4 December 2018

Rwanda: Push for Use of Kiswahili in Business Gathers Pace

Experts have started to design strategies of how to effectively integrate the Kiswahili language into business, with the first step designated to facilitate operators of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to gain basic skills needed to conduct transactions within the region.

Experts, policymakers, media representatives among other stakeholders, convened in Kigali for a two-day meeting, which aimed at formulating a strategy on how to adopt and implement Kiswahili at different levels of governance. The meeting ended yesterday.

Prof. Cyprien Niyomugabo, the Dean of School of Education at the University of Rwanda, said that they target business operators first because they needed simple Kiswahili language skills to facilitate their communication in their business operations.

Niyomugabo is the Chairman of Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture (RALC).

Kiswahili is an official language in EAC and in Rwanda. But its use in business operations in Rwanda is critically still very low.

Training manuals and programmes are set to be developed, focusing on literacy skills such as listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Special graphics intended to help traders learn Kiswahili more conveniently are set to be designed.

"The Kiswahili we want is that which can help us create jobs. That is why we want that Kiswahili get integrated to Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to help, for instance, those who acquire hair dressing skills, or know-how in fixing car engines, not only think about the Rwandan market, but rather the regional market," Niyomugabo said.

He added that; "We chose to start from people who do business especially cross-border trade because it has two benefits: first, it is done by many women and men, second, it applies to various EAC countries which use Kiswahili, and by so doing, it brings together citizens from those countries, which is one of the objectives the Community wants to achieve," he said.

Niyomugabo said that they want to develop a user-friendly training programme that integrates simple ICT oriented learning methods, different from the ordinary academic approach.

The develop of the programme is expected to be launched in 2019 and piloted in 2020, according to Prof. Kenneth Inyani Simala, the Executive Secretary at East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC).

He said that, in Rwanda, they have started with businesspeople while in other partner states they have chosen different sectors.

"As you may be aware, you cannot interact and carry out business without communication skills. Language is very important," he added.

Between 120 and 140 million people use Kiswahili in East Africa, he said.

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