As Uganda grapples with the second wave of the deadly Covid- 19 pandemic, the youth remain in a more precarious position in sustaining their livelihood considering the fact that majority of them are employed in the informal sector which is characterized by daily earnings while others are jobless.
Long before the World Health Organization announced the outbreak of the pandemic, young people were already feeling the pinch of the increasing cost of living and lowly staggering paying jobs.
It is important to note that many youth world over, especially those in Uganda, have been hit harder by the second wave of the virus that has seen governments impose new lockdowns to curb further spread.
Whereas lockdown presents an opportunity to limit community infections, the youth are left in double tragedy as they continue to struggle to keep alive and also meet their costs of living in an almost closed economy.
Although young people are seen as the future of Uganda’s workforce and economic transition envisaged in the 2030 goal of middle-income status economy, government has overlooked the youth when it comes to relief provision.
The disadvantage is that ignoring the plight of the vulnerable youth could further cripple their transition into a productive labour market.
Additionally, the decent-work agenda stipulated in the UN General Assembly in September 2015, aimed at achieving a fair globalization and poverty reduction by having productive employment and decent work may not be fully realized.
A recent labour market study conducted in Ankole Sub Region – Western Uganda for a “Skill Up! Project” at the FOYE Computer Skills Training Center supported by FamITech Solutions, a tech company based in Mbarara City describes the Covid-19 pandemic as the biggest disruption for youth livelihoods in the area. This is also a reflection of what is being faced countrywide.
Ms Robinah Nabbanja, the new Prime Minister, recently revealed that the government intends to support the vulnerable population with cash and voucher system through mobile money disbursement during this second wave of the pandemic.
The proposal seems to be well thought and vital in saving the vulnerable citizens but many questions remain unanswered. What happens to the vulnerable youth not listed among the beneficiaries?
How have the rightful vulnerable persons been selected? And in what period shall this cash support be remitted to the youth in the stifling livelihood?
Government needs to consider the fact that not every vulnerable person owns a mobile phone or is registered on mobile money.
It is evident that many businesses will remain shut while those operating will register low returns.
With this, Uganda’s economy is headed towards a recession if nothing is done. Government will need a more robust counter approach to harmonise the effect of two lockdowns in less than two years.
Recent research publications have pointed that the impact of the pandemic on the youth will be long-term as many have been disconnected from work and school.
As a fraction of the employed youth are moving back to operate online, one would ponder how they will learn the necessary skills needed to thrive in the workplace and develop meaningful, rewarding, successful, careers if their only experiences are happening from the living rooms?
As the world races with producing and developing effective vaccines, policy makers charged with the responsibility of responding to the pandemic’s economic crisis need to address the young adults’ predicament.
In the short term, responses could be providing business startup capital and revolving funds through group savings.
The fact remains that many youth are in desperate need of support to mitigate the recession induced by the pandemic.
Absent policy action to provide immediate relief and reinvestment in the young people will set back their economic future and that of the country as well.
It is imperative now than ever for government to develop policies and strategies to lessen the lasting scars on the vulnerable young people aspiring to join the labour market.
Mr. Niwagaba Ivan – Executive Director, Foundation For Youth Empowerment – FOYE