Rwanda is seeking to create 200,000 jobs annually, through multiple avenues.
The latest Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey report estimates that about 146,000 off-farm jobs are created annually since 2011.
Job creation targeting young people was one of the major topics deliberated at the YouthConnekt Africa summit, which closed Friday at the Kigali Convention Centre.
The United Nations estimates that there are over 226 million people aged between 15-24 on the continent, making Africa the most youthful continent.
However, this has come with challenges, such as high unemployment rates currently estimated at about 60 per cent.
Experts say that among the ways to increase job creation is increased rollout of energy, supporting entrepreneurs scale up their enterprises, and coming up with alternative sources of financing.
Vera Songwe, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) executive secretary, said that increasing energy rollout across African countries has proven to have an impact of about 10 per cent increase in job creation annually.
She said energy presents opportunities for investors and business people to scale up their production capacity as well as market outreach, hence more job opportunities.
“Infrastructure like energy reduces cost of investments as well as derisks them, which, in turn, bring investors who can create lots of job opportunities,” Songwe said.
She added that energy makes it possible to roll out and use broadband which has been seen to have an impact of creating over 150,000 jobs annually.
Rwanda currently has an energy generation capacity of 208 megawatts while the connection rate is currently at about 32 per cent.
The Government targets 70 per cent connection rate by 2018 and a generation capacity of 563 megawatts.
Other experts said that to increase the country’s job creation capacity, there is a need to devise ways to get more people into the agriculture sector.
African Development Bank chief Akinwumi Adesina said there is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurship and job creation in the agriculture sector going by the food security challenges in the continent.
“We need to draw more people into the agriculture sector to consider opportunities in it. There is a lot of opportunity given the levels of food imports on the continent as well as food insecurity,” he said.
Youth participation in agriculture
The Government has been working to increase youth in agriculture through encouraging value addition of products.
But access to capital for startups has been cited as a challenge.
Banks and other financial institutions have often been blamed for being inflexible in dealing with start-ps and emerging businesses.
Dr Diane Karusisi, the chief executive of Bank of Kigali, said there is need for commitment by players in the finance sector to increase access to finance for startups.
She cited Bank of Kigali’s ‘Urumuri’ initiative that has so far availed Rwf60 million in interest-free loans to women entrepreneurs.
Defending banks, Ecobank Rwanda chief executive Alice Kilonzo said banks’ model of lending is often based on solid business plans and collateral, which most young people do not have.
The Vice Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, Monique Nsazabaganwa, said that it is time to look into alternative financing mechanism beyond banks which are more flexible to the needs of start-ups with potential to create jobs.
The summit looked at ways to realise the potential of the continent’s youthful population.
Convening over 2,800 participants from 90 countries, the delegates sought solutions to review policies, and establish programmes, among other things.
The participants’ profiles were diverse and included top executives from multinational companies that operate in Africa, leaders of civil society organisations, Africa’s development partners, members of the academia, successful entrepreneurs, artists and youth opinion leaders from across the continent.
The panelists included Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, Adesina, US singer and businessman Akon, former AfDB president Donald Kaberuka, and Nigerian economist and philanthropist Tonny Elumelu.
The summit also saw the launch of the YouthConnekt Africa Empowerment Fund, an initiative that seeks to empower young people to have an impact in their communities.
The forum was organised by the Government of Rwanda, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and United Nations Development Programme.