As a way of combating rising unemployment among youths around Kampala, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni last year pulled off an initiative, to offer donations to youth groups across the ghettos in the city.
The President dished out financial handouts and working tools to the youth, valued in billions of shillings.
Many people however, questioned the initiative, interpreting it as a political move to defuse support for a youthful legislator, Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, a popstar turned politician.
Kyagulanyi has been a thorn in the political and security flesh of Mr Museveni’s three-decade government since he arrived on the scene a year ago as Kyadondo East Member of Parliament.
According to Ramathan Ggoobi, an economic analyst and lecturer at Makerere University Business School, these donations are very dangerous to the country’s economy since they are likely to cause more macro instability than good.
“Macro instability offsets economic growth. The ongoing donations will consequently affect the country’s economy if this is not revisited,” said Ggoobi.
Bobi Wine himself has said in one of the interviews that ghetto youths’ problems cannot be solved by Mr Museveni’s money.
“The act of the President to distribute money to these youth is a sign that he is scared of People Power. Unfortunately bribing them with money will not change their mindset,” he said.
The big question however has been, have Museveni’s donations positively impacted on the lives youths who received them?
Our reporter visited Kamwokya and spoke to beneficiaries.
Dr. Apollo Ahimbisibwe, acting as the link between the ghetto groups and State House said that he has been working with the ghetto residents for 15 years.
Ahimbisibwe who owns a clinic in Kamwokya slums says the presidential donations have improved the lives of the poor in his area.
“Through Saccos, youth have been able to receive the money and most of them have utilized it through starting up businesses or adding capital to their already existing ventures. However, some members have failed to clear up their loans a move that is crippling the operation of the Saccos,” said Ahimbisibwe.
“The president gave me Shs175 million which i distributed to 16 groups.Before giving it out, we first trained these people about financial literacy and that’s why most of them have been able to put it into good use.”
Some of the ghetto groups that received the president’s donations include; Chamuka Youth Development Kamwokya, New Kamwokya Taxi Drivers and Conductors Association, Kamwokya Women’s Twezimbe Group.
There was also Kamwokya Youth Bodaboda Group, Kamwokya Twegatte Development Association,Kamwokya Washing Bay Youth Group Old Taxi Park Taxi Operators Association, Kawmokya Scrap Group among others.
Ivan Kityo (Ambassador Munna), a scrap metal dealer was among the beneficiaries of President Museveni’s donations.
Kityo together with his colleagues under Kamwokya Scrap Group received Shs5 million in October 2018. The group currently has 55 members.
“The money has really paid off, our working capital increased and now we are able to save some money which we could use to sustain our day to day lives,” discloses Kityo, who is also a committee member for the group.
“We were given Shs5 million but right through giving out soft loans to members and non-members who pay back with an interest, we now have Shs6 million as a group. We give out loans starting from Shs100,000 up to Shs500,000,” He adds.
Juliet Namuli, also a scrap dealer in Kamwokya says before President Museveni gave them money last year in October, she had inadequate capital and most times people would bring scrap to her but had no money to pay them off thus losing out on business.
“When we heard about Museveni money, my colleagues and I organised ourselves and registered as a group, we took our forms to Dr Apollo who later handed them to State House. After approval, we were given Shs5 million.
“With that money we have managed to open up three scrap stores here in Kamwokya, Gayaza and Kiteezi,” she boasts.
Richard Kiberu, says he got Shs300,000 from Kamwokya Twegatte Development Association in December.
Kiberu operates a hair parlour in Kifumbira zone in Kamwokya II Parish. He reveals that with the soft loan he was able to upgrade his saloon by buying new working tools such as a hair machine and rotating chair.
“The hair machine I had before was too old, it was always getting malfunctions which was a setback for my business because instead of working I was always visiting technicians to repair the faulty machine. But now I spend the whole day working without any limitations.
