Empower youth to fight poverty

Wednesday October 9 2019


By Patrick Edema

Uganda has the world’s youngest population with more than 78 per cent of its population below the age of 30. With just over eight million youth aged 15 and 30, the country also has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in sub-Saharan Africa.

Although Uganda is making strides economically, it faces significant challenges in meeting its young people’s needs today and their challenges tomorrow as its population continues to grow at a rate of 3.2 per cent annually.

According to the sector situational analysis on youth in Uganda, the report found that poverty, gender-based inequities and location-based disparities were recurring themes from their mapping exercise. Therefore, the country needs to focus on the importance of jobs in the context of Uganda’s economic growth.

As it is for other countries around the world, jobs are essential for Uganda’s development because they determine the living standards of individuals and households, support economic transformation, and promote social cohesion.

Although Uganda’s economy has grown in recent years and will continue to do so, currently a significant proportion of the country’s population are not benefiting optimally from this growth.
The vast majority of Uganda’s labour force remains employed in low productivity activities. This is largely because the most productive, rapidly expanding economic sectors are often more capital intensive than labour-intensive and employ only a small proportion of the workforce.

In particular, the bulk of the population continues to work in the agricultural sector, often engaged in subsistence activities, with only a small proportion of agricultural workers engaged in the cultivation of high-value, commercialized crops.


With Uganda’s labour force growing above four per cent per annum, the country can add 10 million potential youth into the labour market, adding to the challenge of creating goods, jobs and achieving equitable growth. The challenge for Ugandan policy makers will be to manage the labour force’s transition from a predominant involvement in low productivity subsistence agriculture to increased involvement in higher productivity manufacturing and services sector.

Therefore, like in other countries, creating quality jobs is a major policy challenge for Uganda. With high unemployment rate, it is apparent that many of the youth are involved in low productivity formal and informal sector activities. This hinders the structural transformation required to drive Uganda’s economic development.

The government needs to implement proper policies and the creation of a greater number of productive employment opportunities to ensure an inclusive growth that will enable Uganda to fulfil its aspiration of becoming a stable, integrated middle income country. And with the youth energy, resilience, strong desire to contribute to development in their communities, government should acknowledge their potential and create opportunities for them.

Patrick Edema,