Four cabinet ministers came under fire yesterday as members of parliament accused them of failure to come up with practical ways to help deal with the issue of unemployment among the youth.
The ministers, who appeared before parliament are; Jean Philbert Nseingimana (Youth and ict); Francois Kanimba (Trade and Industry), Judith Uwizeye (Public Service and lLabour) and Dr Papias Musafiri Malimba (Education).
During the session, lawmakers blamed the cabinet ministers for recycling “old presentations that did not offer solutions to the growing problem.”
The ministers were expected to update the lawmakers about the obstacles that hold back the youth from self-employment and suggest ways to counter them.
Minister Nsengimana told the MPs that Rwandans generally and the youth, in particular, were fortunate to be living in a country whose economy is growing fast and with it opportunities.
“We live in a country whose economy is growing fast and this is a good opportunity for the youth to get jobs or be self-employed. The opportunities are many, substantial and in all sectors,” he said.
Nsengimana said there have, so far, been many successful strategies, but he pointed out that there were still many challenges when it comes to dealing with the issue of access to finance.
“Infrastructure that is needed to ensure that there is startup capital is available; what remains is to make sure that we find a way of getting it to everyone who qualifies,” he said.
MP Jeanne d’Arc Nyinawase, however, wondered whether without numbers, it was possible to know which opportunities were available and how many unemployed youth had accessed them.
“We didn’t see any statistics telling us about the number of unemployed and skilled youth in the country so that the opportunities that the ministers have been talking about can be verified. Show us the number of youth who have accessed Business Development Fund (BDF) loans and indicate how the funds have improved lives. The presentations today are not any different from the ones of last time. When you look deeper, everything is general, nothing is specific,” she said.
Minister Uwizeye admitted that the issue of access to funds remains the biggest challenge to youth self-employment.
She said that though BDF is willing to provide the collateral needed by the banks, in so many cases, the unemployed youth cannot afford to come up with the rest of the required money.
“We continue telling them to find innovative ways to employ themselves but we must be reminded that most financial institutions refuse to lend them money. Though BDF gives 70 per cent of the collateral, there is still a challenge when it comes to finding the remaining funds,” she said.
Though Uwizeye acknowledged that most youth continue to live hand-to-mouth lifestyles with a poor savings culture, there was also an issue of young, unemployed people being picky about jobs, with some thinking that with their level of education, they cannot do certain jobs.
MP Veneranda Nyirahirwa wondered why there was no progress report that would perhaps point to a more specific issue of why many youths are unemployed.
“I didn’t see any progress report and also, I didn’t see any data that shows where the root cause of the issue of unemployment. When you are making plans, you have where you start from, then implement, and later evaluate,” she said.
Nyirahirwa wondered why authorities continue to plan, discuss and debate issues when the people that have solutions are not involved.
“Why do we keep talking about the youth yet they are not here to tell us the exact kind of support that they need. We need to make them part of the process,” she said.
Kanimba said BDF was working with different projects to provide collateral to those that need it, adding that there are times when BDF gets shares in the project it intends to support, which actually gives the project more chances.
He pointed out that Rwf9bn had been issued in farmers’ loans, and BDF had provided Rwf3 billion in collateral.
He added that 833 small and medium enterprises were supported with slightly over Rwf5bn and BDF had paid Rwf2.1bn as collateral on them.
In total, he said, about 6,000 projects were able to access loans through different institutions.
MP Theobald Mporanyi, however, suggested that the ministers had been ill-prepared before coming to parliament.
“When it comes to creating jobs, there are two elements. The first one is knowledge. The second element is the start-up capital. Did you at least first meet and try to solve this issue with each one of you providing their own solutions and offering solutions that would be used as a bridge to solving the issue at hand?” he wondered.