Technopreneurship: is it the solution to youth unemployment?

Securing a decent job remains one of the most difficult tasks for the majority of young people in the country despite different government projects born over the years to contain the growing challenge of youth unemployment.

And perhaps more disturbing is the revelation contained in a report entitled: Work and income for young men and women in Africa: the case of Uganda, according to which more than 87% of the country’s young people work in precarious jobs, low-income and often hazardous jobs in the informal sector or in family income-generating activities with little or no pay.

According to the report published by the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC), government responses aimed at addressing the issue of unemployment include, but are not limited to, initiatives such as the Youth Entrepreneurial Scheme (YES) – introduced in 1995 as a loan program for young people who wanted to venture into business, the Youth Venture Capital Fund (YVCF) – unveiled in 2011 to create jobs and expand the business and the Young Livelihood Program (YLP) – launched in 2013, targeting the unemployed and poor youth – not all were exactly the answer.

As a result, there is now a call for new consideration and direction to address the problem of youth unemployment described by economists, policy analysts and government strategists as a ticking time bomb.

For most of the past week, the leadership of the country’s National Social Security Fund (NSSF) has spent most of its time trying to nurture and equip university students with technopreneurship skills. According to the Fund’s Managing Director, Richard Byarugaba, it’s about enabling university students to explore and solidify their hands with knowledge and skills that “represent the future”.

“At NSSF, we are aware of current development and future prospects. Our young people will be better off if they seize the opportunities of technology and use it in their businesses and career development,” Mr. Byarugaba told young people at this year’s annual NSSF Career Expo held recently in Kampala.

The three-day exhibition was set up in partnership with Innovation Village and Absa Bank under the theme “Technoprenuership: the future of work”.

Technopreneurship is a form of entrepreneurship in the field of technology and innovation. It is a perfect fit for many young people in Uganda, especially those who want to be tech-savvy, creative and innovative. It also requires people willing to take a calculated risk.

Speaking at the launch of the exhibition, Mr. Byarugaba noted that young people are not really benefiting so much from new emerging technologies due to the ill-prepared setup of the country’s current education system.

According to the Managing Director of the Fund, whose organization currently manages 15.5 trillion shillings of assets and investments, the country’s education system needs to pick up the pace of the current technological environment.

Meanwhile, as an institution operating in an era of evolving technology and information, NSSF says it will do its part to deepen and encourage technopreneurship to help answer the question broader youth employment.

“NSSF deliberately focuses its sustainability program on helping young people take full advantage of these new and emerging technologies while being resilient in an age of disruption. We do this through our innovation program, Hi-innovator, and financial literacy,” Mr. Byarugaba said.

He continued, “Having an idea alone is no guarantee that your business will succeed. You need to start by educating yourself to better understand how to operate a startup in this economy.

“Be intentional in what you seek and take advantage of these programs that support young innovators even before you graduate from college. This way, you will be equipped to run a successful startup.

He advised students and young people never to be afraid to venture into innovation and tech-related businesses, citing the available support offered by the Fund’s Hi-innovator program.

As for Mr. Mumba Kalifungwa, Managing Director of Absa Uganda, young people should seek in-depth knowledge of the business they are venturing into and have the financial acumen to run a successful business. And it is a space in which the financial institution is ready to engage with the actors involved or seeking to venture. Indeed, to be successful, clarity of purpose is essential from the start of the business.

He said, “An innovator will struggle to find a market for their products if they don’t offer solutions to community problems. As an entrepreneur, you must start by identifying the problem you are trying to solve.

Mr. Japheth Kawanguzi, the Innovation Village Team Leader, urged the youths to leverage technology to realize their ideas, noting that finance should not be a hindrance and the overriding factor for the youths who pursue their careers and dreams in this space.

“Having an idea is great, but you’ll have to translate it into a business and then you can tap into your social capital to propel your business before you even think about financial capital. And now you have the opportunity to leverage technology to create value, attract investment and venture capital, which will turn your incredible idea into a full-fledged business,” he said.

The NSSF Career Expo provides a platform for students to network and learn from recognized industry experts for career advancement, entrepreneurship, career positioning, financial literacy, and personal growth at- beyond their university studies.

It was the 12th year and the NSSF Career Expo took place. It has reached over 300,000 people to date, helping many people start their journey to financial security, entrepreneurship and career growth.

About the author