BY WATUWA TIMBITI
PICTURE BY MUBIRU KAKEBE
Due to the increasing economic hardship and a perceived rosy picture of the western world, many youth carry a restless desire to leave Uganda for greener pastures. Some even sell off their valuable property to raise money to travel.
This is a wrong decision to make, according to Pape Samb, the chief executive officer of Phelps Stokes, a US-based youth-focused organisation. Phelps Stokes’ mission is to build self-sustainable global communities, by nurturing a new generation of global leaders, educators, entrepreneurs, students, and citizens.
“The US is a good country, but the idea most young people have about life there is not necessarily what is happening there. Here in Africa, we live as communities. People talk to each other and even share basics such as food. In the US, you either earn your living or live on the street. No one cares. If you want a family and a social life, then stay here; if you want a life of work and paying bills, then go to the US,” he says.
To survive and manage life in the US, one must have good education and skills. Without that life becomes a challenge.
Instead of struggling to go to the West, African youth can exploit their potential here. Samb advises them to struggle and attain skills. During his stay in Uganda, Samb, visited a number of youth and women’s projects.
Pape Samb the global patron of Incredible youth International and Brian Ntwatwa the chairman of the organisation.
UGANDAN YOUTH COMMITTED
“On the basis of what I have observed, during the few days I have been in Uganda, I am impressed by the potential, focus and commitment displayed by Ugandan youth. They have purpose, passion and perseverance. For these reasons, I desire to work with them,” says Samb says.
He adds that although the percentage of youth unemployment in Uganda is high, the private sector is strong in terms of youth engagement. What is lacking, he observes, is infusion of resources.
“Young people will change the face of this country if they are invested in. “There are so many companies interested in investing in Africa, but Africans lack the appropriate skills and technical knowledge,” Samb says. The companies that do come, employ expatriates.
When the youth learn the necessary skills, multi-national companies will come and invest. If you do not have a skill, no one will invest in you,” he says.
CHALLENGES TO DEVELOPMENT
Although most Ugandans are quick to point out corruption as the biggest impediment to development, Samb says it is not true.
“The main challenge to development is inadequate electrification; lack of access to vocational education, and later on, access to financing,” he argues.
Samb, who visited some youth groups in Mukono, says it was an opportunity for him to experience their work and challenges. Samb will be the global patron of Incredible Youth International. He will assess youth entrepreneurship, employment, unemployment and the skills youth need.
There is need for the establishment of planning centres here in Uganda, to act on data that is currently being collected on the needs of the youth. It is on the basis of this data that the youth will be selected for skills training in employment and self-sustenance. “Vocational training is crucial for African development because universities have not been addressing the practical needs,” Samb notes.
Though the criteria for selecting beneficiaries is not yet set, the organisation will look out for youth whose activities engender entrepreneurship, innovation, agribusiness, leadership and youth self-employment
INFORMATION ACCESS CRUCIAL
“Many young people face the daily struggle of putting food on the table and never have time or even the interest to check their political leaders. Yet the policies these leaders make affect them in many ways,” Samb says Youth should be empowered by gaining access to information, so that they can hold the leaders accountable.
Samba notes that a lack of long-term plans for the youth is what is holding Africa back.
“We, for instance, find planning for 10 years a big burden,” he says. If the youth are to change the world constructively, then governments and stakeholders should have long-term plans for them.
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Answered by Reuters expert. Send your personal finance questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
The future is for the skilled