Youth Unemployment: Helping Those Who Help Themselves

Makerere University churns out thousands of graduate into the limited job market every year.
Makerere University churns out thousands of graduate into the limited job market every year.

For Bob Twiine Aijuka, a candid chat with his uncle changed his life. Three years ago, sweat literally dripping from his forehead, he walked the dusty Kampala streets in search of employment opportunities. Twiine had secured a second upper Development Studies Bachelor’s Degree at Makerere University in 2012. Upon graduation, Twiine was one of the many young Ugandans with the mindset that government must provide jobs to its citizens regardless of the conducive environment for them to be creative and create jobs for themselves.

“I was ready for any job as long as I got paid after work,” said Twiine, now 30 years old. Twiine was among the 40,000 graduates churned out every year, some of whom are currently facing the longest sustained period of unemployment in recent years, because they are waiting for government to provide jobs. Every year, the Ugandan job market can provide only 8,000 jobs, leaving thousands on the streets.

But for Twiine, his mindset changed after talking with his uncle, who is a successful farmer. Inspired by his uncle’s example, he teamed up with fifteen like-minded contemporaries and started a piggery project.

Today, Twiine is a successful farmer. The farm produces two-week-old piglets for sale at Shs 30,000 each. With 300 piglets sold per month, the group earns a staggering Shs 9 million per month. Through these proceeds they have been able to start a savings sacco.

Twiine’s decision to go into farming coincided with the Ugandan government’s move in 2013 to introduce the Youth Livelihood Programme. Through the programme, Twiine and other members in his group of 15 received funds for their piggery farm in Kisoro from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development’s Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana recalls, “I used to find these youth playing cards from the roadside. Now they tell me that they no longer have time for playing cards during working hours. The money generated from these projects is sustaining their families.”

With three-quarters of Uganda’s population below the age of 30, job creation remains a government priority, along with increased access to better education and health facilities.

The government has undertaken a number of programs under various ministries such as Skilling Uganda, Youth Enterprise Scheme, Youth Venture Capital Fund, and SACCOs, to reduce poverty and unemployment among the youth.

Bigirimana says the Ugandan government is now taking a deliberate steps to address the challenge of unemployment among youth through a more feasible and sustainable intervention that increases the participation of the youth in economic activities.

He says this involves enhancement of skills and provision of technical and financial support to enable the youth to establish marketable and viable enterprises under the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP).

“Youth involvement in most of the programs has been hampered by attitude and mindset, mismatch of skills and inadequate information among others,” says Bigirimana.

He says YLP has successfully responded to the high poverty and unemployment levels among the youth in all the present 112 districts in Uganda with a 5-year budget of Shs 265 bn.

“A total of 6,181 youth group projects have been financed to a tune of Shs 43bn. We have reached 80,268 direct beneficiaries; out of whom 44,304 (55 percent) are male and 35,964 (45 percent),” says Bigirimana.

“These youth are now engaged in productive activities including agricultural production (46 percent), trade (25.9 percent), service sector (9.5 percent), small scale manufacturing (9.3 percent), vocational skills (7.2 percent), agro-forestry (1 percent), ICT (0.9 percent) and Creative Economy (0.2 percent).”

Bigirimana is optimistic that these figures are expected to grow by about 30% by the end of this financial year. He adds that repayment of the Revolving Fund has commenced in most of the groups, with Shs 1.4bn recovered so far.

With the rapid population growth of 3.3% (Uganda Bureau of Statistics), the youth unemployment rate, currently estimated at 64%, remains a challenge for policy makers as it is difficult for the economy to absorb so many new job seekers every year, but it is a challenge that the government is committed to addressing to the best of its ability.