On a calm Friday evening, about 30 youth sat in a circle at Dancing Cup in Kampala’s residential town of Bugolobi, discussing money, what it means, whether to save it or how to spend it.
A few others attentively listened. The topic of the evening was financial literacy, one of the many that are part of the JUMP Ignite movement where youth get a platform to share challenges and solutions to their problems.
Financial literacy is a set of skills and knowledge that allow an individual to make informed decisions with their financial resources.
As per Bank of Uganda’s 2013 Strategy for Financial Literacy in Uganda, financial literacy is about personal finance management and does not include how to manage a business.
Bank of Uganda governor, Mr Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile says financial literacy is relevant for everyone in a modern society regardless of income level or age. He says everyone needs to understand how to draw up and live within a budget, to understand why and how to save, make informed decisions on financial products and plan for old age. Unfortunately, he says, many Ugandans do not have the knowledge, skills and confidence to do all these things. Ugandan youth are no exception.
For two hours, Ms Cynthia Ayeza, a JUMP editor, engaged the youth on what financial literacy was but more importantly, what money means to them.
She says the youth have an idea of what they should be doing with their money. But what affects them is the urge to show they can afford something even when they cannot.
Mr Edgar Ojjambo is part of the discussion because he wants to be financially literate. He is facing a “spending spree” dilemma.
“My spending habits are getting way too pathetic. It is a big problem because I have been spending a lot, literally buying T-shirts and shoes every week. If I calculate that money, it is about Shs2m a month. I really needed to hear from these people,” Mr Ojjambo says.
He admits that whenever he gets money, the first thing that comes to mind is “to spend it.” He is certainly sure that he has understood his finances in one way – spending.
“I didn’t think it was that important. I thought I still had more time to understand it. I do not budget because my money comes in and goes out,” he says.
He works with The Aids Support Organisation and a telecom company. He says his childhood was rough so picked a number of skills along the journey. As a result, he does small jobs that pay him quick cash. He admits he cannot help but spend it.
“Every day, I have someone calling me to help them with something and I get some good money but because of excitement, I spend this money because I think it is small money. I spent Shs5m in one month simply because of lack of information,” he says.
Just across the circle is SMS One sales and marketing executive Geoffrey Mutabazi. He understands money as a “store of value” and appreciates finances to a small extent.
“I am struggling with financial literacy. Personally, am trying to fight my expenses to build my income. One moment, I have Shs50,000, the next I do not have it,” he says.
As he fights off “aimless expenditure” like he loves to term it, he believes more platforms such as these should go a long way in instilling a financial understanding among young people like him.
In the meantime, he is learning to plan for all the money at his disposal and tracking his expenditure with a smartphone application.
To 28-year-old Andrew Ojara, money is the answer to doing everything in this world. He understands the secret of knowing one’s finances and is particularly vocal about saving one’s money. Not that he is against it, he dislikes the traditional idea of simply putting aside some money.
“It is important for us to realise that saving is about attaining security for a rainy day,” he believes.
Teach finances early
He says certain ways have not been engrained in youth as children, an aspect that could be responsible for the wanting financial culture among young people.
But as far as saving is concerned, he is building himself to a place where his spending is less than his earning. Plus, he refuses to put his money in a stack, but instead in something that will grow it.
Ms Ayeza says one of the things that was evident is that young people like money because they need it in various ways. However, she says it is also evident that young people struggle with managing money.
“One of the things that came out was that they struggle with access, knowing how to spend their money and being able to be themselves and say I only have Shs100,000 per month and cannot afford to hang out with people who spend Shs100,000 a night,” Ms Ayeza says.
Value of money
Mr Amos Wekesa, the founder of Great Lakes Safaris and Uganda Lodges Limited, says many youthdo not understood the value attached to money. Money is a medium of exchange for value which is the work one does and the other value one gets back. Young people are not taught the value of money from a tender age.
Because of the environment in which we live, many young people assume that there is a way they can get money without offering value, a mindset that must be tackled according to Mr Wekesa.
He says youth should attain skills, look for networks which give the opportunity to apply the skills and then the money will flow in. He says if the youth want to understand their money, they should understand budgeting and prioritise key things.
As a young man and a businessman today, Mr Wekesa ensures he lives far below his means and it has helped him stay away from debt.
“I am very careful when buying a liability, I do not buy a brand new phone every year. I have my first smart phone of three and a half years. I am careful even with the car I buy as long as it can take me from one place to another. So, we should not rush for the society to see us,” he says.