Dear retiree, to pay university fees is to bet on sports; lend state instead

Sunday April 07 2024

The financial low hanging fruit is right there staring at the national economists who think it is a laudable achievement to negotiate another hundred-million-dollar loan from overseas, which comes with stiff conditions. ILLUSTRATION | JOSEPH NYAGAH | NMG


Information from two unconnected research emerged mid-March in Kampala identifying so much money flying around, being painfully extracted from ageing citizens by the youth. Repeat – the two research were very unconnected, but their findings point to a similar source of money flying around.

One came from the vice chancellor of good old Makerere, who scared the hell out of us by disclosing that their research has established that every year, one thousand students drop out of the university after losing their tuition fees in sports betting. A thousand students is almost ten percent of the annual graduation roll. What a loss!

Around the same time, an institution that deals with retirement benefits concluded research which found that ageing Ugandans mostly spend their retirement package on paying school fees.

That is tragic enough because people who are no longer earning spend their pension on paying education dues, there can’t be much left for other necessities like food and medical care and in unfortunately many cases, house rent.

You can imagine the anguish of the old people when the fees money they give the energetic youth is burnt by betting on the outcome of European football matches!

Read: BUWEMBO: Tragedy of children rendered unemployable by ‘edupreneurs’


Not that many of the ageing fees payers know that since, according to the vice chancellor, the young swindlers even attend the graduation ceremonies bedecked in academic gowns, take photos and have parties thrown for them though they ceased being students long before the end of the courses they enrolled for.

One such chap who burnt the tuition money in betting while in second year studying dental surgery, was recently fished out of his hideout after he faked his own kidnap.

So, millions meant for according to retired workers a decent living end up in sports betting. A lot more is spent by non-students, because sports betting is now a trillion-shilling business.

However deep in the countryside you go, you will find betting outfits in the small urban centres, however miserable the surroundings. Sports betting has become so critical to many that they will forgo “less important” items like food to fund their betting.

This should be an eye opener for national economists. Instead of desperately pleading with foreign money lenders to lend this or that project, they should look at the investable money that is so abundant and divert it to development. Uganda could be having some one hundred thousand eligible to retire from formal employment every year. Some cautious ones retire but do not collect their benefits immediately.

The second research found that private sector workers who attain retirement age on average take six years before claiming their money from the national social security fund, which happens to be the star performing financial deposit keeping outfit. Of course, people who leave their cash in Uganda’s NSSF are sure of it earning them some compounded 10 percent every year, which few business activities can deliver.

The financial low hanging fruit is right there staring at the national economists who think it is a laudable achievement to negotiate another hundred-million-dollar loan from overseas, which comes with stiff conditions.

Why not target the hundreds of millions of dollars that retiring people in public and private sectors collect every year and offer them slightly higher interest than NSSF, payable monthly to keep them comfortable? They should be told the truth that many of the grandchildren they pay fees for just bet away the money and fake graduations.

So, put your retirement package in a venture that is specifically capitalising industrialisation so that jobs are created and foreign exchange is saved.

It is heartbreaking to see the country spend two decades looking for finance to set up an oil refinery yet so much investible cash is being thrown at spoilt brats – for lack of a better word – to bet away.

Soon oil refineries will become unviable, then we shall start looking for lenders to process cobalt for energy transition, only to find all of it already taken by outsiders in mining concessions. Arranging this should be easy as energy and mining are in the same ministry. But do the two departments coordinate their plans?

Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail: [email protected]