Sunday May 4 2014

Ensure access to livelihoods fund

Government’s commitment to devote Shs265 billion to the country’s unemployed and poor youth is timely. Admittedly, government cannot afford to create enough jobs for all its citizens. Yet, the Youth Livelihoods Programme (YLP) gives hope to Uganda’s 2.8 million of 7.2 million youths. YLP also lifts off the burden of not being hired because of lack of work and job experience.

Notwithstanding the noble move, government should not go blindly into YLP. Government must ensure equitable access to the venture fund. Government has done well to recognise the mismatch between available skills possessed by youth and those skills required by the labour market. Unemployed youths are currently pre-occupied in the informal sector and suffer low levels of formal skills, poor attitude, and lack of perseverance to overcome exhaustive demands of small and medium scale start-ups.
YLP implementers need to undertake a systematic approach. Foremost, government needs to undertake a manpower survey among Uganda’s 2.8 million unemployed youths, who are targeted by the programme.
The programme needs to be well-structured, beneficiaries aggregated, and challenges faced by the unemployed youth clearly exposed. This assessment should establish the skills sets, potential, and gaps among the YLP target population and recommend remedial trainings in business and financial skills management to improve the ventures.

Besides, government should undertake a market survey in the selected ventures to ensure ready demand for the products.

But fears by the Private Sector Foundation that YLP may suffer mistakes similar to one by Shs25b Youth Entrepreneurship Venture Capital Fund offer some reason for concern and caution. PSFU says the management of the funds was poor and the young entrepreneurs’ access to capital for their enterprises, through selected commercial banks, proved difficult. These hurdles besides pathetic criteria of beneficiaries denied the youth taking full advantage of the scheme.

Nevertheless, this second step to support and nurture small and medium scale enterprises can help deliver the youth. This time round, YLP enforcers should be transparent, balanced, and non-restrictive in their choice of implementers, targeted beneficiaries, and participatory financial institutions.

The ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development must ease access to all unemployed youths countrywide.