Labour Day: How To Solve Youth Unemployment

In 2012, I travelled to China and visited half of it.


While there, I got a rare opportunity to visit the Three Gorges Dam. The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydro power station, producing 24,500 Megawatts of electricity every day.

China has so many dams. This one was built for pride. China has so much electricity that in Beijing City, the country is experimenting electric passenger buses.

After devouring the Three Gorges Dam, I visited an engineer who prides himself in being the only ‘underground’ engineer in the world.

He was building the world’s first underground power station inside a mountain in Hunan Province. I was literary transfixed. I marveled at what science can do, once supported.

The infrastructural development is so phenomenal that even without enough land left, China commands the most revolutionary road infrastructure.

If for instance China were to build a road in Kisoro or Kapchorwa, they would not waltz it around a hill. They would instead drill through the mountain and create tunnels to allow for construction of a straight road. These are mega projects by mega people.

At the Three Gorges Dam, I made a friend. A civil engineer called Du. Du is currently overseeing construction of a huge dam in Brazil.

But during a coffee break at the Three Gorges Dam Hotel, I asked him what it would take for them to build such projects in Uganda. Du said it would be piece of cake as long as we had the manpower.

He asked me if Uganda has capacity to provide 20,000 ‘Wielders’ and another 30,000 ‘Bar Benders.’ I told him we had none. I noticed that wielding and bar bending were serious qualifications in China’s construction revolution.

On this celebration of Labour Day, which is also the feast day of St. Joseph, I want Ugandans to understand why China is nearly overthrowing the United States of America from its world super power status. It has taken them 30 years to achieve this.

China has progressed because the country addressed the youth unemployment problem. They deliberately ‘skilled’ and purposed them. They focused on capitalism with Chinese characteristics of discipline and hard work.

They sensed that personal discipline combined with talent-leaning courses were key. The government forced a policy relating to science and technology because they knew that no country moves forward without science and technology.

This thinking has permeated the Chinese ‘politicalscape.’ When it comes to politics, the Chinese have deliberately placed in positions of responsibility those persons with the knack to innovate and influence transformation.

I noticed this when I went to Shanghai on Tuesday, May 29, 2012. That day, I bought a copy of the China Daily. A particular story had intrigued me. Titled: ‘A quarter of new CPC lineup hold Doctorates,’ I noted the Chinese sense of purpose.

The CPC is an equivalent of the NRM here. The China Daily was reporting an election, which is an equivalent of the Local Council system election in Uganda.

“Among the new lineup od senior Communist Party of China (CPC) officials from 25 provincial-level regions unveiled so far, more than a quarter holds a doctorate,” reported China Daily.

In the Tiagin Municipality of Beijing, a 13-member committee had featured seven doctorates in management, economics, law, engineering, mechanics and culture.

“Undoubtedly, the trend is that more senior degree holders from top universities will bring their expertise into management,” the China Daily quoted a one Wang Guixui, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC commenting.

I discovered that most of the local council leaders who held doctorates also give lecturers in universities or conduct research in institutes.

Of particular interest was the fact that the lineup included a huge percentage of young leaders, many born after 1965.

The party secretary of Jilin Province for example was aged 49 in 2012. But what was intriguing about him is that he had worked as a researcher at the Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences and had distinguished himself as a chief editor if a book titled: ‘Research on corn growing in 50 years.’

What China holds in positions of political responsibility sharply contrasts with what is obtaining in Uganda.

In China, you clearly have carefully-sourced experts in various fields manning the political space. In Uganda, you have election failures manning the political implementation space thinking about political survival faster than social transformation.

Thus, what happens in political and corporate Uganda, are calls to kill business once they do not adhere to the right political-economy line. Once you become victim, the language from parliament is ‘ban,’ ‘ban’ and ‘ban.’ It is not ‘build,’ ‘build’ and ‘build.’

Therefore, today’s theme: ‘Working with the youth: Addressing Unemployment Challenge,’ is inviting. I am challenged think of the following predicaments.

One of these is the failure as a country to document and support startups. Every startup is a job creation for one individual first and then others.

I have been singly mentoring two young boys. One of them is Peter Ojambo. The other one is Bernard Lungs Odong. Peter has invented a messenger application for smart phones. It is called Piqsho. This incredible innovation makes Peter a potential superpower in the league of owners of Google, facebook and twitter. Problem? No system. No identification for such people. A lot of our scientists are rotting. But we happily believe we can join the first world by 2040.

On the other hand, Bernard has invented a charcoal fire starter and cooking briquettes. This S.6 dropout contends using newspaper cuttings to fire a stove is dangerous to human health. One day he picked a Chemistry book and got clues on how to use grass to craft briquettes for cooking instead of the dirty black charcoal. How many employees does this boy think of employing? Thousands of grass suppliers. But what is his problem? The young man has no proper machinery and a work place. I have moved him to big offices including the president’s. No response yet. Instead, it is the foreign investors who get huge tracts of land, get tax holidays and sleep on our girls in turns.

If this international Labour Day means something to the youth, it can only be when this government seriously invests in supporting innovations, skills development and talent. But how will this be possible if the citizens are fed on politics from January to January?

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