A generation that won’t retire

You are a graduate in your mid twenties and you are looking for your first job. All, you want is a job that pays you just enough to cover your essentials. Jobs don’t come easily these days, so it will take you several months or even years to land one. Soon you will be thirty, have worked for about two years without any savings, but the pressures of growing up are piling up. You want to start a family, own property and build a house of your own.

Now consider another person who is 60 today, should be retired but he is not. He went to the best public schools of the time, went to Makerere University on government sponsorship, and admitted to public service immediately after his graduation. He now has worked for three decades; perhaps he now has a Masters degree or even a PHD and has accumulated millions in gratuity and pension, but he is unwilling to retire.

Whereas a young unemployed graduate worries about his next meal or his breakthrough job, someone else who has worked for longer than this young man has lived is unprepared to live without the monthly pay. In all, these are two vulnerable groups of different ages, different realities, all living a day at a time.

Ministry of Public service recently confirmed to have received more than 200 applications from civil servants seeking to revise their age downwards. All the applicants are said to be above 50 years of age and therefore nearing their retirement. The ministry also noted that over 100,000 others had varying information on their national identity cards from what they submitted at the time of joining public service.

It is unique for Uganda that whereas the young people think the age of success has risen to about 45 years, even those who are 60 and over have not registered adequate means of survival beyond their current jobs. The result is that those who are young now fear to grow up, no wonder, the “youth” today, is a status claimed by many so as to get their demands through.

But is it possible to prepare the current lot of first-job seekers for retirement? Yes, and this is how.

The starting point is confidence building. We need to build a functional social services sector that makes everyone believe that they will afford a desirable standard of welfare even when they are not earning. Everyone should be made to believe that they can get affordable and quality health, education and other welfare services at the nearest public facility. Of course this requires massive investment by especially government in providing such services and our resource envelope is not shallow to allow for this if only there were no long hands around it.

Secondly, we need to understand what retirement looks like for the future generations of retirees. We are faced with a generation that has grown up in a fast evolving world and much preoccupied with computers and the internet. This is as important as is dangerous. We could wake up in 2050 to a bunch of retirees who spend their days watching pornography and tweeting about it, without any productivity but with vast abilities.

To the contrary, we can start today to equip these young people with skills in computer programming, robotics (yes, robotics), computer forensics and security, graphics design and others, not just because these offer a great chance at the 21st century jobs, but also demand less physical labour that one would retire to private work in this line at a time their physical strength is deteriorating.

Lastly, we need policies on retirement contributions across all sectors and jobs. Many of the current jobs are short term and contractual (Commonly known as gigs) and the policy regime that regulates the pensions and retirement sector does not cater for this. In addition, there is need for provisions on early retirement and access to benefits for those who would want to retire before the mandatory age. But also provisions should be made to allow workers access their benefits while they are still in employment rather than when they are retired, tired and less willing to invest. The former could trigger more investments and jobs but also offer a safer landing for the retirees.

Most importantly, taking consideration of the current high rates of unemployment, we need to think of a policy that caters for the long time unemployed, those who withdraw from the labour force and the millions who drop out of school in each school cycle. These are special categories of our workforce that might throughout their lifetime never get an opportunity of formal employment. As such, we ought to design a policy that caters for their retirement needs.

This we can do, and we should lest we shall have a generation that would invest in revising age and won’t retire.


The future implications of youth unemployment in Uganda

With more young people falling through the cracks of an arguably broken education system, their landing is always in the trap of joblessness. But as the debate on jobs, or rather the lack of enough of them for young Ugandans rages on, we need to take time and look at the quality, remuneration, security and productivity of the available jobs and what this means for the future of these young people in particular, and for Uganda at large.

There are several job market distortions currently experienced as a result of growth in digital capitalism and technology.  It is therefore critical for businesses, government and the youth to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and quality of employment to mitigate undesirable outcomes but fully seize the opportunities presented by these trends.

