Youthful Population Case Study Uganda Elections

The State of Uganda’s Population Report is out. According to the findings, Uganda has the world’s youngest population, with over 78% below 30 years. Such a revelation also comes with concerns, writes Taddeo Bwambale.

The State of Uganda’s Population Report was released last week.

According to the findings, Uganda has the world’s youngest population, with over 78% below 30 years. Such a revelation also comes with concerns, writes Taddeo Bwambale.

A walk through bustling downtown Kampala tells the allure of a flourishing business in the city. It is barely 8:15am, but a large room on the second floor of Mukwano Arcade, near the Old Taxi Park, is packed to capacity. The people are placing their bets on various sports games, among them football and virtual racing. 

Giant TV screens relaying matches,  blaring music, a fast food joint in the corner and computers spread across the room give a sense of comfort to clients, many of them young men. At the counter, 19-year-old Brian Guma, an S.6 vacist, places his bet on three matches, with sh5,000. If luck smiles on him, he will earn sh470,000 by close of day. Should any of his selected teams lose, he will walk to Kalerwe.

Then, there is George William Bakka, a 21-year-old proprietor of Angels Finance Cooperation, a firm in the city. Having leaped over humble beginnings, Bakka is now a budding young entrepreneur.

Young population

The stories of Guma and Bakka present the mixed fortunes that present with an increasingly younger population age group struggling to survive in the city.

According to the latest State of Uganda Population Report 2012 released in December, Uganda has the youngest population in the world, with over 78% below the age of 30 years. Experts warn that such a big young population will exert more pressure on the economy, unless it is transformed into a productive work force.

The fears

The report reveals that more than 52% of Ugandans are below 15 years. According to the report, 39.3% of Ugandans are between 19 and 59 years, while the ageing population, 60+ years, comprise 4.6%, a general decline from 5.8% in 2002. The report highlights the continuous growth in the population of people  below 18 years, from 51.4% in 1969, to 53.8% in 1991 and 56.1% in 2012.

Dr. John Ssekamate, a population expert at the the National Planning Authority, explains that Uganda’s economy cannot sustain the current structure. “Such a situation creates a high dependence  burden and the population is locked in a vicious cycle of poverty. The youthful population means more pressure on the employed to support those who are inactive,” he explains.

The UN defines the youth as a section of the population between 15-24 years, while the commonwealth considers those between 15 and 29 years. The National Youth Policy considers those aged 12 to 30 years. This age range is a period of great emotional, physical and psychological changes that require societal support for a safe passage from adolescence to adulthood. There are 6.5 million Ugandans aged between 18 and 30 years, constituting 21.3% of the population. This age group is projected to grow to 7.7million by 2015.

Dr. Ibrahim Kasirye, a senior research Research Centre, notes that the population is bound to strain resources if the high birth rates are not controlled. “The major implication of Uganda’s young population is an increasing dependency burden at the household level, with a related increase in demand for social services (education and health), which are not keeping pace with the growth.

For instance, classrooms in public primary schools  remain congested due to growth in school populations,” he states. He observes that the growth in the population is not driven by the desire for more children (which has declined in the past 15 years), but by the high rate of unwanted births.


Experts highlight the need for a longterm  plan, focusing on the role of the family, the Government, private sector and civil society in nurturing young people to become productive. Currently, at least 83% of young people have no formal employment, partly due to slow economic growth, the small labour market, high population growth rate, the rigid education system, rural-urban migration and limited access to capital.

Experts warn that the frustration of the youth can contribute to militancy, impatience and risk-taking, since they can be easily exploited by people with sinister motives.

“The Government needs to find solutions for the youthful majority of growing larger, poorer, more discontent and occasionally, more militant,” the report further recommends. It also identifies a high risk of HIV/ AIDS among the young people, given the findings of the 2011 Uganda Demographic Health Survey. It shows that over 62% of young women and 48% of young men have had their first sexual encounter by the age of 18. Another threat to youth productivity is their susceptibility to alcohol and drug abuse, as well as social-economic vulnerabilities such as ignorance, poverty and unemployment.

The growth in primary, secondary and university enrolment is identified as a positive step, but Ssekamate highlights the need to curb the dropout rate, especially for girls. The construction of more health units is also identifi ed as a key step, but the presence of only 2,000 doctors with a ratio of one doctor to 12,500 patients, is way below acceptable standards. “The implication of this structure is that the Government should plan for the productive population by investing more in schools, hospitals, housing, transport and energy, the report states. Ssekamate observes that Uganda’s young population could yield what he called a ‘demographic bonus’ as more people join the productive workforce.

