Economic growth graphs are slippery. Very difficult to climb up. Uganda hopes to plod through a slithery growth track to middle-income status by 2026, mainly driven by the oil sector. That FIDs are signed and the hope that field development will begin soon are assuring. Ugandan oil can be transformational.
But then, is oil the future of Uganda? A quick look at the demography will show the answer.
Uganda has the largest proportion of young populations in the world. 42% of the global population is under 25. For Uganda, it is 77%!
Given the predominant share of youth in the Ugandan population, the development initiatives must be focused on the youth.
Now is the Time to Realize the Demographic Dividend
Increased employment opportunities are among the critical needs of the youth. Only 34% of the 700,000 students graduating in Uganda every year get employed. What happens to the rest, 66%?
However, the Industrial Baseline Survey had estimated that Lake Albert Basin Development Project (2014) would create between 100,000 to 150,000 jobs through direct, indirect, and induced employment. More recent estimates show that the oil and pipeline companies will employ 14,000, and their contractors will need 45,000 youths. Another 105,000 Ugandans would find work as the oil and gas sector will utilize other services.
The promise of the oil sector, combined with the other sectors, points to the increased opportunities for the youth. Thus, Uganda can realize the magical demographic dividend.
A Condition for Exploiting Employment Opportunities
The increased opportunities come with a challenge: the youth must be upskilled to exploit them.
The SDGs tell us that young people are a driving force for development; only if they are provided with the skills and opportunities needed to reach their potential, support development, and contribute to peace and security.
That implies the investment in upskilling must be upfront so that the youth can participate more effectively in the oil and gas sector.
It will increase employment opportunities and boost entrepreneurship.