Here are practical steps to address youth unemployment in Uganda [Daily Monitor, The (Uganda)]
(Daily Monitor, The (Uganda) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The media has reported that President Museveni has launched a youth livelihood programme aimed at solving unemployment in the country. According to press reports, the government will put in place a fund of Shs265 billion, which will be given to unemployed youth as soft loans to start enterprises. The repayment of the loan is expected to come from the profits of the enterprises.
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 now advising economies to focus on jobs as a catalyst to spur economic growth. According to economists, sustained creation of jobs leads to economic growth, the employed populations can also afford good livelihoods, contribute taxes, and invest in creation of other jobs.
Will Uganda's new youth livelihood programme be the magical shot at solving the problem of unemployment? It is not clear whether the government'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.
There is need for the government to promote 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.Agro-processing firms need a skilled workforce to run them. Any Ugandan wishing no know how agriculture and agro-processing can create employment and improve the livelihood of the low skilled youth should go the southwestern district of Kanungu, where a single crop - tea - is changing lives of many hitherto unemployed low skilled population.
The district currently has three tea processing factories. These factories have increased the demand for green tea leaves, which has forced the rural populations to open up hundreds of acres of tea farms.The youth who are employed to pick the tea from the gardens are definitely living above the poverty line. The labourers who pick tea leaves are paid an average of Shs200 per kilogramme. In a day, someone who has gained skills in picking tea can pick a minimum of 100 kilogrammes. This translates to a monthly income of Shs520,000, assuming the labourer has chosen to work for only 26 days in a month and rest for four days. This is good money that, if invested in other money-generating ventures, can greatly improve living standards of communities.
Further focus should also 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 a strategic plans to channel this knowledge into a commodity that can be sold.
We need to borrow a leaf from India. The country's technology sector is becoming a huge service export, especially to the emerging markets in Africa that need software solutions. Most software banking solutions used by Ugandan banks are imported from India. Some banks have actually gone ahead to outsource most of their ICT issues to Chenai in India. Hundreds of youth in India are busy solving and resolving bank queries happening in Uganda, in the comfort of their seats in India.
This is a very huge market, with huge returns. Our government needs to come with the ICT hubs that the youth can use to tap into this international out sourcing market.
Mr Niwagaba is a legal advisor in a Ugandan Bank. firstname.lastname@example.org
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