Feature: Ugandan Youths Get Jobs, Skills from Chinese Companies

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

The 27-year-old told Xinhua in a recent interview that after several months of trying to get serious employment, he finally landed a job at a Chinese company contracted to build Uganda's first ever expressway.

The 350 million U.S. dollar project linking Uganda's capital Kampala to Entebbe International Airport has been a blessing to Omiat and thousands of other semi skilled youths 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 expressway project of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).

"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.

Micheal 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 apart from being a casual laborer. Through a friend, Adipa managed to travel to the capital Kampala, over 300 km from his hometown.

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

Adipa's Chinese supervisors are proud of him, saying he is exceptionally good at learning.

"I have learnt mostly about material work on road construction. I have learnt 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 Ugandan youths and helping the country to tackle unemployment.

At the peak of the ongoing construction of the expressway, CCCC employed more than 2,000 locals. Other major Chinese infrastructure development projects such as the construction of Karuma Hydro Power project and Isimba Hydropower project also have huge number of locals on its payroll.

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, 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 have something to smile about.

"Some of the money I earn from here I use it to pay school fees for my sisters and brothers in the village," Adipa said.

Another plus for Adipa, according to him, is that even when the Chinese project comes to completion, he will still have his skills that he can use elsewhere to earn a living.

With the skills acquired when working with the Chinese, Omiat plans to set up his own welding workshop.