By Hon Charles Bakkabulindi Workers’ MP.
As Uganda pursues the vision of getting into the middle income category, youth unemployment has remained a major challenge for the country. Providing employment opportunities to the youth is paramount for the country’s economic transformation. A critical mass of youth require employment to increase their incomes and better their standards of living. Youth unemployment or vulnerable employment is always likely to reduce the future productive potential and earnings of the people. Unemployment leaves them with limited incomes, and unable to access good health and education services. For the youth to be sustainably employed, they need to be empowered through the skills development.
Empowerment through skills development plays a critical role in providing them with better job opportunities in industries and related entities. It also enhances their business acumen. A number of countries have taken off and developed through creating a critical mass of personnel through developing vocational skills. For instance, China has over the years had several deliberate policies on skills development. The deliberate efforts have ensured that about one third (33%) of upper secondary school students are enrolled in vocational skill schools. This has largely contributed to the country’s economic growth and transformation. Similar policies targeting vocational training for skills development were implemented in some European countries such as Germany. In contrast, the percentage of secondary school students enrolled in vocational training in Sub-Saharan Africa remained low for many years.
The Ugandan situation
Uganda has since the adoption of liberalization as a development strategy in the early 1990s provided a conducive environment for the private sector to take leadership in the economy. This is due to the fact that across the globe, Micro, Small and Medium sized Enterprises (MSMEs) are highly associated with considerable employment opportunities for the youth. It is estimated that by 2020, I million people will enter the working age population. The key issues the country must address to benefit from the demographic dividend include:
More youth especially in urban areas who are unemployed are seen involved in betting and other idle activities yet there has been a modest decline in the poverty level, despite sustained economic growth over the past decade.
Majority of the people are underemployed
Fastest growing sectors have low job-multiplier effects and most jobs have been created in the low-value informal sector
High skill mismatch between what the market requires and what the education system produces.
The following therefore must be done to improve the situation;
Modernize agriculture to enhance its productivity and developed value-addition industries.
Promote better quality expenditure and investment in agriculture; via improved budget processes aligned to well-articulated strategies.
Prioritize enhancement of economic infrastructure and export oriented economic reforms and enforce accountability in the use of public resources in order to attract investments and create mass quality jobs for the surplus labour force.
Reform education curricula and teaching methods to focus on innovation, skills development, science and technology, and entrepreneurship development.
Attract more investment in export-oriented industries with high job multiplier.
Advice to the Youth
Use your brain to become a problem solver
Take courage to start a small economic project
Be a problem solver
Share ideas with others
See crisis as an opportunity
Do not wait for change to change you
Initiate something however small
If you want to be successful, seek to be a person of value
Remember principles don’t change but tactics do■