Uganda's failed programs hinder the fight against high youth unemployment rate

By Nangayi Guyson

Uganda's failed programs hinder the fight against high youth unemployment rate

Every year on August 12th, youths from different countries around the globe mark International Youth Day. On the same day in Uganda, hundreds of youths under their organization known as the unemployed youth of Uganda thronged in Kampala suburbs criticizing the high employment rate among youths in the East African Nation.

Youth unemployment continues to be a major policy issue in many sub-Saharan African countries, including Uganda. In 2013, youth (aged 15 to 24) in sub-Saharan Africa was twice as likely as any other age group to be unemployed.

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics reported in 2021 that 9.3 million young people aged between 18 and 30 were not in school, work, or training. Given Uganda’s rapid population growth – three-quarters of the population is under the age of 30 – as well as the fact that the youth are being better educated through increased access to primary and secondary education, the need for a stronger focus on job creation for this cohort of people cannot be overstated.

The general unemployment rate in Uganda today stands at 4.28% while the youth unemployment rate is at 6.58%.

Ugandan youths, that is people aged 12 to 35, account for 78% of the country’s population, or approximately 27 million people. As many as 64% – 70% of those of working age are unemployed.

To solve the unemployment crisis, the country’s government launched the “youth livelihood programme” in 2001. Between 2012 and 2017, the government allocated more than 265 billion Uganda shillings (about US$100 million) through the program for 116,169 youth group initiatives, mainly related to agriculture. However, the initiative failed to decrease youth unemployment. Moreover, only 1.3% of young people who received loans were able to repay these in full.

The Ugandan government is running with uncertainty another new program known as The Parish Development Model (PDM) which is a government development strategy to enhance earnings and the quality of life for the 39% of households that are stuck in the subsistence economy.

Brendan A. Wadri, CEO and funder of TUYU, said in a speech to young people during the International Youth Day celebrations in Nsambya slums, a Kampala suburb:

“TUYU has a single, simple goal which is to reduce youth unemployment in Uganda by encouraging organizations to take on young people. We feel that our solution to young unemployment is unique and sustainable and one that will have the most influence on the rising situation. By doing so, we will be supporting the future generation in making their impact on the world and reminding them that they are not a forgotten generation.”

Every year, around 400,000 young Ugandans enter the labor force to compete for approximately 52,000 available vacancies, according to a survey by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment.

Another survey conducted by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) also discovered that 40% of children, or approximately 6.2 million, aged 5 to 17 were engaged in child labor excluding household chores, while 40% of people aged five and up were engaged in unpaid care work, 21% in subsistence agriculture, and 39% in other subsistence work.

Overall, the level of unemployment implies that although the government has placed much emphasis on industrialization so that Ugandans can find employment in factories and industries, the employment rate remains significantly low.

Mr Micheal Ogen, the UBOS principal statistician in charge of population, stated that 87% of working Ugandans between the ages of 14 and 64 are in subsistence, while 43% work in agriculture. Men outnumber women in the labor force by 58% to 39%.

Youth unemployment is a serious problem in Uganda, forcing the government to recently admit that the country’s growth rate was not keeping pace with job creation.