Rwanda is not richly endowed with natural resources, leaving human capital as the country's main resource, and ideal engine for socio-economic development.
That's what informed Vision 2020 and the associated economic programmes.
A 2011 World Bank report indicates that over 4.7 per cent of Rwanda's GDP is spent on education, underlining the urgency and prioritisation of this critical sector.
However, the key underlying issues that need attention are, how sustainable, relevant and productive is the Rwandan human capital base?
Human capital theory has been in existence dating way back to the 1960s when Schultz argued that investing in people through education is like any other investment in physical capital which he calls (human capital).
Therefore, having a positive correlation to general economic development of every economy as human capital development is seen as a key ingredient for socio-economic transformation. The Government of Rwanda believes that it is indeed through human capital development that sustainable economic growth and development will be realized in the long-run as a higher stock of skilled human capital will trigger more productivity in the economy.
But in analyzing and addressing the key issues at hand, has Rwanda, with all its extra-ordinary efforts to build a knowledge-based economy, tackled the fundamental challenges of making its human capital base more sustainable and relevant to its development scorecard?
Although the concept of human capital encompasses broad issues, including the welfare of the population, health and education, I will restrict my argument to education, which is taken as the fountain of a competitive labour force.
It's only fair to give credit to government policies in helping address the key parameters of the country's human capital with health placed at the forefront, which has resulted in drastic decline in the prevalence of malaria and HIV/Aids, promoting family planning programmes, rollback of infant mortality rates, improving life expectancy of Rwandans, among other benefits.
Nonetheless, our education system leaves a lot to be desired. Well, there has been progress with regard to universal primary and secondary education, higher education and Technical Vocational and Education and Training (TVET) programmes.
Almost all these aspects of education have helped address the issue of supply side; hence the need for pragmatic and demand led competency based policies to address the demand needs of the labour market.
Strategic frameworks and policies should, therefore, be put in place to address these challenges; they may include continuous prioritization of government expenditure on education by focusing on those critical areas that are highly relevant to current economic challenges. For example, a recent national skills survey in the private sector report, 2011-2012, by RDB emphasised on the ICT, Mining and Energy sectors.
Yet there is no training institution in Rwanda that offers mining training programmes for professionals and technicians like mine engineers, geologists, geophysicists and geochemists. This is despite the fact the mining sector is one of the country's fastest growing sectors at the moment. This partly justifies the current skills gap in a number of critical fields.
Even in key sectors like ICT where Rwanda is highly credited, critical skills like software development, digital electronics and mobile software engineering are in shortage.
While many young people have and continue to benefit from government funding through scholarships and credit schemes, its unfortunate that, a few of those who get the opportunity to go abroad to acquire higher quality education choose not to return home after their studies!.
Yet if they all returned, they would significantly contribute to the country's socio-economic development, and ensure return on investment for the valuable resources spent on their education.
The author is a student leader at the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands.