The expats: 'No bills, no everyday dramas' – until the unthinkable happens

Foreign workers in Africa earn good money and have all they need, but the risks are high

Western workers are the civilian mercenaries of Africa. They are easy to spot in the continent's airports. Generally white and casually dressed, they travel in groups of three or four. They often seem to speak with Scottish accents and have little or no hand luggage, except possibly an iPad. And they are such seasoned travellers that they are generally the last to leave the bar when the flight is called.

"You do it for the money and only for a few years,'' said a Scottish welder I met recently at Luanda airport in Angola. All he knew of the country was the international airport and a hotel nearby where he had stayed while waiting for his helicopter transfer to the rig.

He works a 30/30 schedule: non-stop, 12 hours a day for 30 days, followed by a month off for £40,000 per year. That is the favoured work rhythm of employed oil workers who are a long way from home. Others work short stints for different companies as freelance contractors.

The untrained, entry-level staff, with no qualifications can expect to earn about £100 a day, but skilled staff can expect much more: senior construction project managers can pocket as much as £150,000 a year for their work, often much more than they could earn at home. In Nigeria, a project manager can take home £65,000 for helping to build hotels, according to one careers website yesterday.

The welder, a single man, said the best and worst aspect of his work was the monotony: jobs are narrowly defined for safety reasons but there also few surprises: "No bills to pay, no everyday dramas to deal with. They are waiting for me back home,'' he said. He was travelling back to Britain with a pipe fitter, a mechanic and a scaffolder, all working the same shift pattern.

Sites housing hundreds of expat specialists have everything: internet, swimming pool, gym and satellite television. Accommodation is five-star and is kept functioning by an army of housekeepers, plumbers and galley hands.

The downside is that the work takes place in remote and often dangerous regions where they risk being kidnapped or worse, as this week's events showed.

The companies involved are expected to provide security for their workers, but as message boards suggested yesterday, some areas of Africa, particularly Nigeria, remain highly dangerous for expat workers.

"I spent three months in Somalia two years ago and if u [sic] think Iraq is dangerous Somalia is much worse... The Niger Delta isn't much better. Having worked a lot in Africa I would advise u [sic] to think very carefully about going there at all," said one blogger.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn