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The importance of soft skills in the development of Uganda

Øyunn Eline Hagen Wold
September 17, 2018

Diwala’s two latest pilot projects have been conducted in Uganda, and there are a lot of reasons why. Uganda has one of the worlds largest populations of youth, around 7 million. Over half of the labour force are under the age of 30, and over the half of the population are still under the age of 15. There’s a growing challenge of underemployment and unemployment in the country. Uganda´s Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development register about 700,000 new entrants to the labour force every year but only around 12,000 modern wage jobs are announced annually. The main part of the workforce is now in the informal sector.

Agreeing on the exact amount of unemployed youth in Uganda has been a topic of disagreement, and the percentage changes from 60% to 83% depending on the source. Anyways, the numbers are high, and the challenge is just as much underemployment as unemployment. There aren’t enough jobs for their workers. But at the same time, a lot of their youth are lacking necessary skills which are in demand in the job market. Corruption and discrimination are also significantly sadly present in Uganda´s job market. Murushid Bbosa (25), a young entrepreneur and student at Fontes Foundation who we met on our trip to Kampala, told us about the challenges with tribalism and discrimination of workers outside the family business.

With the job market in Uganda, It’s not so easy to get professional jobs because there is a lot of favouritism, nepotism and other challenges, most people prefer to use their family or tribe members…”

Like in many other parts of the world it is also extra difficult for young people to enter the job market.

“….they need a lot of work experience, hence it becomes very hard for someone who has just left school to get a job.”

And to get work experience, it is usually an advantage to have the opportunity to attend school. The single most blamed factor for Uganda’s challenges with unemployment and underemployment is education. Basic education is inevitable for developing literacy and numeracy as well as cognitive skills. In addition, higher education cultivates innovation and an overall knowledge on the economy, built up on science, information and technology. Education is very important aspect today more so with the advent of the information age and hence, the need to enable the youth to use information and technology to adapt to their changing natural and socio-economic environment, and communicate across communities.

Our friend Lucrezia Biteete, Head of Consulting at Laboremus Uganda Ltd, pointed out in an article written based on her 12 year experience in Uganda, the possibilities for Uganda to use their powerful resources and potential in the youth population. The problem is again rooted back to the education system, which is heavily focused on the hard skills and memorizing the curriculum word by word from the teachers. This means that the students miss out on learning how to be problem solvers, creative and critical thinkers, and independent and self-driven. These skills are what makes youth able to be a part of driving the economy forward. Even though solving this problem should start by revolutionizing the school system, which will take time, Diwala can contribute in the process with making sure the soft skills can be learned and verified outside the school system.

Murushid Bbosa also encourages employers to value soft skills more when hiring people, and then make sure they get the skills acquired to start their own businesses later. He himself has just graduated from the Fontes Foundation business course, where soft skills are of high focus.

Murushid Bbosa runs 2 companies next to his studies at Fontes- and has made big developments in his businesses, since joined the Fontes Foundation Business skill program — here with our CEO Thea Sommerseth Myhren

Through a combination of classes, mentorship and workshops, the Fontes Youth Centre in Kampala helps disadvantaged young people to gain self-confidence and the relevant skills to enter the labour market or start their own business. The courses are designed to empower youths with different levels of prior education.

Students in the catering class at Fontes Foundation.

Fontes Foundation has been active in Uganda for over 10 years and has lifted thousands of people from poverty through their work. Diwala is very proud to have Fontes Foundation as one of our collaboration partners together with Clarke University in the development of the Diwala Platform. This collaboration work is a part of our Vision 2030 contribution, a project run by NORAD ( which we will talk more about in our next upcoming article.)

Diwala’s mission is to help organisations, NGOs and educational institutions like Fontes Foundation, to certify holistic skillsets & verify their students’ certificates in a safe and trustworthy way. Diwala seeks out to help young people having these skills verified and gathered all on our platform, so it’s easier to prove them when applying for jobs. With the use of blockchain technology, the users can be sure that their data is safe and that they have full ownership of their own information. Eventually, the platform can open up for trading skills and services, to make entrepreneurship easier in these areas. Validation of their education and courses are important for coping with the underemployment issues and to make sure they can prove their skills, both hard and soft.

Winston is teaching the Fontes Students about active listening in their Capacity Building lecture that we were part of on our first trip to Uganda.

This is one of Diwala’s biggest focus areas as the platform creates an unshakable digital identity for individuals with verifiable skill sets that can be shared globally, and at the same time allows them to join a virtual economy of skill sets and resources to further build their careers even when they are displaced out of their normal setting.

Uganda is a very entrepreneurial society, actually ranked among the ten most entrepreneurial countries in the world.

But the trend is that the entrepreneurship is predominantly necessity-driven (people start a business because they have nothing else to occupy them), and not opportunity-driven (people start a business on the premise of clearly identified opportunities in the economy). This means that meanwhile many Ugandan entrepreneurs have the ambition to start their own businesses, many of the start-ups do not live long or simply does not grow. When firms fail to expand, so does wage employment.

The entrepreneurial spirit should be shifted towards pull and not push factors, so it has the opportunity to expand and result in more jobs in the longer run, and help grow the economy.


Facts and numbers mainly from “Reality check — Employment, Entrepreneurship and Education in Uganda” written by Yusuf Kiranda, Max Walter, Michael Mugisha.

Link: http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_48815-544-1-30.pdf?170516152333

Other sources: