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Uganda doesn’t need a minimum wage

Kenneth Kawooya the principal of Institute of Human Resource Management and Development.

What encompasses your management philosophy?

Management is the art and science of planning with the people you have, monitoring them during the process of execution and evaluating results.

As a hands-on manager, I take a new recruit through the areas we expect him or her to execute until when he or she has grown wings to fly on his or her own and work with minimal supervision as I relax to watch them deliver results. The beauty about competence-based human resource management is that we target competent and smart workers rather than hard workers. There is little polishing which later means delegating most of the work. Delegating may come with role ambiguity and it is better to be a balanced approach manager.

What is your assessment of Uganda’s human resource division?

In Uganda, most institutions and companies have not embraced the human resource management function. The people issues in most organisations have not been tackled yet its people who deliver results.

Those who have tried to bring in human resource functions have relegated it to administration and welfare to mean what employees will eat, nitty-gritty things like maternity leave, locating best places for company retreats and much more. A forensic study on that shows that most of the so-called human resource graduates are just equipped with theory rather than the practicability of the human resource function.

Scholars highlight deficits in capabilities, skills mismatch, know-how, experience, and technology use as some of Uganda’s key human resource challenges. What explains these challenges? 

Human resource management has evolved to include strategic human resource management. However, some organisations are incapacitated to move at pace with technology. Some organisations still use paper file folders rather than the Information Resource Systems that are based on technology. Finance deficits and poor recruitment systems may explain this trend.

How can human resource development be incorporated in the development agenda of Uganda to achieve middle income status by 2020?

Human resource is both a producer and a consumer resource. With it, a country provides social services to its population. That would include education, health, water, and infrastructure among others as part of the citizens’ entitlement. It is, however, when we think of investing in these human beings as part of a strategy to promote or boost future growth in the economy that we start employing the concept of human capital. Human capital only exists when the population acquires those qualities which they would use to promote
production and economic growth.

The first step is to move away from a human resource manager who just only serves to achieve good welfare of the organisation to a strategic human resource manager who is a business partner. At this level, a human resource manager sits with top management to help deliver results for the organisation, draft a way forward for the organisation and focus on value addition. There is also need to be proactive so that changes don’t just hit us by surprise. The forecast of demand and supply of labour should be bought into by development economists.

Is Uganda ready for a minimum wage?

When our informal sector is still big and injects in too much money for the economy, we may not be ready yet for minimum wage. Most of the poor people are concentrated mainly in agriculture which is largely the informal sector and are selfemployed. Such people may not be affected by a minimum wage. As a growing economy, the minimum wage is not the most pressing issue for the economy. We should focus energies on boosting economic growth.

So a minimum wage is not relevant to solving Uganda’s human resource challenges?

It may be a solution partly but since its objective is to protect those employees who are not under unions and cannot negotiate for better terms and conditions with their employers, we should not leave out the high rates of unemployment, especially among the young people.

What explains the high rates of youth unemployment in Uganda?

Many institutions or universities churning out graduates in thousands without any life skills beyond what they have studied and yet the jobs are too few for the so many graduates.  A diagnosis reveals a lack of practical and required skills that are largely needed in the labour market. According to the World Bank report, Ugandan workers are more productive than their counterparts in Kenya and this is based on the average output of Uganda’s workers.

What is your take on such reports?

In most organisations where Ugandan workers are motivated and well equipped to work through employee engagement, they are fully productive. And with the high rates of unemployment in the country, when most young people secure jobs, they are keen to sustain it and avoid falling back to the unemployed bracket.

What is your projection for Uganda’s human resource in the next few years?

We must have made a shift from welfare to strategic human resource for most institutions and organisations. We are making strides in filling the gaps in human resource management.


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