Post: Harnessing the potential of the youth to accelerate economic growth.

Harnessing the potential of the youth to accelerate economic growth.

Presentation: Dennis Aguma, Lecturer, Kingston University, London Doctoral Student (PhD Entrepreneurship) Birmingham City University.

In light of Uganda’s demographics, Dennis Aguma’s presentation was intended to challenge the delegates on how to create jobs for a very fast changing, global and increasingly digital jobs market.

Aguma started by highlighting that over 90% of the data in the world today, was created in the last two years alone (IBM, 2017), a point he visually illustrated with statistics of what happens in just a minute online, with most of the activity taking place on platforms that didn’t exists 20 year ago (Fig 1).


Indeed, it is the younger generation that are logging into these platforms and churning out these huge amounts of data. This has in turn created a whole new set of jobs that didn’t exist in the past, such as Social Media Managers – as each company now has to have an online presentence, Content Creators – (Vloggers & Bloggers, particularly in light of fake news), Mobile App Developers – seeing as everything is designed for a “mobile-first” experience, Virtual Assistants as opposed to secretaries, and Big Data Analysts to analyse all this huge data being generated. At a local level, he gave examples of mobile money agents, and SafeBoda drivers and Urber drivers. In a nutshell, he emphasised “creative destruction” and the significance of a digital economy as almost every business strives to have an online presence in their quest to create new value or offer new products and services using these big platforms.

With this pace of change, Mr Aguma asked the audience to imagine what the jobs of the future looked like? He highlighted research by DEL which found out that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet, and proceeded to give examples from the centre of the future of work, highlighting the 21 most after jobs in 2028.


If the future involves less traditional jobs, Mr Aguma wondered whether;

  • The Uganda education system / curriculum was equipping our youth with the right skills, particularly in the digital age of social media and remote working?
  • Design Thinking – whether we were providing students with real-world experiences, where they could assess the needs in their community and work together to solve them, and in the process start their own enterprises – experiential learning?
  • Given the easy mobility of labour, he wondered whether our youth could compete globally?


He postulated that Uganda is still failed by a colonial education system that has not moved with the times, and that the absence of a robust and well-coordinated skills and enterprise ecosystem, particularly in Higher Education Institutions, has meant that Uganda has continued to graduate students lacking in enterprise skills, and often unprepared for the world of work, let alone starting their own businesses.  This has mean that whatever resources government puts into supporting the youth, often don’t yield results because this skills gap is not addressed at source – whilst young people are still in education.


In order to prepare for the kind of skills one needed for this unknown future, he gave three top 3 skills that’ll be most in demand by 2020 (WEF, 2017), and suggested if we wanted to be like China and India, where global brands like Apple & Dell outsource their jobs, then we ought to focus on them, namely;


  • Complex problem solving – particularly Design Thinking & the ability to commercialise ideas that solve common human problems.
  • Critical thinking – or the ability to forming core business strategies
  • Creativity & Innovation – the ability to come up with original ways to harness new technology and stand out in a competitive market.


He ended by calling on government to support the Association of Student Enterprises (NASE) which aims to;


  • Develop a vibrant start-up culture among local universities so that they become centres for generation of innovative viable businesses.
  • Improve the relevance and quality of pre-employment skills imparted to University Students before they join the world of work, delivered mainly through a national skills and enterprise programme, ensuring raised cognitive skills, an astute can-do mind-set and “market-ready” graduates.
  • Design and establish a straightforward enterprise education curriculum / one-stop platform of start-up resources, tailored to alleviate the enterprise skills gaps in Uganda’s education system.
  • Support the set-up and roll-out of a student enterprise / professional skills development programme across Ugandan universities and higher education institutions.
  • Establishment and coordination of incubation centres amongst all universities. This will help to support a core group of potentially investable student and graduate entrepreneurs.
  • A database / jobs portal for enterprising students / graduates that will have gone through our programmes across the whole country, making it easier to match skilled students with the right businesses / jobs. This will lead to sustainable placements / internship programmes, and raised productivity and competitiveness of businesses employing graduates from our programmes.
  • “Brick Fund” – a 1 Billion (Ugx), one-stop database of funding opportunities of grants and seed investment to help grow new business ideas or start-ups and support enterprising initiatives developed by students and recent graduates.


Supporting the above will lead to a vibrancy within the start-up and innovation ecosystem amongst Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). This will be catalysed by an enhanced visibility and awareness campaign via publication of information regarding these enterprise activities through TV, Social Media and print magazines that could be routinely distributed through schools across the whole country.


Aguma, would relish an opportunity to meet his Excellency, not least to hand-deliver NASE’s Strategy and Business Plan, but also to invite him as the Guest of Honour at the 4th Leap Conference slated for Friday, 16th November 2018 at Makerere University Business School, Kampala.

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