83 per cent of Ugandan Youths between 15-24 years are unemployed. With 77 per cent of the Ugandan population being under 30 years, the Pearl of Africa is really struggling to create jobs for its youth.
According to Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (Acodec) overall unemployment stands at four million which means 64-70 per cent of youth are unemployed. Further, 400 thousand youths are released to the job market annually to fight for approximately 9000 jobs.
Whether learned or not, the struggle for employment in Uganda is real. Data shows that 30 per cent of qualified youths are unable to find jobs.
For one to graduate with a single degree, you spend over 17 years in school. And after all those years and money spent, you have to knock door after door seeking a chance for a better livelihood or at least a coin to buy bread for your parents or guardian who toiled to educate you.
Isaac, an A Level graduate narrates to me his struggle through school and eventually the search for a job. “My brother found a school where I could teach, but they paid me peanuts,” says Isaac. For Isaac to graduate from Senior Six, sacrifices were made. He worked tirelessly during holiday to earn his daily 2000 transport and also little money to add onto his school fees.
Isaac graduated in 2017. He says finding a meaningful job, despite having decent papers, has been a hard tussle. “You have to know someone who knows someone in order to get a job,” says Isaac. He tells me he has worked in a bakery, sold charcoal, worked as a hawker and now he is a manual labourer.
Isaac’s story is not the only one; I have met over seven former classmates who tell the same story. Samson, a very close friend, starts by telling me he had to discontinue school for a year to find school fees. He says, he feels no difference what so ever with those who have never stepped a foot in class. “Most of the time I feel helpless. I have to do the same labour jobs with those who have no education at all,” says Samson.
The unavailability of employment has forced majority of the youth into betting and drug abuse. Isaac tells me he takes beer to relieve his stress and that at times he drinks so much that he is unconscious. Samson, who keeps reminding me, that he has witnessed poverty, lived it and it has almost become his title, says “Betting helps me earn a few extra coins.”
Data from the Uganda Youth Development Link (UYDEL) in 2013, indicates that 45 per cent of the youth in Uganda abuse drugs. UYDEL senior programme Manager, Rogers Mutaawe, speaking to New Vision newspaper, said the majority of the youths in the country take Marijuana, alcohol and others use heroine.
In 2015 Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) baseline study on Socio-economic effects of gambling in Kampala city revealed that one in every four adults (24.3 per cent) engage in gambling. The prevalence among male youths is as high as 45.6 per cent, with sports betting being the most popular gambling activity.
A substantial proportion (73.2 per cent) of those who engage in gambling took it up as a source of livelihood rather than as a leisure activity. This research stipulates that those who gamble to escape poverty are more likely to get addicted than those who do it for leisure.
The Ugandan government is a big beneficiary from betting through tax, earning over 18 billion shillings a year. The government argues betting creates jobs for youths and hence it should only be regulated.
Kenya is viewed as the big brother in East Africa, though the unemployment rates stand at 9.31 percent, the youth in Kenya are feeling the pinch too. The slow economy in 2019 did no justice to job creation with many companies closing its doors. While the 35 per cent tax on betting firms pushed big players out of the Kenyan market, betting is still a way to earn to for many Kenyan youth seeking jobs.
Kenyan youth are boosted by more freedom of expression and one can question the government openly, and also on tax on the internet which is a global mobile employer. The Ugandan youth have to contend with internet tax, less freedom and even fewer funding channels.
The issue of unemployment is one that needs radical decisions, policies and even interference across East Afrca least it becomes a source of mayhem and disruption.