Africa India’s tech geeks face bleak future in Tanzania

India’s tech geeks face bleak future in Tanzania

For 34-year-old Maisam Raj, the biggest challenge of his job as a creative head at Jema Printers in Tanzania’s bustling city of Dar es Salaam is not the complex logos and designs he has to create to impress corporate customers, but the number of hours he must toil every day to get things done.

“I am tired of this job. I spend many sleepless hours to get the job done, but my bosses don’t appreciate it,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Raj, who was hired from Bangalore, India by the printing and advertising company in 2014, is thinking about quitting his job and returning to India.

“I was happy initially because the terms of my contract were intact and the terms were met, but starting in 2017, the company stopped paying me in dollars and payments were delayed,” he said.

Perched on a swivel chair in a crammed studio, his eyes glued to a giant Apple computer screen, Raj briskly scrolls through multiple designs while scribbling details on a yellow pad.

“My only resting time is when I break for lunch. I don’t even get time to wash my clothes on weekends,” said Raj, who lives in a maze of dilapidated apartment buildings owned by the country’s real estate agency, National Housing Corporation, in the Kisutu area of Dar es Salaam.

Raj, who grew up in Kerala before moving to Bangalore for his studies and later travelled to Tanzania, said he doesn’t feel valued by his employers, who don’t appreciate his immense skills and creativity.

But the company’s operations manager, Hassan Ndelinanga, denied the allegations.

“There are proper channels for employees to express their problems if they feel dissatisfied, not through the media,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Litany of complaints

Raj is not alone. Many tech-savvy professionals who have been lured by companies in Tanzania are complaining about poor working conditions and breaches of their contracts.

The growing creative scene has forced companies across Africa to poach digitally skilled professionals from India to work as creative heads, graphic designers, accountants and software engineers for meagre salaries than what they would have gotten elsewhere, said local analysts.

“When I signed my contract, the perks looked very attractive. But the moment I arrived for work in Dar es Salaam, I got a different impression because I was told to surrender my passport to the management,” said Shamshad Paul, a certified accountant hired by advertising company Corporate Image.

According to him, he was made to share a small apartment with several employees.

“I am working even on weekends without compensation,” said Paul.

IT specialists from India, billed as a talent powerhouse with the largest working-age population in the world, are being wooed from all directions as new companies are establishing themselves in the country.

“The battle for best talents is extremely fierce across Africa as emerging companies are seeking the best brains to work as skilled labor,” said Emmanuel Mwakibete, a human resources management consultant at the Institute of Social Work in Dar es Salaam.

Lucrative business

Multiple advertising and branding companies are popping up in the East African country to win corporate clients.

According to Mwakibete, India’s experts lead the way in design and illustration, although they are not being honored for their expertise.

Although the country’s tech revolution has heightened young people’s desire to work in the design industry, mistreatment of India’s professionals by some employers have put the country in a bad light.

Livistone Nadella, who was born in Kerala, India, worked as a computer expert for the Tanzanian advertising company Media Express, where he was in charge of administering a network of office computers.

“It is a nightmare for everyone” he said.

One of the most difficult challenges he has had as a designer in Africa is the wide range of people’s backgrounds, and clients do not even know how to explain what they want, he noted.

“People want to do what they already see. If they see something that’s already been created, they have more faith in it,” he said

For Raj, the disadvantage of being a creative head in the bustling African city is the increasingly rapid pace of life.

“It’s a very busy city with a lot going on. My instincts always remind me to slow down and go at my pace,” he said.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Satya Hohapatra, a management consultant based in Bangalore, said young professionals move to work in Africa for multiple reasons — mainly higher remuneration, growth and better infrastructure.

“Most people I talk to say the salaries abroad are much higher, and they often end up saving more to live a better life later,” he said.

According to Hohapatra, it is not the first time he heard cases of Indian professionals complaining about poor working environments, adding that is aligned with the labor laws of respective country.

As an in-house software developer for a local fashion company, Joseph Arul has always enjoyed working with his IT team, including web designers and developers.

“I have always been happy to work behind the screen,” he said.

However, after 10 years of his service, he realized that his company was not remitting social security savings as required by Tanzanian law.

“I was alerted by a friend, and when I asked, I realized I had zero savings,” he said.

Arul, who has since left his job, has engaged a lawyer to oblige the company to pay his statutory savings.

“It is a struggle. Employers here don’t care about your future, and they only care for you to deliver,” he told Anadolu Agency.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Sussane Ndomba Doran, executive director of the Association of Tanzania Employers, condemned companies accused of mistreating foreign employees and advised the aggrieved parties to institute civil charges in the court of law.

“Our labor laws are very clear. No employer is immune to impunity, and if they don’t follow what the law instructs them to do, they can be sued and pay damages,” she said.

She said employers who do not submit statutory social security returns are simply breaking the law.

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