Since 2015, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) together with the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and Shell have collaborated with the Uganda government and private sector to implement a project aimed at boostimg the capacities of Ugandan youth and enterprises. The project is named Employment and Skills for Eastern Africa (E4D/SOGA). Benon Herbert Oluka spoke to the E4D/SOGA Deputy Team Leader in Uganda, DONALD AGABA, about the initiative.
What is E4D/SOGA about?
Employment and Skills for Eastern Africa (E4D/SOGA) is a five-year regional initiative that operates in four countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique. Its genesis is that in these countries, the newly discovered, commercially viable quantities of oil and/or natural gas reserves are seen as drivers for social-economic growth. However, social-economic growth spread by investments is only realized if local people are getting more jobs and local enterprises more supply and value-chain opportunities. And one very big impediment to achieving this growth is that all four countries don’t have the necessary human capital to take advantage of these opportunities. So, the countries are at a unique point where they can either invest smartly and wisely in these industries to create opportunities for their populations or not.
In this context, BMZ, DFID and NORAD conceptualized the E4D/SOGA programme to partner with the respective African governments and the private sector and to build local capacity for selected sectors.
In Uganda, the main objective is to make sure local communities benefit from up-coming investments in the oil and gas sector – and beyond. The programme works through targeted skills and enterprise development projects based on needs analyses that help zero down to see existing gaps.
What are your target areas in the case of Uganda? Who are you trying to get to benefit from this project?
As mentioned, we have skilling and enterprise development initiatives. Our focus sectors are construction, logistics and transportation, manufacturing and services – thus sectors that are relevant to natural resource supply chains but also to the development and diversification of the economy. Our skills development initiatives until now have focused on trades like pipe fitting, welding, electrical engineering, scaffolding, rigging and HGV/PSV driving. We believe these are all transferrable across sectors.
Who are you trying to skill? Is it workers with a certain level of basic education or professionals who already have particular skills that need enhancement?
It’s a multi-pronged approach. The vast majority of people that we focus on are at the technician level and lower. We have a youth target of 40 per cent and a women target of 35 per cent. In some projects, we focus on people with no experience, in many others, we target workers who already have some skills and practical experience in the sector.
What is your focus in terms of the geographical spread of the?
Our focus is mainly on the Albertine region in the districts of; Hoima, Buliisa, Kasese, Nwoya and some parts of Pakwach. We’ve also had a lot of projects in the central region, mainly Kampala, Mukono and Entebbe.
How much money is going into the project?
The German, UK and Norwegian governments as well as Shell have until now provided an overall budget for Uganda of about €11 million.
How many people is the project expected to support within the next five years?
We intend to link 6,300 people in Uganda into employment by the end of our first phase. The programme started in 2015 and the first phase of the programme is ending in December this year and already planning a second phase that will go on until 2023.
What do you see as your biggest successes in the first phase of the project?
Until now, we have trained 19,460 people, supported 160 SMEs, brought 5,400 people into employment and helped 32,590 increase their incomes. One of our biggest achievements is creating a pool of qualified and competent workers that responds to industry demand, is finding employment and can feed into the government’s skilling strategy and plan. We’ve also been able to build the capacity of local institutions to be more market-oriented and respond more flexibly to market demands. In our projects, we worked with over 20 local vocational training institutes. In terms of enterprise development, the SMEs we have supported have been able to increase the number of bids they are winning and people they are employing significantly. And last but not least, the first phase had a lot of pilot projects, so going into our second phase we have learnt what works and what doesn’t.
Going into the second phase, if somebody wanted to benefit from your programme, what kind of information would you want them to know?
I would want them to keep abreast of what we are doing. We are moving away from big pilot projects into more longer-term, sustainable initiatives hence expect new projects next year that are upgrades on this last one.
We are currently going into a planning phase with our partners. By the end of this year to the beginning of next year, we will have a very clear idea of what exactly our programming for the next phase will be like. What is going to stay is our core approach of working with industry and local institutions to develop market-driven enterprise and skills development offers and then ensuring people are matched into employment and enterprises to supply-chain and value-chain opportunities.