By Dornam Ahumuza
Across Africa there is a steady migration of people from the rural areas to urban centres.
As a result sprawling slums or informal tin roofed housing are a common sight within cities or the outskirts in Kampala you have Katanga or Katwe, Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa and in Nairobi, Kenya there is Kibera which is listed as one of the largest slums in Africa with a population of nearly half a million, the list goes on.
This mass movement of people over the years to the urban centres in search of services and opportunities has presented enormous challenges to our governments and local authorities. Crime, disease, congestion, political strife, name it are pretty much the order of the day.
The population in these slums is mainly young or comprises of bigger numbers of the youth (15-35 years) this means educational opportunities and employment are high on the list of demands.
As a consequence, education is now big business with numerous universities everywhere churning out thousands of graduates every year.
Our economies are too small to absorb these graduates or better stated cannot grow fast enough to be at par with the rate at which these students are graduating and this is a cause for concern.
According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics, about 22% of Ugandans are formally employed in a total workforce of about 12 million people and 75% are considered self-employed.
The majority of the self-employed are doing business in the agricultural sector–about 60% whereas these statistics are daunting they are also sobering and paint a clear picture of the challenge ahead of us as a nation.
With a population of 34 million with 50% under the age of 15 years, this is tough. So what should our young people with a high school diploma or college degree do? Migrating where there are opportunities makes sense.
The exodus begins from villages to urban centres then from urban centres to all over the world, if you are not fortunate to get opportunities back home.
Meanwhile, the US Congress in couple of months will be working on legislation to pass comprehensive immigration. One of the components is making it easy for fellows who come to pursue advanced studies in this country to be absorbed by the system.
Doctors, Engineers, lawyers, Teachers name it. This is a precursor to attract and retain some of the best minds from Africa and other parts of the globe by availing them with opportunity. There are similar programmes in the UK, Canada and other countries. So, as long as the status quo remains, we are on the losing end.
Therefore, with all this going on where does this leave Africa in the long-term?
For starters, we need skills and less of credentials. Our educational system needs serious revamping. Emphasis in our colleges’ on exam needs to change to a more vocational skill oriented format .That way we shall be able to retain our young talent at home, if they have something to do and are gainfully employed. Well trained students can actually be a powerful force at innovation and entrepreneurship.
This means more opportunities being created in the long term and as a consequence growth or expansion of our economy.
This in the end affects the quality of our workforce and spurs the ability to be creative. So the worth of an A or upper second or first class degree is generally upgraded when augmented with additional skills.
Show me what you can do, should be the name of the game. Can you deliver? If not, somebody who can should be given the chance. That way we shall get rid of all deadwood in the system and fairly redistribute opportunity and see some much needed results and progress.
This is the difference between these developed Western countries and our African countries, which thrive on business as usual and no regard is given to merit.
The writer is a health worker