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On the road to promise and prospects

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-23 07:41

Chinese projects bringing skills, opportunities to young Ugandans

WAKISO, Uganda - When war broke out in neighboring South Sudan in 2013, Gabriel Omiat became jobless and had to return to Uganda, with nothing much left.

But after several months of trying to get serious employment, the 27-year-old landed a job at a Chinese company contracted to build Uganda's first expressway.

The $350 million project linking the country's capital Kampala to Entebbe International Airport has been a blessing to Omiat and thousands of other semiskilled young people in the East African country.

Step by step, after following instructions from his Chinese supervisors, Omiat has grown to be one of the best welders at the China Communications Construction Co project.

"The Chinese are not selfish people in terms of transferring knowledge and skills. When they give you an assignment, they first show you how to do it," said Omiat.

Thousands of locals who work on the expressway project had similar experiences.

Michael Adipa, 24, dropped out of school when his parents could no longer afford the tuition fees. He did not possess any skills for a decent job. However, through a friend, Adipa managed to travel to the capital Kampala, over 300 kilometers from his hometown.

Since Adipa got a job at CCCC about five years ago, life has not been the same. Thanks to the training received and his own diligence, he has quickly risen through the ranks to become a laboratory assistant.

"I have learned mostly about material work on road construction. I have learned how to control materials in road construction according to the design and specification of the project," Adipa said.

Chinese companies, especially those in the infrastructure sector, are employing thousands of young Ugandans and helping the country to tackle unemployment.

Figures from the World Bank show Uganda has one of the youngest and most rapidly growing populations in the world. About 53 percent of Uganda's population is younger than 15 years old, well above sub-Saharan Africa's average of 43.2 percent.

About 500,000 people are expected to enter the labor market every year. Currently, 64 percent of the unemployed are aged 24 and under.

For the lucky ones who are employed, like Omiat and Adipa, they now have skills that can be used elsewhere to earn a living when the Chinese project is completed.

In the future, Omiat plans to set up his own welding workshop.


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