KAMPALA – In the past, when a person graduated from university, it was obvious that they would get a job. Many were placed in government departments at high ranks and those that got employed in the private sector joined at managerial level.
Today, as universities continue churn out many graduates, the job market is flooded with possible employees. It takes much more than a degree to get a job in Uganda today.
The world marked International Youth Day last week, entrepreneurship was recognised as one of the burgeoning initiatives among especially the youth in Uganda who try to make themselves living in the face of a high unemployment rate in the East African country.
Mr. Amon Bazira, a Bachelor of Education graduate, applied for several jobs unsuccessfully shortly after he graduated from university in 2017.
After several searches for formal employment, the 26-year-old man gave up and resorted to developing his talent of decoration and events designing.
From scratch, Mr. Bazira says he started his business with about UGX 350, 000 (U.S dollars 100) that he borrowed from his mother.
After handling his first client’s wedding, Mr. Bazira started getting more clients.
Today, his company A-Classic Events handles various ceremonies for decoration every weekend.
In one month, Mr. Bazira is able to earn about UGX1800, 000 (500 dollars), an amount he would not earn had he pursued his teaching profession.
“After fully establishing myself in the decoration sector, I have now expanded into the confectionery business,” he said.
“We have started making cakes for our clients so that we widen on our scope of products on an event. It is already working out well for me,” Bazira added.
With his business, he says nothing can lure him into seeking formal employment because he is already doing well.
Jonathan Lugumu, 24, a third-year student at Makerere University has not waited to graduate before looking for a job.
He says that after attending an entrepreneurship talk organised by the government last year, he realized that the future was not as bright as it may seem in the job market.
Lugumu partnered with a colleague and set up a stationery shop just outside the university campus.
“We gathered some money and invested in stock worth (UGX 1,800,000) for the start,” Lugumu said, noting that the shop is now worth UGX5m.
“After acquiring my degree next year, I will go ahead and apply for a job. However, If I fail to get one, I will concentrate on my business because it is already earning me some good money,” Lugumu said.
Lugumu’s business employs three people, all of whom are not university graduates.
Bazira and Lugumu are among several youths in Uganda that are turning away from searching for formal employment and resorting to creating their own jobs.
Figures by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics indicate that Uganda is one of the countries in the world with the youngest population.
Over 70 percent of the country’s population of 40 million people is below 30 years of age.
Youth unemployment stands at about 70 percent, and about 400,000 youths are released annually into the job market to compete for approximately 10,000 available jobs.
Fred Muhumuza, an economist at Makerere University said most of the graduates who are not enterprising enough are likely to find a hard time surviving because even the informal sector is becoming more competitive.
“If the agricultural and industrial sectors can be empowered and developed larger to take on more youth, then the situation can change,” Muhumuza notes.
Government is encouraging the youth, both educated and not, to be their own job creators rather than job seekers.
Florence Nakiwala, Minister of State for Youth and Children’s Affairs in a news conference held ahead of the International Youth Day said there is need to transform the education system in a bid to create responsible citizenship and job creation.
Nakiwala said education is critical in nurturing citizens that are productive and responsible for socio-economic transformation of their communities.
She said the government is also empowering the youth into entrepreneurship.
She said some of the youths have been given capital and machinery to start them off in business.
Uganda has setup several youths entrepreneurship training centres that are equipping young people with skills.
“These are some of the initiatives that will continue to drive entrepreneurship forward and I advise the unemployed to join these training centres,” she said.