Economists from the Makerere University’s School Economics have provided policy options to help mitigate youth unemployment in Uganda.
A team of researchers led by Prof. Edward Bbaale as Principal Investigator assisted by Dr. Susan Kavuma, Peter Babyenda, Brenda Kiconco, Anitah Kyamugaba , Hennery Sebukeera and Nakigudde Claire under took a research project titled, ‘ “Empirical Review of Youth Employment Policies in Uganda”with technical and financial support from partnership for economic policy Nairobi Kenya funded by Mastercard Foundation.
The study looked at insights from different people on how youth unemployment and under employment can be solved. The research project intended to review the youth employment policies, legislations, interventions and programs with the aim of identifying the best practices for promoting youth employability, productivity, and opportunities among the youth.
The researchers worked closely with the different Institutional framework concerned with youth affairs including in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Education and Sports, National Planning Authority, Federation of Uganda Employers, National Organization of Trade Unions and parliament among others
The study findings were presented during the dissemination workshop held on 9th November 2022 at Protea Hotel in Kampala to members of the academia, representatives from government ministries, departments and agencies, the Private sector, civil society organizations, representatives of the youth from different divisions of Kampala and other districts and key collaborators.
The dissemination workshop was intended to validate the findings of the study through contributions, corrections,and an evaluation of the opportunities, challenges, chances, the gaps, costs of and thorough practical policy options with the aim of enriching the report and the policy recommendations in particular to government.
Representing the Principal, College of Business and Management Sciences, the Dean School of Economics and also PI Prof. Edward Bbaale noted that youth unemployment and under employment is one of the policy issues that warrant due attention.
He observed that Uganda is one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the world with 54% of the population below 18 years of age and yet the population is growing very fast at 3.4 %.
Bbaale added that Uganda is also faced with a serious problem of high school dropout rate. Data from the Ministry of Education indicates that on average one million pupils that enroll in primary one, only 600 thousand sit the primary leaving examination and this number reduces to 300 thousand at the Uganda Certificate of education and reduces further to 100 thousand to those that go for the advanced certificate.
“The question is where these young men do and women go and who is the messiah. Is TVET, the different skilling programmes the messiah for Uganda? and more broadly even those that graduate at higher level, the question is that whether the problem is at the demand level to the extent that the economy is so much contracted and that there is no space for people to come and take employment meaning that the economy is growing without creating jobs”. Bbaale questioned.
Aware that the services sector is driving growth in Uganda and the agricultural sector is well behind services and industry as far as GDP is concerned, Bbaale noted that this means that there has been sectorial shift in GDP composition- at one time it was agriculture ahead of industry and services but now we have services ahead of the two.
“Whereas we have had the sectorial shifts in the GDP composition, there are no sectoral shifts in employment and majority of our people still depend on agriculture and there is a smaller cake despite its holding 60% of our people coming with questions of low productivity and poverty.
And so given that, if majority of Ugandans are not employed in the services sector which is leading the GDP composition, can we say our economy is having a jobless profile? We are growing without jobs and then on the other hand, can we say it is the supply side and skills mismatch? Do those people that graduate every year in universities and other institutions match the available opportunities?.Prof. Bbaale questioned.
Prof. Bbaale also stressed that the issue of youth unemployment and under employment is topical and has gone on for sometime but not leading the same in finding a lasting solutions for the youth unemployment problem.
He congratulated the research team for successfully implementing the study and partners – the Mastercard Foundation through the partnership for economic policy in Nairobi for sponsoring the different activities of the project as well as the stakeholders from MDAs, Private sector, CSOs and development partners for contributing wonderful ideas.
Unemployment associated with Labor market information system, curriculum design and population growth
The Assistant Commissioner in charge of Youth Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development Kyateka Mondo thanked the PI and team for putting the research together saying, they are looking forward to receiving what the university thinks is the solution to unemployment question in Uganda.
In addition to addressing the issue of labour market information system, the commissioner observed that it is prudent for training institutions to interface with employers while designing the curriculum but also address the issue of population growth.
“The problem in Africa is that we train today what was needed for yesterday. Are the training institutions in touch with the people who employ? Do you have a time where we interface with the Mukwanos and UMAs of this world and all the people who need the work force?
Second,… we are likely not to break even until we address the issue of population growth. As long as we are producing as if there is no tomorrow. As long as we believe in Genesis that go out there and multiply and fill the world.How are you going to prepare and skill them to get quality education. And the man who tells you to go and fill the world produced only one son –Jesus Christ.”, Mondo stated adding that:
“.. until the population question is addressed and until the training institutions sit together with who is going to employ their products, , there will be nothing new that we are going to hear. The skills given at training institutions do not match the labour markets. So until we move away from the book of lamentations to the book of acts and we act.
Fix the issue of so many children, fix the issue of poverty among our people, fix the issue of a functional and prudent labour market information system. We need action today to bring hope to so many young people in this country but we also have to do mindset deconstruction”. Mondo asserted.
Mondo further observed that over 45 universities are churning out young people every year, operating under a jobless economic growth in that, the economy is not producing the jobs that are badly needed. He added that if unemployment question is fixed, many other problems like poverty, drug abuse early pregnancies, theft, suicide would have been fixed.
Formal employment and trends in youth unemployment in Uganda
Presenting the study findings Peter Babyenda noted that formal employment share of government jobs declined from 6.8% in 2012/13 to 6.5% in 2016/17 while total formal private employment declined from 200,000 jobs in 2012/13 to 141,000 in 2016/17. In 2016/17, only 13,000 (9%) youth had a formal private job.
On trends in youth employment, Babyenda reported a fluctuating Labour Force Participation Rate – 57% (2016/17), 66% (2017/18), 62% (2018/19), and an increasing youth unemployment rate – 13% (2016/17), 18% (2017/18), 17% (2018/19)
Babyenda presented worrying statistics on Youth neither in Employment nor in Education or Training (NEETs) estimated at 39%. This is worrying – where are they? He said there are twice young ladies in NEET as men largely found in in Greater Kampala, Northern Uganda and Western region which is a big threat to Uganda’s social cohesion and political stability.
NEETS according to Babyenda are largely attributed to low educational attainment (including among their parents), living in deprived neighborhoods, low socio-economic status and other barriers to participation like pregnancy or disability.
“The 2018/19 Annual Labour Force Survey report reveals that almost half of the youths (46%) are not qualified for the existing jobs because they do not have required skills.Low wages for youth as the median wage of public sector employees is estimated at UGX 510,000 ($134), while in Private Sector it is estimated at UGX150,000 ($39).
Existing employment policies seem universal and do not segregate persons in formal and informal sectors in their coverage. More so, there is limited evidence to show the expansion of social protection coverage in the informal sector as required by the National Social Protection Policies. It also remain unclear whether the existing youth employment programs are achieving their targets” Mr. Babyenda reported.
Key findings from the evaluation of the different Youth Empowerment Programs (YEP)
The study indicated that although access to youth employment funds had a positive effect on youth business expansion, there was no significant evidence of the fund’s effect on job creation.
Major stakeholders in YEP were not fully fulfilling their mandates; while on the policy front, the findings show that the youth funds have a long-term impact on its intended goals.
Promoting youth entrepreneurship according to this study should be approached holistically (not just through credit) and should target productive sectors with high employment creation potential.
The need for a strong institutional framework including M&E and accountability frameworks and the removal of barriers to youth self-employment were also proposed.
The study disclosed a number of challenges faced by the youth involved in Youth Employment programmes and they included ; Misuse of YEP funds, limited follow-ups of beneficiaries due to inadequate monitoring and supervisory capacity, Political Interference, High default rates (failure repay loans/resolving funds) and Poor group formation dynamics
Beneficiaries according to this research, reported delayed release of funds to youth groups or beneficiaries by the ministry of finance and implementing agencies – MoGLSD, local governments, Corruption, Inadequate information on existence of youth, Education miss-match affecting youth employability AND Limited preparation of beneficiaries
The study notes that common youth challenges in Uganda include: Unemployment, underemployment and undignified work.
The study further notes that Uganda has initiated a number of Youth Employment programs over time such as the youth livelihood fund, presidential youth initiatives, youth skilling programs and free vocational education among others.
Many Youth (39%) still either not in School or employment and more among females (50.5%) and the need for specific Policy change to ensure that the youth obtain right skills for existing employment opportunities in the country.
The study recommends that government prioritise policies that create jobs and address youth unemployment/under-employment and strengthen the YEP’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Learning (MERL) system.
The study proposes the development of a clear resource mobilization strategy during the YEP design phase and expansion of YEPs into new locations with updated priority areas.
The policy initiatives should be SMART and should reinforce labour market participation, especially regarding discouraged workers and women.
Other policy recommendations include benchmarking with other countries that have succeeded; Reduce of political interferences in the bureaucratic process of the YEP implementation; Increase budget allocation to YEP and also improve the adequacy and effectiveness of the technical support unit of these programs.