Today, many consumers delight in using phone apps to get a cheap taxi or delivering groceries to their door. They order for clothes, electronics and other supplies online and relish the convenience, cheapness and flexibility. On the other end, the provider is not Maama Naaka, a vegetable vendor in Nakasero Market or Ashraf, a butcher in Kalerwe. The providers of these services are foreign owned multi-million dollar companies, uptown restaurants, supermarkets, clothing stores and telecom providers.

Whereas the providers of these services have provided convenience for the consumers, they are also largely responsible for massive labour substitution and displacement of real jobs. Resultantly, we have a world of disempowered workers who offer labour, on contracts offered by online providers of on-demand services.

Sadly for Uganda, many who are regarded as employed are doing these kinds of jobs; these short term and contract – based “gigs”. The guys who risk riding through Kampala to do deliveries, or the youth holding posters of telecom companies on roundabouts and those selling sim-cards, or those on Kampala road selling Chinese phones and those who go around on trucks doing promotions, are slaving like ants with no guarantees of regular employment or any kind of job security.

These companies know that they profit more by not offering full-time, real employment. The gigs reduce their wage bill by almost half, the contracts are drawn to their favour and payments are according to the realization of set targets. They also don’t have to make social security contributions for the workers hired for a gig, and neither do they pay them a gratuity.

On the other hand, as Economist Will Hutton noted, gig work adversely discourages workers. It bids down wages, makes working lives episodic and displaces risk on to ordinary people because it does not come with pensions, sick pay or parental leave. The contracts are easy to abuse and the worker can’t borrow against his pay.

We risk waking up in 2050, to a generation of retired professionals without professional careers and those who have worked for decades but retired homeless and hungry because they had no savings off their commission for each gig. Our social security sector risks seeing the contributions diminish since our working generation earns a commission and not wages, from which such contributions can be deducted.

We therefore need to enact policies that encourage real employment growth. We need a policy that lifts the unemployed and gig workers into employment while raising relative wages for the lowset paid. Above all, we need to increase quality investment in human capital to improve skills and productivity of our workers, making them fit for real employment.

We also need to develop social security programmes for the many young people who are informally employed, if not for anything, but they will be a bigger problem in the future when they are less productive and yet more demanding of services such as health care.  The youth must also be encouraged to make a modest contribution to these programmes periodically, relative to their low pay.

It is our actions today that will determine whether we head towards greater displacement and exploitation of workers or the emergence of new opportunities.

Is Ugandan labour failing Businesses?

Whereas Uganda has for several years been listed as one of the most entrepreneurial countries, the country also faces an over 80% failure rate of new businesses. A cocktail of factors account for this and many of these relate to the broad outlook of our economy – the high borrowing rates, lack of access to capital, market competition with cheaper imported alternatives, the high cost of doing business and the exchange rates among others.

It has been dismayingly discovered that, a number of businesses, many of which you would think had grown well enough to survive the turbulence in our economy are choking on debts and are actually seeking for a government bailout. Resultantly, many analysts are calling for an in depth audit of the management and other internal factors particular to these businesses, that could have pushed them towards heavy and unsustainable debts.

One of those factors in management that can fail business is the human resources the business employs. Ugandan workers, especially graduates, have always been portrayed as unskilled and unemployable.

The Ugandan education system does little to impart the requisite job skills through internships, mentoring, job-shadowing and apprenticeship. Employers on the other hand have concentrated way too much on academic grades as the standard of assessing the quality of the available labour, neglecting the most critical requirements of labour like customer care, public relations and communication and marketing among others.

But far from the skills set and training that the available jobs require, our workers suffer from the general lack of a values. On the general, we are a country with a bad work ethic, horrible attitudes and a failed value system. Many who do an honest job are not rewarded but within the same set up, crooks are thriving.

Hardly a year since it launched operations in Uganda the world’s renowned transport services provider – Uber is facing accusations of theft and harassment by some drivers. In a Facebook post, one Josephyn Flore claims she was beaten robbed and thrown out of the taxi that she hired via the Uber.Fb

Clearly, Josephyn’s example talks of a Ugandan driver, who can potentially fail Uber operations in Uganda yet the business has achieved a lot of success elsewhere and has grown to the worth of over $30 billion.

