At least 60 agri-business projects initiated by youth across the country are set to get Rwf10 million each following an agreement signed between Business Development Fund (BDF) and Private Sector Federation (PSF).
The projects, that are mainly in agriculture and livestock value chain, will be selected from all the 30 districts of the country.
The criteria for selecting beneficiaries will involve looking at projects that aim at employing the jobless youth with focus on university graduates, according to the benefactors.
Each project, according to the agreement, should benefit at least 10 youths.
Projects that are eligible are in fisheries, livestock and agri-business projects, fruit and vegetables, agro-processing and transformation, said Janet Kanyambo, fund manager at BDF, emphasising that innovation will be a key criterion.
Speaking during the signing of the agreement in Kigali on Tuesday, Kanyambo said a beneficiary of the initiative will provide 10 per cent of the Rwf10 million capital, while BDF will provide 30 per cent as a grant for that same capital.
The remaining 60 per cent, which will also be provided by BDF, but reimbursed by the beneficiary at an interest rate of 12 per cent over a five-year period.
She said the project can include primary farming but also transformation or value-addition.
“If you grow Irish potatoes or maize, you should also consider how to package or add value to it,” Kanyambo said, noting that the same applies to piggery, poultry, among others.
BDF chief executive Innocent Bulindi said the financial institution will initially work closely with the projects and gradually exit from the projects after the shareholders have paid off the funding.
The head of the Young Entrepreneurs Chamber at PSF, Lydie Hakizimana, said it will be easy for the beneficiaries to get the required 10 per cent of the investment because it can be in the form of land, contributions from each of them or their skills.
“Fresh graduates have no experience, collateral or even start-up capital to start business. This issue will be addressed by this programme because BDF will directly fund their businesses,” she said.
Hakizimana said the challenges facing young entrepreneurs include lack of skills and technologies that can help them be competitive at the job market through making quality products, a point on which she concurred with Regis Umugiraneza, head of agro-processing cluster at Rwanda Youth in Agri-business Forum (RYAF).
However, PSF and BDF reassured that there will be skills development for the beneficiary entrepreneurs from various relevant players, noting that the programme will be implemented in partnership with various entities, including the National Youth Council, Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and EAC Affairs, as well as the respective district leadership.
The chairperson of PSF, Benjamin Gasamagera, said: “We want to look for solutions to issues in farming, including enhancing the skills of the practitioners of agriculture and livestock farming, getting start-up capital for the youth and changing the mindset among the youth, especially university graduates, that agriculture is one of the sectors that offer sustainable employment.”
Umugiraneza said there are many jobless youth graduates yet agriculture continues to provide lots of untapped potentials.
He said RYAF has a plan to have an agro-processing processing factory in each district, referring to the new programme as one to help build capacities of the personnel who will be needed in those factories.
Selection of the projects
The selection of the projects at the district level will be done by a panel consisting of a BDF and PSF representative, National Youth Council representative as well as the in-charge of business development in the respective district.
Five projects will be selected in every district, which means that there will be 150 projects that will reach BDF to select the 60 eligible projects.
At the district level, the projects are due to have been selected within two weeks while the selection at the national level is expected to be complete by next month.
As per the Fourth Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey, 2013/14, unemployment among university graduates stood at 14 per cent.