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Information led transformation: when the leaders speak, action is bound to take place

In my blog of 8 June 2011, I mentioned giving citizenry a chance to own companies.  I also mentioned that mobile telecoms companies will enable other businesses grow as they become more innovative.  This will see job seeker gets a chance of owning that business it draws them closer to a dignity and increased self-esteem.  We can see this happening in Africa if we encourage flourishing business to offer shares in their companies to African citizens to partly own.  What is now seen as impossible can change, where standards of living increase as a result of allowing part ownership of the business. 

The recent strike in the transport industry is an example where the drivers and conductors are asking the operators (managers) to accept to save their social welfare separate from the daily chargeable rates going to the operators. That way you limit the rate at which animosity builds between the customer and owner.

Once you become a part owner of the system you subscribe to, there is an attitudinal change regarding the way you view that company.  Chances are that you will not be on the opposing side, but rather be comforted by the fact that your job enables you to own the system.

This will in fact pave the way to address the social infrastructure as to improve their leadership skills. Pegging the membership and leadership strata to skills will help build the middle class. The result will be a continual process related to addressing the inappropriate mindsets, attitudes, ethics and business culture.

It will also address the patriotism that was seen at the village wells and roads in the early seventies when the infrastructure was owned by the community. When one owns the system they  safeguard property.


Uganda: Job creation and income from the energy sector

When was the last time you had electricity load shedding and it got to your nerves? It is the song currently playing in Uganda. My daughter commented: “I can now see why the crested crane is standing on one leg the day it stands on two legs or flies we shall be liberated from backwardness!” Did not expect this from an 11 year old. She then asked me about Solar energy. I decided to write about what I saw and heard in Israel. Every roof top has a solar gadget which can generate power to warm their water and houses during winter. But what they produce is always in excess so they are authorised to sell to their national power grid line. This should have been highlighted in the budget as a source of job creation and an improvement of the energy infrastructure.

With electricity demand at 8% for projected demand while at 12.8% for actual demand, if each citizen was given the chance to do that, then each one of us would “Take their share of the electricity generation and let others (read big thermal companies) take theirs.”  Not all revolutionary ideas were built on big companies or resources, they started small. But what do we see now – a colosuss of bureacracy complicating all matters to do with public procurement. These laws need to be amended to help the local citizens participate in developing their nation.  Unemployment and income generation will only come if each person plays their part and is freely let to do so without lengthy procedures. Andrew Mwenda tweeted – “Public procurement in the country has one million and one procedural rules making it long, slow and cumbersome to purchase anything.”

Uganda: Reality of budget reading and people’s expectations

For the past week, various stories have caught my attention with regard to jobs. Budget at a glance, dictation of phone call rates price, failure to spend 10 billion in education, one year after July 11 bombs and the UIA Christian Business Forum.

The stories spell un-coordinated planning and more restructuring. About 400,000 graduates join the market place, only a paltry 500+ jobs were shown in the budget. The job market can only absorb 20% of the youth! What about the inadequate skills for a single mother left without a bread winner after the bomb? She has asked her children to do odd jobs to earn that extra coin. She needs a real job. Government gave ICT computers to traditional schools to address IT skills. Are there goals and objectives plus are the positions to monitor these projects filled? The secretary in the education ministry said, his departments are inadequately staffed to monitor and efficiently supervise the numerous projects and programmes. The resultant scenario is chaos and a recurrence of challenges in infrastructure, inadequate skills base, inappropriate attitudes to work, limited access to financial services and of course less employment opportunities. This is exacerbated by limited adoption of ICT and apathy to integrate basic book keeping principles in business.

Three organisations have embarked on the journey to bridging the gap for the youth, CEDA which aims to empower the girl child through a mentoring programme and Y-Save which operates a micro-finance scheme to address the mindsets and attitudes of youth towards encouraging a savings culture. The third one is Enterprise Uganda (a government arm) to show people that you can start a business. Government should focus energies in the next 5 years-capacity building to create more jobs and better skills.

Uganda: Meeting the public’s expectations

As we head into another financial year, what would a jobless person need to get into employment? One is being available to offer his services, being informed, have the skills, and be able to work under the conditions set by the employer. The main employer the world over is government. They are normally called pen pushers.

But what about Africa, where government’s structures are not yet developed to enable this to happen. The East African countries will be reading their budget today Wednesday 8 June 2011. The main expectation of the public is the announcement of tax cuts. Tax cuts on essential commodities would enable people to go about their least ‘affordable’ lifestyle. The power and hope for citizens to influence the budget allocation and to monitor its implementation is long gone. To be precise, they are not informed and involved. This makes them miss out on the forming the core of effective budget accountability.

The citizens in micro, small and medium (MSMEs) enterprises are not even fully aware or just outrightly lack information. None has come out to help. In his state of the nation address, the Head of State in Uganda mentioned reviewing salaries, and earlier in the week he mentioned increasing household incomes. The issues of creation of jobs was not touched but may have been implied. That is the issue which is faced by youth and those who are out of available job bracket in the economy. While other countries are addressing the infrastructure and energy they also tackle unemployment. Who is representing this unemployed constituency? Who will fight for their rights to gainful employment in a decent job?

Government should get back to the drawing board. Private companies too must chip with creation of more opportunities to suck in more staff. That way, hope will be restored.

Business to evolve with the developments in mobile technology

When big irrigation schemes started, out growers were encouraged to become suppliers of produce to these projects. This sucked more people in the job market. Business as we know it will continue to evolve with the developments in mobile technology. Uganda and other East African countries have seen the advancement of payments for services using the phone. Phones are used to pay utility bills, transfer money plus mobile banking as some of the services. One of the largest subscribers in Africa, MTN has a subscriber base of 147 million (perhaps including the ones in the Middle East) up from 141 million at the of 2010. In Uganda alone this the subscriber base grew 6.9% to 6.4 million by end of December 2010. Since the beginning of the year, the it has registered 500,000 subscribers which has pushed their numbers to 7 million. MTN says 1.7 million customers have registered for mobile money services. But little has been done through ‘thinking-outside- the’ to use this opportunity to introduce businesses to add value this high growth sector.

Government and private businesses should work together to introduce ways the jobless people into the productive sector and to enable a decent employment. This will improve lives and minimise the unemployment problem in Africa. Many universities and colleges are producing skilled labourers but the economy is not growing as fast to get them to absorb them. There is no tangible programme or project to help tackle unemployment. This makes it fertile ground for the youth to play cards and board games like ludo, and African chess. This does not contribute to the men and women feeling they are living a life of equality in the job market.

The budget for 2011/2012 should address this problem by allowing tax rebates for new jobs for the skilled ones. There should an aim to make them job creators. This will make them own the company and hold each other accountable when promoting and protecting these companies from rioters. What waits to be seen is the fact that this together with other factors will translate into favourable environment for business process outsourcing.

Uganda: the hidden potential

To become a medical doctor or a lawyer you need training, internship and finally you get a license or certification to practice. But hat happens to the business solutions providers, where do they register to be recognised?

In Uganda, there is a group of people who conduct their work on laptops in hotels. These people network and do not necessarily sit in an office. There is no professional body regulating them, but they rely on doing the job well and depend on referrals to get more business.  This new breed of self-employed workers looked for jobs, and got tired of pacing the corridors of offices with applications, and thus resorted to using IT to create and generate for themselves work. These are part of the new generation of workers who work as outsourcing consultants in Kampala. They serve a relatively small market which needs quick services.

Financial attractiveness, people skills and availability, and business environment are the three broad essential criteria used by Western companies to decide their outsourcing destinations.  Uganda is currently addressing people skills and ignoring its twin – availability of supporting infrastructure. Leave alone the business environment, a factor that has been interrupted by the recently high prices.

Government has noted that there is a lot of trained youth and recent graduates with no jobs. It has now partnered with Makerere University Faculty of ICT to provide the first set of Business Process Outsourcing workers. This has created some hope to the unemployed. There is hope to change the job seeking mentality to become job creators. But this hope may be dashed if the infrastructure and business environment factors are not addressed concurrently.

The glaring question to show dedication from government to meet the outsourcing issue remains “How much has government dedicated to the infrastructure development in the next budget to be read in June 2011?” If this is answered in the budget speech, together with commitment, Uganda will have gotten closer to making this BPO exercise a self-sustaining venture.

Once that has been addressed, then government will be confident to let the trainees generate their own jobs. Like one preacher said “If you aren’t making any mistakes, you aren’t innovating. If you’re making the same mistakes, you aren’t learning.”  Government in its effort to innovate must be careful not to make the same mistakes, by avoiding the pitfalls. That way they will have shown that learning has taken place to the new generation of BPO trainees.