One notices the armies of young men and women in their late teens and early twenties idling around most markets in Kampala. They are usually dressed in replica sports shirts of European Football teams and the Uganda Cranes.
Typically they run after every car requesting the driver to allow them find him/her secure parking space. After, they will offer to carry the polyethylene shopping bags -which they sell. Many times bloody fights erupt over one ‘stealing’ another’s customer.
Most of them smoke ordinary cigarettes but one notices the smell of marijuana in the air. The places where they sit and utter obscenities as they wait for the next customer are usually littered with empty sachets of gin.
The fact that they speak passable English and express themselves well, is testimony to the possibility that they have attained considerable formal education.
Yet here they are wasting their youth. That is a great problem not only for them but for society as a whole. Uganda is now touted to have one of the youngest populations in the world with over half of it being below 25 years of age. Almost 80 per cent of these young people are unemployed or wallowing in disguised unemployment.
The years of free education have raised their expectations. Not many fancy a ‘drub’ life of tilling the land. Quite a number have sold the land they inherited and come to town with the dream of purchasing motorcycles and engaging in the boda boda transport business.
Since they are so many in the same business it will soon become unprofitable and yet that will be their major ‘skill.’ That is one example of the time bomb that we face. Already cases of crime in the city which include phone, and hand bag snatching, vandalizing of vehicles and muggings are reported daily in the media. These are sometimes facilitated by the fatal use of iron bars to subdue the victim.
The latest trend involves a group of youth rounding up a victim in broad day light, snatching their property and then pretending to administer ‘mob justice’ on the victim calling them a ‘thief’ instead!
Time does not stand still. The young idling parking boys in the market today will be grown men with dependants in the near future. They will have no skill or savings to fall back on. How will they survive? The most we can expect is a life of crime if deliberate efforts to secure their future are not made.
Unfortunately the best option for a solution; the government, seems to provide young people with a hope that is short lived. Money is being thrown at them not to improve on their lives but to help perpetuate politicians in power.
(Unfortunately) the young people seem to have noticed this open tap of endless money. Many position themselves to receive even more free money by exacerbating the vulnerability of politicians. They tell them stories about how the popularity of their rivals is spreading like wild fire. They use this as a basis to demand for more money to help ‘mobilize’ support to counter them.
But life is not all about political rivalry. Secondly the money from politicians to the youth is just a short term solution to a contemporary problem. Tomorrow’s problem may not require the ‘mobilization effort’ of the youth. Yet they will still have the challenge of eating clothing and housing themselves.
This is why the effort of skilling and employing young people should pre-occpy all of us for we shall be the victims when they become desperate for survival.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. firstname.lastname@example.org