M7 wants Youth Partnership to Save Uganda’s Forests & Wetlands

STATE HOUSE- ENTEBBE

By E. K Benj.

Updated at 16:40 GMT on Friday 12th February, 2021

Ahead of United Nations Wildlife Day scheduled 3rd March, Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on Wednesday (10th February 2021) at State House, Entebbe held an extra ordinary 4 hours engagement with representatives of 25 youth led organisations under their umbrella Youth Coalition for SDGs from round the country, working towards achieving sustainable development goals. They were led by H.E Rosa Malango, the UN Resident Coordinator and Designated Official for Security in Uganda. In this meeting also was Dr. Maxime Houinato, UN Women Representative, Ms. Elsie Attafua, UNDP Resident Representative, Dr. Dmitry Pozhidaev, UNCDF Head of Office, Mr. Michael Wangusa and Ms. Davinah Nabirye from UN Communication Office.

On the government side was Hon. Mary Okurut Minister cabinet Minister for General Duties in the office of the Prime Minister who is also responsible for SDGs and Dr. Albert Byamugisha Head of SDG Secretariat.

President Yoweri Museveni meeting The Youth Coalition For SDGS, composed of 25 youth led organisations from round the country, working towards achieving sustainable development goals, They were led by H.E Rosa Malango, the UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda. Wednesday 10/02/2021. PHOTOS BY PPU/ENOCK KAKANDE

Hon Okurut began with sharing a background about the SDG Secretariat which was established by the Government and the UN in Uganda in 2019, to steer coordination of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. She pointed out several achievements since its establishment and noted, the coalition has grown from strength to strength with engagements in a range of youth-led activities, including the One Million Youth Solutions Innovation Challenge which kicked off last year with more than 500 youth from across the country submitted solutions covering a wide range of development issues, including solutions to help address the aspects of life that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What the youth presented in that first phase of the challenge, Your Excellency, is not just significant in terms of the innovations themselves, but also in the symbolism for our country’s future: Our youth are taking up a leadership role in our country’s development processes. The youth are aligning their solutions to the SDGs, as well as Uganda’s Vision 2040 and the National Development Plan III.” Said the minister.

She added more recently, the youth have also participated in peace campaigns and working with the SDG Secretariat and the United Nations, the coalition has come up with innovative ways to increase awareness of the SDGs across the country and to lead by example with their own innovations and activities.

“We acknowledge, Your Excellency that the youth have a major role to play in this country. As a Government, we need to encourage and empower youth-led organizations to participate in translating the 2030 Agenda into local, national and regional policy and action. Your Excellency, we have constantly assured the youth that the Government of Uganda is committed to supporting them as they make efforts to positively contribute to our nation. By providing a platform for them to directly speak with you today, Your Excellency, is proof of that and we welcome this very timely opportunity as we start the nine-year countdown to 2030.

She commended the Youth Coalition for SDGs, on the valuable time, energy and resources in contributing to awareness and implementation of the SDGs. “You have made us proud and we look forward to you taking on more and more leadership roles.”  

In her introductory remarks, UN Boss Rosa Malango said on behalf of the United Nations system in Uganda  she was pleased to be part of this meeting between the President and the Youth Coalition for SDGs.

President Yoweri Museveni meeting The Youth Coalition For SDGS, composed of 25 youth led organisations from round the country, working towards achieving sustainable development goals, They were led by H.E Rosa Malango, the UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda. Wednesday 10/02/2021. PHOTOS BY PPU/ENOCK KAKANDE

Malango called for and interaction that will help respond to three questions:

What is the role of Uganda’s young citizens in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals?

Who are the members of the Youth Coalition for SDGs and what is the impact of their work? How can we establish a productive partnership that will scale up other productive solutions and contributions by the youth to Uganda’s democratic and development journey?

