Uganda’s Demographic Profile And Addressing Unemployment


approved geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 200%;”>Every year, Uganda churns out 300,000 graduates with only 40,000 available jobs. The rest, 260,000 become hustlers (kuyiya). If we work and legislate to refine Uganda’s private sector environment, the 260,000 would engage in self-employment and as a result create more jobs and more jobs.

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For 2013, going forward, the private sector; (MSMEs) annual employment growth is estimated 20 percent per annum but the majority of the businesses (35 percent) are aged between 1 and 5 years and those that are 25 years or more are only 4 percent. It is clear from these figures that the failure rate in business start-ups is high.

The high mortality rate for business start-ups is explained by the burdensome regulatory environment and the rising cost of doing business on account of inadequate infrastructure, costly and unreliable electricity, rising cost of fuel, and the high cost of business finance.

Other factors include corruption, unnecessary bureaucracy and capacity constraints in the various public institutions. What are our members of Parliament doing? Can we see them debate and resolve these jobs killing constraints? Why should Uganda be a graveyard of start-ups and nimble entrepreneurial ideas?

In spite of businesses failure to survive, Ugandans are not ready to shark- they continue to come up with ideas. For example, over 9000 new firms are registered each year. Though still a small number, this is good news; it shows that the attitude for doing and formalising business is taking shape. It also splits the bare fact that if we help these business ideas to survive, we will be able to find jobs for our millions of youth.

What should vastly concern us are the reasons why most of these registered start-ups never reach their 5th birthday? The death of business start-ups means death of jobs. How can these ideas be supported? Let’s begin with 4 ideas.

1. Fierce urgency to Harvest the demographic dividend. Uganda’s population is at 33 million. With 7 children per woman (average), Uganda’s population will be over 130 million in the next fifty years. What should concern us is the quality of the population.

Is our population skilled, imaginative, agile, curious, entrepreneurial, and self reliant and inspired? Or rather semi skilled, subsistence, surviving and thriving, nature based (chance based), welfarelist (waiting for handouts), laid back and cynical?

Our people are the only enduring wealth that this country has. We must invest in them; leaders at all levels must inspire them in words and actions and align them to a common vision.

I know that Enterprise Uganda is conducting entrepreneurship training, business advisory and counselling service, information, business planning, marketing, technology, business linkages and targeting young people, women, business start-ups and middle level firms. In the 2010/2011 budget, Enterprise Uganda was allocated one billion Uganda shillings and even more in 2012/2013 budget. This was a good effort – Enterprise Uganda should present to Ugandans a jobs report. How many jobs have their activities created?

How many jobs have their trainings and coaching engineered? The foregoing should be supplemented by an Entrepreneurship Fund, long term and accessed at 5% interest rate. The idea of establishing a School Leavers Industrial Training Fund must be de-shelved and implemented.

Increasing youth opportunities in agriculture and agri -business sectors is central to revitalizing agricultural livelihood and subsequently, creating jobs and lifting millions out of poverty. Creating stability of food supplies through youth engagement over the coming periods will help save the progress that has been made in reducing the proportion of people living in hunger in Uganda.

Presently, there are not many youth in the agricultural sector as they have in general shifted from agriculture towards manufacturing and services but most of them are still trapped in poverty and low productivity employment.

The youth need to be attracted back to agriculture through targeted policy measures that address the constraints specific to the youth in agriculture and more importantly, overturn the negativity surrounding youth in agriculture.

Youth have the potential to harness innovations and existing information technologies to spur productivity, value addition and create meaningful jobs.

Another critical aspect is efficiency in agriculture- where youth will be central. Efficiency will have to be enabled by new technologies. For example, land resources for expansive arable agriculture are dwindling.

For future sustainable development and creation of jobs, small farms must be made efficient. Why should people invest in big farms that are not productive?

Instead of rearing 100 cows on 200 hectares of land with each producing 1 litre of milk each- total of 100 liters per day, why don’t we look at rearing 4 cows on 2 acres of land with each giving you 40 liters – total of 160 liters per day!


Arrest Uganda’s productivity and skills deficiency: Ugandan firms and farms have, on average, the lowest labour productivity in the EAC, even when compared to other firms within Sub-Saharan Africa, and much lower than that in China and India. Studies indicate that Tanzania’s labour productivity is 40% higher than Uganda’s; while Kenya’s labour productivity is 60% higher, meaning that a worker from either Kenya or Tanzania has a higher job output compared to their Ugandan counterpart.

Our parliament must provide money to kick start reform of BTVET (Business Technical Vocational Education and Training) from input based training to competence based education and training (CBET) through the Uganda Vocational Qualifications Framework (UVQF). If properly implemented, go a long way in ensuring that the quality of BTVET graduates meets the labour market demands not only in Uganda, but across Africa.

4. Stop budget leakages and runaway public administration expenditure: World Bank reports that UGX100 billion is lost in public procurement alone. Public administration expenditure take a whopping 23% share of the national budget, the newly created 17 districts will cost us 28 billion in the coming financial year (money equivalent to drilling of 1030 boreholes)!

And at a population of 33 million and GDP of $16 Billion Uganda runs a parliament of 375 MPS! India with 1 billion people and a GDP of $2698 runs a parliament of 769 MPs. Norway with 4.6 million people has only 43 MPs. As a country we badly need to reflect on the cost of this over representation. I therefore wish to recommend that we adopt proportional/ per capita representation of 200,000 population quota.

At 33 million, we will have only 165 MPs. The foregoing action will mean that as a country we will save UGX252 billion, money that can be channelled to job creating and productive sectors of the economy.

Balkanisation of Uganda into smalls districts should also be reviewed, halted and rolled back and emphasis be put on service delivery. Can our Parliament debate and resolve these self-imposed constraints to transformation?

The author is CEO – Agency for Transformation, a think tank in Kampala


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