Uganda has the world’s youngest population with over 78 percent below the age of 30. With just under eight million youths aged 15-30, the country also has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Sub-Saharan Africa (Youthpolicy.org)
Such a high and unemployed youth population presents challenges for the country, as they are susceptible to many ideas and habits. Mostly, these youths end up in rehabilitation centres or prisons because of drug related problems and other more serious crimes such as burglary and even murder.
It is therefore imperative for the government of Uganda to come up with projects that can sustainably occupy these youth and divert them from harmful behaviours and individuals.
One such project is the Presidential Jua Kali Youth Initiative that has brought hundreds of youth together for the sole purpose of modernizing the Jua Kali industry and giving the Ugandans involved in artisan trade equipment and skills to enable them join the small-scale manufacturing sector.
A recent visit to the Nsambya Carpentry Joinery and Crafts Training Agency located in Nsambya revealed that some youth have taken heed to the government’s call and have started to focus on income generating projects such as furniture.
The agency was established in 2016 when the President Museveni handed carpenters already working at Nsambya Shs100m cash and double that in machinery to ease their work and train youth from all over Nsambya in carpentry. Machinery such as surfacer, skindle molder, thick naser, turning machine, circular saw, sanding belt, mortis machine and band saw were handed over to Moses Muleke aka Sadaam – the chairperson of their association. With the Shs100 million, the carpenters formed a Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization (SACCO) through which they could borrow money to finance their big furniture orders.
Today, the SAACO has over 350 members and the association has attracted over 2,000 youth who have the ability to take on larger jobs as they can afford the necessary raw materials. Additionally, hundreds of the youth have been trained in woodwork, weaving, sawing, tailoring and the quality of furniture that they are producing has greatly improved.
According to Sadaam, the future is very bright for these youth.
“Many of these boys came here with nothing and now they are all dressed up at the roadside selling beautiful beds they made. In future, we envisage a Furniture Village to where we will relocate. It will become our permanent home and Ugandans from across the country will come to buy all sorts of furniture,” he notes.
The benefits at Nsambya stretch far beyond the furniture sales. Within the agency, many women have found jobs as tailors sewing clothes for the sofas while others have started food businesses.
“In the beginning there were few carpenters here and our sales were low. They could not even afford lunch. These days, the workshops have hundreds of men and many of them work on large orders meaning they can afford our lunch. Our business has also grown and we have now started selling passion fruit juice,” narrates Christine Namyaalo, a food vendor.
With the government’s strategic policy expanding from just education to include skills for income generation and employability, the Presidential Jua Kali Initiative is already providing a springboard for many unemployed youth to gain the skills necessary for them to generate income and self –sustenance.