We are currently living through Uganda’s most educated generation. The irony is it just got harder for the same youth to have the means to improve their well-being and break free from the shackles of the vicious poverty.
According to the International Labour Organisation, over 73 million youths (15-24 years) failed to secure work in 2013 across the world. Many more languish in underemployment.
Recently, the World Bank revealed that approximately 11 million young Africans are expected to flock the labour market annually for the next 10 years. In simple terms, the continent has to create employment for 11 million youth annually just to barely keep up.
I have for a few several years been engaging some vibrant youths out there as we struggle to achieve that success that we so much loved to dream of while growing up.
It is interesting to observe that the same old things keep popping up. Things that can be worked on to enable the young people achieve their full potential. To live their dreams.
I am talking about the everyday bottlenecks like corruption and petty bribery which continue to oil service machinery, nepotism, lack of genuine mentorship spirit, an education system which continues to struggle to provide relevant skills or at least match the skills with labour market demands, lack of adequate power supply, complications in registering a business and acquiring of various business permits among others.
It’s like we have stakeholders from another planet pretending to solve problems of youths who live on another planet.
In an Executive Opinion Survey at the World Economic Forum in 2012, selected respondents ranked corruption as the principal encumbrance in doing business in Uganda.
According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Indicators for 2014, Uganda ranked 132nd out of 189 countries, down from 126th in 2013.
These challenges have bogged down far too many youth who have tried to work hard to either get a job or become entrepreneurs. A clear body of evidence underscores this.
The economy continues to fail to create a thriving manufacturing sector which is a core engine of any developing economy to achieve faster, sustainable growth and create jobs. The sector still hovers just about a meager 6% of the GDP.
How do you expect the youth to work their way out when all we do is look down on them? Many have now made us to be beggars of sorts. A lazy bunch of reckless, restless human beings who have no clear purpose in life.
Of course, they have forgotten about how much the youths toil just to scrape by; to cushion the high dependence rates. Out there, many young people are creating solutions for problems they and their communities are facing.
Young men and women are fast becoming unconventional leaders of national and international development.
It is however a fable to presuppose that government can create the millions of jobs.
The work of government is to create and sustain an enabling environment by putting the systems right. Encourage sound investment, availability of regular and affordable electricity, firmly tackle corruption, provide realistic support for the youth to access competitive credit to encourage financial inclusion, make it easy and quick to register businesses, align education with labour market needs, explore innovative ways of making ideas collateral for individual youth borrowers among others.
Youth fund schemes are no silver bullet.
We have made some advances but we face new global challenges today. As a young person, I know we inherit a world facing the brunt of pervasive inequality and other social ills.
Solutions won’t come easy but it’s time to appreciate that real change is more about the working systems and people than about political ideology.
An abridged version of this commentary was published in the Daily Monitor Newspaper of 25th March 2014 and be viewed online by clicking here.