6 February 2013

Rwanda: Jobless Youth Need More Than Loans to Start Businesses


A GOVERNMENT scheme Kuremena geared at creating jobs and fighting unemployment, especially for the youth, has so far benefitted over 23,000 people. This is a commendable effort on the part of government and should be supported by all Rwandans.

However, there are some critical areas of the project that might have been ignored: skills development and growing the Rwandans entrepreneurial spirit. Because Kuremera caters for all groups of people, including the illiterate, it faces the challenge of skills gap among the targeted sectors of our society.

This puts the scheme in a precarious situation since the beneficiaries might get working space, equipment and loans, but still remain in a vicious circle of poverty or underemployment. How could this happen, one could ask. If you give people money to start businesses when they lack business skills and knowledge, it will be miraculous for their enterprises to survive. Besides, some people could easily squander the loan monies or set up wrong businesses based on wrong assumptions.

After all, they have ready money through their co-operatives. The ideal thing to do by the public service and the Ministry of Public Service and Labour is to first educate the targeted people in basic enterprise management and then give them loans. Remember, not any person can run a business profitably. What happens, therefore, is that such a person would learn the basics of operating an enterprise to boost the chances of survival of the initiatives.

It is not a secret that the majority of all startups in the SME sector collapse before their first birthday. So, dishing out money and equipment without offering training on management will only increase the mortality rate of young businesses.

People have to know how keep books of accounts or handle customers for them to thrive in business. They also have to understand that one does not need millions to succeed in business. When people learn that starting small but well-equipped is no failure, we will surely have empowered our young people and the SME sector, helping improve their financial standing and the country's economy generally. In any case, such enterprises power the economy. So, if they fail, the country will suffer and the Kuremera effort will bear bitter fruit.

Let's build the citizens' entrepreneurial spirit and skills as we roll out programmes like Kuremera and avoid mistakes of the past as we strive to move our country to the next level of economic development.

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