Last week, happy people could be seen enjoying meals, taking photos and celebrating their achievements at many restaurants and hotels in Kampala.
Older people in the group seemed happier. They have finished their work. Their children have finally entered the workforce after graduating from Makerere University, the country's premier tertiary institution. It is one of the happiest moments for the majority of Ugandan parents who have been paying tuition and fees for at least 20 years.
Graduation is also a passage point to adulthood. Depending on parents and guardians, sometimes parents themselves or even siblings of graduates become benefactors. Usually parents and aunties even start asking if they have found anyone in college. Now I'm thinking about my grandchildren.
At that moment, no one realizes that, according to some reports, the country only creates about 40,000 jobs a year. Makerere alone graduates more than 12,000 students each year. In the early days of Uganda's independence, graduation meant a good job that would allow you to own a house in the 'staff quarters' or 'kizungu', buy a car and write your name into the history of Uganda's middle class.
This time it's a little different. It's very rare to really find a job of any nature, but our college education is mostly about what people call white-collar jobs, where people wear nice suits and work. I focus on jobs that involve sitting in a swivel chair and working on a computer to end the day. 5pm.
Formal education creates these expectations, which are becoming a bit unrealistic. That's why thousands of people apply for one job in Uganda. There is a mismatch between education and the job market. These two people need to talk to each other to educate people who can find the jobs that can be created today.
Of course, some people retire, so there will always be formal work, but we are also a very young country. That means more people will stay in their jobs longer than ever before, especially those who adapt to emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence will continue to disrupt the workforce, leading to redundancies similar to those seen with layoffs by large US technology companies. But the great thing about technology is that it creates other jobs. Those who will survive will be those who can adapt to new ways of working.
While Makerere was holding a week-long graduation ceremony, Facebook was celebrating its 20th anniversary. In a post to celebrate, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook (now owned by Meta), talked about artificial intelligence, the Metaverse, and the role they will play in the future.
He said more than 3 billion people use his platforms (WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger and Facebook) at least once a day. What this means is that today's graduates are more likely to use these platforms to do their work. Of course, you could argue that you don't need a degree to learn how to use these platforms, but how can you take advantage of them?
It offers great marketing possibilities at almost no cost. Today, many young people are earning money as influencers and content creators. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) without large marketing budgets are leveraging these platforms. It's a shame that Facebook is banned in Uganda. Facebook is a business enabler.
Many managers in the informal sector do not know how to fully utilize these platforms for business purposes, but university graduates may be able to leverage these platforms to support these small and medium-sized enterprises. Large companies are already doing this, so small businesses should do it too. Graduates who take advantage of this must continue to learn as technology evolves. If they think their learning is finished once they get their degree, they are fooling themselves.
We love to talk about technology and its possibilities, but we must never forget that many jobs and opportunities are in what some would call dirty work. Work that requires hands-on work in areas without rotating chairs or air conditioning.
In many areas, many residential buildings are being constructed. A building just opened right outside my office that has probably 100 apartment buildings in it. A lot of people have moved in since the beginning of this year. Artificial intelligence won't be cleaning or doing other chores for residents, at least not yet.
But imagine if you did about 30 percent of your apartment's errands each week, you could earn a decent income. All they need to do is be efficient and professional and use the technology platform to move forward.
The author is a communications and visibility consultant