This is new challenge for AfT but one worth taking on. As already stated in the introductory chapter, youth unemployment is a severe problem in Uganda and there can not real progress when the majority of the youth are unable to find rewarding work. In our analysis to give direction on how to make a contribution, we came to one important primary position – and that is playing a supportive role to government’s youth initiatives or what we call a third party role as opposed to doing little youth projects here and there which only can help ahandful of people.
At AfT, we believe youth unemployment is to a level where every forward thinking practitioner should evaluate how their actions directly or indirectly reduce the problem of youth unemployment. As actors in agriculture, we have a responsibility to see to it that the sector does its fair share of absorption of youth labor. As a matter of fact, there are high expectations of agriculture providing more employment opportunities than any other economic sector.
If we have to act within our mandate, we have to work with already existing efforts and ensure information regarding youth opportunities for employment is readily available but could do more given the overwhelming need for practical solutions. We have reviewed the available youth literature including youth programs and learnt with relief that the government is on its heels with this problem. The government has made “Investing in young people” one of its fundamental social obligations and a number initiatives have gone after it involving a lot of resources. For example, there is the five year Youth Livelihoods Program (YLP) worth 100 million US dollars and another equally resourced youth program titled “Skilling Uganda” focusing building youths’ employable skills. There is also a myriad of initiatives by NGOs. The ultimate goal in all these initiatives is to significantly reduce youth unemployment. At AfT, we could choose to do another little project targeting a handful of youth but that would be a drop in the sea.
Our strategic choice is to support government on this venture and make these interventions even work better. We are certain, government needs a hand. For example, according to the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development (MGSLD) records, a total of 38.8 billion UGX has been disbursed to help 71,866 beneficiaries in the last one and a half years under the youth livelihoodsprogramme. The range of these projects so far supported is so wide that data gaps are inevitable to say with more accuracy and honesty on the merits and demerits of each project type visa vie the overall goals. This is where we see our contribution and bring a proposal to government to play a supportive role in three main ways explained later in the section of programs.
The gist is in government’s youth programmes delivering on their promise and this is where the hard nut to crack is. We are presently more informed about the factors that are preventing youth from coming out of unemployment than what the support so far has done to get youth out of unemployment. This was bound to happen given the current scattergun approach driven by an overwhelming need. This is by no means meant to criticize the government’s youth livelihoods programme but to point out the inherent challenges with national wide programs but also where there are not enough reference points. Like it has been mentioned above, in one and a half years alone, a total of 38.8 billion UGX has been disbursed to help 71,866 on a range of projects. This number will only continue to grow. Data gaps are inevitable to say with more accuracy and honesty on the merits and demerits of each project type visa vie the overall goals. This the point at which we propose a third party participant on the youth program and offer ourselves as the third party. Third party in this arrangement is primarily the agency that feedbacks into the program on clear benchmarks for learning and saving government from wasteful expenditures that can arise from lack of evidence on the effectiveness of certain initiatives. This again does not disregard the programmes’ M&E but we make a presumption that programme staff can be overwhelmed by the professional requirements in as far as effectively following through the ‘how to’ guidelines for group appraisal, budget management and periodic reporting and the important details beneath what meets the eye can gounnoticed underthe orthodox project management model. Secondly, the agency value proposition effect be to in effect audit the effectiveness of such public programs on parameters that include real employment created, value for money, gender inclusivess, opportunities for scaling, learning and environmental sustainability.