I was not really inspired to write to you at this moment. However the severity of the problem could not wait. I had a phone conversation with a child hood friend a while ago and after one hour of talking; I had no choice but to put ink to paper some ideas on how to fight the youth unemployment in Uganda. My child friend expressed to me his desire to leave Uganda and settle somewhere else as life had become increasingly difficult in the pearl of Africa. Uganda has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. According to the UN, It grows at a staggering rate of 3.2 %. As if that is not bad enough, the fertility rate stands at 6.7%. (The ratio of live births in an area to the population of that area; expressed per 1000 population per year). Uganda’s population now stands at approximately 32 million people (Uganda MDG Report, 2010). Still according to the UN, the youth makes up most of Uganda’s population with more than 50% below 15 years of age. This means that most Ugandans fall into the dependency category (Among highest in the entire world).
In 2002, youth unemployment was estimated at approximately 23% and 32.2% in 2010 (Ref: young leader’s think tank for policy alternatives report). With a working population of approximately 16 million people (almost all in their youthful years: life expectancy is 52 years), over 5 million youths are unemployed. This figure is at depression levels and should be taken seriously by the society because it is unsustainable.
Ugandan Parliament should consider seriously a youth employment bill similar to the 1944 US G.I. Bill!
As it is the goal of Science Uganda not only to point out Uganda’s problems but also offer practical ideas on how to fix them, we will go ahead with what should be done. When World War II was all fought and done, the USA had massive un-employment among its veterans and this was having a huge social impact on the country. This is when the G.I. Bill was introduced to offer a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s). Benefits included low-cost mortgages, loans to start a business or farm, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend college, high school or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment compensation. This bill expanded the US’s middle class for decades which followed. It was very successful and solved unemployment problem among US’s veterans.
The Ugandan parliament should consider something similar to government-private sector partnerships in areas of manufacturing, production and services delivery which have been neglected for decades. This can involve setting put agricultural farms, key manufacturing factories, training of nurses (some for export in developed world where they are highly needed by their aging population), garbage sorting factories etc. which will be run by both government and the private sector (share basis). This cannot be left to the private sector alone because of lack of capital and sometimes government has an inherent advantage of running things without a profit motive and this can be crucial in all these start-ups until they gain legs. Agricultural farms, factories etc. can employ all youth types including graduates from higher schools of learning, secondary and primary level graduates. This can have a net effect of increased Uganda exports and reduced imports. We cannot afford to underutilize our youth and if we do, it will be to our own peril.
I can assure you that if done correctly, we shall not only solve the youth un-employment but also increase government revenue as many youth will become tax contributing citizens and this will dramatically increase Uganda’s middle class. But if we do not do this, Uganda will lose another 50 years in the future because we are going to have an entire generation going through their youthful days as non-contributing citizens to the sustainability of our republic.
Alex Luyima: The writer is a research fellow at the Department of Materials Engineering,
Missouri . and Tech. He is also a PhD candidate, a holder of Master of Science in Materials Engineering from Univ. of Sci of Sci. and Tech. He also holds a Bachelor of Sci. in Industrial Chemistry from Norwegian Univ. . He has worked as a metallurgist at Kasese Cobalt Company and as a mineral dresser at Dept of Geological survey and Mines, Entebbe Makerere University