The majority of Uganda and Tanzania’s populations are youth, who grow up in poverty.
More than 70% of Uganda’s population is under the age of 30, closely followed by Tanzania, which is home to more than 30 million youth. Many live in rural areas where poverty levels are high. They often have limited access to education and job opportunities are few and far between.
In both countries, agriculture is the biggest source of livelihood. With the right training, investment, and support to produce quality agricultural products, there are opportunities for youth to build new businesses and access new markets. And with job-specific technical training, others can find employment with private sector companies in Tanzania and Uganda.
The East Africa Youth Inclusion Program, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and our implementing partners MIICO, Restless Development and Youth Alive. We work with 25,000 youth from communities in Tanzania and Uganda as they set up youth groups, complete financial and technical training and identify income-generating opportunities within their own communities.
Some group members decide to grow crops such as potatoes, spinach, corn and mushrooms to be sold in local markets. Others develop dairy, swine, poultry or other livestock-based businesses, producing a wide range of agricultural products such as milk and eggs, as well as other products like cheese and yogurt that add value to the original product.
Some group members opt instead to focus on skills-based vocational training and coaching in areas such as constructing farm structures and biogas digesters, mechanics, baking and catering, food hygiene, restaurant and business management. Equipped with knowledge and skills that are in demand in these sectors, they are finding employment with private sector companies.
In some areas, the program builds on existing infrastructure that we and our partners have supported local communities to develop. We have a strong history of supporting local farmers and their cooperatives to set up milk collection hubs, as part of our East African Dairy Development project. We link youth with dairy businesses to these local hubs so they can get access to marketing services, veterinary services, animal feed, credit and business coaching.
In other areas, the program is establishing youth-focused hubs to connect young entrepreneurs with training opportunities, markets and technical services as they scale up their businesses. Restaurants need a wide range of supplies to produce nutritious food. Bakeries need eggs to make their goods. Yogurt producers need reliable sources of quality milk. Through the youth hubs, these entrepreneurs can support and learn from each other, building inclusive markets that are youth-run. Female business leaders in the community mentor young women entrepreneurs to overcome obstacles to participation in the hubs.
At the same time, the program is building connections with private sector companies to make sure the training it provides equips youth with the skills they need to get a job or internship.
As the youth groups start to scale their businesses, they often need working capital. But this can be hard to secure as many young women and men don’t have a house or land to use as security for a bank loan. In their local groups, they start savings and loans programs, using the money to invest in their businesses. Through the youth hubs, they can also get access to credit from a $1 million revolving loan fund set up by the program, as they develop their business plans and identify opportunities to scale their businesses.
Daniel Wokorach is a member of the Bukaye Youth Development Association in Bugiri, Uganda.
“I’ve never had any direction in life and I was barely scraping a living from one day to the next,” he said.
Now, with support from the East African Youth Inclusion Program, Daniel cultivates orange, mango, conifer, and giant lira trees, in addition to hedges and flowers. He used money saved through his local group to set up a tree nursery that now employs seven youths from his community.