A World Bank report suggests that despite the favorable demographic dividends tilting in favor of Africa, the limited investments in the young populace pose a huge dilemma to the continent. Approximately there are 1.8 billion young people globally and the World Bank (2014), projects that by 2050, over 29 percent will reside in Africa. Currently, youth unemployment and underemployment in sub-Sahara Africa is higher as compared to other regions especially Southeast Asia and Europe. A study by the World Bank indicates that the youths account for 60% of all unemployed people in Africa which renders them to be dependent on the economy other than making their contributions to the GDP growth and Uganda is not any different.
The National Youth Policy consider a youth as a person belonging to age group between 12-30 years. In Uganda, more than 75% of its population are under 30 and unemployed. A statistic which is considered to be among the highest in sub-Sahara Africa. In a study by Kempner (2019), she noted that Uganda’s unemployment rate was at 14.3% which confirms the above assertion.
Uganda Bureau of Statistics indicate that, each year an estimated 400,000 young people enter the labour market to compete for merely 80,000 formal jobs leaving a deficit of 320,000 annually among the educated thus the level of unemployment in the country has increased significantly. Furthermore, the youth from the North and the Eastern part of the country face longer unemployment period than their counterpart of the same cohort from Western Uganda (Lakuma, et al. 2016). Which also create regional imbalance. This data, therefore, indicates that the state of youth unemployment is alarming and there is need for immediate redress. Though several efforts has been made.
In recent years, several interventions have been espoused by government; the National Youth Policy (2001), was strategic since it was thorough and cognizant of the youth dilemmas by categorically establishing the need for capital, improving the welfare of the youth through empowerment. These led to the establishment of a youth livelihood program, youth venture capital fund, and youth livelihood fund which has since been allocated only 265 billion Uganda shillings. Nonetheless, it’s not surprising that in a study by Makumbi, the youth livelihood program fell short in several aspects making it to register dismal marginal performance.
However, reports from Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development indicated that the YLP is making a significant impact in the communities which contradicts the facts reflected by the level of unemployment, raising more questions than answers. In fact, the NRM manifesto indicates that only 14,448 youth have been skilled and funded from millions of youths. Recently, during the 2021 elections, the young people demonstrated a close alliance with younger candidates, a factor that signaled discontent with the government’s commitment to ameliorating the youth plight.
In addition, the populace has raised several issues where unemployment stems from limited budget allocations, bigotry, mismatch in the skills gaps thwarting employability, youth attitude towards agriculture and financial exclusion among others.
In a multiparty dispensation to which Uganda is a subscriber, the party manifestos is a strong policy tool used by the political party in government to meet the terms of the social contract with the electorate. Several political parties namely; the Democratic Party, National Unity Platform, Forum for Democratic Change, Alliance for National Transformation and all other independent presidential candidates had a promise to ameliorate youth plight. However, for this discourse, we center on that of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) to front our argument.
The NRM manifesto 2021-2026 promises to turn the youths into manufacturers using zonal industrial hubs. In the manifesto, this will be instigated through 20 regional industrial zones. However, this is an excellent approach but the question that must be answered is, which region must be given first priority? (Refer to the discussion above).
As it stands now, the 2020/2021 budget doesn’t offer much for the young people despite the total budget being at whooping UGX45 trillion with Works and Transport taking (13%), Security (10%), Interest Payment (9%), Education (8%), Health (6%) and others with no substantial funding given directly to carter for youth development to embolden their contributions to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
In contrast to Uganda and most developing countries, the East Asian miracle is a good example of sustainable economic transformation once the youth population are fully empowered. In fact, the former president of Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew is celebrated for having triggered youth contributions through extensive youth empowerment programs that saw a drastic economic transformation. Similarly, the Republic of Korea saw its per-capita gross domestic product grow by about 2,200 percent between 1950 and 2008. And Thailand’s GDP grew by 970 per cent.
A sustainable future for Uganda will largely depend on the extent to which the government invest and empower the youths. Therefore, we recommend the following four policy alternatives for considerations.
 World Bank (2017). Africa's jobless youth cast a shadow over economic growth. African renewal article.https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/special-edition-youth-2017/africas-jobless-youth-cast-shadow-over-economic-growth
 Among & Mutemi (2019). We want to be heard: The voices of Uganda’s young people on youth unemployment. https://blogs.worldbank.org/nasikiliza/we-want-to-be-heard-the-voices-of-ugandas-young-people-on-youth-unemployment
 UNPF (2014). United Nation Population Fund: Huge potential for economic growth requires fulfilling the promise of youth, flagship report says. https://www.unfpa.org/news/huge-potential-economic-growth-requires-fulfilling-promise-youth-flagship-report-says
 The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (2019). CHALLENGE FUND F R YOUTH EMPLOYMENT by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. https://fundforyouthemployment.nl/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Challenge-Fund-for-Youth-Employment-Uganda-Scoping-Report.pdf