The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: I Regret the Day I Relocated to the City

opinion

"I came to Kigali expecting the best out of life, but I ended up getting odd jobs. I had no option as I was not ready to go back to the village. This was simply because I did not expect anything better," says Alex Nzaramba, a potter working at a construction site in Kigali.

Inspired by visitors from the city

Nzaramba says he was inspired to come to the city by people from Kigali who used to visit his village in Kiramuruzi Sector, Gatsibo District, Eastern Province.

He says most of them were not only smart and driving good cars, but they also seemed to be financially okay - they bought plots of land and constructed first-class residential houses or commercial buildings.

This is what inspired the 25-year-old to sell off his three goats and head to the city.

"I believe I was the happiest man the first day I came to this city. But within no time, I regretted my decision," he says.

Paying for public toilets

The first thing that made the young man miserable was that he had to pay for public toilets in Nyabugogo. This surprised him, considering that it was his first time to pay for such a service.

In a very short time, he had to endure and cope with the city lifestyle.

No jobs

But the most challenging thing was getting a job. Being a Primary Six dropout, it was hard for Nzaramba to get a white collar job.

"After realising that I could never get such jobs, I decided to go for any kind of work so as to earn a living," he says.

Although every one has a story to tell about how they got to this city, Nzaramba's story is a classic example of how the youth are moving from their rural homes to cities in search for employment or high paying jobs.

It is also one of the causes of increased population in cities, thereby increasing food demand while there is reduction in farming activities or less food production.

"You find that the youth are forced to leave rural areas to urban centres expecting to get jobs and live better lives," says Kevin Thierry Gatete, director of campaigns and policy at Oxfam.

Missing opportunities in rural areas

He notes that although some youth have been successful, it's a fact that others do not succeed. They even miss out the least opportunities they would have got in their respective villages, Gatete says.

He made the remarks during an interactive meeting that brought together members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), to discuss and contribute towards the successful implementation of the Economic Development Poverty Reduction Strategy II (EDPRS).

Solution

Gatete advised that the Government should come up with policies and programmes that will support the youth not only in urban but also rural areas to fight poverty.

To him, empowering the youth would enable them settle and work - even in rural areas - provided they get market for their products. This, he contends, would automatically contribute to the development of the economy.

"If farmers, especially the youth, can be supported to engage in modern farming and also come up with mechanisms through which they can sell their products, I am sure they would work and benefit this society," he says.

Alphonse Nkuranga, executive secretary of the National Youth Council (NYC) - one of the bodies that the Government established 15 years ago to help support and empower the youth - says that a lot has been done to enable the youth to start income-generating activities.

"In the 30 districts (of Rwanda), we make sure that we support at least 100 youth every year by equipping them with entrepreneurship skills," Nkuranga says. He reveals that over Rwf130 million has been spent on that particular programme so far.

Among other challenges that the youth face in implementing their projects is the lack financial capital.

This is mainly due to lack of collateral security to access loans from financial institutions. Asked which measures can be put in place to overcome such challenges, Nkuranga says in addition to encouraging the youth to join cooperatives so as to access funds, the council also directs them to some financial institutions.

"We realised that the only way we can somehow find a solution to this problem was to enable the youth themselves take part in the financial institution business," he says.

That is why, according to Nkuranga, a youth saving and credit financial institution commonly known as COOJAD was established. The institution gives the youth access to funds of up to Rwf5 million - no security required.

Members only have to save at least 25 per cent of the money they want from the institution. Cyprian Kananura, the director of finance and administration at COOJAD, says currently, the institution has attracted 2,000 members and at least Rwf1.6 billion has so far been given out.

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