Rwanda: Innovative Ways Through Which Young People Are Tackling Unemployment

21 October 2019

Statistics by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda for the annual third quarter indicate that, during this year, the unemployment rate has shown a growth trend.

Quarterly comparisons show an increasing trend of unemployment rate from 14.5 per cent in February to 15.5 per cent in May and 16.0 per cent in August.

Numbers also revealed that in the same quarter, youth (16-30 years old) constituted 44.2 percent of the population in the labour force and this proportion has slightly increased as compared to the previous Quarter of the survey May 2019 (Q2).

Regardless of the prevailing challenges however, some youth have taken it upon themselves to address the unemployment issue.

Take Issa Nkotanyi for example, he established the Green Rabbit project- an initiative that uses rabbits as gardeners.

The initiative has not only transformed Nkotanyi's life but has also created job opportunities for other people as well.

Growing up as an orphan in the outskirts of Kayonza District, he recalls having minimal opportunities in his early childhood. In an interview with The Business Times, he said that amidst all the trials he faced, attaining education was the most challenging one.

Rabbits caged in a padox box with a nylon cloth that acts as an umbrella in rainy seasons.

This however, only pushed him to be more ambitious, who adopted hard work and determination.

"I know as an orphan I was exposed to a lot but up to date I believe that my education was the most challenging aspect in my upbringing," he said.

He recalls having to spare time in his holidays to be able to work and raise funds for another term in school.

"Of course there are times when I had to work for a full month while others were still in school. I did all sorts of jobs just so I could earn an income, for example, repairing bikes, construction works, and repairing shoes in my home town and many more I can't recall at the moment. I could not sit back and wait for miracles. I knew it was hard for me but would be even harder if I didn't do anything about it," he said.

His efforts seem to be paying off; Nkotanyi is now pursuing his higher education at the University of Rwanda. Five years ago, when he started the Green Rabbit project, he had only two rabbits it has now grown to enable him to create jobs for over 80 people and has also secured international deals in countries like Netherlands.

How the project works

In a demonstrative interview with this paper, Nkotanyi revealed that the project which is still at its pilot phase was inspired by the toxic gases that are emitted in air while using the motor powered machines to slash grass in compounds.

"This innovation is primarily going to be eco-friendly, it will minimize the toxic gases that are released by the commonly used machines domestically. For instance, if a client approaches us we first need to know how big their compound is. We then know the number of rabbits we are to deploy for that particular area, for this depends on the size of the area. Rabbits have been well trained, it takes two of them a minimum of ten hours to clear a two by two metre plot of land," he explains.

Besides compound clearing, Nkotanyi says they are able to secure waste from rabbits, which is distributed to fish farmers because fish feed on rabbit waste, he explains.

Asked about whether the project can also be reliable in rainy seasons, Nkotanyi said that they have prepared nylon umbrella- sort of clothes that are used to cover wooden cages in which the rabbits can 'operate from'.

From ideas to actions

Last week, Green Rabbit was awarded as the overall best project in 'hacking poverty' competition, a competition that was organised by the City of Kigali in collaboration with Employment and Youth Empowerment Solutions (EYES) Rwanda through.

Hacking poverty is a competition that seeks to train youth on how they can tackle unemployment through creating their own solutions. This year's theme was "From ideas to actions" and the competition attracted over 320 participants (youth).

While addressing the youth during the competition, Abel Bizimungu Director General of Social Development at the City of Kigali, encouraged them to always work in groups and embrace collaboration to sharpen any ideas.

"Without team work you could not have achieved what you have achieved today, and I encourage you to embrace teamwork because at least from experience I assure you that you will learn a lot from each other," he said.

He also pointed out that the awarded projects should prove that they were worth being awarded and not just sit back with the prizes.

"I encourage all the young people who won today to use the opportunities gotten from this training because we expect to see results."

Gerald Mporananayo, the Managing Director at EYES Rwanda, assured those who had not made it to the finals that more competitions are in progress and therefore there was need to get ready.

"I emphasize that we will have this competition next year, therefore I urge all those who have not made it to the finals that their chance still stands," he reiterates.

Four projects emerged as winners from the competition. The overall winning project bagged Rwf4 million, with three other projects winning Rwf3 million, Rwf2million and Rf1millon respectively.

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