Today marks the beginning of the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), seven days during which 126 countries will celebrate the work of entrepreneurs while looking to inspire others to get started. Rwanda will join others in trying to find avenues through which to empower the youth and women to be more economically productive.
After a successful inaugural GEW in 2011 in which more than 12,000 people participated, this year's edition will see over 40 major activities carried out through the week aimed at inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs to anchor the country's job creation and economic growth prospects.
And Youth and ICT Minister Jean Philbert Nsengimana thinks the week, which ends on November 18, should focus on mentoring youth on how they can save whichever little amount they can and possibly later use their savings as their first source of funds to start a business. The Minister was thinking beyond the individual youth, instead envisioning a national fund that would somehow get at least 4.2 million youth in the country to save a minimum of 50 francs per month.
"We are becoming famous for initiating successful homegrown approaches; such a youth savings fund would for instance generate billions in youth savings which would then be used to fund bright business ideas from members," Nsengimana reasoned.
Rwanda's population is predominantly youthful with the majority of youth still stuck with the 'go to school and find a job' approach, which the government is now trying to replace with a new thinking of 'acquire skills and create a job.'
Several competitions such as the trade ministry's Hanga Umurimo and the Private Sector Federation's (PSF) Business Plan competition (BPC) have been launched to achieve the Vision 2020 aim of having more off-farm jobs (3.2 million by 2017). Emphasis is being put on development and promotion of vocational education while ICT is being tipped to be the future of an innovative Rwandan youth.
During the GEW, organizers will visit universities to talk to young people who have since the first GEW last year formed entrepreneurship clubs. The meetings will provide a forum for mentoring and inspirational talk from already successful entrepreneurs who have made it despite difficult conditions.
"The youth need to hear how they can start small and grow to become like other large businesses owned by some of their role models," observed Haya Alzaid, the national coordinator of the GEW.
Alzaid, who has worked with youth in Kuwait, admits that patience is a limited resource among many youngsters, yet it's the only way to become big. Minister Nsengimana agrees and emphasizes that all big successful enterprises started small.
Agri-business is one area the Minister suggests since value addition on major agricultural products can earn many a fortune in the process creating jobs and pushing economic growth.
"The youth need to hear how they can start small and grow to become like other large businesses owned by some of their role models."
The combined efforts of public and private sectors are seen as important in helping to achieve the President's seven year program which aims at creating at least 200,000 jobs annually and a total of 1.4 million by the end of his mandate.
Support to small enterprises through access to finance, tax incentives, technical skill development, business and human resource training and other initiatives have been set up by both government and the private sector.
For instance, according to Donatien Mungwarareba, in charge of entrepreneurship promotion at PSF through their Business Plan Competitions (BPC), at least 108 projects submitted mostly by young people have been facilitated to get loans of a maximum of Frw 10 million from BRD, creating 2,250 temporally and permanent jobs.
During his traditional Friday afternoon twitter chat with the public, Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi said Rwanda is currently experiencing a good season for loan seekers as indicated by recent figures from BNR that show that there was 26% increase in bank loans for the month of October as compared to the same period last year.
While efforts to empower women have already produced results with the increase and flourishing of women savings SACCOs, the same cannot be said of the youth who are still hard to mobilize with similar arrangements.
By the end of the GEW, organizers are hoping enough ideas will have been shared through a number of activities and interactive debates to leave the youth in a better position to initiate and create new businesses.