opinionBy Stephen Mugabi Mukarage
On May 30, 2007, the Government of Rwanda set up a task force to establish the Workforce Development authority (WDA), as an institutional framework designed to provide a strategic response to the skills development challenges facing the country.
One of the immediate achievements of this institution was to setting up of the first Labour Market Information System in the country.
The rationale behind this was that Rwanda lacked adequate and reliable information and data about the labour market and, therefore, putting in place this system, would provide regular, accurate, and time series data on economic, employment and poverty related information.
That would inform and guide policy makers in devising and implementing active labour market policies and strategies aimed at closing the skills gap.
As defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO), LMIS is statistical and non-statistical information concerning labour market actors and their environment, as well as information concerning labour market trends, policies and regulations that serves the needs of users and collected through the application of accepted methodologies and practice to the largest possible extent.
Basing on this definition and in relation to its core objectives, Rwanda's LMIS has since its official launch, in 2008, embarked on collecting, analysing, reporting and publishing data on different pertinent issues that are critical for decison makers.
The LMIS team has since carried out critical surveys, including the 2009 pilot report on the Technical Vocational and Education Training (TVET) institutions in Rwanda, the January 2010 survey on TVET graduates, and the June 2010 report on employment and its projections in the country. Others include the August 2010 report on the available and needed skills, the January 2011 report on the country's social demographics, and the March 2012 report from the skills survey in the private sector that primarily dwelt on ICT, mining and energy sectors.
The LMIS unit has also established a webportal that links potential employers with employees.
Yet there is no concrete evidence of how these findings have been utilised in executing development policies and programmes, hence rendering this resourceful and costly information more or less unproductive.
Despite the notion that LMIS serves as a decision support system for labour market policies and strategies, little has also been done to embrace the established portal as a critical tool that will assist government and other players in making appropriate and well informed decisions.
It is, therefore, important to note that, irrespective of increased public awareness about the importance of LMIS, there is no clear correlation between its major actors, primary stakeholders and the private sector.
Yet such linkages would help use and upgrade the current LMIS by making it more relevant to its end-users as well as maximumly utilize its findings in the execution of key national programmes.
Though LMIS has changed hands - moving from the Ministry of Public Service and Labour, to the Ministry of Education/WDA, and then to Rwanda Development Board (RDB) - one would imagine that the idea was to make it more relevant to its core ideals, objectives and goals.
I strongly believe that an enabling environment is needed if Rwanda's LMIS is to be useful to the economy. This function needs to be reinvigorated, by giving it a little more independence and making it a fully fledged system, capable of delivering on its mandate.
Finally, I want to make references to the 2004 Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of action on Employment Promotion and Poverty Alleviation in Africa, which gave special emphasis on the information systems of the labour market, as well as the 2008 African Union Social Policy Framework for Africa.
The latter advocates for an "effective and functional" LMIS among African countries, through Labour Market Information System Harmonization and Coordination Frameworks.
This should motivate Rwanda to emulate other success stories like South Africa and Mauritius, which have developed and implemented result-oriented LMISs.
That would give Rwanda a sustainable competitive advantage over its East African counterparts. The magic lies in ensuring that the institutions and policies/mechanisms that we come up with deliver their ultimate mission.