It is worrying to live in a country where the largest labour force has no work to do. As the saying goes, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
Although the catchphrase, Tusaba government etuyambe is being used less, Mondo Kyateka, the assistant commissioner for Youth Affairs says that the government has done so much to reduce youth unemployment.
At the beginning of our interview, I ask him what exactly the government has done and on a light note, he says, “The liberalisation of the media and telecom companies. With many media houses and telecom companies allowed to operate, the government is employing me and many other youth out there.”
On a more serious note, Kyateka remarks that one of the major steps government has taken is to liberalise the housing sector. Several companies were allowed to start housing estates and that means they have to employ builders, surveyors, plumbers among other people who may be players in this sector.
He says under the Foreign Direct Investment, government is servicing land like Namanve Industrial Park by bringing services closer like, water roads and electricity. Through this policy, the government is able to create an open way for investors. “It is through such policies that we extend employment opportunities closer to people. When industries are built, they employ youth within the areas,” says Kyateka.
He adds that the government has professionalised its security forces, saying that today, it encourages university graduates to join the Uganda Police and the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF). He elaborates, “In the past, not so many people in the forces had a university degree. But today, the army and police employ so many professionals hence curbing youth unemployment.” The assistant commissioner says the government has also tried to promote agriculture although the youth have not been zealous on joining the sector.
All that said, however, the rates of youth unemployment still remains high. According to a report released by the World Bank, youth unemployment in Uganda is at 83 per cent, which means most of the youth have no job. Daniel Jolooba, the business development manager at Enterprise Uganda, says, “All the above can be done but if the attitudes of the youth are not changed, then it is seed planted on rocky ground.”
Jolooba narrates that he has met many unemployed youth who have excuses to explain their unemployment but Enterprise Uganda trains them, with the mandatory lesson being about changing their attitude.
“A lady once came to us, she said she had no money and her husband was never available to provide for the family of five. She had nothing but her four children. She also added that she had never been to school,” Jolooba explains.
“We talked to her basically to change her attitude. When she went back home, she looked around the house and all she had was her sole pair of shoes which she sold at Shs15,000. With this money she bought a kilo of rice and liver. She cooked it and sold it to the nearby labourers. She was amazed at how much Shs15,000 would bring in return.” Today, Jolooba testifies that her business is now worth Shs20m, thanks to change in attitude.
Jolooba says, “Many youth think that to start a cooking business, one should have a restaurant but, if you have the skill, the saucepan, and the 10 plates that you don’t use always, why not start small?”
He also says that many youth have gone to school, but our job market cannot take them all in. However, many of them envision themselves having white collar jobs. They do not want to get their hands dirty. Jolooba encourages youth to quit the excuses and get working: “Utilise the skill and the available resources. You will be amazed at the results,” he says.
Besides changing attitudes, the government needs to look at ways to manage the escalating situation.
Gideon Badagawa, the executive director of Private Sector Foundation Uganda [PSFU], an agency that incorporates more than 175 business associations and corporate bodies, diagnoses a three-pronged solution the malaise of unemployment in Uganda.
Attract investments to create jobs
Badagawa argues that the government must develop an environment that attracts investments, which in turn create jobs and build a workforce with the required skills. He, however, says the ultimate responsibility lies with potential employees who must polish their integrity.
“Jobs can only be created if there are investments and to have investments, we need an environment that promotes entrepreneurship, innovations and creativity so that investors are able to lay capital. A [conducive] environment requires the right skills and a favourable legal framework,” Badagawa argues.
He says that to attract investments that spur job creation, countries like Zambia, South Africa, Rwanda and Ghana have cultivated environments that are a magnet for investors, especially by unlocking internal red-tape, a problem that still makes potential investors wary of Uganda.
Investors to Uganda are discouraged by the bureaucracy in accessing essentials like investment licenses and work permits.
“Countries have one-stop centres for investors but getting an investment license here can take you 60 days and a work permit six months.”
However, even as Ugandans endlessly pour to the streets in vain pursuit of employment, Badagawa casts doubts on the quality of job seekers, warning that the lack of the prerequisite skills is condemning more Ugandans to joblessness.
“Jobs will always be available from time to time but do our people have the required skills? For every year for instance, the government should be doing a manpower survey to understand the deficit in jobs, which type of jobs are available and which skills are required as to do training,” Badagawa says.
He also pokes holes in the conduct of job seekers.
“The integrity, customer care and ethical conduct of our people is wanting,” Badagawa states, adding that one needs to have an ethical conduct and create good relationships at work. “This cannot be learnt,” he says, “It takes experience, exposure and upbringing. Investors would not want someone who can steal their money and it has happened here.”
Lawrence Bategeka, a development and economics analyst, echoes concerns about what the government is doing to support local entrepreneurship that can be a source of jobs, warning that little is being done.
“The locals can create jobs if well supported. There should be support for local entrepreneurship. People that are able to start jobs must be supported with credit .Unfortunately, our situation is that we have supported foreigners who can come in with their own labour,” Bategekeka says.
Fred Muhumuza, an economist who works with KPMG Uganda, a consultancy firm, argues that the panacea to unemployment does not lie in “targeting individuals” who are currently on the streets but addressing issues of economic growth, corruption and the investments in agriculture.
“Corruption must be stopped because with corruption, money ends up with people who have no business ideas,” Muhumuza says.
Encourage investors. The time it takes to get an investment license and a work permit is long. These should be shortened to encourage them to come in and provide jobs.
Change youth attitudes. Many youth are looking for white collar jobs or for a lot of capital to start a business. They should be taught that one can always start small and grow big.
Support local entrepreneurship. The locals should be given credit and other incentives to enable them start and maintain their businesses so they can employ others,
Invest in agriculture: This is a sector that people can succeed in because of the resources country has. The youth should be encouraged to start there.
SERIES >YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT
Part I of the series looked at how unemployment problem started. click on the link to read the story.
Part II of the series looked at how the school curriculum in the country might have contributed to joblessness. click on the link to read the story.
Part III of the series looked at how the lack of nurturing talent has created less job opportunities. click on the link to read the story.
Part IV looked at the effects of unemployment on the youth and country, such as brain drain, and trafficking. To read the story, go to www.monitor.co.ug
Part VI will tell the inspiring stories of young people who have found themselves employment.