By Mugisha Obed, Re!gnite Africa Youth Leader

I was in the coffee garden with my Dad picking the ripe cherries when he noted, “time will come when the umbrella will be withdrawn and you feel the hotness of the sunshine yourself”. I was 15 at the time and could not understand what he meant. You see, my Dad always has a lot of history to share; from academics to politics, welfare and what success would look like from his wisdom and experiences. I joined university and successfully completed my studies. As we were jubilating at my graduation party, he re-echoed almost the same thing; “I feel I have supported you enough to reach this far, this is the opportune time for you to prove your worth to the country at large”. Here, I was old enough to understand what he meant. “Standing on my own” meant at that particular time that my umbrella had been withdrawn.

On graduation day, most of us were asking ourselves what we were going to do next. This is a general question for most recent graduates given the high levels of unemployment in Uganda today. According to the Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development 2014, it is estimated that 40,000 youth graduate annually from Ugandan universities to compete for the only 8,000 jobs available jobs. This implies that 32,000 remain unemployed. Should this be an issue anyway?

I will share another story: My 29-year-old cousin finished university in 2010 and he has been unemployed since graduation. A few weekends back, he walked into the betting center in Kampala with UGX 5000. He carefully analyzed the games, picked 6 teams and placed his bet as he waited to win. However, he was unlucky that weekend after Chelsea beat Manchester United. He would have won UGX100,000. After that day, one could notice frustration and dejection on his face. As a student, he dreamed big, like anyone else to finish his first degree, work with a large organization and, perhaps, earn a good wage. There are no jobs, and not even the hope that there will be any soon. Is this sunshine hitting him? Perhaps yes.

Where is the problem?

There is a huge skills mismatch between what is expected at work and the skills young people have. There are many of young people out of school and ready to work but employers need skills these young people never got. Young people end up experiencing a difficult school-to-work transition, and employers are unable to find suitable candidates for their positions. This is the problem Re!gnite Africa, School of Inspiration, among organizations are trying to address.

The other challenges include lack of entrepreneurial resilience and life skills education. While the exact cause of the skills mismatch is difficult to pin down, I think it’s a combination of school curriculums neglecting practical vocational, entrepreneurial and employability training in favor of more traditional academics, poor connections between the private sector and schools to promote training and work experience and a lack of instruction in how to harness life skills most students already have.

The government of Uganda is highly commended for the launching of youth livelihood program (YLP) on January 24, 2014 (MGLSD,2014) with the sole objective of empowering youth to harness their socio-economic potential and increase self-employment opportunities and income levels. The program targets unemployed youth and poor youth aged 18-30 years, including dropouts from schools and training institutions, youth who had not had an opportunity to attend formal education, single parent-youth, youth with disability, youth living with HIV/AIDS, youth who have completed secondary school or tertiary institutions (including university) but remain unemployed.

Recently, the ministry produced a report, State of Problematic Youth Projects, highlighting a number of youth ventures where a lot of money has been misused. The media has been awash with stories of fraud of the fund. Paying back the money is a challenge and youth are not supported to take on the right projects. This hence shows gaps in mental preparedness, technical capacity and the policy environment.

What do I think about all this?

In my opinion, the youth lack the mental preparedness to move their entrepreneurial skills to the next level, a reason why most argue that most enterprises started in Uganda don’t celebrate their 5th birthday. The government and development partners need to invest a lot of resources in mentoring, coaching and rigorously train secondary school students to start their social and or business enterprises before they finish secondary education. In here, they are able to run their enterprises even when they choose to continue schooling. By doing this, we will be tackling unemployment at an early stage and by 6 years, unemployment will be reduced to Zero.

MUGISHA OBED is the CEO and Co-Founder of School of Inspiration. He recently completed the Career Positioning Program (CPP) with Re!gnite Africa. I am very proud of this product! Between you and me, your blog has been the easiest so far to review because of the coherent flow. But I’ve only read 3 so maybe there is another or more…I wish, because it would mean less work J

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