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Key findings
  • More than half (51%) of Ugandan youths have secondary or post-secondary education, significantly surpassing previous generations.
  • But young Ugandans are also more likely than their elders to be unemployed and looking for work (33% of youth vs. 15%-23% of older cohorts).
  • Health, water supply, and education are the most important problems that youth say their government should address, followed by infrastructure/roads, unemployment, and corruption.
  • Fewer than half of youth say their government is doing a good job on improving basic health care (48%), meeting educational needs (45%), and providing water and sanitation services (40%). o Youth approval of the government’s performance on these priorities has declined significantly since 2019.
  • A majority of young respondents say their country is going in “the wrong direction” (53%) and give negative assessments of the nation’s economy (65%) and their personal living conditions (54%). But they are slightly more optimistic than their elders that things will get better in the 12 months to come.
  • Young citizens are less likely than older cohorts to be engaged in political and civic activities, including voting in elections, contacting elected representatives, attending community meetings, and joining others to raise an issue. Youth participation in these activities has declined significantly in recent years.

With a median age of about 16 years, Uganda has the second-youngest population in the world, after Niger (Worldometer, 2023). While supporting this youth demographic to reach its full potential puts pressure on social services and the job market, it is critical to the country’s development (World Bank, 2020a, b). 

Uganda ranks as a “low youth development” country, 157th out of 181 countries, in the Global Youth Development Index, with a particularly low score (167th) on employment and opportunity (Commonwealth, 2021). The government has prioritised youth employment in its National Youth Policy, National Employment Policy, National Youth Action Plan, and other strategic documents, and promoted job creation for young people through initiatives such as its Youth Livelihood Programme (International Labour Organization, 2023; Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, 2022). But the youth labour underutilisation rate remains high (67.9% in 2015), reflecting large proportions of 15- to 29-year-olds in irregular employment, unemployed, or inactive (International Labour Office, 2017).  

The Afrobarometer Round 9 survey (2022) offers some insights into the situation of Uganda’s youth (defined as 18- to 35-year-olds). Young Ugandans are more educated than their elders, but also more likely to be unemployed. They rank health, water supply, and education as the most important problems that their government should address – issues on which only minorities see their government as doing a good job.  

A majority think the country is headed in “the wrong direction” and describe its economic condition as bad, though youth are slightly more optimistic than older citizens that things will improve in the near future. Despite their dissatisfaction, young Ugandans are less likely than their elders to engage in political processes. 

Madrine Namubiru

Madrine Namubiru is a monitoring and evaluation officer at Hatchile Consult Ltd., the Afrobarometer national partner in Uganda.

Dorah Babirye

Dorah Babirye is a monitoring and evaluation officer at Hatchile Consult Ltd.

Angella Nakasujja

Angella Nakasujja is a monitoring and evaluation officer at Hatchile Consult Ltd.

Caroline Nakayiza

Caroline Nakayiza is a sampling assistant at Hatchile Consult Ltd.