Tullow has in recent weeks been forced to suspend
operations after being accused of sidelining the
locals in job creation. Yet the idea that oil drilling will
create jobs on any meaningful scale is a myth.
It is in the nature of oil to employ very few workers.
Extracting oil involves more capital than human
labour.
It requires large, high- technology drills and
platforms manned by highly qualified engineers.
The product is finally ferried around in a complex
system of pipes manned by a few men. Machines do
it all, and very few highly-skilled people are required
to keep an eye on them.
Slate, an online magazine, earlier this year had a
story about life on an oil platform and we found out
that an off-shore oil platform that produces millions
of dollars’ worth of crude daily needs fewer than 200
people on board to keep the machines running.
Drilling for oil will not make a dent on our significant
unemployment in Turkana or Kenya.
According to the US Department of Labour, the oil
extracting industry creates less than one job per
million dollars of revenue it brings in.
No other industry comes close in delivering that
much money with that few workers. It is a high-
revenue, low-job creating affair.
Saudi Arabia floats on the world’s second largest oil
reserves yet has very high unemployment. No
country ever solved unemployment by prospecting
for oil.
Almost any other industry will deliver more jobs than
oil. If the people of Turkana wanted jobs, they should
demand that the money acquired from drilling oil be
used to set up industries that employ a lot of people.
In order to rapidly reduce poverty in a generation,
most countries turned to mass-production industries
that require a lot of labour. These generate many
low-income jobs.
Taiwan began by sewing cloth before moving on to
soldering conductors and has lifted a lot of its people
out of poverty.

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