference for hiring 11,000 skilled workers from India was based on the belief that Nigerian youths, as well as youths from other African countries, currently lack the necessary skills required for the project.
Nigerians raised concerns on the decision
The decision by Dangote Refinery to employ 11,000 skilled workers from India, bypassing Nigerian and African youths, has sparked mixed reactions on social media. Some users expressed frustration with the high unemployment and under-employment rates in Nigeria and questioned why local talent wasn’t prioritized.
Others argued that importing specialized skills is necessary to meet engineering demands and emphasized the importance of transferring knowledge to local professionals. A user shared their experience of being trained by foreign experts in the past but expressed concerns about them eventually leaving. The debate centers on the balance between utilizing foreign expertise and ensuring skill transfer and opportunities for local talent.
In Nigeria, companies frequently rely on technology and expertise from foreign firms to improve operational efficiency, but this practice comes at a significant cost. According to data from the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria and its corporations spent a total of $55 billion on foreign expatriates for business, professional, and technical services over the past decade. The government is also affected by this trend, with a growing number of expatriates in aviation services and increasing patronage by the political class leading to an estimated average monthly capital flight of N1.62 billion ($3.89 million) from the country.
Dangote Group addressed the report
Responding to the report, Anthony Chiejina, the Chief Branding and Communication Officer of the Dangote Group, clarified that the information circulating did not accurately represent the number of skilled Nigerian workers at the site. He emphasized that the scale of the Dangote Refinery project necessitated a specialized skilled workforce from around the world. While over 30,000 Nigerians were part of the skilled workforce during the peak of construction in the Refinery complex, there were also 6,400 Indians and 3,250 Chinese workers. Chiejina asserted that the Dangote Group remains committed to being a significant force in generating employment opportunities.
For a long time, Nigeria has been grappling with concerns surrounding the misuse and abuse of expatriate quotas, particularly among companies, especially those in the oil industry. It’s not uncommon to hear reports of companies favoring expatriates for supervisory and managerial roles over their qualified indigenous professionals. This situation not only deprives deserving Nigerians of opportunities but also raises worries about companies exceeding their authorized quota for expatriate employment.
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