You can talk of so many other businesses that are struggling and others losing their clientele owing to the misconduct of the people they employ. But within individual business organizations, operational values and cultures shouldn’t be dictated from above, like so many policies; but rather a cumulative result of how each of those who are a part of it chooses to engage with their work and with each other.

While many businesses make profits, and sometimes through deeply unethical practices, they make paltry donations to their employees in terms of remuneration. In turn the employees are pushed to make an extra penny through malpractice.

This demands thinking about how every part of what the organisation does, inside and outside its walls, aligns with the values it espouses. How is it making money? What impact do these activities have on the environment? On people involved in them, directly or indirectly?

Do businesses believe their methods as much as they believe in what they do? Are management structures, reporting processes, communication methods, individual behaviours and relationships with colleagues, reflective of the values they want to see more of in the world?

You will agree that the Ugandan workers, substantially contribute to business failure and to rectify this, will take good investment by potential workers to develop themselves and their abilities while employers on the other hand, will facilitate such efforts.


An ambitious plan to end poverty by 2030

In September, all heads of the United Nations member states gathered in New York to adopt a fifteen-year global development agenda – The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a follow up on the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) framework. As with the MDGs, ending global poverty is again top of the agenda.

World leaders adopted a new, yet ambitious agenda, at a time when slightly more than one billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day (the World Bank measure on poverty) and one in every seven people in the world still live in abject poverty.

The $1.25 poverty line is a standard measure of income poverty set by the World Bank, considering the purchasing power parity amongst the poorest countries. The standard was established in 2005 and it is the same standard that the SDG planning framework bases its measurement of income poverty.

With the changes in the global economic trends, it is not accurate to base such a broad plan on facts that are ten years old. By the end of the SDG framework, the standard for measuring poverty shall be reflective of the facts of a twenty five year lag. It only implies that we shall have a wrong assessment of the progress in the attainment of the SDG which undermines the whole essence of such ambitious global-scale plans.

Instead, the post-MDG framework should have focussed more critically on the specific drivers of all forms of poverty and the social traps that hold people in poverty situations for long than seeking to address “poverty”, which is in itself a result of a number of factors. The framework should have also taken charge of the differences in opportunities among various member states than a generalized wholesome intervention.

The key drivers of poverty especially in developing countries include; lack of, or unequal access to education, land, markets and social safety nets. Other factors include Unemployment, insecurity (terrorism), natural disasters and weak government policy among others.

Developing countries therefore, ought to develop national and regional frameworks, reflective of their own drivers of poverty and their aspirations, which shall feed into this global agenda, if tangible results are going to emerge from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Framework.

It is important that as the world struggles to raise funds to finance the development projects within the SDG framework, local efforts are in place to build strong foundations for their sustainability and maximum rewards from such international programmes.

Such local efforts involve defining the local context of poverty and its drivers and setting local standards for measuring poverty that reflect the realities of individual countries. It is important that developing countries define how to make the sustainable development goals work to lift them out of poverty with respect to their particularities.

If anything, the SDG package of 17 development goals and 169 specific targets may contravene the development path of some countries or even ignore the national priorities of others, thus seem so ambitious and realistically unachievable.

In my opinion, Uganda’s key goals in the next one and a half decades should be to eliminate corruption and to halve youth unemployment.

Micro-loans for the poorest do not even up society or end unemployment.

Micro-financing has recently been the most prominent mechanism used to lift people, especially in developing countries, out of poverty. By 2012, 27 million Africans had accounts with Micro-finance institutions, representing 4% of the total population of the Continent. The highest rate of penetration was in West Africa, and the highest growth rate of Micro-finance services was in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Despite the extension of micro-finance Institutions and services in Africa, the quality of lives of people leaving below the poverty line on the continent has not improved, and the gap between the wealthy and the poor is widening tremendously. In fact, the demand for micro-credit has also increased but with no significant, or even, equivalent growth in the incomes of the poor.

Advancing Micro-credit to the poor has far reaching implications at both ends which undermine the intentions of both the lending institution and the borrower. Because both players seek to maximize the benefits; deriving their means from each other, a predatory relationship emerges, with the most unfair taking the day.

