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“Youth unemployment cannot be under-rated”
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“Youth unemployment cannot be under-rated”

Social and economic realities affecting  youth have been subdued by those in leadership, writes Badru Walusansa, 26, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Kampala in Uganda.

With over 78 per cent of its population below the age of 30, Uganda youth are plagued with a multitude of problems, including unemployment.

As our politicians continue embarking on political-destruction-missions such as the removal of the Presidential age limit cap in the constitution and the extension of tenure of office for MPs and other leaders, youth are busy on streets carrying out demonstrations and protests against the status quo. Since we are a politicking society where no one seem to care about the youths’ frustrations, I am afraid if the current situation persists we are all likely to all pay, irrespective of our political divides and other differences.

For instance, many a time the majority of the criminals that terrorise the highly-polished residential areas where the assumed “A” class citizens reside, are often youth criminal gangs from our known ghettos. However, this is by no design, but brought about by the increasing disparities between the rich and poor – most of them youths. Still, if nothing is done to solve youth unemployment in this country, such organised youth criminal gangs will not stop disturbing the country’s peace and security.

Before Christmas, media was awash with self-confessing organised criminals who promised to give the public  peace from their nasty acts. If one was observant enough s/he would tell how this crime outfit was largely, if not entirely, composed of youths. The most lingering question that we must address is how can we salvage the issue of youth unemployment?

According to the African Development Bank, youth unemployment stands at a staggering 83 per cent. The upward trend of youth unemployment has rendered many youths hopeless, idle and vulnerable to crime and radicalisation.

Youth unemployment and under employment is also on the rise among graduates. It has not spared university graduates, and some have devised mobilisation skills to influence others to confront the status quo through antagonistic means. Although the majority of graduates have not resorted to petty crime, a number are strategic enough to mobilise their uneducated counterparts to engage in radicalised or subversive activities. We are familiar with organised youth groups such as the “Unemployed Youth” and “Jobless Brotherhood”, whose composition is mainly university students or graduates. What, then, becomes the future of this country if such groups continue to manifest?

Recently a group of aggrieved youths hit the streets to protest perceived deliberate refusal by the government to address their challenges, especially unemployment. This culminated in a bitter exchange of blows with police. Those who watched the happenings on television will agree with me that youth demonstrations and protests are taking another shape. Instead of looking on, we must urge policy makers to address such realities. Government needs to be proactive enough to address the demands of the youthful population, because the youth are resisting suppression. Even now, I am concerned and equally perturbed by the fearless way one youth confronted an armed police officer who tried to block their way during the protests.

The aftermath of this protest was marked by a mimic gesture of the formation of the “Kawempe Republic”, coined after these embattled youths. For sure this shows how such youths have lost trust and confidence in government, a clear indication that the latter has failed to fully perform its obligations. Although I am aware that government cannot tackle youth unemployment by finding each youth a job, we must appreciate that through deliberate and sound policies it can create a conducive environment where youth can create for themselves self-sustaining initiatives that can improve their livelihoods.

Deliberate policies should be developed and implemented through sector wide approaches. Why should government improve the education sector through increasing school enrollment without expanding the job market? And why should foreigners engage in small businesses that would be done by the nationals? These are all issues that need to be addressed through policy.

More still, the agricultural sector should be boosted and support given to youth farming groups in order to attract them into the country’s biggest employment sector. Government must support youth ventures or startups by availing them resources to undertake research, growth and market to make them competitive. We also urge government to train youths and build their capacity on how to take advantage of the nascent oil and gas sector.

Additionally, youth spaces in leadership need to be scaled up. They should be encouraged to take up leadership roles as a way of increasing participation in promoting good governance in this country. Uganda’s botched education system need to be redesigned to suit our needs and realities through supporting hands-on and technical skills development, critical thinking and innovations so that the youth can consider starting up their own employment and break away from the unemployment syndrome.

Finally, if we continue burying our heads in the sand and government is until now not bothered by the surge in youth unemployment, we may wake up to a youth revolution in this country.

Reach me at badruwalu@gmail.com

Photo credit: CIFOR Kampala via photopin (license)

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About me: I am a human rights activist, academic and writer in the local dailies. I was part of Uganda’s largest election observation group, CEON-Uganda and currently work as a Project Assistant M&E at the Legal Aid Service Providers’ Network (LASPNET). My passion is in writing and I have authored several articles on different topics in the Weekly Observer, Daily Monitor, New Vision and Independent Magazine.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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