Kenana is the second largest employer in Sudan, after Sudan Government. Despite several decades of modern irrigated agriculture, Sudan lacks sufficient skilled manpower, a problem compounded by the perennial drain of skilled and qualified Sudanese to the oil-rich countries of the Arabian Peninsula. As the Administrative Manager pointed out in 1980, 'If we used just Sudanese manpower we would need all the trained personnel from every other sugar factory and plantation in the Sudan/
The Kenana project is under Sudanese direction, though it was accepted from the outset that a large number of expatriates would be required to construct the project and train the Sudanese to the level where they could manage and operate the vast agro-industrial complex for themselves. During the construction phase, expatriates, including those employed by contractors and consultants, numbered 450 in 1976, rising to 750 in 1979. By 1997/98, expatriate numbers had been reduced to about 160, with senior and middle management positions fully Sudanised.