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Gaps in Uganda's Youth Policy

by Ruth Aine - 31 August 2014

Blog-YP02On Saturday, 23rd August, there was an ongoing trending conversation on Twitter in East Africa (mainly Kenya and Uganda), with the hash tag #Pakasa4. The 4th edition of the Pakasa Forum is a physical meeting with the theme, Creating Opportunities for Youth in East Africa, and convened by the multimedia conglomerate, The Vision Group, with CEO Robert Kabushenga in the lead. Vision Group is home to New Vision – a leading English daily newspaper and host of TV and radio stations countrywide in Uganda.

The summit brings together young people to interface with business leaders of Kampala. There were also some young entrepreneurs that were sharing their success stories. In attendance were top businessmen such as Sudhir Ruparelia, the CEO of MTN, the Executive Director of Kampala Capital City Authority and many other business minded personalities. The last was graced by the President of Kenya, his excellency Hon Uhuru Kenyatta.

The summit mainly focused on entrepreneurship which is a grand idea for Africa. However, we cannot all be business minded, we cannot all be politicians, and neither can we all be lawyers or doctors. How we address the challenges in youth development has got to be all inclusive.

We need to be able to create policies on local, national, regional and international levels which would allow growth for every young person, regardless of their interests. Entrepreneurship, youth business acumen and technology innovations will all thrive if there are equal and stable underlying principles for all. These principles are referred to as policy.

Looking at Uganda’s youth policy scenario, I am almost sure that the picture is not all that different from what is happening elsewhere on the continent. Uganda has the youngest population worldwide with over 78% of its population below the age of 30. Eight million youth are aged 15-301 and 52% under 15 years, with the age group 18-30 years constituting 21.3% of the population. The annual population increase rate is 3.2%. This means that we are a very youthful country. In fact, Africa is very youthful continent.

When it boils down to youth awareness of policies in the country, though, there is a visible gap. Ordinarily participation in policy-making by the youth means that the youth are aware of the structures for policy participation and that they are involved in community organizations. The former is very important because then the public are able to trust in the capacity of youth to contribute to the development of their nations. This is not just about development but positive development. Involvement of youth in the policy process means that they are not just aware of the structures that exist, but that they are also involved, and as a result, recognized and their capacity respected.

In Uganda, youth involvement and participation in leadership decision making remains very low. This is because youth in the country are seen as just the beneficiaries of government programming. The National Youth Council (NYC) statute was enacted in 1993 to organize youth into a unified body that could engage with different policy processes. At national level, there is provision in the law for five young members of Parliament. There is also provision for young members in the NYC, district youth councils, sub county and even village youth councils.  However, despite all these provisions, we are yet to see youth participation in leadership as one element that could lead to a transformation in Uganda. We continue to see youth organizations and initiatives set up just before election time, proving to us that the youth are mainly engaged for elections. And it is not proper engagement but rather a case of ‘hand me downs’, just so that there is value for votes.

For example, the 2010 National Youth Manifesto (NYM) was created to give prominence to issues which young people wanted key political actors to consider. It was launched prior to the 2011 elections under the stewardship of Uganda Youth Network. This was a second attempt at organizing youth around collective issues, following a similar effort in 2005 ahead of the 2006 general elections in Uganda. However, this was largely supported by development partners and they could only support it up to the elections, after which the initiative died down. Moreover, there were low levels of civic engagement and youth understanding among the multi-party dispensation. This also limited the efforts of youth to carry this on in their own capacity.

Most of the youth initiatives in regard to policy are supported by donors, which is a grand thing. However, that means that the initiatives sometimes do not get the publicity and appreciation they need because they are time bound and not the responsibility of the state.


Aside from that, there is need for fierceness in youth that will push them to push for change. There is a need to look at the past to help us reflect on the future. The progress on the continent today is a result of a fierceness of certain youths in the past. What do we want to see happening and, when it happens, who will benefit? Those parameters have got to be defined. In 1930 the struggle for African youth was about jobs and decent livelihoods. In 1948, it was about equal pay for equal work, and in the 1970s, it was about liberation. In the 1980s youth struggled for employment, in the 2000s for the financing of development projects. We need to define now what we want policy to define. Before anyone else can recognize African youth leadership and accommodate them into any policies today, the youth need to be able to recognize, own and legitimize it as their own.

1AAU, DRT, UNNGOF, 2012.


Ruth Aine Tindyebwa
Blogger/Online Communications

Read her personal blog; IN DEPTH which is at www.ruthaine.com

Read more about the author and her view on being a futurist.



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