Skills development is crucial for Uganda’s economic growth

By July 4, 2018 No Comments

VarsyAt the presentation of Uganda’s 32.7 trillion Budget last month on the theme: ‘Industrialisation for job creation and shared prosperity’, Finance minister Matia Kasaija highlighted how government had set aside a substantial budget for the Youth Livelihood Programme that is meant to train, fund, equip and provide alternative employment and income for a large section of the country’s youth, who are unemployed.

With the government’s strategic policy shift from not just education, but also skills for income generation and employability, a leading global foundation, The Wadhwani Foundation, is already providing a spring board for university students to learn the entrepreneurial skills that will make them better prepared for the world.

With a strategic aim of aligning and building skills required for the job market, The Foundation launched its skills initiative, the Global Skills Network (GSN) in Uganda last year, to support the development of a stronger and skilled work force. The initiative is being run through technical and vocation institutes that are now training grounds for eager youth keen at advancing their knowledge on core employability skills. Partnership agreements have been signed with several technical and vocation institutes to support the introduction of core employability skills education to thousands of students.

Further, the Wadhwani Foundation has launched its entrepreneurship initiative, the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN). The initiative has the major aim of developing the ecosystem for new entrepreneurs through supporting entrepreneurship education. The scheme also facilitates the startup and SME eco-system through furthering student’s access to knowledge, mentor and investor resources. This initiative is being run through partnerships with Kyambogo University, Kampala International University and Bugema University.

At the budget reading, the Finance minister highlighted the all-important skills development initiative that is seeing the informal sector grow. The number of Ugandan employees in the formal sector grew at an average annual growth rate of 6 per cent between 2010 and 2013 and the national unemployment rate declined from 11 per cent in 2013 to 9 per cent in 2017. He laid bare areas that were still letting down the income growth for the economy. These, as he pointed out, are: Inadequate or inappropriate skilled labour failing to meet the manpower requirements for the job market; low entrepreneurial knowledge and limited application of technologies in production processes, particularly in agriculture and industry; limited availability of patient and appropriate long-term finance to start or boost SMEs and private sector investment.

To cover up all possible areas of skills equipping gaps, the Wadhwani Foundation has signed MoUs with the Uganda Association of Private Vocation Institutions (UGAPRIVI) for vocational training of students through high-quality multi-media content to enhance their job-readiness. The UGAPRIVI is an umbrella organisation for private vocational training institutions in Uganda.

To address the needs of an expanding labour market from various perspectives, Kasaija’s budget most encouragingly allocated a substantial amount of money for skilling and funding youth under the Youth Entrepreneurship Programme. However, to achieve impact, the convergence of management, monitoring and quality assurance frameworks with other skills development initiatives, are a must. Institutions like universities must give their students better hands-on training that prepares them for business.

Government’s strategy to train more youth in non-formal training programmes as projected in the current budget is one of those initiatives in the right direction. These programmes will enable young entrepreneurs in the acquisition of practical skills, especially for those without formal education.Skills development will go a long way in empowering key social groups. Government’s drive to implement affirmative programmes for the youth, women and the elderly, is one such laudable move. It is no doubt that a skilled population would give the country a development leap.

Uganda has the distinction of being one of the youngest nations with 60 per cent of its population below 25 years. Let’s join hands to ensure that the country reaps from the power of a young and growing population that can be skilled and nurtured to drive the country to middle income status.

Mr Wanjau is the head of Wadhwani Foundation, East Africa.

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