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Young and restless: Uganda’s unemployment challenge
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Young and restless: Uganda’s unemployment challenge

Uganda has the second youngest population in the world, and the young people want jobs, writes Erisa Sserwadda, 23, a correspondent from Kampala, Uganda. Youth should be supported to create work by promoting social enterprises that are practical, sustainable and “cool”.

Ritah Nakatugga is 26 years old. Since completing her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Social Administration at Makerere University in 2015, she has not found a job.

Ritah had high hopes of being employed in the civil service in line with her skills and specialization at university, but nothing has materialized yet.

“Looking for a job as a younger woman has been one of my worst experiences,” narrates Ritah. As if the challenges of looking for a job are not enough, sexual harassment awaits many young female jobseekers.

“Asking me to exchange my body for a job has been the worst scenario in my life after completing campus,” Ritah said. “Since then I got frustrated and decided to halt my job-hunting ambitions.”

Many young women have bluntly been asked to either give in to sex or ‘forget the job’, sometimes by men older than their fathers. Young men don’t have much luck either. They too are not hired because they are of no sexual interest to prospective employers, who are mostly male.

Life is now a gamble for Ritah. She lives on hand-outs and gifts from friends and family.

Youth population explosion

Ritah’s situation is not unique. Uganda is experiencing high population growth. According to the latest UN figures, there are now nearly 46 million Ugandans. Most of these – more than half the population – are young people. The country is second in the world for having the youngest population, with the median age in Uganda being around 16 years.

Unfortunately, most of these young people struggle with unemployment. Their lives are desperate, miserable, and a gamble, just like Ritah’s.

Uganda is at the crossroads. It can take advantage of the positive demographic of a youthful population. Alternatively, it can face the negative effects of an idle and frustrated young population, who can drag the country into political chaos or engage in crimes, such as selling drugs.

The government and many development actors have looked at agriculture as a possible way to engage unemployed youth. Agriculture is the largest economic sector in Uganda and is the backbone of the country’s economy. It employs nearly 80 percent of the total workforce of the country, either directly and indirectly.

However, the sector offers few innovative ways for young people to earn a living. Other sectors are hard for young people to break into because they have no prior experience, skills or capital.

Social entrepreneurship

It is against this background that I argue for the promotion of social entrepreneurship. It could be a way, among other interventions, to address the youth unemployment challenge.

Solar Sister, an international social enterprise, andTugende” (Drive to Own), a local social enterprise, are excellent examples of social enterprises providing practical solutions to unemployment.

Solar Sister recruits, trains and supports women in underserved communities in Uganda (and also in Nigeria and Tanzania) to run solar light and clean cookstoves businesses. Meanwhile, Tugende solves the problem of raising capital by creating opportunities for asset ownership and promoting financial independence for over 17,000 motorcycle taxi drivers (boda bodas) in Uganda.

A motorcycle taxi is a popular form of public transportation in countries like Uganda.

These are just a few examples of how Uganda can successfully pursue socio-economic development by embracing social entrepreneurship. 

Based on the comparative advantage of the agricultural sector in the country, Uganda can promote social enterprises in agribusiness using technology. This could attract more young people. We need to create a pool of entrepreneurs to push for development by suggesting new ideas in social enterprise that are practical, collaborative, sustainable and “cool”.

I believe if Uganda provides a supportive environment – by putting in place appropriate policies and laws, and by providing access to finance – social entrepreneurship could become a tool for alleviating youth unemployment. It would not only serve individuals; it would impact entire communities and future generations.

About me

I am a Social Worker at Communication for Health Uganda, aspiring to improve on health of the poor and vulnerable groups in Uganda. I aspire to challenge youths in Uganda and Africa at large to directly or indirectly engage in programmes that are of value to the society. I am a global activist on human rights issues and I have passion for writing. I have authored several scholarly articles and papers on different topics with various media and publication houses. Reach me on Twitter @elishameds


Image by Adeboro Odunlami from Pixabay (half man)

Motorcycle – Wikimedia Commons


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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