“Hi Becky. How are you?”
“I am okay but unemployed.”
She accompanied that statement with one of those emojis used to express sadness and dejection at the same time.
My friend Becky just completed her studies in the university and has been home for well, about three weeks.
I wanted to remind her that she’s only been home for a week or so but I realised she knew and my mind quickly ran to that graduate who left the university three, four and five years ago but has the same worry as Becky.
Imagine the frustration!
Every year around this time, we listen to the Finance Minister read out figures of what should be “hope for us and the nation”. But what do we get after every year? At the university, we always dream big. To finish studies and work with a large organisation (sometimes within the government) but three or more years down the road, there is no job or even hope to get one soon. On your graduation, the same old talk will be re-echoed to you by the chancellor or chief guest for the day.
“Go out there and be job creators. Not job seekers.”
Youth unemployment in Uganda is among the highest in Africa. A study, published by ActionAid, put youth unemployment at 62%, although the African Development Bank (ADB) says it could be as high as 83%. Which makes you question, what does the budget mean for us?
First things first, government plans to raise Shs14 trillion, about 48% of its Shs 29 trillion budget, through local revenue collections, and the rest through borrowing, according to the Budget Framework Paper 2017/18.
With our taxes being non-discriminatory, the government cares less if you are employed or not for them to tax you.
Back to the budget, under the theme “Enhanced Productivity for Inclusive Growth and Job Creation”, government will spend more than 30% of the budget on infrastructure investments, with approximately Shs4.8 trillion on works and transport. Job creation from capacity building (like road constructions) doesnt materialise overnight. If you have been waiting for a job, you’ll still wait more.
Aaron Mukunde, a graduate in Environmental Sciences rides a boda boda for a living.
“Atleast I am not like my friends”, he says painfully, ” I have an income to live on however little.” Mukunde represents myriads of graduate youth out there that have resorted to doing odd jobs to make a living. Odd in a sense that they are not even close to their line of study or training. He says the budget isnt for the youth and isnt mindful whatsoever of anything that transpires in the budget reading.
Well, so am I. Government priorities in the budget don’t resonate with what can give us hope. With Agriculture still underfunded, the small scale project you’ve been planning to start after campus may not materialise – if you find the capital and land in the first place.
Government and President Museveni realise and notice that the number of young people has sky rocketted in the country over the years, do they just want to look at them?
Even these long term job creation schemes will not be satisfactory.
Does government hope to provide jobs for fresh graduates then when over 2M (that will have accumulated over the years) are still in waiting?
Before we devise means to close the existing unemployment gap, our priorities dont seem like priorities at all.