RE: “We must ease labour-market transition for our youth” (The New Times, October 20). Good and informative article! Allow me to add my two cents and tie this to ongoing Rwanda government initiatives.
1. The Hanga Umurimo programme: In my humble view, this is probably one of the best programmes conceptually available to address youth unemployment. However, it focused unhealthily on the issue of access to finance with the result being that out of 453 projects 115 could not repay back their loans.
The painful lesson learned is that it’s not just about access to finance. Youth employment programmes are very national in nature taking into account various country dynamics akin to coming up with the perfect recipes that please all (in this case address this stubborn worldwide problem).
Hanga Umurimo is now with the Ministry of Public Service and Labour (Mifotra) although I fear this programme may undergo another painful lesson.
2. Strategic champion: Who is to own this issue amongst government institutions? In a country like Rwanda with a weak private sector, the government has to take the lead. Who should lead this initiative? It cannot be dependent on a personality (a sure sign of failure), and I personally think the Ministry of Youth and ICT is not strategically placed to unlock all the myriad ropes needed to tie the youth unemployment problem.
3. This programme cannot be owned by one stakeholder. Issues are many. Allow me to highlight some programmes that seem to have overlaps (and I invite someone else to expound on more of these) in the Government of Rwanda.
BRD (partly owned by government, I believe) owns the Business Development Fund but serving private sector interests would see this fund as purely money making (read high interest returns) as opposed to its inherent social gain.
The Ministry of Youth and ICT owns a commendable programme called Youth Friendly Centers, which I assume should reach out to the youth on entrepreneurship support. There is also a programme called business development centres that also seeks to avail entrepreneurship services to the general population.
Question is, all these are good initiatives but are they complementing one another? Are they ensuring that all gaps are being addressed? Who are they ultimately accountable to so that they work together in a coordinated way?
I have not even mentioned the myriads of civil society (welcome though) projects, for example, the think tank initiative by Tigo Rwanda that seemed to have failed, and private sector-led initiatives...
My conclusion: there is a need to develop a strategy that addresses all the factors, develops effective strategies to address all gaps, and creates ownership and accountability within Government.