The high level of unemployment in Uganda especially among the educated youth is a direct result of government’s failure to put in place a policy that links the private sector with training institutions so that they train to meet the demands of the sector, employers have said.
Representatives from the Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE) voiced their disappointment during a public dialogue organized by the Visitation Committee of Makerere University at the President’s office auditorium last week.
“It is sad that there is no man power policy in this country to the extent that the majority of the graduates coming out of our Universities and colleges lack the suitable skills needed by majority of Uganda’s employers. And this mismatch is undoubtedly worsening the problem of unemployment among the youth,” said FUE’s Executive Director Rosemary Ssenabulya.
And she warned that the situation is not about to change as concerned government agencies are unwilling to listen to employers on the matter.
She singled out officials in the National Curriculum Development Centre whom she blamed for inviting them (employers) on a number of occasions in various fora seeking employers’ views but which they have persistently ignored for years.
“We have now resolved to stop attending those meetings because we have realized they are a waste of time. They seek our views and Ideas which they consider only good enough for shelving while this country continues to suffer with the problem of unemployment,” added Ssenabulya.
She was echoed by the Executive Director of Alam group Abid Alam who said that the state of affairs has left employers with no choice but to employ foreigners.
He stated that whereas government has always bluffed the private sector as “the engine of Uganda’s growth,” it has allegedly distanced itself from the private sector players for years.
Like Ssenabulya, Alam thinks that an education system that can’t feed into the skills needs paradigm of the sector is a sign of (government’s ) unwillingness to support the sector even within its (government’s) power to do so.
Citing the various projects the Chinese government is doing in Uganda, Alam complains that government has refused to prevail on the Chinese to buy locally and support local manufacturers which greatly promotes job creation.
Abid Alam’s complaints reflect widespread discontent across the private sector in Uganda with many arguing that government’s failure to force the Chinese to source locally while undertaking huge construction projects is to blame for the current economic crisis in the country.
“Chinese companies for example continue to import into Uganda construction materials such as iron bars worth billions of dollars even when they know that a high quality of the same product is locally manufactured in Uganda,” Alam complained.
Pressure from local manufacturers forced the government to introduce the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) police recently.
Attempts by the Executive Director of the National Planning Authority (NPA) Joseph Muvawala to support the employers’ concern only attracted outrage from some Ugandans accusing him of being the biggest culprit of Uganda’s alleged “planning crisis.”
“We are worried that much as you are the planner of this country, you have instead joined others to lament this planning crisis instead of rising to the challenge to correct this mess. This in my view means that there is something wrong you are not telling us,” said the Public Relations Officer of Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) Dr. Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi.
Muvawala retorted thus: “I am not lamenting but all I’m simply saying is that Uganda needs a man power plan which is not in place at the moment.”
But the Private Sector Foundation boss Gideon Badagawa has instead appealed to the private sector to stop lamenting about the problem but rise up and take the lead to fix the same, believing that it will eventually challenge government to follow suit.
“If government has this long failed to see the importance of this policy it is high time the employers themselves rose up and did it,” argued Badagawa.
The challenge of unemployment continues to feature in discourses and on dining tables across the country with policy makers placing the blame on the country’s high levels of population growth, while others blaming the government for failing to put in place enough incentives for the private sector.
Contrary to popular beliefs that education promotes employment, a recent study titled Employment Diagnostic Analysis (EDA) April 2017, by the International Labour Organization (ILO), found out that unemployment in Uganda is highest among educated persons than among the uneducated.
The study concluded that: “We might expect unemployment to decrease with rising levels of education but this has not always been the case, particularly for women in Uganda. The highest unemployment rates for women in Uganda are observed among those with secondary education qualifications (10.3% compared with 4.5% for women with no formal education).”