She noted the SDGs represent a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. It is our first global agenda developed by the people from around the world a clear reflection of the aspirations of the UN Charter, updated for a new world. From 2012-2014 national consultations provided a robust input for global discussions under Uganda’s presidency of the General Assembly. She added, the SDGs can also be linked to Uganda’s Constitution, national anthem, national vision 2040 and positive cultural values.

Malango reminded the president  of his remarks to the UN General Assembly in 2015 where he stated: “Although this is a different way of diagnosing and providing a

prescription for the problems of under-development, we are happy that, at last, the global agenda captures most of the ingredients necessary for growth and transformation of societies as happened in the past for those societies that pioneered the Industrial Revolution. In particular, the inclusion of energy on the list of the SDGs is a departure from the past global agendas.”

“Today we are honored to have among us 25 members representing the 30 organizations from across the country who constitute the Youth Coalition for SDGs. They are actively involved in promoting SDGs in Uganda particularly in the following areas: Human Capital Development; Climate Action and Environment Conservation; Sports for Development; Gender Equality and Women Empowerment; as well as Entrepreneurship and Innovation. All organizations are guided by Uganda’s Constitution, the National vision and the SDGs.” Malango said and noted that The United Nations in Uganda in close collaboration with the National SDG Secretariat at the Office of the Prime Minister is committed to supporting this group of emerging leaders, recognizing them as innovative and strategic partners.

Regarding the feasibility of new partnerships going forward, Malango recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to new challenges and opportunities. The pandemic has revealed the role for young people in developing innovative solutions to contribute to Uganda’s transformation into a modern society. According to the UCC Market Performance Report for Quarter 3, Uganda now boasts of over 20 million internet subscribers, this means that one in every two Ugandans is connected to the internet mostly due to COVID-19. The ICT sector contributed 1.5% of GDP to 2019/2020 fiscal year which represented a significant reduction from 2.3% in 2015/16.

“We have an opportunity to empower the 78% of young Ugandans, whose livelihoods and education are closely linked to access to internet and social media platforms, including apps developed by Ugandan youth in response to economic and social challenges. For example the national vision in the health, education and agriculture sectors can benefit from these innovations if youth are able to sustain safe access to the internet.” She said.

Netblocks, an organization that monitors cyber security and governance of the Internet, estimates that the recent shutdown cost the Ugandan economy around $9 billion while the Financial Technology and Service Providers Association estimates that companies in the sector lost at least 66 billion Ugandan shillings ($17.89 million) daily. Youth are job creators leveraging the internet and social media platforms to address today’s challenges and create jobs in response to needs in climate change, gender based violence, agri-business, regional market access among others. Malango said, youth need a robust and law order capacity that can pursue, investigate and arrest cyber crime. “We need a targeted response to the threats and risks on the internet that will allow productive citizens to continue to pursue their livelihoods, gain access to education and even mobilize health services.” She said A constructive partnership with the government will be important to ensure safe and continued access to the internet by all, as part of their contribution to achieving inclusive sustainable development as constructive citizens.

Museveni’s Commitments and Way Forward

After extensive deliberations from the youth on several thematic areas, Museveni noted that the contribution of the Youth Coalition for SDGs focused on mindset education. He observed that mainstream education was vital before Ugandans could receive mindset education. He committed to continued focus on improving mainstream education and called on the Youth Coalition for SDGs to continue complementing Government’s efforts by focusing on mindset education.

Climate Action and Environmental Conservation

The President noted that a small minority of the population of about 5% was depleting wetlands through activities such rice growing which were drying up the wetlands and depriving the majority of the population 95% of water for irrigation and grass for mulching. He observed that environmentally friendly activities such as fish farming needed to be promoted because not only did they increase household incomes, but they also preserved the wetlands, leaving plenty of water for irrigation and grass for mulching. He called on the Youth Coalition for SDGs to promote the sustainable use of wetlands.

Youth at State House – PHOTO BY PPU/ENOCK KAKANDE

He asked his Principal Private Secretary (PPS) to arrange for members of the Youth Coalition for SDGs for visit the Limoto Wetland Wise Use Demonstration Site in Pallisa District for a learning visit. The President also asked the PPS to arrange for learning visit to two sites, one showcasing sustainable commercial agriculture on a small scale another on a large call. The President called on the Youth Coalition for SDGs to promote commercial agriculture as a means of wealth creation.

Sports for Development

Museveni noted that sports infrastructure was vital for sports development, which could contribute to development. He said sports would be considered for investment after the basics of the priorities has been addressed which include roads, health, and electricity.

Gender Equality and Women Empowerment

The President explained the historical roots of gender inequality in Uganda including being a patrilineal and exogamous society. He highlighted the tremendous progress made in women empowerment by his government including creating district parliamentary seats for women and Universal Primary Education (UPE) which gave millions of girls the opportunity to go to school. He stressed that education was key for empowerment of women.

Museveni committed to the creation of youth and gender desks in relevant government institutions. He asked the Youth Coalition for SDGs to summit a brief to the Hon. Mary Okurut, Minister responsible for SDGs, explaining the issues and giving recommendations.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The President highlighted the five key areas of wealth creation as follows: commercial agriculture, industrialisation, services, information communication technology; and public service. He noted that the Government was establishing industrial parks in 18 zones in the country and committed to provide space to young investors rent free in these industrial parks, young investors would only pay for utilities such as electricity and water. He committed to a tax holiday of 7 years for Youth Led-start ups.

The President noted that the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) borrowing requirements were not appropriate for young investors. He committed to adjustment on the collateral requirements and lowering the minimum borrowing amount for youth borrowers .

Annual Presidential Dialogue with Youth Coalition for SDGs

The President noted that the dialogue with members of  the Youth Coalition for SDGs has been fruitful and he committed to hold annual dialogues with members of the coalition to discuss the involvement of young people in actively contributing to the achievement of the sustainable development goals.

Members of Youth Coalition who attended Wednesday Meeting with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

NameOrganisation
 Youth Coalition for SDGs 
1Immaculate AkelloGeneration Engage Network
2Edwin MuhumuzaYouth Go Green
3Kivumbi Earnest BenjaminHeal The Planet Global Organisation – HTP
4Solomon OdongoDiacente
5Gloria NalugwaAIESEC
6Laban Joshua MusinguziAgro Fresh
7Noah OmuyaAICA
8Linda AbejaAmeriatek
9Francis MaberiAfrican Monitor
10Mavita AliScore Beyond
11Eric OdokiSmart Life Experience Initiative
12Nurudin BusingyeSmart Youth Network Initiative
13Maurine TukahirwaGirls Must
14Marjorie MukisaServir Charity
15Robert KigongoBukoto Central Youth Link
16Specy NakateCreative Youth Agency
17Brian NtwatwaIncredibile Youth International
18Edson ZeboosiYouth Achievers Forum Africa
19Donald WaruhangaJalule
20Juliet NabatanziYouth Against Violence
21Mercy Melody KayodiAssure Uganda
22Destiny ChaigaUN Association Uganda
23Ishmael TamaleMy Tree Initiative
Mentors
24Mr. Samson KasumbaNext Media
25Mr. Victor OchenAfrican Youth Initiative Network

Remarks by Climate Change Thematic Group during the meeting.

As youth working to combat climate change, we would like to appreciate you for championing environment justice and showing your support towards this noble cause.

Present today Your Excellency are youth from different organisations working towards achieving SDG 13 (Climate action) before you is Youth Go Green represented by Edwin Muhumuza, My Tree initiative represented by Ismael Tamale, Heal The Planet Global Organisation- HTP (in special consultative status with United Nations represented by Kivumbi Earnest Benjamin) and Generation Engage Network represented by Miss Immaculate Akello

Climate change is a harsh reality of our life time. Uganda’s forest covered declined from 4.9 – 1.8 million acres between 1990-2015. Particularly most loses in private forests are attributed to forest clearance for agriculture, fuel wood harvesting and charcoal, urbanisation, illegal and unregulated trade in forest products and insecure tenure.

Due to social factors like high poverty levels, knowledge gaps, communities face a challenge for sustainable forest management and many times faced with a dilemma of choosing between protecting the forest cover and cutting them down for livelihood.

To contribute to government efforts, the young people of this county are making different interventions for stance; Youth Go Green has target of planting 10 million trees every five years, undertake youth trainings in waste recycling for charcoal production to address the deforestation rate.

Generation Engage Network has rolled out an eco-prenuership online training program for young people oh how to sustainably grow trees for economic benefit and has so far trained 500 young people across Africa with the correct Miss Eco Tourism World Africa being one of the beneficiaries, we also train 150 women in the rural communities of Otuke to produce edible shea butter and body products in a bid to reduce the cutting down of the sheanut tree for charcoal. Heal The Planet Global Organisatio-HTP is mobilising the international community to stand with Uganda on combatting climate and environmental crisis as well as conserving wetlands and forests, My Tree Initiative has engaged primary schools, communities and individuals in pursuit of a greener and healthier environment to actively get them involved in environmental conservation through planting fruit and economic trees through its community nurseries program that aims at distributing free seedlings and trees to the community.

Policy Recommendation

  • We recommend a 7 years tax holiday for youth led climate smart businesses
  • We call upon government to partner with the private sector and civil societies organisations in implementing business approaches towards combatting climate change.

Gender Equality, the unravelled cultural muse and Benediction

Presentation by Tukahirwa Maurine, Team Leader at Girls Must Uganda

In the 19th Century, Gender inequalities rooted from patrilineal and exogamous ways of relating where we were never allowed to marry from the same clan as it represented weak body antigens that would affect the body’s immunity and disease resistance. That is why it was and is still a taboo to marry closer to the family tree (distant cousins). An experience that was shared by H. E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni during his attention to Young People from the Youth SDGs Coalition on their visit at Entebbe State house on 10th February, 2021.

Amongst the Banyankole, a renowned pastoral tribe in Uganda, when you gave birth to a girl, she was looked at as a possible conflict catalyst as they assumed that she would take the inheritance in which cows are so regarded with her once she decided to get married off to the other clan and this was totally unacceptable. However the world has evolved. Tribes and clans have had it and this has become better at promoting peace as such internal conflicts ain’t given any attention more. We’ve learned how to utilize such opportunities to expand our colonies and legacies beyond tribal sentiments. When a girl decided to start a life outside her clan or tribe, she was given a chance to inherit land, property as it benefits both clans.

Uganda today has also succeeded in legislation to support the achievement of Gender equality. It should be noted that matrimonial property must only be sold off when consent is sought from both the husband and wife, less than that, personal decisions over matrimonial property should be ruled Null and Void in courts of law.

Much as the creation of woman MP seats in Parliament has continuously proven to be a gender disparity, it sure has proven that women have unique needs that need to be prioritized. It has also increased the number of participation of women in decision making positions 146 seats in the Uganda Parliament as compared to 13 seats that women achieved while running on the main constituency seats.

Universal Primary Education was fundamentally introduced to support the needs of adolescent girls. That is why it still remains government’s first priority to extend free education for all children in government schools. Is it quality Education, only time will tell, but for now, no girl should be denied education. The civil society is called upon to jointly campaign for such incentives from government as it creates a good relationship and partnership trans-versing our country into a modern economy.

Gender Based Violence is an issue of concern that has left many young women victims of trauma, mental health instability especially during the COVID-19 period. The government is working on a clear GBV policy that will strengthen the structure by having GBV desk referrals at every government facility, a commitment that was given by the President in delegation of Hon. Minister Mary Karooro Okurut, the Minister in charge of general duties.

Innovation Group

Your Excellency, the President, H. E Rosa Malangon, Hon. Minister Mary Karoro Okurut and other officials and youth, I bring you greetings from the UN Youth Coalition. My name is Solomon Odongo, a youth leader, innovator and entrepreneur.

Your Excellency, as you are aware that over 65% of the youth are unemployed, our coming together as a coalition has registered a number of achievements; a notable one is that it has facilitated Job Creation through the different innovations that have created over 500 jobs.

For example, Our companies are working with over 5000 other youth collectively, these are youth led organizations located in various regions in the country.

Your Excellency, allow me to bring to your attention The One Million Youth SDGs Solutions Innovation Challenge. This challenge aims to identify and mobilize youth with solutions that are changing lives in order to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs, job creation and alternative household income generation. Youth from all regions are invited to submit their applications. Thousands of youth have been reached through TV and radio spot messages and we have more than 500 innovations from youth across the country.

The selected innovations have been taken up by different UN agencies and we are very grateful for that.

The Challenges and Recommendations:

Your Excellency, we appreciate all the avenues you have put in place to support the youth such as the Youth Livelihood Program, The Youth Venture Capital among others. However, the efforts of the youth in creating solutions and enterprises are still hindered with a couple of challenges.

First, there are high interest rates on investment capital for the youth-led SMEs and we propose a reduction of interest rates of UDB from 12% to at least 6% and the relaxation of collateral to get the loans. Secondly, the tax burden on youth-led startups or SMEs is hindering efforts of youth to invest and grow their businesses. Your Excellencies, we would like to propose a 10-year tax holiday for youth led startups.

Question: Your excellency, All Protocol Observed.

My name is Donald Waruhanga, CEO of Doppler Technologies.We created Jalule last year, a solution that supports local businesses to increase sales through leveraging digital platforms winning an award with the African Development Bank.

Innovation and technology has become a key player in driving progress of other sectors in the recent past in Uganda. We have noted that foreign and Big companies have received your support in the past in terms of tax holiday and Investment incentives.

Advert

Your excellency, what is your package on Youth for fostering these youth driven and youth led enterprises to scale even to the grassroots?

GROUP OF HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT

Thank you for this opportunity your Excellency

According to the human capital development investment profile, the human capital index of Uganda by 2018 was at 0.528. Uganda’s position in human capital development is 159 out of 189 countries and territories. This is highly due to the lack of skills to manage, operate complex projects and compete globally.  

Uganda’s population growth rate is at 3.6% and is expected to grow. 78% of the population are below the age of 30 years with Kampala having the biggest population. Uganda’s population is at 46million people by February 2021 and is expected to grow to 74million people by 2030.

The negative mindset of some of individuals is a constraint to development and social transformation

Your Excellency, through the Youth Coalition for SDGs, we have been in position to look out for the young entrepreneurs who have been given recognition and mentorship through the coalition to progress their business to the next level.

However, we realized that, as much as we have the One Million Solution, the opportunity has so far benefited a limited   number of young people. Therefore, this challenges us to do more, reach more youths with great entrepreneurial potential yet without any innovations.  We have so far programs such as; Unveil the Champion within by Aramariatek to promote innovation and good attitude for work place, Global professional internships by AIESEC for global exposure and learn entrepreneurial skills, vocational skills development trainings by Smart Life Experience Initiative, leadership trainings and mentorship by United Nations Association of Uganda among others.

In our future plans, we are looking forward to scaling up our activities to develop more youths in relevant skills. 

Recommendations

Establishing a compulsory national youth program aimed at promoting patriotism, attitude development, mental health, innovation, and creativity while working with various stakeholders in the private sector.

Strengthening the National mindset education program launched by H.E The President in 2017 by equipping youth based organizations operating in attitude change advocacy and development. Support through partnerships, networks, and guidance.

Adding the Human Capital development program to our school curriculum right from childhood. These include mindset change and skillset (both soft and hard) required for today’s work field

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