Globally, in 2009 there were 80.7 million young people struggling to find work. The global youth unemployment rate rose from 11.9 to 13.0 per cent between 2007 and 2009.
Uganda’s case is not any different from these statistics; 24% of Uganda's fast growing population are young people between 18-30 yrs. Every year, Uganda graduates over 100,000 job seekers majority whom are young people (23-30yrs). Overall Youth unemployment rate in Uganda stands at a whooping about 83%.
“Youth unemployment is a menace in Uganda and constitutes a real danger and a threat to Uganda’s democracy,” says Prof. Augustus Nuwagaba; a senior Development Consultant and lecturer at Makerere University.
East African Youth Caravan
He said this while making a key presentation at the DENIVA East African Youth Caravan Conference held at Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala on 2nd Dec, 2011. The Caravan was meant to enhance youth participation in the decision making process of their own development agenda and providing them a platform to engage policy makers on critical issues that affect the general citizenry. Organized by DENIVA with support from YADEN and TEENS Uganda; the caravan took the youth through a process of networking and sharing challenges and best practices within the region.
“If youth are not able to network, they will never know the problems in other countries,” says Lucy the Kenyan Representative on the Caravan.
Flagged off from Uganda on 26th Nov, 2011 by Ugandan youth MPs, the caravan took the East African youth country representatives to Tanzania through Rwanda and Bujumbura.
Throughout this whole journey, it was discovered that the challenges faced by the youth are quite the same. Bonny Kiconco the Caravan Coordinator states, “Youth challenges are the same within the entire region. From unemployment to lack of proper identity in dealing with politician, the youth still have a lot to do to bring change.”
The Conference which was marking an official close of the caravan marked a beginning of the large discussion about youth challenges especially with corruption raging high in the region and the unemployment case is not doing any better. Nearly all the East African representatives remarked the problem of unemployment among their fellow youth in their countries.
Dual qualification framework
But Prof. Nuwagaba challenges the youth to own their issues and advocate for change where necessary. “The problem with youth is that is that you are never active,” he says. “Why don’t you use your frameworks to influence these policies?”
While discussing the major causes of unemployment and how several countries have been able to deal with it, he called upon government to embrace the dual qualification framework as way of dealing with this challenge. This would help youth pursue alternative skills based qualification besides their major qualification. “This means that a lawyer can do plumbing work when there no jobs to practice law.”
“Education and training has been an eminently supply-driven response to training, ignoring the demand for vocational skills and the absorptive capacities of communities to effectively make use of them,” he explains.
This system has already been introduced in Tanzania and could soon be embraced by the entire East African region if governments embrace it. This will to a demographic window of opportunity and demographic gift towards development of their country.
Besides this, youth were called upon to get in the fight against corruption as it drains the country’s resources that would have supported employment schemes. “Nurture the culture of shaming these corrupt people.”
Justus Rugambwa; Executive Director DENIVA believes the initiative started from the caravan will go a long way in bringing youth together to urge government to review the education system and solve the question of unemployment in Uganda.
“We are doing this when politicians are enthusiastic about youth and their numbers,” Justus asserts. From the conference, a team of stakeholders was to be formed to review the existing education system and how youth led action could influence a Private member’s bill in Parliaments to introduce dual qualification framework in Uganda. Besides media engagement campaigns, this will be a useful team to intensify mobilisation for action.