The Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. Amongi Betty Ongom, has delivered a keynote speech on the second day of the Uganda-European Union Business Forum (#UEUBF2022) at Speke Resort-Munyonyo. She spoke widely about the opportunities government has created to spur youth and women entrepreneurship in the country, but also highlighted the challenges and possible remedies.
She noted that Government has attached great importance to the private sector development as an engine for socio-economic transformation of the Country.
“Youth unemployment is one of today’s big global challenges, therefore as a critical resource worth harnessing, the youth are key to the realisation of Africa’s demographic dividend.” She observed.
On the other hand, she said, women are less likely to work than men, and women’s participation in the labor force is limited in developed and developing economies alike.
“Laws restrict 2.7 billion women from having the same jobs as men globally. In 2018, 18 economies still allowed husbands to prevent their wives from working. What’s more, 104 countries have at least one law impeding women’s economic opportunities.” She said.
She however enumerated that the Ugandan Government made a commitment ‘to promote Women’s Economic Empowerment’ through multi-faceted programs that combine skilling, access to market information, innovative and time saving technologies, affordable credit and financing services including the establishment of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund, and other productive resources to enable women entrepreneurs expand their businesses into medium and large-scale enterprises.
“Government committed UGX 32 billion per year towards the Uganda Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme to benefit at least one million Women in Small Scale Businesses including skilling them in entrepreneurship.”
“Another UGX 1.67 trillion is earmarked for agro-industrialization in 2021/2022 financial year including implementing affirmative action of 40% to benefit Women Farmers.” She revealed.
She underscored the drive for financial inclusion championed through cooperatives, SACCOs, Revolving Funds and the UGX. 30 million that will be provided per parish under the Parish Development Model (PDM); adding that the intervention had already taken off across the whole country.
“A new project, GROW, with US$ 217m earmarked for business support for women in terms of provision of cheap capital and business skills development among others shall start by December, 2022.”
The Uganda Land Fund, she said, will also to put aside 40% of its budget to support women in agriculture to access funds to Title their land so as to support security of land tenure and promote land acquisition within their own right.
To address the challenge of Youth Unemployment, she revealed, Government has embarked on enhancing the young graduates’ employability. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Volunteers (UNV) have partnered with the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) in the implementation of the Uganda Graduate Volunteer Scheme (UGVS) – a project that is intended to provide a bridge for young Ugandan graduates as they transit from school to work.
The scheme provides a full on-job package that includes; coaching, mentorship and role models to guide them along their career path even after the programme.
“I wish to highlight that over 300 youth graduates have been enrolled into this programme over the last one and a half years.” She added.
For the informal sector, so far, 277 groups and 5,000 individuals have benefitted from the Green Jobs and Fair Labour Market Programme that extends green technology, business start-up toolkits and equipment to Jua-kali groups and SMEs to promote green production through energy and resource efficiency.
Government has also operationalized Youth, Women and Persons with Disabilities Skilling Centres. These include; Lweza Vocational Rehabilitation Centre; Kireka Vocational Rehabilitation Centre; Ogur Vocational Rehabilitation Centre; Mpumudde Vocational Rehabilitation Centre; Ruti Vocational Rehabilitation Centre;Jinja Sheltered Workshop; Ocoko Rehabilitation Centre; Mbale Sheltered Workshop; Mubuku Youth Training Centre; Ntawo Youth and Women Training Centre; Koblin Youth Training Centre and Koblin Youth Training Centre. All these impart productive and life skills among the youth and PWDs as a stopgap measure to lack of requisite skills for the labour market and unemployment.
The Minister called for holistic approaches to boost women’s entrepreneurship to tackle gender stereotypes and prejudices on many levels: within families, communities, the education system and the business environment.
“We need to systematically tackle credit constraints that impede women in their attempts to start and grow businesses. These constraints range from limited financial literacy and prevailing gender norms that give husbands control over finances and assets to a lack of financial products that meet women’s needs.” She said.
For the youth, she recommended; getting families and communities on board; developing business, technical and life skills for use beyond projects; thoroughly examining different financial models and developing products tailored to the needs of participating youth; using mentors and setting clearly defined goals; and modelling youth for adaptability and adjustability to different conditions.
She encouraged the participants to take advantage of the platform offered by conference to emerge with concrete actions with clear indicators of the success of Women and Youth in Trade.