Your Excellency Mr. President,
First of all congratulations on steering the country through the election seasonsuccessfully. While a few election related issues are yet to be finalised, I will skip that and go to the most burningchallenge Uganda faces today which is poverty mainly manifested through youth unemployment.
With the youth and minors contributing close to 80% of the country’s population, there cannot be any substantial impact of government services or investment in the country until the needs of this group especially the youth leaving school and in need of employment are put at the very centre of your plans and action points.
Your government your Excellency has over the years established and rolled out a number of interventions geared atespecially fighting poverty and unemployment among the masses as a whole and the youth in particular.
Key among these are programs like the Youth Livelihood fund, Bonna baggagawale , Operation Wealth creation most recently have all played their part in trying to fight youth unemployment and poverty with in the masses in general.
However, one critical factor has been missing in all these programs and projects and that is the input and effort of the target group which is the youth in the implementation of these programs. I will be lying if I say it has been completely lacking but I can authoritatively say it has been minimal which is why the success of these interventions has been minimal as well.
Enter a National Youth Service
The National Youth Service has been used time immemorial to ideally orient the youth of many nations towards theright direction in terms of nationalistic ideology, patriotism and work ethic. It has also been used to boost the numberof both reserve and active armed forces in nations where they feel they are short on numbers in the security forcestime and again.
However, a hybrid more productive model can specifically be adopted to first of all offer basic business skills and work experience to our many disoriented youth as a nation on top of instilling the discipline and work ethic that comes with basic military training and routines even without fully conscripting these youth in the military.
How can it work?
The government has already proved numbers can be mobilised through its networks both formal and informal given the existence of the National Patriotism clubs and formerly the crime preventers all which have been operating somewhat informally.
Through putting together a National Youth Service policy at government level and having it passed later into law as an act of parliament, an entity to fully manage this undertaking with its own budget and leadership directly reporting to the President or any other office of choice can be fully instituted.
A transparent public recruitment can be done using a similar model to what the military and police uses this time though with a greater emphasis on reasoning and intellectual competence with some relative physical abilities too.
If, for example, every year 5000 youth are recruited into this program from the 5 main regions of the country that is North, West, South, East and Central, a total of 25,000 youth will be handed a new lease of life annually. The minimum qualification can be having attained any tertiary qualification or an advanced level certificate of Education.
When these recruits are taken in, they are trained in basic physical and military drills, the political and economic history of the country, emerging opportunities in the country, relevant entrepreneurship skills and the importance of integrity and work ethics among other key subjects for 3 months.
They are then deployed to do clerical and voluntary work at various public entities across the country ranging from hospitals, schools, district and sub county offices, national government offices where need be, police stations, military barracks, in district councils, public works and projects, some collaborating private entities etc under strict supervision and guidance to ensure they are learning and working for 9 months.
A stipend of about 400,000 shillings a month besides government providing food and accommodation can be set aside with one half of 200,000 shillings paid to them monthly for basic needs and the balance accumulated and paid as a lump-sum at the end of the program, about 2.4 million in total. A bonus of 600,000 shillings could be added to give them a total starter park of 3 million shillings on completion.
Emphasis should also be put on the recruits working in different regions of the country not native to them to instil in them a more nationalistic and metropolitan view of life countering and taking away any form of sectarianism they may have been exposed to earlier.
To make the program even more important, it should be clearly stipulated that graduates of this program will be given priority when it comes to recruitment into the armed forces and public service among other benefits.
As the capacity of government grows, the numbers can be doubled to 10,000 a region which is 50,000 youth annually a number that can significantly tone down the unemployment challenge while equipping recruits with key life skills and basic capital to start income generating activities after graduation.
Financing the Program
With government’s plan to merge redundant agencies already in advanced stages and expected savings of about 980 billion plus, about 200 billion of this can be set aside to pilot the project annually and the figure can grow as adjustments are made to make it more effective and reach more youth. If implemented effectively over the next 4-5 years a minimum of 100,000 educated youth which can be doubled to 200,000 youth will be empowered to self sustainability reducing the impact of biting poverty and unemployment in this critical category.
The Author is a Senior Analyst at Consulting Firm Brothers Intelligence LLC
Twitter : @Michaelkanaabi
Email: [email protected]