Just as the global pandemic has affected economies in countries around the world, so too has South Sudan been unable to escape its effects. The world’s youngest country, already facing challenges of fluctuating oil prices and over-dependency on the black liquid, now has to contend with travel restrictions and other limiting COVID-19 protocols. It’s a good time for the private sector to step up, and contribute to the development and growth of South Sudan’s economy, and society in general.
One company that is making a small difference is the Ezra Group. It has implemented a program to help train and develop skills in the local workforce, offering internships and skills development training at the Ezra Power Plant in Kondokoro, Managalla County, outside Juba.
Currently, two students come to the power plant every day during the morning shift. Just as dozens of students before them, they will be trained for between 1 and 3 months, depending on their level of education.
Natnael Ghebrengus Ezra, Operations Manager at Ezra Group, explains that the project aims “to create gainful employment for both skilled and semi-skilled people through knowledge transfer. We hope to generate meaningful jobs offering higher wages at the corporate level and enhance productivity through developing skills. The Ezra Power Plant also helps make electricity more accessible and affordable, which in turn supports infrastructure development and economic opportunity throughout South Sudan
Joy Darius Lado Gore, a 24-year-old in her final year at Amu Aibaminch University in Ethiopia, is one of the students in the Ezra Power Plant Training Program. She is studying electrical and computer engineering. Gore explains that her field of study includes learning about generators, transformers and distribution lines.
She says, “The Ezra training is super exciting and interesting. As you may know as students, the theory and the calculation part of learning are always boring but when you get the practical experience you will love engineering because engineering is all about the practical. It is even more interesting here, because every day you learn new things.”
She adds, “In Juba, it is really hard to get training, and as engineers we find it difficult to acquire practical skills, but thanks to God, Ezra was able to give me and my colleague the chance of a lifetime. I searched for training opportunities for two months, and it was not easy to get a chance
The training programme offers exposure to a variety of skills such as the conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy, the technical aspects of power generation, transformer connections, cooling, maintenance, and auxiliary training in lighting systems, motors and isolators. The company also assists students with lunch and transport allowances.
Gore’s colleague and fellow student, Philip Sarafino John, is a 28-year-old with an electrical engineering degree, majoring in power systems, from the University of Juba. John says, “When I graduated two years ago, I found it difficult to get work so I decided to come and do some training. As you know, what we learn at the university is just a theoretical aspect of knowledge. So, I decided to use what I have learnt in class to gain practical skills and knowledge.”
The Ezra training programme is a dream come true for John. “I developed a love for engineering when I was at secondary school, and my writings and drawings were very good, including the way I used to present things.”
Students like Gore and John have been selected after applying to the Ezra head office in Juba, or having been referred by the University of Juba.
After completing their training or internship, power plant engineers evaluate the students, and then give them letters of recommendation based on their performance. The programme will also soon include a certificate. And if there are any vacancies at Ezra, trainees are encouraged to apply to join the company, as have two past students.
Gore has high hopes for South Sudan – one day she’d like to see all citizens across the country with access to electricity. She also has a message for the administration and corporates operating in the country, “I would like to ask our government to give us more chances, and also other companies, like oil companies. When we finish training with Ezra, we can work anywhere because the generators used here are also used by most of the oil companies. But I want our government to give girls a chance because we don’t get many chances. They say you can’t do what a man can do, but we can!”