Uganda’s unemployment situation is worrying and it only takes someone skilled in the art of self denial to trash the concern. Just the other day, two young boys walked into my compound asking for some water to drink. When I engaged them in a discussion, I learnt that they were herding cattle and my neighbourhood is ideal for them since it still has lots of grass filled undeveloped plots. They narrated how despite having some decent education, circumstances got them to settle for herding cattle in an urban setting.
My mind then raced to the Republic of Kawempe pronouncements by some youths who out of the frustration of being jobless expressed their dissatisfaction by apparently breaking away from the Republic of Uganda. While many rushed to dismiss them as jokers, I personally believe these are signs of what is to come if the unemployment challenge isn’t addressed.
One of the reasons I prefer volcanos over earthquakes is the fact that most times the former alerts you while the latter happens instantly. Before a volcano erupts, as the red hot magma makes its way to the surface, it sends smoke as a precursor hence confirming the adage that, there is no smoke without fire. This signal usually gives us time to leave the danger zones and seek shelter in protected areas.
The youth protests we are seeing are the smoke preceding the volcanic eruption, if we don’t act then we shall have ourselves to blame when that magma destroys the little we have accomplished.
It’s true the Government of Uganda has taken steps in trying to address this challenge and this is evidenced by initiatives like Enterprise Uganda, Labour export to the Middle East, Skilling Uganda, Youth Venture Capital Fund among others. However, not much has been achieved due to lack of a clear implementation policy and action plan. Some, like Enterprise Uganda are so outmoded in their approach to training entrepreneurs of today that short of an overhaul, all they are doing is to guarantee job security and pensions for a few individuals.
This therefore means that we as citizens cannot continue sitting back and complaining about why the Government isn’t doing things the way we expect them to. The reality is that our situation currently is symptomatic of a broken chain. Ideas are mooted, money is committed and something goes wrong when it comes to implementation. Little if any is achieved.
The solution to the unemployment crisis we have lies withyou and me. Yes!!! If you have a job or two, you can help address it significantly. By deciding how we spend our money, we can generate or kill jobs.
There might be a neighbourhood garden growing tomatoes, cabbages and onions, why not patronise that one as opposed to purchasing the same from an already established Supermarket?
Who slashes your compound?
How many neighbourhood shops do you patronise?
When do you plan to utilise that farmland in the village that is lying idle?
When do you plan to kickstart that business idea you have shelved all this time?
These and many more actions can generate new jobs or strengthen already existing ones. By creating opportunities or spending money while focusing on our locals, each of us can easily lead to growth in jobs.
The last time I checked, the Civil Service had close to 330,000 employees. The private sector and NGOs may be employing close to five times the government figure, making it about 1,500,000 employees. This implies that salaried Ugandans may be close to the Two Million mark.
If only half of those employees took it upon themselves to undertake actions aimed at stimulating job creation in their localities, each one has the potential to create five jobs annually. This then means that an additional 5 million jobs can come up within a year. These may be full time or part time jobs depending on the circumstances but they are jobs nevertheless.
You might call this wishful thinking but I can assure you of its practicality. As someone who dabbles in commercial farming of rice, with two seasons grown in a year, I employ not less than 15 individuals per season. These are largely youths who would have otherwise opted to engage in criminal activities due to lack of money. When they aren’t working for me, they are offering their services to other farmers in my neighbourhood. This is why putting to use that idle land in our villages is very important.
Whether you stay in an upscale suburb like Mutungo or a satellite town like Kiira, you can impact on job creation starting with your neighbourhood. The power of employees (government and private sector alike) lies in their regular income which kind of guarantees expenditure patterns.
Let us try to support our own in order to create opportunities. The criticism of poor service delivery and compromised quality may exist but it is our duty to help our people get better. After all, even the Chinese were for long derided by the West for their poor quality products. Today, they have taken over manufacturing. Supporting our own will require patience and time but we have to lay this foundation if we are to prevent the red hot volcanic magma from erupting beneath us.
James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant
Email: lunghabo (at) gmail (dot) com