By Prof Augustus Nuwagaba
Recently, we conducted a study titled “The Youth Champions in transformation”, covering 2,500 youth, aged between 18-20 years across the country, from both rural and urban areas.
The findings were not only stunning but reminiscent of a society that needs to rethink the future of the young people. As asserted by Edmund Burke, “tell me the prevailing sentiments that occupy the minds of the young people and I will tell you the character of the next generation”.
The critical findings from the youth study were that; “62% of the youth do not mind about the means used to acquire wealth”. That all they are interested in is to get rich quick and that 72% would readily take or give a bribe, as 74% believe that corruption is profitable.
Only 18% believe that it is important to pay taxes. While two wrongs cannot make a right, the youth should not be solely blamed for these vices. This is because, the observed unbecoming behavior among the youth, must be understood from a socio-economic environment in which young people operate.
Some young people just copy the behavior of their parents and bosses in offices where they work. As the Bible says, “teach the young child the way to go and he/she will not deviate from it”, Prov. 22:6. As everyone can see, there are definitely many reasons to get worried. This is an integrity crisis which if it continues unabated, can sow seeds of moral decadence, exclusion and more other difficult vices.
It is important to note that Uganda ranks the first in the world to have a young population, where 56% of the population is below 18years old and if we take the population below 30 years, the percentage shoots to 78%!.
The major assumption would have been that such a huge youth population wield human capital through education and training, engage in productive activities, hence contributing to economic growth and transformation. However, the study findings indicate high youth unemployment and negative attitude to work.
The results of the youth survey are fundamental for two (2) reasons;
The youth have the biggest stake in the country.
The behavior of the young people in such proportion has significant implications for the behavior of the next generation.
Recently, I was a consultant on the International Project on Economic Management in Sub-Saharan Africa. The study covered 26 countries and the major findings were that; “there has been what is referred to as a shift in the middle age crisis”. “A middle age crisis” is a phenomenon that occurs worldwide and arises when people of the same birth cohort (people born around the same time), reach the age bracket of 40-45 years and start comparing themselves with their colleagues.
The crisis comes from the fact that some of the people in the same birth cohort consider themselves to have achieved relatively less, as compared to their colleagues. In some countries such as Japan, this “crisis” is so intense, that it leads to high rates of suicide. In Uganda, this middle age crisis has been shifted from 40-45 years to 28-35 years. I wish to state emphatically that there is absolutely no crime one commits in comparing yourself with other people.
Actually, we are all that we are because we have role models or people we look up to and want to be like them. However, striving to be like your role model is very different from what in Rukiga-Runyankole is known as, “Kweteenga”, literally meaning jealousy. “Kweteenga”, or jealousy is obviously a negative narrative, that clearly unleashes negative sentiments in regard to one’s position visa-vie, other people, in a given dialectical relationship usually of a benefit stream.
My mother, who was a product of the East African Revival movement that “swept” across many parts of Uganda around the 1930s, believed in what in Runyankole-Rukiga is called “Omuziimbwe”, literally meaning, positive jealousy.
“Omuziimbwe” or positive jealousy means that you do not compare yourself with another person, actually it is not only undesirable but absolutely unnecessary. But you instead learn from the positive works from various individuals and try to copy what you think is beneficial to you. This is actually the very economic model that the Asian Tigers used to transform their economies in the 1960s and 70s.
The model is called “minor change technology”. Singapore, China, South Korea, and Malaysia, successfully used this model, by copying what Japan’s Industrial Power House was doing. If it is a tractor, what these countries would do is to observe the way the tractor has been manufactured, and then, they would adopt the same technological innovation, but with minor changes, and finally get their own model of a tractor.
This is the “positive jealousy” that can drive and transform individuals and economies at a faster rate than the usual Rostow's conventional growth model we know, i.e moving from the Pre-industrial-peasant economy, Industrial, Take off and High mass consumption.
Back to our youth, what they need is not a quick accumulation of money, irrespective where such money is coming from. What matters is striving to clearly identify and understand what it takes for one to be where he/she is, and strive to be like him/her or even better.
It is not important to re-invent the wheel. For those youth who are impatient, with life as Peter Kimbowa of IFE Consultants has re-iterated and “want everything instant”, they need to understand that it is unnecessary to rush.
This is because the expectation of life at birth has increased from 42 years in the 1980s to the current 57 years. The implication is that young people can now live to much old age. So, why rush life? The world is not ending tomorrow.
Instead, it is more rewarding to strategically plan as if you will never die but work hard as if you are dying tomorrow. This is the secret of self-motive incentive, the energy that drives success.
I would like to state that for the young people, “it is your attitude and not your aptitude that will determine your altitude”. However, let me state that it is not only the youths that are suffering from this “instant syndrome”, but also some adult persons because most corrupt people are not the youth. Corruption as a syndrome knows no age.
The vice cuts across the young, adults and elderly. Therefore, there is a need for implementation of interventions that address this malaise of the entire population. But as for the youth, there is no need for being jealous of the apparent progress of your colleagues. Just work hard, be yourself, be careful with unproductive friendships, do essential networking and you will be there. The writing is clear on the wall.
The Writer is an International Consultant on Economic Transformation in African Region. email@example.com