The numerous gestures to help some of Uganda’s 7.2 million youth get gainful employment are good because the youth constitute a critical segment of our population. For instance, recent research by the World Bank shows that youth unemployment stands at more than 62 per cent and each year, more than 400,000 young Ugandans are released to the job market. This is why the youth require special attention and must be helped.
However, several of these parallel programmes meant to make the youth more employable risk becoming sporadic and uncoordinated and must be harmonised. These initiatives also need to be subjected to policy formulation processes and evaluation.
For instance, the Youth Apprenticeship Programme has trained more than 100 youth in several businesses and is expected to be rolled out countrywide for more than 2,000 youth and create 1,500 small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Yet another is the Youth Livelihoods Programme intended to rescue Uganda’s 2.8 million of 7.2 million youths. Similarly is the Shs25b Youth Entrepreneurship Venture Capital Fund. More recently, President Museveni announced more plans to equip youth with factory machinery for agro-business value addition in SMEs.
The President pledged to support similar groups in Kumi, and Ntungamo districts, which run art and crafts, sandals, juice and tomato sauce enterprises, among others. All these are positive steps in equipping and empowering the youth for gainful employment but should be harmonised and well-structured.
Notwithstanding, these noble rescue efforts, government should undertake a manpower survey among Uganda’s 7.2 million youth, who are targeted by the parallel programmes. For instance, majority of the unemployed youths are 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.
This assessment should meaningfully aggregate the youth into rural, drop-out, and graduate youth, expose challenges faced by them, and establish their skills sets, potential, gaps, and varying needs for gainful employment.
Only then can government recommend appropriate venture schemes and remedial trainings in numeracy, business and financial skills management to improve the youth. It is crucial for the government to undertake a market survey in the selected ventures to ensure ready demand for the youth outputs.
Government should be mindful of fears by Private Sector Foundation Uganda that the youth employment programmes may suffer mistakes similar to the one by Shs25b Youth Entrepreneurship Venture Capital Fund.
PSFU says the management of the funds was poor and the young entrepreneurs’ access to capital proved difficult. These hurdles besides pathetic criteria of beneficiaries denied the youth taking full advantage of the scheme.