In many developing countries, it’s very expensive to provide micro-credit. Setting up and processing small loans, collecting repayments and dealing with default raises the administration cost disproportionately to the size of the loans, and so, the interest rates that you have to charge in order to get the sustainable credit system going, ends up negating the institution’s relationship with its borrowers.

The borrowers on the other hand, use the funds to start small businesses, which encounter a lack of consumer demand, after all, their potential customers are poor, their demand is thus low and their expenditure goes strictly to the basics goods that tend to be readily available. The much more likely outcome is that the new businesses fail, which then leads, once again, to vicious cycles of over-indebtedness that drive borrowers even further into poverty.

For the poor, most microfinance loans are used to fund consumption – to help people buy the basic necessities they need to survive. In South Africa, for example, consumption accounts for 94% of microfinance use. As a result, borrowers don’t generate any new income that they can use to repay their loans so they end up taking out new loans to repay the old ones, wrapping themselves in layers of debt.

A problem with microfinance institutions is often that they don’t finance good, distinctive business ideas for avoidance of risk . Funding people to sell the same things they have already seen others selling, or to get involved in handicraft schemes, doesn’t get them thinking about risk and reward.

There is, however, much more, as a medium term intervention, we could try, than just enable the poor have access to finances and an improved ability to spend.

We need to set up the right systems for small businesses to succeed, such as strong subsidies, state assistance, and welfare support to prop up entrepreneurs when they fail.

We need to start a form of micro-financing that focuses on savings first. It is critical to emphasize savings before borrowing because asset accumulation enables poor people to make sensible decisions about the allocation of their resources including when and when not to borrow.

Above all, governments need to invest in innovations and not just entrepreneurship. Governments have the monopoly of all the tools of coercion and with the authority and resources in their control, they ought to lead by example and set pace for the private sector. Private sector players can be drawn to a competition away from just entrepreneurship and small businesses to grand innovations which come with lesser risk, more jobs and more profit rewards.

In the same regard, governments should lead in easing access to capital to finance innovation. Interest-free venture capital schemes controlled, financed and efficiently regulated by governments can help break the predatory behavior of micro-credit lending, profit motivated entities that easily leave innovators trapped in a debt cycle.

Time to review Ugandan Education

Education is meant to help to remove or at least reduce ignorance and bring about change by raising the general level of intelligence plus vocational ability and qualifications in order to improve social mobility.

Any education system should be concerned not just with imparting information to
students to regurgitate for academic purposes (in order to pass examinations) but
with helping to shape and improve vocational and professional attainment of skills,
so that the future existence of a nation and society is maintained through knowledge, skills and experience, through access to a wide variety of employment and career opportunities, and with remuneration levels that allow people to contribute whilst earning and learning.

The education system in Uganda, however, is a form of social engineering through fees-paying, for-profit private schools separated from the state education system and through primary, secondary and tertiary education based on what is available in the immediate term (Marketable courses).

The system has always given great weight and precedence to the development of young people by concentrating effort and resources on those academically capable, but has failed to provide additional avenues of choice, to enable less academically-minded students the opportunity to progress to degree level courses through, for example, apprenticeships and vocational programmes leading to widely recognized professional qualifications. By concentrating far too heavily on University and academic paperwork too few are provided with vocational qualifications and jobs in industry, innovations and manufacturing.

The Ugandan education system therefore operates essentially as an identifier of academic ability, focused on inputs rather than outputs. It has fronted a societal establishment that uses metrics like fees paid per student or number of teachers with advanced degrees in its evaluation, conveniently ignoring the quality of the education achievement of the students.

Numerous studies and reports, by academics on behalf of politicians, have highlighted the need to review our education but even with the plethora of advice in the “Kajubi report” for instance, resolving falling educational standards and academic achievement of the majority of the population continues to elude politicians and academics alike; deliberately or otherwise, suggesting that some, in politics, academia and in business, may have a vested interest in ignorance among majority Ugandans.

Over time, it has led to the situation where; hundreds of thousands of young people, already challenged by inequality of access to primary and secondary education, standardization of school facilities, equipment and even quality of teachers and teaching methods, leave primary education unable to read and write and carry out basic sums and then leave secondary education without academic or vocational qualifications and less chance of gaining employment.

