How Japan, Rwanda partnership is boosting youth entrepreneurship

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The writer with some of the Rwandan students at the Kobe Institute of Computing.

In 2014, an ICT skills development partnership deal was signed between the Private Sector Federation and Kobe Institute of Computing (KIC) a Japanese private graduate school of Information Technology to support Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector.

The City of Kigali also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with KIC to enhance ICT capacity development supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

One of the ways to scale up the process was through the African Business Education Initiative for Youth, (ABEinitiative), which offers opportunities for young and eligible Africans to study postgraduate courses in Japanese universities to obtain more professionals in the country.

KIC which currently has 12 Rwandan students shored up the ABE initiative. At the institute, I had a chance to interact with some of the Rwandan students at the institute pursuing a master’s degree in Information Systems.

Kenji Fukuoka, the vice president of KIC says that students who are awarded scholarships at the institute, also get internships at Japanese enterprises in order to develop effective skills and knowledge in various fields for contributing to the development of industries back home.

Rwanda being one of the biggest IT hubs in Africa, they believe that the youth have the opportunity to come up with IT ideas that could solve problems. Some of these ideas however are not sustainable.

The gap between the rural and urban areas, is one of the biggest concern that the students say they cited in Rwanda, and among the many solutions, are developing systems to bridge the gap.

Diedonne Dukuzumuremyi, an Assistant Lecturer at Tumba College of Technology and a student at the institute is designing a monitoring system to track the feasibility of biogas plants in remote areas.

He says that from his experience in the multicultural setting, given that the institute has students from 27 other countries in Africa, and the exposure from the Japanese setting, Rwanda is capable of being technologically developed but the business aspect in the IT sector is still lacking.

“Rwanda is good at implementing policies but we also need to be mindful of the sustainability. We need to be realistic if the IT projects that the youth are developing are sustainable.”

Maryse Bonhomme, another student at the institute and an employee with RDB in the IT department, blames this on the youth who settle with the feasibility study “and end up giving up easily because their limited funds cannot sustain the project.”

Guy Kandekwe who wants to improve local content rate in domestic trade and consumption through data mining and machine learning, says Rwanda needs to disseminate information so that young entrepreneurs have enough information before they embark on a project.

“Most of the youth back home are brilliant and come up with good IT projects but tend to be more technical than business oriented.”

“Here, we are taught business models that enable one to come up with money generating projects, eventually thinking about the long term budgets.We learn the donor matrix where we understand that IT goes hand in hand with IT,” he says.

Jimmy Butare, another student argues that there is still a gap between public institutions and young individuals.

“Most of the IT solutions in the country are imported from foreign experts yet we need practical local skills.We need to look at the local market before we go global.”

Gabriel Baziramwabo, an employee of Rwanda Education Board (REB) who wants to make Science & Technology in Rwanda more productive through Robotics in the education system, says that like the Japanese culture, Rwandans should learn to work as a team other than want to own projects alone, as it brings about efficiency.

“We need to work as a team which will become easier for the innovators and the marketing sector which target established companies. Japanese give details in all they do and take more time in analyzing which reduces time during implementation. Rwandans need these skills,” he says.

Over 30 students from Rwanda have graduated from KIC and the institute collaborates with the ministry of ICT to follow up on the alumni and students to boost IT expertise in the country.

The institute trains professional, vocation and practical oriented education in ICT with about 135 students from 28 countries. The expertise acquired at the institute include Open Source Software (OSS) development, knowledge and experience in development issues, and project management by KIC.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw