LESSONS FROM INDIA ON THE PRIVATE SECTOR SKILLING OF UGANDANS

By Kyetume Kasanga

 

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi is expected in Uganda between July 22 and 25, 2018for a state visit, during which he will hold bilateral talks with his host, President Yoweri Museveni. Accompanied by several Indian business multibillionaires, he will also meet members of the Indian community to discuss how best to improve their businesses in the country.

In February last year, President Museveni appointed Mr Madhusudan Agrawal as Uganda’s Honorary Consul General in Mumbai, India. Agrawal is a co-founder and vice chairman of Ajanta Pharma Ltd. Incorporated in India 44 years ago, Ajanta Pharma Ltd has been dealing in human medicine in Uganda since 1998. It is estimated that over 27,000 Indians live and work in Uganda, contributing enormously to the local economy. The Indian community is said to account for about 68% of direct tax collection in the country.

Back in their native land the demographics and economy have been growing rapidly. According to a study on the private sector’s role in skills development coordinated by UNDP’s Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development, in cooperation with UNDP India in 2017, job opportunities in India have increased from 461 million in 2013 and are estimated to reach 582 million in 2022. In the case of Uganda, debate has been on about galloping unemployment rates which tend to create high pressure on job creation. At least 700,000 graduates are released from higher institutions of learning into the labour market each year and this is projected to increase to over 1.5 million by 2040. Many of them fail to get jobs yet employers complain they cannot find people to employ. So where is the mismatch?

According to the Uganda Labour Market Profile 2016 published by theDanish Trade Council for International Development and Cooperation, the incidence of skills mismatch is very high, standing at 73%. The country has suffered weaknesses in human resource development. These include the quality of skills provision, access and equity, organizational effectiveness, financial and internal efficiency andrelevance of the education and training curriculum to economic growth and its realties. The system does not exactly produce the appropriately skilled workforce that Uganda requires to increase income, employment and productivity, and to compete internationally. Even after Government launching the “Skilling Uganda” Strategic Plan in 2012, just a handful of students access training that is commensurate to the required standards. However, Government promises to facilitate the diversification of the productive base of the economy to provide new sources of employment for the rapidly growing labour force.

Governments globally are grappling with the enormous task of providing jobs to their working-age populations. They recognise that delivering skills helps create markets that integrate special interest and other groups, as well as rural populations as producers, consumers and/or entrepreneurs. With the new global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlighting the importance of skills, employability and decent work, India offers unique lessons for Uganda.

Uganda is implementing her second National Development Plan (NDP II) as envisioned in Vision 2040 but does not seem to have a comprehensive National Skills Development Policy framework. India is implementing her 12th National Development Plan (NDP XII) as envisioned in her Vision 2020, but formulated the National Policy for Skills Development and Entrepreneurship in 2015. That Policy envisions making skills more aspirational, providing know-how and expertise to vocational institutions through National Skill Universities, increasing the inclusivity of the skills ecosystem and labour market through recognition of prior learning and certification, and working closely with the private sector to form new centres of training excellence. The Policy acknowledges the critical role of building a robust and sustainable private-sector-led skilling ecosystem. It highlights development of new capacity for skills design and delivery through partnerships, including expanding skilling to rural populations, revitalizing the apprenticeship system and implementing a comprehensive labour market information system.

In view of its demographic dividend and delivering skills towards human development and inclusive growth, the Indian Government set a target to skill 400 million people using six million more trainers and teachers by 2022. David Jerome Bloom, an American television journalist, coined the term “demographic dividend” to mean a transformational boost in economic productivity associated with growing numbers in the workforce relative to dependents. The situation occurs when the proportion of working people in the total population is high because it indicates that more people can be productive and contribute to growth of the economy.

To harness the demographic dividend, the Indian Government linked up with the private sector to form the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) as a public-private partnership. The NSDC’s goal is to foster the private sector’s delivery of quality vocational training. It coordinates the transformation of skills development policies and strategies of the government into viable, inclusive and sustainable business models. Through various interventions such as the provision of financing, labour market assessments, skills gap studies and training of trainers, NSDC ensures that these business models survive and thrive in the skilling ecosystem. In so doing, the private sector has developed capacity to lead and finance mass and cost-efficient delivery of demand-driven skills training through cohesive partnerships with industry, public authorities, training providers and employers, among others. Through NSDC, the Government engages the private sector to advance strategic approaches in skills development by creating public-private partnerships with companies.

Training that includes special interest groups increases their employability, productivity and earnings. It also boosts business productivity and competitiveness by filling skilled labour shortages. The ecosystem is essential to bridge education and training with the labour market, mainly through unlocking of partnerships among key stakeholders and revealing the “hidden assets” that build on the inter-linkages of the private sector, government, civil society and others. Essentially, both design and delivery of the skills significantly benefit from private sector engagement. Apart from enjoying the benefits of a skilled workforce, the industry also enhances the employability of individuals through providing labour market signals, improving technical and practical skills acquisition, integrating industry know-how and expertise to every step of the trainings and helps link skills to placement opportunities.

Overall, skills are the key ingredients for jobs, which are a means of attaining household incomes as well as boosting human dignity, empowerment and economic security. For any skills development initiatives to be successful in Uganda, therefore, they should be based on inclusive, market-oriented, job specific, private-sector and employer-led, results-oriented andholisticconcepts and approaches. Skills development programmes should create scalable models for high quality vocational and technical training which is linked to labour market needs for specific sectors, especially agriculture and agro processing.Uganda requires skills to galvanise rapid economic growth and integrate the working-age population into the economy in an inclusive and sustainable manner.

The author is the Principal Information Officer at the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance