On the morning of Jan. 4 in Kigali, the compound of the newly opened national library of Rwanda was unusually crowded.
Along queue of smartly dressed youth clutching brown envelopes was quite a vista to passersby and many wondered what kind of books the library could have to attract such a morning rush.
But these young people were not at the library to read. They were graduates who had turned up to find jobs.
It was the "Rwanda Job Day" and these youths had travelled from all over Rwanda's 30 districts to be here and they all had hope of at least finding any job that would keep them busy, according to Sonia Giramata, an accounting graduate, who had travelled from Gisenyi town in western Rwanda.
The Rwanda Job day, organised by 'Jobs in Rwanda', a website that recruits online was meant to bring employers face to face with job seekers and those with the right competences or proper luck, would find their dream job, and 'meet their future' as the day's theme stated.
It's now a standard that if someone is actively looking for work but is unable to find any, then they are unemployed.
That's the definition upon which authorities in Rwanda base on to say the country's unemployment rate is at 1%, a dream statistic for most economies.
Unfortunately, in Africa where data collection let alone management is still wanting, it's difficult to determine for sure how many Rwandans are 'actively' job hunting to compile an accurate figure of those unemployed. Before the event, job seekers had registered before coming and the organisers had to stop registering when the number became overwhelming at around 1200. These ranged from young graduates who had graduated a year ago to those who have been on the streets for more than two years or even those who were not satisfied with their current jobs and wanted better.
Looking at the crowd that day, it was clear; the country's unemployment rate could more than the 1% quoted.
Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda's Minister of Youth and ICT is an honest man, a rare trait among politicians.
"I believe, personally, that it is far more than 1%," he told journalists shortly after addressing participants on Job Day.
At 1%, unemployment doesn't sound such a big problem for Rwanda compared to underemployment which is placed at 43% of the active labour force.
"We have a situation where there's a mismatch between the supply and demand of labor force," observed Grace Nyinawumuntu, the public relations manager at Job in Rwanda.
The job seekers available for picking seem to be lacking in something that the employers are looking for. That day's theme screamed, 'Meet your future' but most didn't manage to, with some cursing that it was a waste of their time and money after all. Many thought they would turn up, spot an employer, submit their CVs and go home with an appointment but sadly, most ended up only receiving tips on how to write CVs. Much as these young people were frustrated at their apparent lack of luck, somehow, somewhere, many are to blame for their situation, according to one human resource expert who spoke on the sidelines of the day.
At a desk for NFT, another recruiting agency, a young job seeker stepped up to submit his CV. It was handwritten in blue ink on a ruled paper; he wanted that piece of paper to get him a good job.
It was rejected and he was told to type his CV and submit in soft copy as it's supposed to be hosted online for viewing by employers. "The CV more than anything else should be perfect because it's your ticket to the job, it's what the employer sees before picking interest in its owner, the CV defines the job seeker," emphasized Julia Wanza, the Business manager at NFT which recruits for major employers such as Tullow Oil, KCB, Brarilwa, Tigo, Serena hotels and many others. Wanza explains that they help their job seekers to sharpen their CV writing skills and this helps in improving their chances of earning an interview. The need to impress on the job seekers' side should be an ongoing requirement even after obtaining those glamorous result slips from college. The confidence of a job seeker, their perceived knowledge of what they want is vital in helping them meet their future yet many look lost or intimidated when they come face to face with a potential employer.
Another smartly dressed job seeker approached the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) desk, with enough confidence but unfortunately for him, asked the wrong question, the single question that killed the whole impression he might have made on the potential employer seated behind the desk.
"So, I would like to know what kind of work you do at RDB," announced the job seeker to the amusement of the attendant, a young looking lady.
Unknown to him, the young and cool lady at the desk was not just any junior official sent to represent RDB, one of the leading and best public employers in Rwanda; it was Yvette Umutoni, the Division manager of the Human resource department at RDB.
She was disappointed by the question. Normally, she's the one supposed to ask job seekers such a question to find out how much of the company these potential employees know. "It helps to be knowledgeable about the company you are seeking a job from, it impresses the employer as it portrays how much interest you have in them," explains Umutoni. But she nonetheless answered the young man's question.
Earlier on during his speech, which cut across as parental or from a big brother to his smaller siblings, the Youth Minister had emphasised the importance of job readiness and for job seekers to equip themselves with relevant skills for the job which gives them an edge over other seekers.
It's estimated that the labor supply machine produces 125,000 annually to scramble for 104,000 job opportunities available. Government aims at creating at least 200, 000 jobs per year to be able to balance the equation. But even with such targets in place, experts warn that students should seek the right career guidance to be able to beat the job market dynamics.
For instance, NFT's Wanza says while many Rwandan students are rushing for courses such as accounting and Finance, they ignore others such as marketing and human resource hence creating a skills' gap.
RDB's Umutoni concurs especially on those who criticize Human resource as being just about payroll management. "It's a whole lot more than that," she says.