Vision 2040

One of the things we have proposed in Vision 2040 is to drastically reduce fertility rates by half so that more people move into the productive sector. The economy will benefi t from this through taxes and the production of goods and services,” he explains. Ssekamate observes that scaling up family planning services would reduce fertility levels and increase the ratio of employed adults to young dependents.

According to the report, nearly two-thirds of households that slipped into poverty between 2005 and 2010 registered signifi cant  increase in family size. The fertility rate for Ugandan women has been declining, from 6.9 children in 1995 to 6.7 in 2006 Findings of the report and 6.2 in 2011. If this fertility transition improves further, Uganda may benefit from the demographic dividend.

Compared to her neighbours, Ssekamate notes that although Kenya has lower fertility rates, it is yet to benefit from the  demographic dividend, since the decline is gradual.

The report emphasises the need for the Government to support initiatives intended to absorb and employ the extra workforce, through skilling and tooling. The Government needs to set up an economic environment that is ready to keep the demographic dividend to ensure that the youthful population can create wealth, buy goods and pay taxes.

The report cites several opportunities intended to improve youth productivity, among them the allocation of sh44b for the youth to start business, in the 2011/2012 budget. Youth entrepreneurship training programmes and the skilling Uganda programme expected to start next year, offer a chance to turn millions of otherwise ‘idle’ youth into productive citizens.

Findings of the report

The State of Uganda Population Report 2012 reveals that Uganda’s population grew by at least 1.7 million people in the year 2012, reaching 34.1 million. At a growth rate of 3.2 % per year, the country’s population will reach 54 million in 2025, and 130 million by 2050, according to the State of Uganda Population Report 2012 released last Friday.

The report, Uganda at 50 years, Population and Service Delivery: Challenges, Opportunities and Prospects was compiled by the Population Secretariat. It puts the female population at 17.4 million, higher than that of males at 16.7 million. It shows a reduction in infant mortality rate at 54 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 76 in 2006.

However, the maternal mortality rates did not improve, as shown by 438 deaths per l00,000 live births in 2012, compared to 435 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006. The report, which is based on projections made by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), further shows that under-five mortality  rate reduced to 90 per 1,000 live births, up from 130 per 1,000 births in 2006.

According to the report, 78% of Ugandans are below the age of 30 years and 52% below 15 years, making Uganda the youngest nation in the world. It further shows that there are 6.5million Ugandans in the age group 18-30 years, constituting 21.3% of the population. This age group is projected to grow to 7.7million young people in 2015.

The report shows a signifi cant reduction in the fertility rate among women of child-bearing age, from 6.7 children in 2006 to 6.2 in 2012. However, the national unmet need for family planning services is still high at 34%, although this is higher among sexually-active unmarried women, with up to 52%.

The report urges the Government to involve youth in development programmes to reduce the growing dependency syndrome. The State of the World Population, 2012, released alongside the national report, shows that the world population grew to 7.06 billion people in 2012, up from 7 billion. It also projects that the world population will reach 9 billion by 2050. The report notes a general decline in birth rates worldwide, but highlights gaps in the delivery of family planning services, especially among the young people.

The report shows that about 222 million women globally lack access to reliable family planning services, information and supplies,  putting them at risk of unintended pregnancies. It portrays high levels of unintended pregnancy in developed countries, especially among adolescents, the poor and ethnic minorities.

The report notes a high unmet need for family planning, despite international agreements and human rights treaties that promote individuals’ rights to make their own decisions about when and how often to have children Of the 80 million unintended pregnancies that were projected to occur in 2012, an estimated 40 million were expected to end in abortion.

Researchers argue that addressing the unmet need for family planning worldwide would avert 54 million unintended pregnancies and result in 26 million fewer abortions. The global report calls on countries to increase financial support and political commitment to available and promote family planning services as a right, and integrate voluntary family planning into broader economic and social development. It also calls for elimination of economic, social, logistical and fi nancial obstacles to voluntary family planning, besides engaging men and boys in family planning.

For Uganda’s population, it’s more youth, more problems

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On Thursday, Ugandans will cast their votes in presidential elections.

More than 60% of voters are young people born after President Yoweri Museveni, who is seeking his fifth term in office, came to power. They have been referred to as “Museveni babies”, yet most feel disfranchised: they lack opportunities and relevant skills for the job market. The World Bank estimates that 64% of the working age population under 24 are unemployed, although the African Development Bank puts the figure much higher, at 83%.

We speak to people born after Museveni came to power in 1986 about their experiences of life under his leadership and the country’s prospects.

Bruce Tibenderana, 27, Kampala

I was born in 1989, three years after Museveni had [come to] power. I have managed to get employment but I feel sad when most people of my age seem hopeless, with literally nowhere to look for opportunities. I believe Museveni has done his part. It is now time to move on.

His strategies are exhausted. We need a new person, new ideas, new structures, and a completely new way for this country to be run.

Generally, Uganda has come far, and Museveni has done a lot to bring it to where it is. But now, the country can develop at a high rate without him.

The biggest task at hand is to create jobs for youth and facilitate them in any business ventures that can generate income. I believe there is much to be done to gainfully engage young people in economic activities. Not a lot is happening under Museveni.

The Museveni government has not done much to help job seekers. I graduated in 2013, but so many of my colleagues are still unemployed. Those who managed to get jobs are underemployed. The education system tells us that we must work in an office – that’s not what young people should be taught. The informal sector is dominated by the less educated youth, but [they] are also not helped to achieve their potential. I honestly expect the next president to work on the skills gap for young people. The current government, under Museveni, may not do that.

Robert Nuwamanya, 28, Hoima district

I was born two years after Museveni took power. I have so far lived all my life under his rule. But there is a challenge for young people like me – unequal access to opportunities, including employment.

A few privileged young people get employed, sometimes not because they are the most brilliant but maybe their father or relative works in a particular government department. Most of us, with no such links, are left with no options.

When I finished my diploma in accounting in 2012, I first looked for a job but I could not get [one]. I decided to start a small shop, selling produce like maize and coffee. In the next five years, I want to see my business grow to start selling to neighbouring countries. This can only happen if a small business like mine [gets] an enabling environment, including subsidies from government. I need affordable finance to expand, but there is no one willing to give me [support].

I have seen this government offer subsidies to the bigger investors. This has not been the same for small businesses. How can I develop when I am not supported? Peace doesn’t mean absence of war. I need peace of mind too, I [need to] sleep every night knowing that there is an environment to support my business growth. Museveni has played his part – let others come and try.

Marion Nabugosili, 24, Kampala

I was born six years after Museveni came into power. I have a diploma in human rights law but I haven’t got a job.

I, like many other young people, aspire to achieve a lot for our lives. Has this government done enough to help us? Not really. I think there is some sort of nepotism – very few have a chance of making it. And the people who are meant to leave office at the right retirement age don’t want to do so.

Basically after 30 years, there isn’t much to show [for it]. Personally I have no problem with Museveni. Some young people have benefited from this government, mostly in the villages, but there is a lot to be done. Does this mean the youths’ future under Museveni is bright? Not exactly. More than 75% of [young people] in Uganda remain unemployed. They need opportunities. Museveni says he brought peace but that does not matter a lot now to young people. Getting relevant skills and [knowing] where to work to earn some income matters a lot.

Henry Otafire, 24, Kampala

I was born in 1992. I graduated last year but have no job. I have formed a youth-led organisation advocating climate change issues. My organisation is called Response to African Youth Dynamics. Many of my former classmates are still on the street with no work. There are opportunities for those who are connected – maybe their parents work in government or [are] connected to government officials.

The peace talk from the Museveni regime, I think, is redundant at [a] time when the country should be moving forward. We need to live to see what has never happened in this country – peaceful transfer of power [all Ugandan presidents since independence have come to power in a violent transition].

There is a need to revamp the curriculum system to one which is skills-based. This government is doing little, if anything, to change the education system to improve young people’s skills.

The Museveni regime is focused on maintaining itself in power at the expense of broad social issues. A new leader at this moment would bring with him/her that spirit to deliver social services.

[Candidate Kizza] Besigye presents that optimism.

Jackie Batambuliza, 30, Kampala

I was born six months after Museveni had taken over power. I work as a programmes associate for a local thinktank, Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies.

I think we are a very privileged generation in a sense that at the time when I was born there had been a lot of political turmoil. You get a sense that people lived in terror. You can’t believe that our parents lived in such times.

But what remains is our duty as young people to employ that privilege [the peaceful environment] to achieve our potential. The biggest challenge is that there aren’t enough opportunities for everyone.

We graduate from school but we aren’t fit for the job market. But we have had a chance to live in a stable environment; many of us have had access to education, although it may not be the perfect one. The health sector is there, albeit with challenges.

Our country has been mostly friendly with our neighbours under Museveni – and this is creating opportunities for us in the region. I have heard many youth talk about change. It is not a bad idea and it will come because President Museveni is not immortal. However, we have to think carefully about who can ensure peace and stability after the current president.


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