The result is education, much like our health system, has been used by politicians, to indicate improvement and progress when it clearly is not the qualitative case. We must, therefore, design a system that monitors students even when they have left school, a system that evaluates the relevance and applicability of the knowledge they acquired and the reward for their practice.

While Uganda’s education is important, (and one has to define what the parameters are, for a basic education system), it is a bog standard misconception that our education empowers people and is the route to bringing, dragging or leading people out of ignorance and poverty. Our education is only the start and it demands investment by government in anything and everything to keep people in employment and decent earning and learning while contributing to the nation and society; and, that demands a sober government to facilitate, legislate and fund such efforts.

Wealth cannot just trickle down

Many of the world’s richest countries are experiencing historic levels of income inequality. And even in the developing world, there are emerging concerns about whether the poor will benefit from their countries’ increasing prosperity. In China, for instance, officials have made repeated promises to tackle the country’s widening income gap.

Globally, there are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital and wealth. Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of the global economy.

At the peak of this global crisis, the mechanisms, processes and interventions to bridge the gap between the wealthy and the poor are still far-fetched. Economic theory has not described by any particular model, how wealth can be re-distributed, amidst the challenges of globalization and growing capitalism and free markets.

Conservative economic philosophy however, argues that allowing the wealthy to run their businesses unencumbered by regulation or taxation bears economic benefits that leads to more jobs and income for the rest of society. This is the called the “trickle-down effect”

“Trickle-down” is an economic idea which states that decreasing marginal and capital gains tax rates – especially for corporations, investors and entrepreneurs – can stimulate production in the overall economy. According to trickle-down theory proponents, this stimulus leads to economic growth and wealth creation that benefits everyone, not just those who pay the lower tax rates.

Economists continue to defend trickle-down theories on an assumption that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the capitalist workings of the prevailing global economic system.

We have had 30 years of “trickle down” economics and the fact is, it doesn’t work. Prior to embracing this theory, workers shared in their companies’ growth with increased wages. This was achieved by increased productivity, but since the trickle down started, nothing trickled down, it stuck at the top and increased their incomes while depriving those workers at the bottom any meaningful increase in wages. Studies in America show that the average wage has stagnated while CEO’s and top executives’ pay went from about 30 times their average employee’s wage to almost 500 times.

Free market economics, a.k.a. Capitalism, as Milton Freidman pointed out, has pulled more people out of poverty than any other system in the world. However, such a system works best when society has a strong moral foundation, when virtue exists. In fact John Adams said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of policy as a whale goes through a net, making the wealthy more contended and indifferent to the challenges of those at the other end of the wealth line”.

Nothing could more contribute to the culture of contentment for the well-to-do, than a reduction in the share of income its members had to pay in taxes. But here is a problem. Reducing taxes on the affluent would mean a reduction in public revenues as a whole. This, in turn, might lead to an increased levy on the middle class or on the tax-paying public in general. Or, by increasing the public deficit, it might have a politically adverse aspect of irresponsibility as is the case in Uganda, where public debt has risen to $7.6 billion in a space of less than a decade, since 2006.

As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.

But as Pope Francis stated, “Inequality is the root of Social Evil”. #ActNow

Open letter to Mr. Simon Kaheru

Mr. Kaheru,

I have read with dismay, your recent unnecessary outburst both online and in one of the dailies seeking to create an impression that is, in no way, a reflection of the current bunch of educated but unemployed young Ugandans. As an unemployed young Ugandan, I thought it would be unfair to let it pass without response. My response may also help draw attention to your post which could be the first on your blog to be shared less than ten times on each of all the social media sites.

Mr. Kaheru, you have joined the ranks of those very insensitive Ugandans with the assertion which seems to suggest that the current bunch of Ugandan youth do not deserve anyone’s attention. You have gone ahead to say that the youth are incompetent and unserious and “no wonder most of them are unemployed”.

