How is the project important to Uganda and how it is based on a local need?

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Uganda has one of the most youthful populations in the world with over 56% of the population under 18 years of age (UBOS, 2002) and around 79% under the age of 25 (UBOS, 2003). As the overall population grows at a rate of around 3.2% (UBOS, 2002), the proportion of young people within the population is also increasing steadily. Unfortunately, employment opportunities are failing to keep pace with the growing number of young people. While national unemployment officially stands at around 3%, this disproportionately affects young people who represent around 32% of all cases of unemployment (UBOS, 2003).

Some of the identified causes of youth unemployment include a) slow growth of formal sector employment (around 390,000 new job seekers enter the Ugandan job market each year competing for just over 8,000 new jobs (World Bank, 2007); b) shortage of appropriate skills training (too many university programmes focus on skills for formal employment where the opportunities simply don’t exist); and c) too great a focus on artisanal and vocational skills (such as auto-mechanics and carpentry) where there is already market saturation (Haiji, 2007).

In response to these challenges, the Uganda Government has sought to increasingly promote MSMEs and stimulate entrepreneurship among the youth. This approach, when planned and managed well, can have a number of positive impacts including the creation of new jobs and stimulation of the economy. However, the project partners have identified an important factor that is often neglected in MSME promotion. This factor is that many unemployed youth suffer from low levels of the kind of literacy skills that are appropriate for such activity. For these young people, the standard curricula in university education programmes are inadequate to prepare them for their life choices. Instead there is a need to develop a specially adapted, tailored programme that, alongside classroom-based teaching also includes a strong element of practical application and specific literacies. 

It our hoped that the model being developed through this project could be of use to other youth training institutions seeking to stimulate micro-business development among youth with low levels of micro-business management literacy. It is also anticipated that the Dept of Business, Technical and Vocational Education (under the MoES) will be interested to learn from the experiences of this project.

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