Rwanda, like other regional countries, is facing growing unemployment, especially among the youth.
At 3 per cent, Rwanda’s unemployment rate inched up from 1 per cent in 2013, which should be a cause for worry among policy-makers. Government has put in place programmes and incentives to encourage investments that create jobs for the youth. It also encourages people to be innovative and set up their own business ventures instead of chasing after elusive white collar jobs.
Programmes like Hanga Umurimo that offer loan guarantees and the City of Kigali’s jobs centre are aimed at supporting young entrepreneurs or help the youth find work. However, despite this and other such initiatives, of the 125,000 young graduates churned out by universities and other institutions of higher learning, less than half of them find jobs or start businesses.
All this points to something gone wrong; so what are we not doing right? Some may argue that youth need incentives to encourage them to start business ventures, but this alone is no panacea for the unemployment challenge in Rwanda and the region generally.
As long as we have graduates who shun what they think are small jobs or despise entrepreneurship, the problem will continue to haunt us. Therefore, one of the issues to address is the attitude of job-seekers and young graduates so they face reality of the current situation.
Self-employment should be promoted as the ideal option for young graduates not corporate or government jobs. But this requires that banks rethink the way they treat small businesses or revise loan rates. School curricula also need to be reviewed in line with market needs, a move that will help avoid a skills mismatch. The government, the private sector and educators, as well as civil, religious and political leaders must work together to find a remedy to this challenge.