Business

Tumwebaze Queries Laying off of Ugandan Engineers at Airtel

Minister for ICT, Frank Tumwebaze

The Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Hon Frank Tumwebaze has demanded answers after it emerged that telecom company Airtel had laid off professional Ugandan engineers with the view of outsourcing work in India.

ChimpReports on Thursday broke the news that after migrating to a Managed Services Business model in 2012, Airtel hired different companies including IBM to run IT, network and customer care operations.

During this transition, many employees lost their jobs as the receiving companies had to reduce operational costs to run the Managed Services support at a profit.

The so-called experts brought on board to transfer knowledge to the local employees did not return home, rendering Ugandans jobless.

Upon reading the story, readers bombarded Minister Tumwebaze with complaints, seeking his intervention.

This website now understands that Tumwebaze today Friday wrote to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Executive Director, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi over the issue.

“My office has received several complaints suggesting that one of the telecom operators – Airtel Uganda has outsourced all their Engineering Department works, and therefore, rendering Ugandans unemployed,” wrote Tumwebaze.

“I would like therefore to establish if the terms and conditions of the licensing do not have a requirement to maintain local content specifically for local professionals,” he added.

“If this is lacking in our policy and regulatory framework, please advise of the necessary intentions.”

Minister Tumwebaze's letter to UCC over the Airtel outsourcing saga

Minister Tumwebaze’s letter to UCC 

Mutabazi, who is away on an official trip, yesterday supported the idea of reviewing the government policy to compel companies to hire a specific number of locals.

ChimpReports quoted a source as saying, “all servers are here but Indians are logging in remotely to resolve faults. The next step all servers will be out of the country.”

Economies of scale

In response to the accusations, Airtel Public Relations Officer, Faith Fiona Bugonzi said in a statement to this investigative website that “outsourcing is a widely embraced international business model” which “facilitates economies of scale, ensures best practice within competitive multi country environments and enables profitability.”

It emerged that over 90 percent of the jobs in the Airtel IT Department alone were taken away from Ugandans and the same jobs were being done remotely in India.

As of to date only about 5 local engineers sit at the Airtel office in Bugolobi yet the department had about 20 engineers.

In comparison with neighboring countries like Rwanda and Tanzania where Airtel is also operating, governments have put in place strict laws on Telecom companies outsourcing different functions.

And of recent, MTN Rwanda was fined 7 billion francs ($8.5 million) for running its IT services outside the country in breach of its license.

In Tanzania, President, Mr John Magufuli also abolished the remote log in by GDC into Airtel Tanzania Network.

Outsourcing gives away jobs that hardworking Ugandans have done for years.

While the practice is great for business because it saves money and helps businesses succeed, observers say it is terrible for Ugandan citizens who rely on these jobs for a livelihood.

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