BY GODFREY NTAGUNGIRA
Rwanda today positions young people as key agents of socio-political change.
Rwanda’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) provide a medium-term framework for achieving the country’s long term development aspirations.
The youth has a role to play in the EDPRS implementation, as makers and targets of this policy especially in the implementation phase. Firstly, since 67% of the population is aged less than 25 years, the strategy stands or falls by the success with which it meets the challenges facing the Rwandan Youth.
Secondly, owing to the widespread economic, social and political dislocation the country experienced during the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, an entire generation of young Rwandan citizens has had their livelihoods disrupted by forced migration, traumatic childhood experiences, and interrupted schooling.
So, for a durable and sustainable economic development, youth needs not only good education, health, culture, employment but also a patriotic spirit to sustain efforts provided within the framework of the economic development to avoid a repetition of economic destruction as it happened during the 1994 genocide.
Youth Segment performance
Empowering and investing in youth is an underlying strategy of ensuring sustainable economic development of the country. The segment has elaborated its high level objective as being, ‘effective participation of youth in social, economic and civic development’.
In identifying key achievements within this segment, more emphasis was put on the following:
• Promotion of youth employment through Youth cooperatives and initiatives;
• Support to Youth Mobilization and Training;
• Capacity building for the Rwanda National Youth Centre and Youth Friendship Clubs;
• Health and Youth Protection;
Workshops and trainings on HIV/AIDS prevention, youth health, hygiene and environment protection.
Throughout 2008, the following were the achievements of the youth segment:
Youth taking leadership
Today more than 65% of the Rwandan population is less than 35 years of age. That makes Rwanda a very youthful country to say the least. The youth are the change agents and bridge between technology and society. Youth in secondary schools, universities, semi-skilled workers and laborers are more receptive of changes brought about by ICTs than the older people.
Rwanda is intent on taking advantage of this new media culture among youth to advance the concept of decentralization.
The main mission for Rwanda is to achieve a middle income status by 2020 and transform its society and economy into an information-rich knowledge-based society and economy by modernizing its key sectors using information and communication technologies.
In full consideration of the missions of the Ministry of Youth and RNYC, and in close collaboration with different stakeholders, different programmes and objectives were laid down in the 2008 Action Plan and they have been pursued.
Getting the skills match right
The youth are expected to be proactive in revitalizing their livelihoods and socio-economic welfare within the general EDPRS framework.
In 2008, MINIYOUTH & RNYC had set a target of supporting the transformation of fifty (50) youth associations into cooperatives. This target was surpassed and in total, 61 associations were supported in different ways (sensitization, training, financially, etc) to transform into cooperatives.
In addition, in close collaboration with the former Task Force for Cooperatives, a workshop was organized to mobilize and strengthen youth cooperatives.
Youth projects in 6 Districts in this domain were financially supported. Also, other sites for similar projects were identified.
Youth Cooperative Bank
Again, in order to support youth in increasing their productivity, MINIYOUTH and RNYC are committed to strongly support a youth savings and credit bank, commonly known as COOJAD.
This cooperative bank plans to be established and scaled up in all the thirty (30) districts of the country so that it could be accessed by all categories of youth.
This is because a large number of youth have not been having access to loans because they do not have securities.
Considering the EDPRS roadmap, every district is supposed to open a COOJAD branch by 2012. Within the same planning framework, 5 COOJAD Branches should have been operational by the end of 2008.
Presently, 7 branches have been opened and are operating in the districts of Gasabo, Kicukiro, Bugesera, Kamonyi, Musanze, Rusizi and Burera.
In strengthening COOJAD, ten branches in different districts and at the Headquarter, were financially supported. Youth in all districts were sensitized to become members of COOJAD.
They were also requested to support its creation. The total number of youth who are members of COOJAD increased from 1,700 to 4,336 people. Loans equivalent to Rwf.250, 000,000 have been disbursed to 552 beneficiaries for employment creation.
Creation of a Youth Employment Fund
The National Bank of Rwanda has a guarantee fund for tangible projects in the entire country. For the youth to benefit from this initiative, COOJAD had to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Guarantee fund of the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR).
However, the funds available are not enough to reach out to all youth in the whole country. A feasibility study of the youth employment fund is underway.
Youth Friendly Centres (YFCs)
In the EDPRS framework, the Government of Rwanda and its development partners agreed that within five (5) years that every district should possess a YFC to enhance the active participation of the Rwandan youth in the development of the country.
The minimum package for the services to be provided in the said centres will include:
• Promotion of Reproductive Health and rights;
• Training youth in Income Generating Activities;
• Training youth in ICT;
• Sensitization of youth about VCT, and against HIV /AIDS;
• Sports, cultural and leisure activities, etc…
A workshop bringing together District Executive Secretaries and representatives of RNYC at the district level and RNYC Executive Secretaries from twenty four (24) districts was held.
Its main objective was to share a draft Youth mainstreaming strategy so that during the preparation of Districts’ Medium Term Economic Forums, District Development Plans and Imihigo youth could be integrated in districts’ plans in a holistic way. The strategy is yet to be finalized.
Creation of a Youth Steering committee
Two Steering Committees chaired by MINIYOUTH were initiated in 2008.
One is the Ministry of Youth-Partners Steering committee, whose main objective is to offer strategic and technical guidance for the implementation of programs at the national level.
So far, a mapping exercise of YFCs has been accomplished. Further still, the steering committee has shared each and every partners’ action plans and made necessary amendments.
On the other hand, the ministry has set up the Adolescent Girls Initiative Steering Committee. The World Bank is funding an Adolescent Girls Initiative Project with the objective of attaining economic empowerment of adolescent girls and young women aged 14-30 in Rwanda.
It is focussed on offering strategic and technical guidance for the effective implementation of programs aimed at improving employment opportunity and increasing the incomes of adolescent girls and young women at national level.
Rehabilitation of RNYC headquarters
Considering Law N° 05/2006 of 05/02/2006 modifying and complementing law n° 24/2003 of 14/08/2003 establishing the functioning and organisation of Rwanda National Youth Council, it is clear that RNYC has been given a broad mandate. It is in this regard that RNYC is extending its headquarters.
It has started the rehabilitation phase by awarding a tender to the successful bidder. However, there were delays in starting the actual rehabilitation process because RNYC Management could not find another place of work.
Rehabilitation of YFCs
MINIYOUTH and RNYC have a key role to play in the coordination of three (3) YFCs. That is; Karongi, Nyagatare and Rusizi centres. On the other hand, RNYC is also coordinating three (3) other centres in Bugesera, Kabuga and Rubavu.
The latter started the rehabilitation phase of the centres of Bugesera and Kabuga in 2008 and the process is still on going. Generally, YFCs aim at empowering youth especially school drop outs and non-schooling youth in skills development and employment creation.
MINIYOUTH and its partners are mandated to set guidelines and follow up the implementation of the minimum service package of these centres.