In addition, the study advocates for holistic youth employment policy initiatives as opposed to piecemeal, ad-hoc, under-funded and poorly implemented programs. The programs should be rooted within a wider framework that places structural transformation of the country such as NDP III, Vision 2040, among others.
Makerere University to set up an agro-processing skilling hub in 2024
Makerere University in partnership with Promote Uganda Company Limited (PROUL) is set to establish an agro-processing skilling hub next year to expose students to agricultural machinery.
The hub that will be based at Makerere University main campus in Kampala will house agricultural machines that add value to agricultural products.
While unveiling the initiative on Thursday, November 23 during the opening day of the three-day 2nd Innovation and Agro-processing machine at Makerere University’s Freedom Square, Mr David Nsubuga, the Director for PROUL said many youths remain unemployed despite their academic qualifications and it is high time they embraced new technology to create more job opportunities for the graduates. He revealed that the university will be signing a memorandum of understanding with PROUL next week.
“On top of the courses students are studying, we are going to establish a skilling center where they can be exposed to the machines that add value to agricultural products. We believe that when they start buying and selling finished agricultural products, this, will start them on the journey of industrialists.” he noted
The Vice Chancellor, represented by his deputy Prof. Umar Kakumba, revealed that the university has student innovators who just need backup funds to transform the agricultural sector.
“They have innovated machinery that can do irrigation. We are partnering with Promote Uganda Limited to showcase some of the innovations and to be able to connect them to banks which can give them credit and be able to promote their machinery that they are producing including those that do a lot with production of finished goods.” He said in a message delivered by Prof Umar Kakumba, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of academics.
Student innovators of agricultural machinery are those pursuing degree programmes related to bioprocessing engineering, water resources engineering, dealing with mechanical engineering and students of business management sciences among others.
The 2nd innovation and Agro-processing machine expo is a three day exhibition that will run from Thursday, November 23 to Saturday, November 25.
Prof Kakumba understands 80 percent of Makerere graduates fail to get formal employment and revealed the need to inject money in such innovations to harness surging number of unemployed youth flooding the streets of Kampala looking for what to do saying, “Every year, higher institutions of learning and tertiary institutions produce about 150,000 students and yet government job slots are around 30,000 only which is a great blow to students who want white collar jobs,” he added
Mr Steven Byantwale Tibeijuka, the Director Crop Protection in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Fisheries and Industries who represented the minister for Agriculture, Mr Frank Tumwebaze pledged on behalf of the government to support the skilling hub that will be established at Makerere University next year.
“I ask the University to put it into writing and address the letter to the minister, the government cannot fail to give you funds once everything is ready,” he pledged
Dr Cathy Mbidde, the manager of the Makerere University Innovation hub said the hub was established in August 2022 under the office of the Vice Chancellor to commercialise the innovations from basically research that the university does and their main goal is to create awareness of the agro-processing machinery.
She added: “When you look at the current Uganda National Development Plan III government’s agenda goal one is agri-industrialisation. As the University, yes we do research and teach but how do we work with the private sector to achieve that goal. We have students who have done research and discovered nutritional values but they don’t have the machinery and access.”
She believes this expo will act as an eye opener to young innovators to team up and purchase the agricultural machinery they need to start up small companies and food processing enterprises while still at the university.
According to her, every year Makerere University graduates around 13,000 students and they can’t find jobs anywhere so there is a need to come up with financing models through financing companies, Non-governmental organisations, and the government to help them to get machinery on credit.
Promote Uganda limited is a company that produces agricultural machinery and their partnership with the university is to introduce the idea of using machines to add value to agricultural products.
When many students graduate, they fail to get formal employment, and end up going to Arab countries where many have lost their lives.
Mr Nsubuga wants the skilling training on operation of agricultural machinery to be added to the students’ courses.
The skilling center will help students to become entrepreneurs and know how to utilise raw materials that are readily available from agriculture to make value added products. The expo is a cross-cutting student exhibition.
Mr Anthony Akandwanaho, a student from Busitema University, said had come to exhibit a day and night dryer invented by his lecturer.
“The machine uses solar thermal during the day to dry the products which it collects directly from the sun and transpires the heat to the products for drying and solar energy during the night,” he said
He noted that this machine dries products from both animal and plant types including meat, chicken, fruits and vegetables. And the maximum drying time for products is 24 hours, for those with higher moisture content like pineapples. However, for products like meat, it dries them within eight hours.
