Saturday October 14 2017

Dilemma of Uganda’s jobs

A wood scientist, author, and an innovator

Priority areas. Youth innovations, many of which start small, must be supported up to maturity stage. FILE PHOTO.  

By Paul Tajuba

The Uganda employment story is a hard one to tell and is likely to remain so for some time. However, this story can best be told by
the annual investment reports released by Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), a semi-autonomous government agency charged with promoting Uganda as a key investment destination as well as easing the country’s investment environment.
For this article, focus will be put on the last five years where government has created or facilitated the creation of about 266,595 jobs.
The figure is captured in the annual re-ports realised between 2012 and 2016 where there was a marked fall in the number of jobs created each year. In 2012, according to UIA, government created 61,762 jobs in various sectors of the economy key among them manufacturing, agriculture and mining. This was followed by a minimal increase in 2013 with more than 64,549 created.
However, in 2014 there was a marked fall where created jobs slumped to 60,294 before falling further to 44,763 in 2015.
The slump increased further in 2016 with created jobs falling to 35,227, a trend that was attributed to the volatility and uncertainty in the country’s political environment worsened by a shrinking global economy.
According to Godber Tumushabe, a policy analyst, the fall in job creation is as a result of reduction in foreign direct investment and growth of the service sectors such as tourism, banks and telecoms contrary to bulk employment sectors such agriculture, manufacturing and industrialisation.
“Service sector is growing but it is technology driven. If government is to create jobs, there must be substantial investment in agriculture and industrialisation,” he says.
The created jobs do not compare well with the number of young graduates that are released from higher institutions of learning annually.
Within the same period (2012-2016) more than two million students were released from higher institution of learning onto the job market which meant that for every created job there were at least eight young graduates competing for it.
According to data, more than 400,000 graduates are released onto the job market per annum. Of the two million, according to Enterprise Uganda, about 151,600 ventured into entrepreneurship and innovation over the period.
However, less than 30,000 were able to turn their innovations into real income and taxable jobs. Majority, data shows, joined retail trade, which is mostly captured as informal setting since it is difficult to estimate earnings from such businesses.
The above figures present the grey areas of Uganda’s job dilemma that has either slumped or stagnated, amid raising employable youth numbers exacerbated by rapid population growth.
Uganda has a population growth rate of 3.3 against an average growth rate of or below 4.5 per cent. The growth rate, moreover in a poor economy, clearly cannot support the high population growth rate, which might explain why more Ugandans, many of them young graduates, have slid into poverty over the last five years.
According to the Uganda the National House-hold Survey 2016/17 released by Uganda Bureau of Statistics last month, more than 3.4 million people slide into poverty, raising the number of Uganda’s income poor to about 10 million be tween 2012 and 2017.
Majority of the poor practice agriculture, which employs more than 80 per cent of Ugandans, but has stalled at an average growth of one per cent over the last decade.
The rate of growth, according to Christopher Kibanzanga, the Agriculture state minister, is still low but there is concerted efforts which have allowed the sector to grow by 3.2 per cent in the last financial year.
“Our target is to raise it [growth] to 5.6 per cent as stated in the National Development Plan II,” he says and is aware of the importance of the sector in Uganda’s employment and wealth creation agenda.

Support to innovations

Therefore, there is urgent need to boost growth in the agricultural sector to create employment.
Projects such as Naads must be well apportioned to go to intended beneficiaries through which new jobs can be created.
Critical support to youth projects such Youth Livelihood Fund must be emphasised to create jobs. Government must also encourage a streamlined education review that responds to the challenges of today and tomorrow. Currently, Uganda’s education system focuses on the white collar and formal jobs instead of science, innovation and enterprise that would encourage the creation of a robust manufacturing sector.
According to Uganda Export Promotions Board, balance of trade continues to worsen with exports standing at $3b (Shs10.7 trillion) against imports of $6b (Shs21,5 trillion). This imbalance does not augur well with a country that is struggling to create jobs for its people through manufacturing and industrialisation.