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Sunday, April 1, 2012

How to solve youth un-employment in Uganda

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 Univ. of Sci. and Tech. He is also a PhD candidate, a holder of Master of Science in Materials Engineering from Norwegian Univ. of Sci. and Tech. He also holds a Bachelor of Sci. in Industrial Chemistry from Makerere University. He has worked as a metallurgist at Kasese Cobalt Company and as a mineral dresser at Dept of Geological survey and Mines, Entebbe  


  1. Thank you for this idea. I believe that's the way to go for the youth. However, a lot of inspirational talks need to be carried out to change the current mindsets among many youth especially those in the rural and peri-urban areas.
    Otherwise, thank you for the initiative of a Science Uganda website.
    I wish you all the best in your vision.

    1. Thanks Samuel. We shall continue to try inspiring Ugandans to action. Thanks and visit us again some time.

  2. Materials Engineer,
    This is a great piece of work. Much as it does not tie in directly with the actual situation on the ground, a sensible policy strategy is obviously inherent.
    Some suggestions can also encompass the following:
    a) Remodel the Agricultural sector to include compulsory value addition for export. This would set a precedent for Uganda to buy Uganda instead of importing (with firm restriction on imports of basic needs everyone Ugandans require, including electric cars.) The net effect will be to force the country to hire and train these youths in these industries. Rightly pointed the government with and using sober technicians/ Managers will have to lead this initiative with the necessary funding (tax payers money) , grant tax holidays and even subsidies in the start-up stages of creating these institutions. Better than investing in Redundant Fighter jets, and other items of ostentatious consumption
    b) Compulsory internship for all graduates from,all formal sector institutions, in government institutions whether technical or purely bureaucratic. This is the exposure that will create an innovative bunch as opposed to those who thrive on Transfer Payments and hooliganism. This could include a compulsory National youth service. They can gain exposure to the military, police and prisons. Inherently a choice to secure jobs in the forces (for all Ugandans) becomes available. Again the Military should not be just a fighting force but must include brigades for, civil works & construction, scientific research and discovery, mining, Water Engineering, Computer & IT innovations, call centres, Medicine and Agriculture, Industrial Development, power generation and alternative sources etc…
    c) Like the Government pays redundant RDC's etc the alternative for these funds would be to create Agricultural Funds to, if not forcefully encourage mass farming, then identify youths in the area and give them to money and strictly monitor and evaluate outcomes. Yes you may say this is dreaming, but it high time the Government began to hire and pay well the best minds in the country to execute these initiatives. It sounds like the Ujamma stuff that went down in TZ but what the hell, the opportunity cost is another 50 years of backwardness! My 2 Cents. PC OLOK (Busines Development Consultant)

    1. PC OLOK Thanks for an insight into these issues. I can see you have the grasp of these ideas. Thanks for the contribution and hope you will visit us some day for more guidance. I agree with you 100%. All the above need to be planned out and implemented in a deliberate manner!! Thanks alot

  3. Our Social and Cultural believes is too, contributing to Unemployment!
    Almost all Uganda’s is the societal and cultural believes are by and largely encourage young people, especially the female to continue depending on parental support even at an old age. This means that many of Uganda’s female youth do not have the capacity to think for themselves or let alone find creative ways of earning a living.

    1. Simply Healthy Life Magazine, You are very right. We have to make sure that all members of the society are contributing.

  4. I am very proud of ya'll for these great ideas. I hope that you can get them to the right people to put them in action. As an educationist straddling both Ugandan and US education systems, I can attest to the merits of the suggestion above. However, I would like to go further. There are colleges in the US called "Work Colleges" like Berea College, Warren Wilson College, College of the Ozarks that combine academics and work. They engage, the head, the heart and hands for the betterment of their communities. These are the types of institutions we need in Uganda. As Ghana has done, we need to have a fund for education whether from oil revenues, VAT (Ghana added 2% to VAT strictly for Education) or wherever to build two-year and four-year colleges in up-country communities patterned after the Bereas. I have suggested it to ministers, ps, and other policy makers to no avail. These institutions would take care of the youth problems in a matter of a few years.

    1. Thank you very much Anonymous for this wonderful contribution. This is something we will have to pursue as Nation at some point in time. If our government fails, its me and you who will have the responsibility to implement these ideas.


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