Africans in Afghanistan: When War Zones Become Lands of Opportunity
Thousands of skilled workers from Africa are willingly facing danger in remote areas of Afghanistan for high-paying jobs supporting coalition troops.
Think Africa Press April 26, 2012
Beyond the primal beauty of the Southern Afghanistan desert lies the unknown for newcomers, military and civilians alike. Sand and rocks spread further across that vast sea of sparsely inhabited nothingness than the eye can see. For the troops stationed in the Helmand province, the unknown coupled with the deserted surroundings speak danger.
This infamous province – a Taliban stronghold and site of frequent fighting between insurgents and NATO troops during the now 10-year-old Afghan War – has been welcoming a new breed of visitors: former soldiers turned personnel security providers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, engineers, cashiers, information technology experts, mine specialists, or finance and administration officers. Many are Africans, who constitute the bulk of migrant workers in the area, along with civilian personnel from Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Croatia, Bosnia), and Asia (India, Philippines).
Outsourced wars, outsourced workers
The increased military presence of the US, EU and other countries involved in the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force after 2009 resulted in a major shift in roles. As the overextended military focused on taming a local insurgency, tasks that were once the exclusive domain of trained military personnel started to be offered to civilian skilled workers. Civilians contractors came to provide the workforces necessary to maintain and run dining facilities, Morale Welfare and Recreation centres, military berthing, and equipment repair and replenishment shops.
Ethiopian Henok Tessema, 33, now lodging in the civilian section of a Helmand Province military installation, made his way to Afghanistan following a routine online job search. Tessema had been juggling four part-time positions working as a financial administrator and accountant in Harar, and saw the vacancy at the Central Asia Development Group as an opportunity to consolidate four part-time positions into a single one.
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