Investing in Uganda’s Youth

Uganda’s recent population growth presents real opportunities as well as challenges.  Thanks to its youthful population and the decline in birth and death rates, Uganda has the possibility to accelerate economic growth and reap the associated benefits such as improving health care and education. Economists refer to this as a “demographic dividend.” Others describe it as a “youth bulge.” 

At 90 million strong, the U.S. has its own youth bulge. Millennials (age 20-39) are now the largest generation in the United States, according to the United States Census Bureau.  Generation Z (age 0-19) is not far behind, at 82.4 million, accounting for 25 percent of the US population. On a bar graph, this is quite a “youth bulge,” but it is small compared with the “bulge” in Uganda, where over 75% of the population is under 30.[1]

As countries develop, a key step that leads to flourishing is lowering infant mortality rates, allowing the population to thrive. Young people bring energy, strength and enthusiasm to a society. 

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At the same time, integrating youth to maximize their potential also presents challenges to governmental and societal leaders. The World Bank has found that jobs are usually scarce when youth make up a high percentage of the population. In Uganda, almost 19% of young men and women do not have jobs! [2] Joblessness can lead to hopelessness and other negative consequences. High unemployment for youth can even lead them to join militant groups, causing societal instability. 

Both engaging youth from schooling into adulthood and presenting opportunities for their personal growth are vital to their successful integration. At The Market Project, we see young people as a great asset. In fact, 59% of employees at The Market Project’s business in northern Uganda, Nguvu Dairy, are between 18 and 30 years of age. 

The CSIS report “The Future of Global Security” concludes that “a demographic dividend” can “increase savings, productivity, and investment in economic development and family welfare.” [3] Nguvu Dairy is giving men and women under thirty (30) the chance to provide for their families and better themselves, acquiring knowledge and new abilities through dignified work. Workers are building real-life workplace experience, and employees are given the opportunity to learn new skills throughout their employment at Nguvu. They are being challenged to perform with excellence which makes an employee more marketable and deserving of higher pay. 

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Market-based jobs that pay a decent wage promise to benefit the society as a whole in the years to come. Families are stronger and have the chance to escape the chronic poverty that affects generation after generation. Through these efforts, The Market Project is making a small yet significant difference in northern Uganda. 

  1. World Bank Blogs, ‘We Want to be Heard’: The Voices of Uganda’s Young People on Unemployment, April 30, 2019
  2. School-to-Work Transition Survey Country Brief, ILO report, January 2017, p. 2.
  3. Bandura and Hammond, The Future of Global Stability, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2018, vol. 2, p. 9.

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