EDITORIAL: Unemployment: Help the youth make the most of country's potential

National employment rate in Rwanda currently stands at 16.7 per cent, according to a new labour force survey released by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) on Monday.

The survey was conducted using the new International Labour Organisation’s definition of labour, which recognises work and labour differently. 

This resulted in a drastic rise in the overall unemployment rate in Rwanda, as the previous unemployment rate (about 3 per cent) had been calculated on the basis of the old definition.

If one was to apply the old definition to the current situation, up to 4.5 per cent of Rwandans would be considered as unemployed.

But, thanks to the new definition, many Rwandans who were previously considered as employed under the old definition are currently regarded as unemployed. They include subsistence farmers – and their exclusion from the employed population saw the rate of employed citizens in the agriculture sector drop to 45.9 per cent, down from 68 per cent previously.

The NISR survey also indicated that youth unemployment stood at 21 per cent as of February 2017.

Experts say the new definition offers a more accurate picture about unemployment in the country and an opportunity to policymakers to devise better strategies to help address the issue.

The government says it wants to create at least 200,000 off-farm jobs, annually, over the next seven years.

One of the avenues to create more jobs is promoting entrepreneurship. It is creditable that government is placing emphasis on off-farm jobs, as fertile land is increasingly becoming scarce and rain-fed agriculture ever more unpredictable in one of Africa’s most densely populated countries.

In yesterday’s edition, this newspaper reported about the growing appetite among Rwandans to venture into poultry farming. In fact, the Agriculture ministry says poultry productivity has significantly increased over the last few years, mainly thanks to citizens who are increasingly spotting the potential in the sector and move to exploit it. 

There is need for government and other stakeholders to continue encouraging particularly Rwandan youth to explore the immense opportunities that the local industry presents and not shy away from thinking big and taking a risk.

They should always remember that even the most successful projects in the world were once simply an idea until someone took a bold step to bring that idea to life.

Rwandan youth should leverage the government’s growing investments in such sectors as ICT, services, infrastructure and agriculture to develop themselves and their country.

Similarly, government agencies and other stakeholders need to mobilise all the available resources to ensure that the youth are empowered enough to make the most of the opportunities that the country presents to them.