A country is as good as its youth. For Uganda’s case, Singapore, South Korea, India, etc, which have developed into first world status, have based on the enormous valuable resource of their youth. The US and much of Western Europe have depended on young immigrant workers to develop.
For Uganda’s case, the youth are seen as a menace or a problem. The youth are a problem because they are largely unemployed and unemployable, poor, hungry and idle. This category of youth is very dangerous to society because, like one writer Charles Onyango-Obbo has recently written, if they don’t have what to eat, they will soon eat us!
The statistics are telling; it has now become fashionable to refer to statistics such as World Bank 2009 report estimating youth unemployment at 83 per cent, Actionaid putting it at 65 per cent, while the Ministry of Gender and Labour telling us that youth unemployment stands at only 5 per cent. Whatever the case, the sad scenario is one of young people being reduced to mere statistics! Helpless. Agonizing. Directionless.
However, youth unemployment shouldn’t be the case given that Uganda is a super-rich country in terms of resources; we have the best climate not found anywhere in the world; we have the best soils; we have enormous tourism potential; we have abundant fresh waters; and now the good news is that we are at the verge of exploiting our oil resource!
With the above blessings, someone- mostly a foreigner- will find it difficult to decipher why youth unemployment is the order of the day in Uganda. There are countries, for example Singapore, which don’t have any resources to talk about- Singapore is a net-importer of everything including water- but you will never hear of youth unemployment in Singapore!
Where is the problem? The problem is the nature of our politics and attitude of our young people. Up to now, we have a population of youth who still think and believe in getting things free, without breaking any sweat. This is the same disease that has fundamentally eaten into the body politic of Uganda, with some leaders using the various political platforms for selfish postures. In a country where politicians look at political offices as a means to free accumulation of wealth, what would you expect the youth to do?
That said, the youth cannot work in isolation in finding a solution to the grinding unemployment problem. The young people need to work with government and support the government in delivering on the programmes and policies that are for youth socio-economic emancipation and development. There are leaders who have been misguiding our youth to antagonize government programmes and strategic policy objectives in the name of “championing change”.
The youth have been lured into all sorts of mischief ranging from street protests to hooliganism and anti-social behaviour including drug abuse and trafficking. We as leaders haven’t done enough to mobilise the youth to benefit from government interventions. For instance, the government has just rolled out the Shs 265billion Youth Livelihood Programme which is essentially for enterprise development and self-employment creation by the youth. However, there are leaders, especially the opposition, who still think that “this is a mere political smokescreen” on the part of the NRM government to hoodwink the youth for votes as we gear up to 2016. A leader who thinks like this is no worse or better than a traitor! The same applies to the Student Loan Scheme with prophets of doom already saying that the scheme has failed even before it takes off.
As youth leader, I call on fellow youth to avoid and reject people who have positioned themselves to fail the genuine interventions of the NRM government aimed at uplifting the standards of the youth. The youth should get to work with government if we are to solve the problem of unemployment.