Well, there are some youth that suit your description but they are only existent in your mind. In mine, there is no one who is undeserving of attention. There is no life that is so useless that not even the leaders who derive legitimacy from it, must not accord it any attention. It is only you, the Kaheru’s of this world, who think yourselves “larger than life”, and whose ego has grown too big to be accommodative of humans that can harbor such thoughts.

You and many like you, are lucky that you have had a job, or have moved from one job to another for more than a decade. Not just that, you are competent and serious people. Why then, are you stuck at the jobs? Why do they continue to work and survive on a monthly pay, year after another? Can you actually survive beyond that monthly pay? Do your competencies and seriousness begin and end at the jobs you so dearly hold?

Before you were done with your outright exposure of insensitivity, you made a call for serious and competent youth to seek to be employed by you. You, Mr. Fat Ego, has time for young people and actually want them to help you achieve your dreams? These must probably not be Ugandan as there are no competent and serious Ugandan youth or even any worth attention.
But hold it there, wasn’t it you who was trolling Shell and Bolton for running a racist job advert in Uganda? So, what is the difference between you and Shell and Bolton? Having told us there are no serious and competent Ugandan youth, how do you call to employ serious and competent young people? These must not be Ugandan.

You also pointed out a typing error and presented it as though it was the worst sense of unseriousness. Of all people, a man who writes for a newspaper that had the worst cases of typing errors in 2014 should have resigned the moment any typo was made in the paper. How does an overly serious person, incapable of tolerating a typo on social media continue to work for a mainstream media outlet that printed and published papers with typos as many as The New Vision had last year?

That said, I wish to inform Mr Kaheru that the incompetence you want to label us with is not in our DNA, it is not a natural disorder that was spelt against us. Rather it is a condition that has been fashioned by the environment that you and your generation have, out of outright insensitivity, created.

You may advise “serious people” not to pay attention to young unemployed people but thankfully you found time to write about them. They are incompetent but you want to employ some of them. Look, you are part of the solution.
Imagine you dedicate more time to understand why they are educated but unserious rather than bashing them? Imagine you agreed to a meeting suggested by those youth, sat them down and oriented them into better people? This you can do.

Mwine Edgar
Twitter: @mwineedgar

Happy Birthday Dad

When sixty five Years ago, a woman called Felicity lay down somewhere in present day Kabale District to bless this earth with a new life, Francis was born. A calm, loving, humble, gentle and assertive Mukiga, Francis is a different species of Humans, well moulded and sent on earth by God to be an example of what all men ought to be.

God has favoured Francis so much that He has blessed him with a beautiful Mukiga wife – Lucy, eight beautiful children, seven grandchildren (so far) but most importantly, a world of friends.

Francis is a man who has lived his life so worthily that I sometimes imagine that if there was (or there will ever be)a book titled “A perfect man”, Francis must be the man written about. His calmness and humble appeal suggest that his mother must never have felt any labour pains when she gave birth to him.

For us who are too lucky to have been born of Francis sometimes find it hard to ask God for anything yet Francis is here with us, because we have never asked and Francis doesn’t give, we have never yearned and he doesn’t provide.

To you Francis, I’m so thankful, that even when you had an option of having just two children, you chose to have the third and fourth, but even when you would have had only five, you chose to have sixth and seventh . . . and then me.

I did not choose you to be my Dad, but if today I was asked to choose a man to be my Dad, sure it would be you. I would still desire to be your last born son, I would still run into your hands even when they carry nothing but a warm hug, I would still choose to ride with you on your bicycle even when I have an option to fly away elsewhere, I would still pride in you my peasant Dad, than being a President’s son.

As you celebrate your 65th birthday, I pray for you to live longer so that I can point at you when showing my sons an example of worthily lived life. May you live longer such that many more people, looking at your goodness, may draw examples. May you live longer so that your dear wife can continue to find a soft shoulder to lean on, and your children, a father to run to.

May God bless you and happy birthday dearest Dad.10672199_689212334508727_1249033730655100653_n

Yellow Pigs or Employment?


