TEN DAYs from today, presidential campaigns officially begin. Candidates will travel to all corners of the country canvassing for votes in addition to using the media to communicate their agenda.
One constituency to look out for is the youth.
According to the provisional voters list released by the National Electoral Commission, on Wednesday, about half of the voters are aged between 18 and 30.
Of the 6.8 million registered voters, 3.1 million fall within NEC’s classification of youth. This, according to experts, makes their issues critical.
Donat Nishyirembere, a youth entrepreneurship officer at the National Youth Council, told The New Times that what the young people expect from the next president is to ensure that the national gains across all sectors are sustained.
He said that to create a conducive environment for further socio-economic growth of Rwandans, the next Head of State must ensure that more effort is put into addressing youth employment, health and skills development for the country to have what has been described as a “Happi Generation.”
Under the ‘Happi Generation’ initiative, the country aims at nurturing a generation that is healthy, apt, patriotic, productive and innovative.
“Of course, we can’t undermine the fact that a lot has been achieved and several programmes have been set up to address youth issues. But Rwanda has a target to become a middle-income economy in the next three years and this can be achieved once we continue empowering youth unemployment programmes, facilitating job creation through skills development, access to finance among others,” Nishyiremebere said.
He added that putting more effort into addressing child pregnancies and drug abuse are some of the ways the next leader would ensure a healthy youth for a productive future generation.
Ephraim Rwamwenge, the chief executive of Rwa Group and one of the most successful young businessmen in the country, said the next President should ensure they address existing gaps in services for the youth offered by the banking industry.
“A greater focus is needed on the regulatory framework in the banking industry, and addressing the bottlenecks that trickle down into everyday life,” Rwamwenge said.
Fiona Kamikazi, a young bank executive, said in the upcoming presidential polls, she is looking for a candidate who will make sure that Rwanda is known for its unity and economic development rather than the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“I’m looking for a candidate with capacity to take Rwanda to the next level, someone who can make sure that people outside Rwanda know more of success stories about Rwanda instead of continuing to look at us in the prism of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi,” Kamikazi said.
She said Rwanda has achieved a lot and what is needed now is for the country to keep growing and sustaining gains registered under the current leadership.
“The good thing about the current leadership is that they have managed to extend development to rural areas. Good roads, hospitals, schools and so forth. That is why I believe we can do more with the stability we have now,” Kamikazi added.
Paradis Rugema Isimbi, a university student, said Rwanda deserves nothing less than a selfless and visionary leader and that is what “every youth” is looking out for in the next President.
“The best presidential candidate for the youth has to be visionary, selfless, flexibile and willing to listen to others. I hope my choice will be able to bring about more progress for my country keeping in mind the welfare of the citizens,” Isimbi said.
The electoral commission is expected to release the final list of presidential candidates on Friday, while campaigns will begin July 13, and end August 3.
The country goes to the polls to pick the next president for a seven-year term on August 4, a day after Rwandans living in the Diaspora will have cast their vote.