Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, with more than 75% of people below the age of 30. The country also has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Sub-Saharan Africa at 13.3%. With employment opportunities limited, finding work and a pathway out of poverty is a huge challenge.
The GOAL Uganda Youth Engine (UYE) project, with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), aims to support young people between the ages of 18 and 35 in Uganda by helping them find dignified work in the cassava, soybean, and sunflower value chains, or by helping them start a small business that utilises their existing skills.
The Uganda Youth Engine project will support 3,500 youths in Geregere, Kotomor, Adilang and Wol in Agago District through a targeted set of interventions to build business acumen and confidence, strengthen financial literacy and access, promote digital platforms, and create new linkages and relationships between youth and private sector actors.
Gloria Awilli is a 25-year-old single mother living in Lalur Onyol Village in Agago District, Northern Uganda. After the father of her child abandoned her, she didn’t know what to do next. Gloria could use a sewing machine, but she lacked the money necessary to turn her talents into a livelihood.
“For two years, my skills remained redundant, as I did not have the business knowledge to raise the required capital to start my business,” Gloria recalled sadly.
Gloria’s prayers were answered last year when a team from Village Enterprise (VE), one of GOAL’s local partners, provided her with training in financial literacy and business development under the Uganda Youth Engine project. After Gloria completed her training, she was given a grant that enabled her to start her dream business.
“This was a game changer, as it enabled me to save money that I then used to buy a sewing machine to revive my silent skills,” she said, excitedly. “I can attest that I’m the only person who owns a sewing machine in this village, and I’m very busy all the time.”
Gloria now earns enough money to support her child without needing to worry about where their next meal will come from. She adopted the concept of saving with a purpose, and this is helping her to remain focused as she plans to expand her business. Gloria intends to purchase another sewing machine so she can hire an employee to help her take advantage of the high demand for school uniforms.
“I want to thank Village Enterprise and GOAL for this opportunity to rewrite my history, and I can confidently say that without this programme, I believe I wouldn’t be alive today.”
Jasper Okodo is a 24-year-old man living in Tekulli Village in Ogong Parish, Agago District, Northern Uganda. Jasper is married with a newborn child and is a member of Kony Can VSLA. Jasper dropped out of school in his final year because his family could not afford to continue paying his tuition.
Like many people in rural Uganda, Jasper used sustenance farming to feed himself and his family, planting crops such as maize and soybean. However, Jasper could hardly harvest enough of his crops to feed himself or sell at the market, and this left him unable to purchase other necessities for survival. Using the little money he made from his soybean yields, he began investing in chickens and other livestock. When his mother and younger brother fell critically ill, he became his household’s sole breadwinner, and his financial situation became even more uncertain.
Jasper considered entering the commercial agriculture sector, but he did not have the financial expertise or the funds to turn his farming into a sustainable business. Then in 2022, Village Enterprise, GOAL’s local partner, visited Tekulli Village and invited Jasper to participate in the Uganda Youth Engine project.
Jasper received training in business development and financial literacy, and was elected chairperson of his village’s business savings group. The group initially planned on growing and selling cassava and soybean, but a prolonged drought derailed their plans. Utilising the skills they developed under the UYE project, the group was able to quickly adapt to these changing circumstances and began selling sugar, soap, salt, cooking oil, and other household items.
Jasper and the rest of his group generated over 1,000,000 Uganda shillings in profit, which they divided equally amongst themselves. Jasper reinvested this money into raising chickens and has since been able to save over 300,000 Uganda shillings (approx. $80), which he is now using to support his family. He dreams of being able to save enough money through the business saving group to send himself back to school one day.
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