Today I woke up to yet another story of the yellow pigs parade in Kampala. This is the third time pigs painted in yellow are being dropped at different spots in Uganda’s capital since June this year when two youth, Norman Tumuhimbise and Ronald Mayanja beat the security at Parliament letting in two yellow painted pigs. Just last month, the same group of youth who prefer to refer to themselves as the “Jobless Brotherhood” claimed responsibility for second edition of the yellow pigs parade on Kampala Road near the seven billion KCCA leisure park, when they hand-cuffed themselves and walked to the central police station and asked to be detained. I have no doubt that the same group of young people are behind today’s edition of the yellow pigs stunt at Makerere University.

Pigs are known to be greedy animals which eat anything and everything they come about. According to the demonstrators, these animals are painted yellow, the party colour of the ruling NRM-O to symbolize the greed and rampart corruption among the members of this party/organisation. More symbolically, one of the pigs that were paraded on Kampala Road had a round hat which has for long, been NRM Chairman and President Museveni’s trademark. The youthful protesters have chosen to use the symbolism of pigs to protest youth unemployment, corruption and poverty in the country.


The matter of youth unemployment has been around for centuries and is a big concern across the world including the best economies today. The only difference in Uganda is that there is much emphasis on formal education which is very expensive and time consuming but not job rewarding. Even those who break through the cracks of our rather “irrelevant”, colonial education system remain trapped in an “out of school but out of employment” situation in the face of Uganda’s biting poverty and the ever rising costs of living. Graduate youth unemployment therefore is bound rise each passing year.

Over the years, the numbers have been soaring and the country now faces an 83% job deficit for the youth. However, the numbers alone have not have not triggered thinking especially on the side of government, to, if not create, support local youth initiatives to create jobs. Instead, government still banks on foreigners to spur the necessary growth in the number of jobs for the majority of its population, the youth. This week alone, The Observer reported that the president had offered 3,000 acres of land which belongs to the National Agricultural Research Organaisation (NARO) to a foreign firm. if Government chose to use these 3,000 acres of land to set up a national agricultural processing plant, Uganda would once again start to export value added agricultural products, make our own fertilizers (the wholesale price of NPK fertilizer has risen by 200%over the last 5 years) but above all create a million jobs for the youth in farming, transportation, processing, construction and marketing. The money to implement this can be deducted from the defence budget or even borrowed from NSSF.

On the other hand, Uganda is today blessed with its most educated youth generation from whom you would expect quality and well documented ideas and policy suggestions on especially the biggest of their challenges – Unemployment. There is however a dull conformity to petty stunts among the unemployed youth in Uganda. Burning graduation gowns, parading pigs and purporting to register the unemployed do not assure any graduate a job the next day or even a meal that very day. These stunts and the clamoring that follows are not rising to the top decision makers in the country are not all inclusive and are very ineffective. In fact the first Yellow pigs demonstration at parliament only triggered parliamentary and media debates on Security at Parliament and not the key issues of the demo; Unemployment, poverty and corruption.

The rage towards government among the unemployed youth is largely misguided with many youth saying “give us” rather than showing that they are ready to “take it”. It is even better for the youth to be asking, “What can we do to help you give us?” The way we see ourselves as Unemployed youth should be a much bigger discussion preceding the debate on what government ought to do, to tackle Unemployment. Because we seek survival for each day, it becomes easy for crooks to mobilize and line us up in the sun to welcome from America, a man we should have sat with on a round table to discuss youth policy before he flew to America. Why would we welcome this man because he went to the United Nations General Assembly and gave a “powerful speech” that didn’t address our biggest challenge (Unemployment)?

Unemployed youth must reject tokenism or quasi-representation without any influence. We must reject being used for photo opportunities and being deceived that we are represented but instead demand significant participation in every decision and policy. This demands that we must seek knowledge and develop ourselves socially and intellectually so as to be relevant in such discussions.

We must also see ourselves as complimentary units of one affected body rather than competition, and seek opportunities to harness the power of numbers. We also must not see social media as a tool but not a solution to the problem. Ranting on social media facilitates just a lousy debate that goes to waste without generating practical solutions. However, social media remains an effective tool for mobilization.

We, in whose hands the future is to be entrusted must be equipped and ready to cater for it.

Mwine Edgar

Unemployed Graduate