“The unique beauty with it is that you collect the water from the product and can be used for domestic purposes.” Mr Akandwanaho explained
The student also exhibited a chicken de-feathering machine which is able to rip all feathers from the chicken. The mode of operation is that you slaughter the chicken and soak it in warm water for about one minute and transfer the chicken to the machines and in 15 seconds, the feathers are all removed. Its production rate is three chicken per minute.
Some of the exhibited machinery include a garden sprayer, a maize mill, grain grinder stainless, potato slicer, electric chips cutter, vacuum sealer, food dryer, bone Shaw, meat cutter among others.
EfD Uganda Stakeholders Propose Sustainable use of Biomass
The Inclusive Green Economy program of the Environment for Development Initiative in Uganda on 17th November hosted stakeholders across the country’s sectors to get their perspectives on biomass transition to clean energy sources in Uganda.
Uganda’s IGE engagement specialists Dr. Peter Babyenda says this is one of the work plan item on on social inclusion where stakeholders were identified by IGE fellows during the 17th EfD Annual meeting in Ghana.
In a meeting held at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, stakeholders gave the situation analysis of biomass use in the country, where they want to go, how to go there and who should take the country there.
“We found out that almost 90% of our households depend on biomass whether in rural areas or town. This is attributed to cultural issues where certain foods are believed to have good taste when cooked on firewood or charcoal, the fear to use electricity and gas that may result to shocks and fire explodes, inaccessibility to clean energy sources and affordability issues.”
The meeting resolved to primarily focus on behavioural change efforts of the sustainable use of biomass and gradual transitioning to clean energy sources.
’We concluded that for now we cannot say let us move to clean energy but go slowly go slowly on sustainable use of biomass by planting more trees so that instead of depending on natural forests, we depend on plantation forests, use energy saving stoves and those that can save users on effects of smoke and slowly move to clean energy sources by connecting households to electricity and make it affordable and make gas available at an affordable cost’´Babyenda said.
The meeting also proposed the need for more awareness creation about alternative energy sources such as biogas for schools and prisons.
Representing the Principal College of Business and Management Sciences, Dr. Yawe Bruno thanked Sida through the EfD Global hub at the University of Gothenburg for funding the IGE program and the EfD-Mak centre.
“The use of biomass in Uganda has persistently remained high. 80% use firewood and 13% charcoal for cooking but there is a proportion that use a combination of those two. This imposes great implication for household welfare.
Biomass usage affect our productivity, schooling of children, labour market participation especially by women and children. On health, the use of biomass especially firewood causes eye defects, breathing difficulties, snake bites, body dislocations and sexual abuse,” He explained.
Besides household effects, Yawe noted that reliance on biomass has effects on the environment.
Yawe reported that Uganda’s forest cover is being threatened by biomass usage reducing it from 24% in 1990 to less than 9% to date. Transiting to renewable and clean energy requires clear understanding of supply and demand relationship for both biomass and clean energy.
“We must know what drives the uptake and while many can afford gas and electricity, why are we insisting that we should have charcoal? Comparatively, a 6kg gas cylinder costs 60 thousand and today a bag of charcoal costs not less 70 thousand but some households find it cheaper which is expensive and because of the felling of trees, the quality of charcoal may not last more than a week,”
He challenged stakeholders to find out why the supply and demand for biomass is still high amidst detrimental effects and why the supply for clean energy is still low amidst numerous innovations.
Representing the Director EfD-Mak Center, the Dean, School of Economics Dr. Mike Okumu said many households are struggling to transition from firewood and charcoal due to socioeconomic characteristics that define them.
Okumu attributed the climate change effects to the household behaviours and enterprise behaviour and challenged stakeholders to find innovative ways of co-existing with the environment to enhance productivity and also feed communities
He congratulated the IGE engagement specialists for being intentional in identifying the participants taking into account that the majority and poorest population resides in the rural Uganda, and Uganda’s biggest population being the youth.
The meeting comprised specialists in environmental conservation, researchers in renewable energy specifically biomass energy, persons dealing in innovations in sustainable productivity, those working with rural energy transition and renewable energy through use of waste plants and animal residues and persons engaged in youth environmental initiative particularly agroforestry.
Okumu also congratulated the EfD-Mak centre for bringing on board collaborative partners from different Ministries, Departments and Agencies , the private sector and Civil Society organisations.
He expressed the centre’s commitment to engage in similar engagements for purposes of having a drive into a cleaner Uganda and mitigating climate change effects on Uganda’s economy and a drive to having persons making informed decisions towards a better climate sensitive Uganda.