“Of course, my income slightly increased and by March this year I would have completed paying back the loan,” said Kiberu.
Another beneficiary Alex Musoke, 28 working with Go Clean Washing Bay situated opposite Semakokiro House on Old Kira road says they received Shs3 million from Kamwokya Washing Bay Youth Group in October, 2018.
He said it was better that government retained its money.
“How can Shs3million improve the livelihood of over 50 people, it meant to give us false hopes of bettering our lives,” he fumes.
Musoke said the process of acquiring that money was also a disaster, since government officials meddled with the process of buying the only car washing machine which didn’t even work for a week.
“The only thing we benefited from Museveni’s donations was 40 jerry cans we bought,” he says.
Emmanuel Lutaakome, the chairman of New Kamwokya Taxi Drivers and Conductors Association says they received Shs30 million in September, 2018 which they have since used to buy another taxi as a group.
“The taxi is now operational and every money we get from it, we save it in the Sacco. Members are now able to borrow and pay later with a little interest.”
“We thank President Museveni for the initiative because it has really helped us improve our lives as people in the ghetto.
The money is being given out to the youth in form of loans which they have to pay in a stipulated period of time with an interest.
The poverty trap
In January last year, the Uganda Bureau of statistics (UBOS) released a report showing that the national poverty level had increased from 19.7 per cent in the financial year 2012/13 to 21.4 per cent in 2016/2017.
This was contained in the final results of the Uganda National Households Survey (UNHS) 2016/2017.
The figure put the total number of poor Ugandans who cannot afford three meals a day to eight million.
UBOS stated that poverty incidences remain higher in the rural areas with 31 per cent of the population compared to 15 per cent in the urban areas.
Nonetheless, over half (54 per cent) of Ugandans say that the reason people are poor is laziness or a lack of personal effort. External factors such as social injustice (29 per cent), luck (16 per cent) and unemployment (11 per cent) are mentioned by fewer people. In the same vein three times more people (62 per cent) say that hard work is the route to getting ahead in life/improving one status as compared to education (20 per cent). Most citizens (80 per cent) also believe that hard work makes it easy to acquire wealth.
This is according to the findings released by Twaweza in a research brief titled ‘The haves and the have nots: Ugandans’ opinions on poverty, fairness, and inequality.’
The brief is based on data fromSauti za Wananchi, Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone survey; that based on data collected from 1,925 respondents across Uganda in May 2018.
The findings also showed that almost all Ugandans think that the gap between rich and poor is too large (95 per cent) and a large majority (81 per cent) think the government is responsible for reducing this gap. Further, 7 out of 10 citizens (70 per cent) think inequality is an urgent problem.
They call on government to provide free quality social services (41 per cent), lower taxes and less regulations on small businesses (37 per cent), and increased funding for social safety nets (37 per cent). But only 3 out of 10 (28 per cent) feel the government is showing sufficient urgency in addressing the problem.
Meanwhile, whereas, Uganda has the second youngest population in the world with over 78 per cent below 30 years, second only to Niger’s 83 per cent, youth unemployment still remains high with 6.5 per cent rate according to the State of Population report that was released by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in October, 2018.
Mr Don Wanyama, Senior Presidential Press Secretary said, “The practice of donations must be discussed honestly and pragmatically. They range from counsel to actual material and financial support. Any political leader (ruling party or opposition) in this country at whatever level must have a story of supporters making demands on them.
“There’s a lie by the opposition that Presidential donations have replaced other government interventions/programmes. These donations can only be treated as intermediary.
“It is President Museveni who insisted that key sectors of the economy like energy (2.4 trillion), education (2.47 trillion), and infrastructure (Shs4.6 trillion) get a lion’s share of the national budget. State House in the 2017/18 budget was allocated only Shs252 billion,” said Wanyama.
This article has been supported by Twaweza, a civil society organization working to enable children to learn, citizens to exercise agency and governments to be more open and responsive in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.