By COSTA NANTUME
Uganda’s biggest population comprises the youths who make up 78% of the population. However, the young, energetic, and the country’s future population are struggling to survive. This is a sad story and yet the reality!
According to statistics, the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic shot the unemployment rate in Uganda from 1.92% (2019) to 2.77% in 2020 and 2.94% in 2021 and was projected to hit 3.10% by the end of 2022; leaving many youths who had small scale business with limited hope for tomorrow.
On August 1, 2023, the Electoral Commission (EC) launched the roadmap for the 2026 general elections, as well as the strategic plan for 2022/2023-2026/2027; the period where youths are remembered to be of great impact.
In the 2021 elections, many youths were at the battlefront campaigning and doing all it takes for their candidates to go through with the hope that their livelihood would change. It is sad to note that most politicians just took advantage of their numbers, energy, resilience, and solidarity to win the election, and none of their issues have been addressed to date, half the election term!
Unemployment is a major challenge affecting the young population of the country. After the 2021 political season, the youths who were temporarily employed in the “struggle war” are back to their former state only waiting to be called back in 2026. Why not use the majority of young people into boosting the country’s economy? This is therefore; the time to welcome President Museveni’s initiative of empowering the youth [Presidential Initiative on Skilling The Girl Child under State House] by engaging them in projects that will make them appreciate their future.
Politically, the one who gets this number of 78% youth population automatically wins the elections. However, that same number economically can either raise or fall the country’s economy. The main struggle of the country’s men and women in government is to focus on how we can skill, allocate and use this large young population to raise the economy of our country.
We must appreciate and credit the government’s efforts to empower the youths through different initiatives like the Youth Capital Venture Fund to help youths who are business-oriented, the Youth livelihood program (YLP) -the interest-free revolving funds for unemployed and poor youth, the Emyooga which targets those with skills and now Parish Development Model. Indeed, these programs have brought success to some extent. However, if we first equip these youth with survival skills, all those monetary projects will land on the fertile ground the project would yield more highly than now.
There is no way such programs can yield when the beneficiaries have not been organized and equipped with the survival skills not forgetting other factors like a lack of consistency by the government, a poor/unmentored youth mindset, politicking, inadequate supervision, monitoring, and evaluation by both technical officials and politicians. All these are impediments for government to achieve its goal.
The outstanding advantage towards empowering the youths is the availability of Technical/Vocational Institutes the Government has put in place across regions and increasing the salaries of science teachers and Instructors to motivate them to teach and motivate learners.
I believe this will enable promotion of Science subjects which will in turn join the club to promote technical skills other than the white color jobs-colonial mindset that had been planted among the youth.
On creation of employment opportunities, Uganda has to cross the line by creating more than one million jobs every year which calls for skilled manpower to promote industrialization. It is sad to note that Uganda STILL imports experts with technical knowledge and skills from foreign countries to come and do constructions and other related Jobs which need technical know-how yet Universities release more than 40,000 graduates annually and approximately only 9,000 jobs can be created within the same period. This has been as a result of the youth looking at white color jobs than being technical.
Politicians, civil servants and Non-government organizations, the time is now for us to work towards empowering this large population with self-reliance skills to allow them be skilled professionals, run businesses and create more jobs instead of using them as ladders.
The writer is a former Youth Leader-Kiboga district, Agriculturalist/Journalist