KAMPALA – Every week, companies are publishing photos of young people whose careers have come to a sudden end and warning the public against dealing with them. The most recent one being from the centenary bank and involving six young people. Having spent nearly seven years in banking, one of the strongest reasons a bank will put up a notice in papers warning the public against its former staff is fraud. The question is, why are young people messing up their careers in a country were unemployment is over 70 per cent and getting a job is considered sheer luck and a blessing?
Many people have castigated employers for underpaying and exploitation of employees, especially those in Junior positions and thus driving them to find creative ways to make ends meet. There could be some truth in this, but it is only part of a much bigger problem that the country faces.
Over the years, we have produced “billionaires”, including those that invite the media to show off how wealthy they’re.
When growing up, my grandmother used to tell me, “people who parade money as a demonstration of wealth, are not rich but poppers who society has failed to acknowledge, but determined to do anything possible to impose themselves on society to demonstrate how rich they’re”
The behaviors of these young people are rooted in a culture of glorifying theft that we have nurtured over the years.
When people parade their wealth, as a society the moral thing would have been to question how they got there and accumulated so much money, some of them at a very young age.
Instead, we elevate them to “celebrity” status positioning them as role models for the youth. We have pushed our young people to pick the wrong role models from the start, and we shouldn’t be surprised when they start following the footsteps of their icons.
In a decent society, the government would generally pick interest in finding out sources of people’s income especially those that emerge out of the blue with so much money and no known business. In Uganda, we instead accord them security, further validating the notion that it okay to be rich and society has no right question how you got there or what it is you do to make money.
A few years ago, one of the “billionaires” called a press conference to show how wealthy he was after tabloids started circulated information indicating that he had run broke. The purpose of the media conference was to show the country that he was not only rich, but capable of buying a football club in the United Kingdom. He paraded millions of dollars and made a bid to buy Leeds football club which was struggling at the time.
When the UK authorities wanted to find out about his source of money as part of the due diligence process for those who had bid to buy the club, he disappeared.
Every young person is in a hurry to get somewhere. Two years into a job, they want a car, a house, rental apartments, and good Kampala nightlife every weekend – moreover on a salary of less than $400 a month. This is because they see their fellow young people amassing so much wealth and no one seems to care how they get it, or lifestyle changes don’t seem to raise suspicion to the authorities.
Society should therefore stop acting surprised as young people are wasting away. We have let this happen under our watch.
Some of the so-called billionaires have been recruiting young people to train them on how to become rich without society questioning how the billionaires themselves got rich and what it is they’re teaching the youth. If this trend continues, we are staring at several lost generations and a country that will be become difficult for any investor to do business for fear of “corporate thieves”.
Mr. Nathan Were is an access to finance specialist based in Nairobi Kenya.