Jane Anyango is the Communication Officer EfD Uganda
Researchers call for creating of fund to support industrial symbiosis for sustainable entrepreneurship
Government has been advised to create a fund to support Small and Medium Enterprises to implement symbiotic practices, which they say will foster sustainable development.
Dr. Saadat Kimuli Nakyejwe, the principal investigator, and Dr. Kasimu Sendawula from Makerere University Business School and the College of Business and Management Sciences at Makerere University, respectively, argued that if firms practice industrial symbiosis (working together to forge a mutually beneficial relationship), they are bound to grow. This symbiosis may take different forms, such as knowledge sharing, raw material sharing, and the sharing of machines and space, among other things.
Dr. Saadat said these mutually beneficial relations will result in more profitable businesses, conservation of the environment, reduction in production costs, and creation of jobs. Furthermore, he emphasized that industrial symbiosis can also lead to innovation and increased competitiveness within industries. By collaborating and leveraging each other’s resources, firms can develop new products and services that meet evolving market demands. Ultimately, this not only benefits individual businesses but also contributes to overall economic growth and sustainability.
Dr. Kasimu Sendawula, the Co-PI of the project, said there is a need to sensitize entrepreneurs about the benefits of industrial symbiosis, emphasizing that it can lead to cost savings through resource efficiency and waste reduction. Additionally, industrial symbiosis can foster a more circular economy by promoting the reuse and recycling of materials, reducing environmental impact, and promoting sustainable practices.
The research was looking at “Exploring the Potential of industrial Symbiosis as an Innovative strategy to foster sustainable Entrepreneurship in Micro and Small Enterprises in Uganda” a research funded by Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund.
The researchers also called for an amendment to the current Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) policy so that it can address the environmental, social, and economic issues undermining the potential of MSMEs to undertake industrial symbiosis. By incorporating industrial symbiosis into the MSMEs policy, it can provide the necessary support and incentives for businesses to adopt sustainable practices. This would not only benefit the environment but also enhance the competitiveness and resilience of MSMEs in the long run. The team also called on the government to put in place a symbiotic fund to support organizations. This fund could provide financial resources and technical assistance to MSMEs interested in implementing industrial symbiosis initiatives. Additionally, the team suggested that the government should collaborate with industry associations and experts to develop training programs and knowledge-sharing platforms to help MSMEs navigate the challenges and opportunities of industrial symbiosis.
Ms. Nakalembe Betty, one of the entrepreneurs that participated in the research, shared with participants during the research dissemination on November 9, 2023, that she had successfully implemented an industrial symbiosis initiative in her textile business. She emphasized the importance of networking and building relationships with other businesses in order to identify potential symbiotic partnerships. Ms. Nakalembe also highlighted the positive impact that industrial symbiosis had on her business’s sustainability practices and overall profitability. She shared that since the training, she has been able to use the waste textile materials to make decorative materials, masks, and glass covers, among other products. This, she said, has reduced her waste disposal and also increased her income. Additionally, Ms. Nakalembe mentioned that through industrial symbiosis, she has been able to establish a network of suppliers and customers who are interested in sustainable products. This has not only expanded her market reach but also allowed her to contribute to the circular economy by promoting the reuse and repurposing of materials. As a result, her business has become more resilient and environmentally conscious, positioning her as a leader in sustainable practices within her industry.
Ms. Natayi Aisha, who is in charge of recycling at Luuka Plastics, also shared that the company recycles plastic and polynene bags in an effort to reduce waste and minimize their environmental impact. By implementing recycling practices, Luuka Plastics is able to divert plastic waste from landfills and give it a new life, reducing the need for virgin materials and conserving valuable resources. This not only benefits the environment but also creates a positive image for the company, attracting eco-conscious customers who appreciate their commitment to sustainability.
Mr. Galiwango Hamza, the Director of Industrial Parks at the Uganda Investment Authority, welcomed the recommendations of the research team, saying that industrial symbiosis aligns with Uganda’s goals of promoting sustainable industrial practices. He emphasized the importance of companies like Luuka Plastics in driving economic growth while minimizing environmental impact. Additionally, Mr. Hamza expressed his hope that other businesses would follow suit and adopt similar practices to contribute to a greener and more sustainable future for Uganda. Mr. Ezra Byakutangaza, from the Research and Innovation Fund of Makerere University, the funding agency, congratulated the researchers and also thanked the government for the continued funding of research and innovation.
- Dr. Saadat Kimuli Nakyejwe
- Dr. Sendawula Kasimu
- Ms. Shamirah Najjinda
- Eng. Dr. Ismail Kizza K.
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