18 December 2012

Rwanda: Wanted - Jobs for Youth

In a bid to fight the high unemployment rate in the country, especially among the youth, the government launched numerous campaigns such as Hang'umurimo and Akazi Kanoze. But so far they have registered relatively little success (although officials point out most of them have been launched only recently, and have yet to reach their full impact), youth unemployment remains a big problem countrywide and a catalyst to national insecurity, creating conflict and instability.

During the Tenth National Dialogue, Mifotra, Minicom, the Rwanda Development Board, and the Private Sector Federation were tasked with introducing a dual training session for Secondary TVET Students (4 days in class and 1 day hands-on) and promote short time trainings, and also pilot the Business Initiation Program (in which companies will take 2 or 3 graduates under their wings as mentor).

The institutions should also create evaluation processes and mechanisms to ensure long term sustainability and inform policy making, and to make sure there is a comprehensive approach to employment initiatives. All this should be implemented not later than January 2013 and the next national dialogue will assess their effectiveness.

Such efforts are more than necessary. According to a research by the ministry of labor and public service, youth (aged between 14 and 35) constitute about 39% of Rwanda's total population. The majority of them (62.2%) have either never been to school or have only completed primary education. Alarmingly, 64% of this age group 16-29 is unemployed, with the highest levels of inactivity among those with only primary or secondary education.

Statistics show that the employment rate for secondary junior graduates lies at 31% against 70% for senior graduates are unemployed. 76% of higher education graduates and 90% of vocational graduates have found a job.

At the same time, high growth sectors such as tourism, construction and mining all have significant shortages (over 40%) at the technician and skilled labor levels.

"Finding a job is not easy. I am tired of finding small jobs here and there, what I need is a career!" lamented a graduate of one of the campaigns during a ceremony to pass them out. The graduate, who asked to remain anonymous, said what he and his peers are interested in most is entrepreneurship skills.

"But I must confess that half my class did not have any innovative ideas even after graduation," he says.

However, Labor Minister Anastase Murekezi admits that Rwanda must strategically develop its youth to be the drivers of its economic growth. "This situation is not only a concern for youth but for the private sector and the nation as a whole," declared Murekezi.

The problem is that not enough jobs are being created. There are only 104,000 jobs available every year yet about 125,000 new job seekers are churned out from various training institutions and schools.

In addition, according to Murekezi, there are four key factors which cause the issue of youth unemployment to still prevail. The first is lack of technical, general, business and entrepreneurial skills. This is closely followed by attitude, with some youth shunning entrepreneurship or thinking that eventually someone will take care of them. The third factor is lack of financial and human resources. The last one, according to Murekezi is lack of support, advice, guidance and mentorship.

Yet according to the Minister, strategic partnerships for skills development have been established. Among them, he cited Carnegie Melon University offering master's degree in ICT (Center of Excellence), multimedia and movie industry with Pixel Corps USA, Les Roches International School for Tourism and Hospitality, the Climate Change Observatory and Research Center with MIT, partnership with Birmingham University for Mining Skills development, partnership with a consortium of 15 American universities to train 500 specialist medical doctors and partnership with Sweden to educate 100 PhDs in different fields.

Hero status

Ephrem Inganji, an entrepreneur from Rwamagana, told The Rwanda Focus that with the current fixation on self-employment, everyone who starts a business is accorded hero status, classified as brave and innovative for taking a risk in these difficult economic times.

"We are like forcing everyone to start a business and forget that business is only one option," he sais, adding that some have careers which they want to develop while others find business interesting and when they get an opportunity to start their own, they do.

Inganji, who owns a brewery, recommended that the state combats youth unemployment by encouraging investment in computer technology and other less common businesses, raising awareness about the needs of current employers, and developing the private sector. He also suggested governments conducts regular labor market surveys and support the informal economy to create jobs

He admitted that skills are an important asset for someone to be employed but observed: "Not every youngster should be highly educated to be employed."

Youth and ICT minister Jean Philbert Nsengimana believes that universities and other tertiary institutions of higher learning need to create relevant courses that produce employable graduates in order to bridge the skills mismatch that has affected job creation in Rwanda.

For President Paul Kagame, the youth unemployment issue will be solved by allowing people to access education, one that allows you to discover your talent and put it to use.

"Each and every one of you has a talent, you may not know but you all do. Don't let it go to waste, try to exploit it," he stated while meeting the youth at National YouthConnekt Convention. He promised them that the government will give them tools to ensure that they fulfill their full potential and have a bright future.

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