Uganda celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence from Great Britain on October 9th, with revelry on the Kololo Airstrip in the centre of Kampala, the capital city. Dignitaries from several African countries were on hand to join Ugandans for the celebrations, which ended with a free concert by the country’s top entertainers.
The following Saturday, girls from BRAC’s Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA)
clubs in Nateete gathered at BRAC’s training facility in Lungujja for an independence celebration/culture day. BRAC staff from Uganda and Bangladesh celebrated alongside the girls, who entertained the audience with drama, mimes, poems and traditional dances.
Following the independence celebrations, we asked people what independence meant to them and their expectations for the future. While some say they are better off now than they were before independence, others point to unemployment as stymieing progress.
Beatrice Nakabirwa, 53, Poultry & Livestock Promoter for BRAC Uganda, recalled her early years and the unavailability of many consumer goods. She now has a bicycle, radio and many other modern-day comforts. She thinks her country is better off today than it was pre-independence. “We can now send children to school to get at least a primary education,” she said. “UPE [Universal Primary Education] has been a great thing for Uganda.”
Young people, who comprise 78% of Uganda’s population, weighed in on the conversation. They were not around pre-independence. They only know how things are today. Now in their productive years, their primary concerns are jobs and the future of their country.
“Government should create more jobs for the youth; they are jobless and lack what to do,” said Judith Awor, 28, Livelihood Trainer for BRAC’s ELA Programme. “Young people depend on parents beyond the age they should.” She continued: “Without money, there is no way to start a family because you need to cater for the children, feed them, clothe them and pay their school fees. Right now most people find that hard to do.”
Albert Ssimbwa, 26, MBA student and Assistant Financial Analyst at BRAC thinks Uganda has come a long way since independence, mainly in terms of governance. “Governance has improved tremendously compared to prior regimes,” he said. “However, corruption has increased because of impunity.” Despite this, Mr. Ssimbwa sees a bright future for Uganda. “In the next 10 years, Uganda can become the Malaysia of Africa if oil revenue is put to proper use and the government is committed to fighting corruption.” BRAC is also contributing to this goal, he said, by developing young people through sponsorship. Through ELA and ancillary programmes, BRAC is providing livelihood training and vocational training for teenage boys and girls across Uganda.
Salma Babu, 28, Regional Coordinator for BRAC’s ELA programme also thinks Uganda has made great strides since independence, citing improvements in education, jobs, and infrastructure. “Many of the youth are now enrolled in different schools,” she said. “There is diversity in the jobs available to Ugandans today and we continue to see developments in infrastructure across the country.”
Looking to the future, she pondered what needs to happen to make Uganda great. “If more jobs are created, if we have better quality education, then our kids will benefit,” Ms. Babu said. “By the time we make 60 years, Uganda will be superb.”