Uganda has the world's second largest population (78%) of young people less than 30 years.
Lack of jobs and general youth unemployment in Uganda is reported to be the highest in Africa. Independent observers estimate youth unemployment at 62%, although the African Development Bank predicts that it could be as high as 83%.
According to the United Nations Population Fund-State of Uganda population report, 2016, Uganda has the world's second-largest population (78%) of young people less than 30 years.
Due to high fertility rates and survival rates coupled with increased life expectancy, population growth is expected to even increase further. Additionally, about 400,000 youths enter annually into the job market to compete for approximately 9,000 available jobs.
Ramathan Ggoobi, a renowned economist and coordinator of Makerere University Economic Forum says that 30% of the qualified youths are unable to find jobs and the situation is even worse for semi-skilled and unskilled youths.
"Lack of employment has caused some young people to take risks, associated with drug abuse, gambling, immigration and human trafficking," Ggoobi says.
However, last year, the Royal Kingdom of the Netherlands launched the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) with the aim of creating up to 5000 jobs for young people each year.
Here, up to 20 private companies and non-government organizations with projects that can create at least 250 jobs for youth apply for support from the Dutch government-backed CFYE.
The fund totalling 100M euros (sh400B), targets 23 countries in Africa with individual countries like Uganda getting up to sh20.4b. Each individual company receives a minimum of 100,000 euros.
Other than youth employment, the Netherlands government is supporting quite a number of social causes in Uganda among which include sexual and reproductive health, agriculture, and trade among others. Below, we look at each of the sectors.
Sexual and reproductive health
The Embassy of the Netherlands has over the years been supporting interventions aimed at addressing sexual reproductive health-related issues such as the high maternal mortality; the high unmet need for family planning; the high rates of teenage pregnancy and child marriages; the high occurrence of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), as well as inequalities in access to sexual and reproductive health services for vulnerable groups such as adolescents, refugees, and Persons with disabilities.
In October last year, The Netherlands Embassy together with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) signed a partnership agreement for a sh98b four-year programme to advance Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in West Nile and Acholi Sub- Regions in Uganda.
Uganda performs poorly against key sexual reproductive health and rights indicators. According to the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, teenage pregnancy has stagnated at 25% for the last decade, contributing to 26% of maternal deaths.
"Such poor indicators jeopardize Uganda's opportunity to harness the Demographic Dividend and to achieve its vision of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2040," said Alain Sibenaler, UNFPA Representative.
The Netherlands has been at the forefront of boosting trade in Uganda. In March this year, The Netherlands Embassy launched an accelerator programme dubbed ‘Business Lab Uganda' targeting Ugandan agribusiness fruit farmers, with the aim of linking them to export markets in the Netherlands and Europe.
The programme will be hosted by the Design Hub, a creative co-working innovation space in Kampala. Under the programme, selected fruit farmers together with middlemen will undergo an 18 months' training, to skill them in sustainable supply management and production of high-quality products.
According to Annelies Kannekens, the programme manager, selected candidates will receive a highly practical support package that will prepare them to ink deals with reputable entrepreneurs abroad.
"We shall have two cohorts focusing on adding value to fruits. One of these will focus on adding value to jackfruit and the other to dried fruits," Kannekens said at the launch.
Uganda produces a lot of fruits, although only a small percentage is exported due to high levels of food waste, high-quality standards in the foreign markets, consumer preference for legacy fruit varieties and lack of investment in value-addition facilities. The programme is therefore timely.
In the same vein, the Dutch government is enhancing export competitiveness of selected sectors in Uganda through initiatives like The Netherlands Trust Fund IV Programme (NTF IV) have been put in place to improve the IT and IT-enabled Services (ITES) sectors. At the outcome level, NTF IV is planned to increase export revenues of Small and Medium Enterprises and start-ups by enhancing the export competitiveness of the IT and ITES sector.
The Dutch have also greatly impacted Uganda's agricultural sector. Since 2014, the Dutch Embassy has been partnering with Vision Group and other partners to run Uganda's Best Farmer Competition, where farmers who are approaching agriculture from a business angle are profiled in Vision Group platforms, from whom 13 winners are identified and rewarded with cash prizes and a trip to the Netherlands, the second-largest exporter of agricultural produce in the world, to benchmark and share knowledge with the Dutch farmers.
The Dutch Embassy is also the official sponsor of the Vision Group's Harvest Money Expo, an event that brings together farmers and practitioners in the agricultural sector.
The Royal Dutch Embassy has also been partnering with the Uganda Government to create opportunities for increased income and food security through market linkages and access to quality seeds for rural households in Uganda.
In 2017, the Embassy launched the Integrated Seed Sector Development Plus (ISSD Plus) project and the resilient Efficient Agribusiness Chains (REACH Uganda) project under the international fertilizer Development Center to run for a period of four years. The projects aim to impact up to 350,000 households.
The Integrated Seed Sector Development Plus (ISSD Plus) targets access and production of high-quality seeds through research in partnership with the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO).
On the other hand, Resilient Efficient Agribusiness Chains (REACH Uganda) links up to 40,000 farmers in Kigezi, the Lake Kyoga region and the Sebei region to the market. The target is mainly for farmers growing rice and potatoes.
Other sectors that have been impacted by the Dutch include the Justice, Law and Order Sector, refugee and humanitarian sector, research and innovation among others.