Uganda – the Pearl of Africa – is a landlocked country surrounded by Kenya, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania. Although a small country, Uganda is a condensed version of all the magnificence of Africa – the unique wildlife, stunning mountain ranges and landscapes, and diverse ethnicities. The highest mountain range in Africa, the Mountains of the Moon in Rwenzori National Park, is located in Uganda. Uganda also holds the source of the Nile River and has the highest concentration of primates, including the rare mountain gorilla.
Uganda has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, small deposits of copper, gold, and other minerals, and recently discovered oil. It also is home to over 30 different indigenous languages. Despite Uganda’s wealth of natural and cultural wonders, it is a country plagued by human rights abuses, entrenched poverty, and soaring unemployment.
The story of Uganda is one of both successes and setbacks. Uganda has had the most effective national response to the HIV/AIDS crisis of any other African country. The rate of HIV among Ugandans fell from over 30% in the 1980s to 6.4% by 2008. But there still remains over a million children orphaned by this epidemic. Uganda has also made substantial progress in reducing poverty rates, which fell from 56% of the population in 1992 to 31% in 2005. However poverty still remains an enormous obstacle for millions of Ugandans, especially those living in rural areas. Human rights have also improved since the 1980s, yet there are still severe issues that need to be addressed. Conflict in the north between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan Army has killed thousands and displaced millions over the years. There are also ongoing violations on political and personal freedoms – including the shocking Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was brought before parliament in 2011.
While Uganda has experienced economic growth over recent years, there has also been a rise in poverty. Between 2000 and 2003 Uganda had an annual growth of 2.5% while poverty levels also increased by 3.8%. This correlation can be attributed to jobless growth, which is a problem for much of the developing world. Since 1986 the Ugandan government has undergone currency reform, raised prices on exports, increased prices of petroleum, and improved civil service wages in an effort to rehabilitate and stabilize the economy. Uganda has also received about $2 billion in multilateral and bilateral debt relief and in 2007 received $10 million for a Millennium Challenge Account Threshold Program. Despite the global economic crisis Uganda’s GDP growth is still relatively strong because of past reforms. The instability in Sudan is another large risk for Uganda’s economy as Sudan is a major export partner and Uganda is a destination for Sudanese refugees.
The 2010 GDP for Uganda was $42.15 billion and the GDP per capita is $1,300. The labor force was measured at 15.51 million, of which 80% is employed by agriculture, the most important sector of the economy. Unemployment – including youth unemployment – is an enormous challenge for Uganda and its economy. It is estimated that Uganda, which has one of the world’s youngest populations, also has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment.
The unemployment rate of individuals between the ages of 15 -24 stands at around 83% in Uganda according to the World Bank. In 2007 President Yoweri Museveni said that Uganda needed to create six million jobs over the next four years in order to provide employment for the youth entering the labor market. In a budget speech in June 2011 Maria Kiwanuka, Uganda’s Minister of Finance, announced that funds would be put towards several new initiatives to address the unemployment challenge – including the Youth Entrepreneurship Venture Capital Fund, a Youth Entrepreneurial Training Program, and a Business Development Skills Clinics.
AFRILINK IN UGANDA
AFRILINK’s mission is to reduce poverty by promoting the building of entrepreneurial skills among the college-educated youth. As AFRILINK expands into Uganda it will establish Enterprise Incubators through which youth will receive business training and mentor support. These programs will endow the participants with the skills, knowledge to create their own businesses that generate employment in the community.
To promote national ownership, AFRILINK will establish Ugandan board of directors to oversee program activities in the country. AFRILINK encourages local ownership of the development process and acknowledges how important it is to have decisions made locally. The Uganda-based board will work in partnership with the US-based board of directors.