By John Mugerwa
When the youth are left without guidance and supportRemedies to the Sky Rocketing Youth Unemployment in Uganda, the next generation will be at cross roads. Many young people are graduating from colleges and Universities with no jobs or start-up capital to invest, and no skills and proper supervision to translate classroom knowledge into a resource to earn a living. Youth unemployment is at a whopping 83% and we should all be concerned. The apathy among young people now, towards the establishment, is a time bomb. Unemployment is a critical issue which all world economies are grappling with. The major world financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are advising economies to focus on jobs as a catalyst to spur economic growth. According to economists, sustained creation of jobs leads to economic growth since the employed populations can also afford good livelihoods, contribute taxes and invest in creation of other jobs.
The big question of the day stands; Will Uganda’s youth livelihood program be the magical shot at solving unemployment? Well, It is not clear whether the governmen’s plan for the unemployed youth targets the skilled graduates, uneducated, low-skilled youth or all. Every year, universities in Uganda continue to churn out graduates to the job market but very few can be absorbed into formal employment. This means there is a huge number of unemployed skilled work force. However, millions of youth in this country are of low skill, and lack education.
The President’s strategy of the youth fund is therefore a drop in the ocean in terms of creating jobs and solving unemployment. There are other structural strategies and interventions that the government needs to focus on to tackle youth unemployment in a meaningful and sustainable way. To get there, a few aspects of our economy need streamlining:
Firstly, we must continuously challenge the people who design our school curricula to tailor curriculum development towards the rapidly liberalizing economy. Systems should focus on business models, apprenticeships, research, critical thinking, and innovation. Education system should produce curricula that responds to the economy by building skills and a competent labor force.
Secondly, the tradition of graduates hoping to get employment with government or established busineses needs to be tackled right from the classroom. With a high degree of sectarianism in government, coupled with a slow private sector expansion, the economy is unable to absorb the extra-labor produced annually. Government, on its side, is now behaving like an ethnic enclave where favoritism and tribalism pervades every department. Job opportunities with government are no longer on merit. Somehow, one must have a Godfather or Matriarch to access employment. Blotted bureaucracy, corruption, and ineptitude also stifle the flow and absorption of funds at local governments.
Thirdly, and most important, is for the government to enlighten the population about the operationalization of the economy. Government today is chocking with an extremely high cost of public administration. The cost of politics and sustaining politicians have diverted critical funding from youth entrepreneurial development and development of infrastructure such as resource centres, recreation centers and centres for social innovations where youths could channel their ideas, energies and synergies.
Fourthly, we have to analyze the culture of investment, attitudes towards private venturing, and co-operatives. Young people need mentoring into saving, investing, partnerships, loan servicing, and translation of knowledge. Youths have the energy and ability to learn fast, given the advent of technology that offers them unfettered opportunity to make good of their time and energy to earn a living. Government should strive to make computer skills and internet access, universal and a fundamental right of every youth.
There is need for the government to provide a conducive investment climate. The government must enable investors to focus on the long-term plans without the fear of losing their investments, in case of change of government. This is what creates jobs for the local skilled labour force. There is also need for financial sector growth and stability. The stable banks should be able to give out loans, focusing on key sectors of the economy such as the energy sector, agriculture and technology. We need cheap financing in the agro-processing sector as agriculture is the single biggest sector employing Ugandans.
More focus should be put on the emerging technology sector. The Internet and its benefits could be the open window to the elusive jobs. With the Internet, the world is one global village. The skilled but unemployed youth need to be supported to harness the benefits in the technology sector, specifically the use of strategic plans to channel this knowledge into a commodity that can be sold.