“Ican’t leave this job. It is where I earn a living,” local musician Jemimah Kansiime a.k.a. Panadol Wabasajja vowed as she was whisked away to Luzira prison after being charged, along with her producer Muchwa March Didi Mugisha, for having wilfully and unlawfully produced, trafficked in, imported, exported, sold and abetted pornography.
Kansiime’s videos Nkulinze, Water Baby, Ensolo Yange and several others had for weeks been making rounds across mainstream and social media attracting ridicule from sections of the public that found the nudity in them distasteful as another section of society derived pleasure from them.
As the videos filtered through the population, Ethics minister Lokodo got wind of it. Fr Lokodo is a man hell-bent on purging forms of pornography out of the country. He directed and supervised as Police apprehended the artiste and her cohorts.
“We are now aiming at cracking down all the music video producers, actors and all those that have been filming these nude videos, to restore morality in our country,” warned Fr Lokodo thereafter.
Kansiime is now behind bars. But she claims, pornography is her means of survival – a job. Her case points to deeper unemployment problem the state if facing.
Makindye, where Panadol hails from, like many Kampala suburbs, is a hub of lots of unemployed youth. It is also an entertainment hub with lots of temptations that youth are attracted to such as prostitution, drug use, and theft, among other crimes – in a bid to make a quick buck.
Today, there are millions of youth in the country that are unemployed and with each passing day, some are turning to dubious acts to earn their keep and survive like Kansiime.
With scarce gainful employment in place, youths are increasingly finding other means to make a living, such as protest groups operating under groups like the NRM poor youth forum. Other groups are hired to protests for as little as Shs1,000.
“There are so many graduates and so few jobs. Most of the time it is who you know that gets you into a job otherwise, you just end up at home,” says Joshua Mandela, a Makerere University information technology graduate, who has now spent two years without a job in sight.
The bigger picture
Current statistics on unemployment forecast a rise in joblessness in the East African labour markets. This means for millions like her – whether educated or uneducated – jobs may be a rarity in the years to come.
According to an online worldwide reference for economic data, unemployment in Uganda will edge higher in 2014 and are expected to remain at elevated levels well into 2015.
Trading Economics is a website that provides accurate information for 196 countries including historical data for more than 300,000 economic indicators, exchange rates, stock market indexes, government bond yields and commodity prices.
It is projected that Uganda, that currently has a population of about 35 million will have its unemployment rate that stood at 4.2 per cent in 2009 according to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) statistic, shoot up by almost two percentage points to six per cent in 2014. The total labour force in Uganda was last measured in 2010 by World Bank and it stood at 13 million.
However, Uganda’s low unemployment rate may be deceiving if one is too quick to judge. Yes, most Ugandans are employed but the problem is they are involved in low productive formal and informal sector activities. About 85 per cent of the labour is in rural areas, a notable percentage of the labour force – 30 per cent of which, is illiterate.
Economic analysts argue that the growing private sector is to greater extent responsible for the current state of affairs.
“A big proportion of graduates are actually unemployed, the thinking was the private sector would create jobs but unfortunately, the ones it is creating are unattractive to the graduates and the skill-set they demand are not suite for these graduates either,” explains Mr Lawrence Bategeka, an independent economic analyst in Uganda.
“Most of the East African countries have the same economic structures, so the situation in one is never far from the other,” adds Mr Bategeka.
In 2013, East African governments invested heavily in natural resources and infrastructure and good harvests to achieve sustained robust growth. As a result the GDP for the countries across the regional block rose.
However, this did not impact on the labour markets positively since employment growth slowed down in 2013, leading to a further upward revision of unemployment rates. This was a result – amongst other reasons – high wage bills in Uganda and Kenya for example, which made the supply of labour greater than the demand.
Another area of concern is the rising numbers in youth unemployment figures across the region. For example Uganda has one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in Africa, it has many young people entering the labour market each year, and yet 2013 statistics from government estimate that for the 400,000 youth that are churned out annually into the labour market, there are only 9,000 available jobs.
“We must find a way to harness this labour, leaving our economies to be determined by price incentives is just not enough, meaningful job creating investments have to be made,” Mr Bategeka emphasises.
According to the Africa Development report 2014, half of the population in sub-Saharan Africa today is under 25 years of age. Each year between 2015 and 2035, there will be half a million more 15-year-olds than the year before.
Tracing Panadol’s roots
Tracing the roots of Panadol’s background is no easy task.
The only link to her physical world is by telephone. No wonder, the minister and police had to trick the singer in order to apprehend her.
Kansiime, 21, went into provocative music business as survival and did know what awaited her at the end of the tunnel.
For somebody with a strong digital footprint – several videos on online platforms such as YouTube, numerous photos and three Facebook accounts – it is surprisingly difficult to locate her home.
Next Magazine tried to retrace her journey to understand the circumstances under which Panadol, who is now in jail, got into the pornographic music business, but her mobile number is off as she is in prison.
Her closest associate Producer Didi – who is probably the next best option to tell her story– has since gone underground after he was bailed out of jail.
Kansiime aka Panadol could not raise sureties in court to get bail – pointing to the conditions of her friends and relatives. Court could not deem them credible.
Makindye, Madinisa zone, where Producer Didi operates from is a well-known place.
When we got to the stage which is also opposite the main KCCA offices in Makindye, there were two boda boda cyclists.
“He usually passes around in this area, the best persons to ask would be in the studio over there,” noted a cyclist as he pointed to an old building opposite the road, with weather beaten rusty roofing and multi-coloured paint denoting that it was a music production studio.
Inside the building is a large empty space with two sofas and three men, sitting behind a computer. To my utter surprise, the one in the middle, who looked familiar, turns out to be the famous Sweet Kid of Sanyu Lyange and Mama Brenda fame.
He shows me the tall dark man besides him with short dreads as the one to lead us to Didi. The man leaps up and walks over to the entrance where I stand.
“Producer Didi is not available now, however if you leave me your number I can contact him for you and call you back later,” he says with a cagey tone as he walks away. He only identified himself as Crested Crane.
The boda cyclists pointed to the direction of another old studio located behind the KCCA building where Didi could be found.
The potholed dirty road that runs across the modern city council storeyed building opens into a collection of ramshackly temporary buildings where the cyclists tell me the studio is housed.
Outside are two youthful men. “Where is Didi?” I asked. They too asked that I leave my contact behind and would inform the producer who will contact me.
However, they confirmed that Didi and Panadol centred their operations in that studio and also knew Kansiime, as a girl who lives in the ghetto neighbourhood.
To youth such as Kansiime who only dream of a better future, this is home – but – short of opportunities to realise their dreams – save for delving into shady acts that will earn them a daily buck whilst hoping tomorrow will be better.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor