Where’s the Southern Hospitality?
By admin October 6, 2014


An edict issued by South Sudan’s Ministry of Labor on September 16th ordered all foreign workers to leave within a month. This understandably caused a stir internationally, but especially within the development community whose workforce is almost entirely foreign. This move would not only further cripple the already troubled nation, but would severely disrupt foreign aid services which many Sudanese locals depend on. Why was such hostile and self-defeating edict issued seemingly out of nowhere?  Some estimates predict as much as a quarter of Sudan’s workforce is made up of foreign nationals and the South Sudanese people have been complaining for years about the unfair competition for jobs. From Chinese manned oil fields to hospitality services run by better educated neighbors in Uganda and Kenya, the local’s complaints aren’t entirely unfounded, but this is not the way to go about addressing the problem. Its estimated around 75% of South Sudanese can neither read nor write, so their ability to fill many of these positions would be next to impossible.

This form of affirmative action would be disastrous for a nation already in the midst of a civil war and constantly threatened by famine. The country’s almost year-long conflict between the Dinkas and Nuers has toned down in recent months due to the rainy season. Its expected fighting will resume once the water-logged roads have cleared. The ban on foreign workers would further disrupt humanitarian aid that’s already struggling to get to millions of South Sudanese due to the war, not to mention the fact the country’s economy is heavily dependent on oil revenue which would also be further disrupted. If the ban actually takes affect it will not be a question of if famine happens, but when.

Luckily the government back-pedaled soon after the international outcry and announced foreigners could keep jobs that could not be filled by qualified South Sudanese. The Labour Ministry claims the edict’s announcement was premature and that it is still in the process of working out employment regulations. How the government would even enforce such an edict is not known, but this is yet another troubling sign from a country already beset by problems.

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