There exists a mismatch between available skills and the job market
| THE INDEPENDENT | The Mastercard Foundation has unveiled a Young Africa Works strategy in Uganda to enable more than 3 million young people in the country access dignified work opportunities by 2030, according to its President and CEO, Reeta Roy.
The Foundation has under this strategy committed $200 million to ensure young women, men, and refugees in the country have access to economic opportunities.
Roy, who spoke on July 23 during the virtual launch of the 10-year strategy at State-House, Nakasero, said the strategy which aligns with the National Development Plan, will support agri-food systems and agribusinesses through the commercialisation of agriculture as well as strengthen the growing tourism and hospitality sector.
She also said the strategy will also leverage on the significant public and private investment in the construction sector by improving vocational training and expanding access to financial services for micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises working in construction.
She revealed that Mastercard Foundation will work with a range of partners including Private Sector Foundation Uganda, The Innovation Village, Gudie Leisure Farm, GOAL Uganda, the National Social Security Fund and Equity Bank Uganda to realise its goals under Young Africa Works.
“We have formed partnerships with a number of organisations and together, if we are successful, they already represent 30 percent of the goal of having 30 million people in dignified and fulfilling work,” she said.
“What’s special is how our partners have come together to intentionally collaborate and leverage each other’s strengths.”
The youth in Uganda account for nearly 82% of the country’s entire population.
Presiding over the virtual launch of the strategy, President Yoweri Museveni applauded the Foundation for aligning this strategy to the government’s National Development Plan.
“I commend Mastercard Foundation for your efforts towards youth empowerment and transformation in Africa over the last decade,” he said.
“I am glad to note that your focus over the next decade is on uplifting young people by expanding employment opportunities. The Young Africa Works strategy is in line with the work that our government is doing to achieve the goal of a healthy, educated, and prosperous population,”
He said the foundation for the new strategy is already in place owed to the existing peace and security, investment in energy, health, education, transport and a liberalised economy.
He, however, noted that skills gap remains the biggest challenge that the country is grappling with as it strives to address the issue of unemployment.
“There is a challenge with the skills available and what employers want,” he said. “For instance, recently I found that out of 36,000 students at Makerere University, those who have enrolled for science based courses are less than 10,000.”
“We need to ensure that this challenge is addressed in that even those who did humanities can be re-skilled to suit the market demand,” he added.
The Minister for Education and Sports, Janet Museveni, said Mastercard’s new strategy is coming at the right time as the country is striving to skill the population.
“I believe we can now say that the Mastercard Foundation is a faithful friend of Uganda. In the last decade alone, they have provided quality education opportunities to over 6,000 young people in the country,” she said.
Mastercard has provided 980 scholarships, 75% of whom are female to study at Makerere University between 2013 and 2019. They were supported with facilitation to enable them go through their education as well as mentorship.
The minister added that 60% of Mastercard scholarship beneficiaries are gainfully employed or self-employed.
The Mastercard Foundation, which has a net worth of about US$9 billion, has since 2008 invested a total of more than $282 million in expanding access to finance, education, and/or skills training to more than two million people, including farmers, students, teachers, and out-of-school youth countrywide.
It is also involving itself in the coronavirus pandemic fight in the country. In April, for instance, it announced the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program in Uganda to mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic on businesses, the education sector, and on communities, while strengthening the country’s public health system and response. To date, the Foundation has committed approximately $23.7 million to its COVID-19 response in Uganda.
“It has helped me to get some money to buy food and to clothe myself” said Akiding Elizabeth Oumo, a program participant who benefitted from skills training conducted under Young Africa Works.