This week marks the 66th graduation ceremony at Makerere University, Africa’s number three ranking university (based on Times Higher Education Africa Universities Summit, July 2015) churning out more than 14,829 graduates annually. But, as their families ecstatically celebrate this achievement, we are faced with the reality that the market can only provide 8000 jobs annually. I am left to wonder if anyone cares to know what happens to the remaining 6289 graduates not to mention those from other universities and Vocational Institutes.

With the ticking time bomb of youth unemployment in Africa, are we offering enough support to the youth to ensure they become employable? Uganda alone records a jaw dropping statistic of 64% unemployed youth. With one of the youngest populations in the world, Uganda has struggled to create jobs for its young citizens, especially considering 77% of the population is between 15-30 years (Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2015).

The causes of youth unemployment are thought to be wide ranging from inadequate supply of jobs to crucially insufficient employable skills (i.e. the youth possess skills that are not compatible with available jobs). Potential employers set high standards for recent graduates that don’t favor them to compete with experts in the field. What edge do fresh graduates possess if potential employers have stringent requirements such as five years of working experience? Youth spend on average 19 years of their life in school acquiring an education focused on passing examinations to get them to the next level hence giving them minimal exposure to real life work experiences.

It is therefore inevitable to note that youth need to be empowered to become a more reliable resource, the sole gist as to why organisations such as KiBO Foundation in Uganda are vital in tackling such challenges. KiBO Foundation, through its practical programming approach, is equipping youth with relevant and necessary job readiness skills to dominate the job market. These youth are desperate and hungry for knowledge and skills to transform their lives and future, but we need to work collectively to support them.

Equipping youth with the necessary skills that employers want to is the intention of the KiBO programme. Youth can acquire skills like job application writing, job interview techniques, proposal writing, digital literacy skills, and entrepreneurship to not only find jobs but become self employed and create jobs for others. Hence consolidated partnerships between organisations like AAYMCA, KiBO Foundation and Citi Foundation, which deliver such empowerment programmes across borders, are a beacon of hope as indicated in the just concluded training of 43 vulnerable youth in Uganda.

Harriet Namitala, one of the students enrolled into the training programme testifies to learning how saving little monies collected overtime can truly transform communities and is grateful for such a platform where she has discovered the use of her talents despite the fact that she did not have enough resources to continue with her education. She has learned to let money work for her, instilling the discipline of responsibility and business management. By the end of the programme, Harriet had kick started a paper bag making business in her home area to raise money and enroll back in school.

Fulfilling their aspirations, despite dropping out of school, was not an option for many youth such as Harriet. KiBO presented them with a chance to grow as leaders, and unlock their hidden potential through changing mindsets, renewing their self esteems and igniting a belief that they are valuable. Youth in Uganda have an attitude of self entitlement, whereby they feel that the government must address their issues and in short; the excuses are always aimed at someone else. However, KiBO trains youth so that they take control of their destiny and are able to determine the tools and resources they have at their disposal that they can use to better their future. Having observed students closely and interacted with them regularly, it became apparent that for most of them, the spirit of ‘giving back’ and helping vulnerable communities was an alien concept. At the end of the programme, seeing individuals develop a passion for uplifting others was truly inspirational.

In conclusion, what projects such as these are doing – in tackling the plight of unemployment, as they enable young people to become empowered, focused, determined and confident within the very competitive job market – cannot be over looked.

By Baingana Sabiti, KIBO

About the Livelihood Project
The Youth Livelihoods Project is a youth skills development initiative conducted in Kenya and Uganda. With funding support from Citi Foundation; the AAYMCA, Kenya YMCA and the KiBO Foundation contribute to youth employability through entrepreneurship, leadership and ICT training.

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