By David Mugabe
Plan Uganda is committing $3.5m (about sh8.8b) in the next three years to support youth economic security through improved savings and skills enhancement.
Dubbed “A Working Future”, the programme is targeting 12,000 youth and will be executed in partnership with the private sector.
Plan Uganda country director Fikru Abebe said they will focus on providing the youth with appropriate skills and linking them to job placements, as well as understanding the skills required by the private sector.
“Many young people with vocational skills have and will be meaningfully employed,” said Abebe during a breakfast meeting over the weekend.
The focus will be on the village savings and loan associations as a springboard to formally mobilise savings and drive enterprise.
Young people in Uganda aged between 10 to 24 years comprise 33% of the population or 12.3 million people. This is expected to grow to 29.5 million by 2050.
This, according to experts, presents a challenge because about 60% of the youth are in the labour market but without appropriate skills.
Abebe asked commercial banks to exploit the creativity of the youth.
But Samuel Kavuma, the chairman of the National Youth Council, said young people have been frustrated by the stringent requirements from banks.
“Banks do not think the youth are viable,” he said.
Fiona Robinson from the Grameen Foundation, a global NGO, noted that digitalising the savings would help them because the banks get the credit history of every member of the village savings and loan associations. The data bank of savers would guide the bank on potential clients, thus providing a mutually beneficial relationship.
Plan Uganda is currently building the skills levels of the village savings and loan associations, working with close to 400 youth groups.
Alphonse Ochieng, a youth from Tororo, narrated how he has been able to grow his farm produce and now employs six people because of improved skills.
But he said he was disappointed with Centenary Bank for denying him a loan even after he provided a land title from his father.
However, Elisha Lugolobi, who heads the youth fund at Centenary Bank, defended the bank, saying they have disbursed over sh30b to 9,000 beneficiaries.
Lugolobi challenged the Plan team to come up with products that are youth-focused and can be funded.
Jonathan Landquist from Plan Sweden said the situation in Uganda can be turned around because of the available resources and opportunities.
“The money will provide real opportunities for real jobs and real profits,” said Landquist.