Monday February 10 2014

Without training, the youth livelihood fund will go to waste

By Pascal Odoch

The recently launched Shs165 billion national youth livelihood programme, anchored in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, has started on a very high note with procurement of motor cycles for the 112 districts for supervision of youth programmes at district level and a further 1,360 bicycles for supervision at sub-county level. This huge initiative is neither a pilot, nor a project, but a full-fledge programme.

The programme comes on the heels of several botched youth initiatives; the youth groups have learnt from YES programme where grown-up men did access the funding; they have learnt from Naads groups weaknesses where people have on many occasions just shared funds without a trace; there is also the nasty experiences of donations from President Museveni to the youth that have gone to waste such as the modern hatchery donated to Jinja District youth group that has remained unutilised to date; there is the weak group leaderships who sell group produce and mismanage the proceeds with impunity.

At national level, one of the key priority objectives of the National Development Plan 2010/11-2014/15 is to improve the stock and quality of the human resource. Moreover, this particular objective is of more significance to the youth than any other category of Ugandans on account of the fact that they are the drivers of the next generation private and public sector investments and social services.

It is the youth that should be making efforts to gain knowledge and skills required in the intermediate sectors that feed industrialisation.
Nobody should be deceived that there are no jobs for the youth in Uganda! There are several opportunities in the factories, repair workshops, and several trades.

The advantage of this employment route is that it allows even a formal school drop-out at whatever level, to fit in and go on to improve given technical skills and ultimately earn decent incomes. With decent income, such youth can support his/her family and make meaningful contribution to a community. But the way the current crop of youth are approaching their preparedness to achieve this noble responsibility of earning decent incomes over the next 20-30 years, is so worrying.

I have never seen any country I have worked in, be it Vietnam, South Sudan, Canada, Britain, Lesotho, South Africa, where the youth have flourished to higher income brackets without taking knowledge and skills seriously. It is inconceivable, with Uganda’s crop of youth mindset, to see their lot grow to higher income brackets, without taking up these important signals.

The only viable route for this crop of youth is to go to class, as what Kampala City dwellers refer to as “bera mu class”. Such transformative avenues include taking advantage of the recently unveiled multi-million shilling Skilling Uganda Programme, scholarships for science-oriented courses, the existing youth friendly reproductive health services, youth employment schemes, the Enterprise Uganda schemes. These are the real New Year resolutions than day dreaming.

It will be critical that the programme out-sources training service providers to ensure there is value for money in the programme. This can be done through generating proper appreciation of the programme’s vision of value chain development (business ethics, sources and types of livestock feeds, animal treatment, book-keeping practices, post-harvest handling such as bulking produce and contract markets, linkages with formal institutions in local governments such as district commercial officers, production and veterinary officers, UNBS, Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development for existing tax exemptions, etc).

Disbursements to the beneficiary youth groups are channeled through the formal financial institutions such as banks.

Mr Odoch is a development consultant.