The oil curse; are Uganda’s youths feeling the pinch?

The recent activities of Jobless Brotherhood, the National Association of the Unemployed, NRM Poor Youth and the Uganda Youth Liberation Front have caused concerns that Uganda’s youth could become a disestablishing factor if widespread unemployment is not solved especially as the country starts to exploit oil and gas resources.

Some experts have warned that this you dissatisfaction could be a recipe for disaster and if there is anything to worry about it is how to deal with such a frustrated lot of youngsters. While many politicians will tell you the youth remain Uganda’s hope going forward because(over 75% of the country’s population are youths below 30 years), there are still gaps in policy implementation to assure the youth that they are headed for better times.

There have been long standing concerns about limited youth involvement and limited consideration of youth issues even in the highly promising Oil and Gas sector. Now Uganda oil sector players are coming up with strategies to ensure the country’s youths contribute to the progress of the oil sector and therefore help the country avoid the potential of an oil curse.

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Youths demonstrates in kampala over the rising Unemployment. Uganda is currently banking on the budding oil sector to solve the economic puzzle that has created skyrocketing Unemployment. PHOTO BY DAILY MONITOR NEWSPAPER

Youth demonstrate in Kampala over the rising Unemployment. Uganda is currently banking on the budding oil sector to solve the economic puzzle that has created skyrocketing Unemployment.

The Executive Director of Africa Institute for Energy Governance, Dickens Kamugisha says the biggest challenge that the youth today face is unemployment and he believes oil can generate revenues that can generate much needed jobs if revenues are well utilised.

However he argues that is not just going to be a question of generating revenues.

“The youth must participate,” he asserts. “They must create pressure on the government, on those who are managing public affairs.”

Kamugisha says they are bringing the youth on board in their newly rolled out project ‘Empowering the youth to promote good oil governance to make sure the youth can create necessary pressure so that the oil revenues are used to meet the basic needs of the youth.”

“The Youths have the means to create that pressure on the leaders to do the right thing so that their problems are solved,” he says. Kamugisha is concerned that if the youth do not act, the land wrangles like those that are already happening in oil rich Bunyoro region will continue, as the rich have reportedly rushed there and are grabbing the land from the poor residents near oil wells.

“Reason is that there are many people who get a lot of money from corruption and they use that money to actually remove every other individual from the land. As result, you will find that many people are landless because of the oil money,” he explains

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Some youths believe that the biggest hindrance to their participation in the Oil and Gas sector is failure to access information. For instance, Catherine Kusemererwa, a youth from Kigorobya in Hoima is concerned that there is scanty information on the study opportunities that exist in the sector.

“We have heard the minister talk about Scholarship schemes? What criteria will they use to choose the people for the schemes? Some youth may be willing but do not have the access to the information that they need to benefit from the available opportunities,” Kusemererwa says.

Gilbert Nyadru, a Masindi District Local Leader says “Even accessing information about the petroleum institute (Kigumba) is very difficult, including us the local leaders from Bunyoro, we cannot access.”

“When I tried to reach the Minister of Bunyoro Affairs on how the young people could join these institutions, he even did not have information about that.”

Nyadru is also concerned that those who have got some of the available study opportunities have not prospered as expected.

“We have the pioneers of Kigumba Petroleum Institute who went to Singapore. They were dressed in overalls, they took their photos but when they came back home they were languishing on the streets for about one year. I even don’t know whether they got jobs.”

For Gad Asiimwe, a student of Kyambogo University, the biggest hindrance to youth participation in oil governance is political interference.

“We as the youth are facing the challenge of political interference.” Asiimwe says, “When we come up to say something, the politicians come in and we are intimidated. Some are arrested because they think we are opposing the government yet we are speaking regarding matters in our society.”

“So now how shall we speak or participate in this when we are being influenced or interfered with by the politicians?” Asiimwe wonders.

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police brutalityGodber Tumushabe, the former Executive Director of the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment opines that the problem is deeper than what meets the eye.

According to the renowned activist, Uganda has not attained the kind of political transformation that it needs to attain to effectively deliver to the expectations of its citizens. He is therefore skeptical of whether the leaders are capable of delivering to the expectations of the youth.

“In politically transformed societies, political leaders consider themselves as the servants of the people; leaders hold authority for the common good of all the citizens. Political leadership is based on representative institutions that are accountable and operate to monitor and destroy any possible abuse of public power, discretionary authority and public resources,” he says.

He contends the notion that the Parliament of Uganda is a representative institution is a fallacy and that if it were;

“We would not be seeing the kinds of things we are seeing, our security forces brutalizing people.”

“We would not be seeing the president dishing out money the way he does in this country because these guys in Parliament would stop him and that is not withstanding whether it is President Museveni, you or me because it is politically unacceptable for a leader to do that,” Tumushabe says.

He argues that it is such reckless expenditure by those in power that has hampered the progress of the economy.

“If you spend more than you collect, you are spending on recurrent expenditure and not on development. There is no way you can manage an effective transition from school to employment for the youth because the economy is not creating sufficient jobs to absorb the population.”

“And off course then politicians will tell you, you guys are job seekers and not job creators. You ask yourself. That is silly. You are the ones who were in charge of the system that produced me. Should I go apologizing that I passed through a system that you created?” Tumushabe asks.

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Hon. Peter Lokeris, State Minister for Energy advises youth to leverage their skills so they can provide indirect services to the oil and gas sector players

Hon. Peter Lokeris, State Minister for Energy advises youth to leverage their skills so they can provide indirect services to the oil and gas sector players

The Minister of State for Energy and Minerals, Hon. Peter Lokeris thinks the youth should not lose hope just as yet.

“The youth are the people who will provide expertise and services in the industry.”

“What we started was to say was how do we engage the young people at higher levels? That is why we focused on training. We have also engaged through the local content provisions, the oil companies to go and educate the youth,” the minister said in an interview with Uganda Oil.

Tullow Oil has in the last three years sent over 20 students abroad to study oil related courses and they are coming back. Some are being employed by the oil industries themselves and even in the ministry; we have got educated people there. So this will continue.”

Lokeris says they are doing all that they can as a ministry to ensure that information about the sector and the services which people can provide through income generating activities in the sector is readily available.

“We have developed a Local Content app which describes what services the people can provide in the Oil Industry.”
However he cautions the youth against looking at direct services as the only way into the oil sector.

“You can get through indirect services,” he advises. “Those who are Doctors, Nurses can build clinics and provide treatment to the people there.”

“Don’t only say what I want to do is just to go for drilling. All other services are needed in an area where people are many and that area will attract many people. And you must take advantage.”

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Brian Sallery, an expert in the Oil and Gas Industry advises Ugandans to think more creatively if they are to benefit from the Oil and Gas sector. He says, for example that the industry will need just a few geologists and that’s in the early stages. There after what the companies will need are business process managers and people with Information Technology Skills who will help these companies handle their businesses when the oil is produced and the databases where they store information respectively. Listen to what Sally speaking on this in this podcast below.



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