By Badru Walusansa, Commonwealth Correspondent for Uganda
Many social and economic realities affecting the youth have been subdued by the sheer power struggles and unsatisfied political egos of mainly the elite in leadership positions. Uganda has the world’s youngest population with over 78 percent of its population below the age of 30 (UBOS 2014 Statistics). However, the youth are plagued with a multitude of problems with “unemployment” being one of them.
As our politicians continue embarking on political-destruction-missions such as the removal of the Presidential age limit cap in the constitution and the extension of tenure of office for MPs and other leaders, youth are busy on streets carrying out demonstrations and protests against the status quo. Since we a politicking society where no one seem to care about the youths’ frustrations, I am afraid if the current situation persists we are all likely to all payoff irrespective of our political divides and other differences.
For instance, many a time majority of the criminals that terrorize the highly-polished-residential areas such as Naalya, Naguru, Kololo et al, where the assumed “A” class citizens reside, are often youth criminal gangs from our known ghettos of Katwe, Kalerwe, Bwaise to mention but a few. However, this is by no design but brought about by the increasing disparities between the rich and poor majority of the latter being youths. Still, if nothing is done to solve youth unemployment in this country, such organized youth criminal gangs will not stop disturbing the country’s peace and security.
Before Christmas, media awash us with a group of self-confessing organized criminals who promised to give the public some form of peace away from their nasty acts. If one was observant enough s/he would tell how this crime outfit was largely composed of youths, if not all. The most lingering question that we must address ourselves to is how can we salvage the issue of youth unemployment?
According to the African Development Bank, youth unemployment stands at a staggering 83% percent although under employment is also on arise especially among the graduates. The upward trend of youth unemployment has rendered many youths hopeless, idle and vulnerable to crime and other forms of radicalization. Youth unemployment has not either spared university graduates, and by the look of things these have devised mobilization skills to influence others to confront the status quo through antagonistic means at their disposal. Although majority of these graduates have not resorted to petty crime, they are strategic enough to mobilize their counterparts who are uneducated to engage in radicalized or subversive activities. For example, we are all familiar with organized youth groups such as the “Unemployed Youth” and “Jobless Brotherhood” whose composition is mainly university students or graduates. What then becomes the future of this country if such groups continue to manifest?
A few weeks ago, another group of aggrieved youths from Kawempe Division hit Wandegeya streets to protest against what they termed as government deliberate refusal to address their challenges especially unemployment. This culminated into a bitter exchange of blows with the Police that had come to avert the protests. Those that must have watched the happenings that day on Television will truly coincide with me that youth demonstrations and protests are taking another shape and instead of looking on, we must urge policy makers to address themselves to such realities before we are taken by events. Government needs to also be proactive enough to address the demands of the youthful population because the youth are getting accustomed to its reactive approaches of suppression. Until now, I am concerned and equally perturbed by the fearless way one youth confronted an armed Police officer who tried to block their way during the protests.
The aftermath of this protest was marked by a mimic gesture of the formation of the “Kawempe Republic” purely coined by these embattled youths. For sure this is one way to show how such youths have lost trust and confidence in government a clear indication that the latter has failed to fully perform its obligations. Although I am aware that government cannot tackle youth unemployment by finding each youth a job, we must appreciate that through deliberate and sound policies, it can create a conducive environment where youth can create for themselves self-sustaining initiatives that can improve their livelihoods.
By and large, deliberate policies should be developed and implemented through Sector Wide Approaches. Why should government improve the education sector through increasing on school enrollment without necessarily expanding the job market? And why should foreigners engage in small businesses that would be done by the nationals? Therefore, these are all issues that need to be addressed through policy. More still, the agricultural sector should also be boosted and support given to youth farming groups in order to attract them into the country’s biggest employing sector.
Government must support youth ventures or startups by availing them resources to undertake research, growth and market in order to make them competitive. We also urge government to train youths and build their capacity on how to take advantage of the nascent oil and gas sector. Additionally, youth spaces in leadership need to be scaled up and encourage them to take up leadership roles as a way of increasing their participation in promoting good governance in this country. Uganda’s botched education system need to be redesigned to suit our needs and realities through supporting hands-on and technical skills development, critical thinking and innovations so that the youth can consider starting up their own employment and break away from the unemployment seeking syndrome.
Finally, if we continue burying our heads in the sand and government is until now not bothered by the surge in youth unemployment we may once wake up to a youth revolution in this country.