Rwanda should leverage emerging technologies to grow local skills

Also for that target to be achieved, employers and trade unions will have to take more responsibility for investing in skills by sitting at the table with trainers and policy-makers and much of their talk must be informed by labour market, timely employment services and consistent periodic performance reviews, which to my knowledge the Government of Rwanda already implements well through the Imihigo (performance contracts).
Software developers at K-Lab, a hub for startups, in Kigali. File .
Software developers at K-Lab, a hub for startups, in Kigali. File .

Editor,

RE: “What would it take to create 1.5m decent jobs for Rwandans by 2024?” (The New Times, December 19). Well, fundamentally and critically Rwanda and other African countries need in general to anticipate emerging technological changes and tackle the education and skills mismatch in labour markets. Globally, one third of employees complain of not being able to find right skills to fill the existing vacancies. The local trade unions must build solid bridges between the world of work and training providers so that skills can be matched to the market needs.

Also for that target to be achieved, employers and trade unions will have to take more responsibility for investing in skills by sitting at the table with trainers and policy-makers and much of their talk must be informed by labour market, timely employment services and consistent periodic performance reviews, which to my knowledge the Government of Rwanda already implements well through the Imihigo (performance contracts).

Beyond training for workers in the digital era, sustainable economies require protection for workers in good times and bad. Along with adequate unemployment benefit systems, social protection such as healthcare and pensions form a basis for overall workers’ security and a healthy economy. Yet as per statistics from 2004-2017 only 3 per cent of the Rwanda’s population has adequate social security coverage and more than 97 per cent lack any coverage at all.

It has been proven that social protection can work as a buffer to mitigate the effects of economic crises. The ILO (International Labor Organization) also advocates minimum levels of social protection as spelled out in its Recommendation 202 concerning national floors of social protection.

Government should establish “pre-digital world” values, which are encode labour standards that still apply in our post-digital era. In my opinion, they become even more relevant if the traditional employee-employer relationship becomes increasingly eroded in the future. The evolving complexities of the Rwanda/ Africa of work will require complex solutions.

This is why there should also be an initiative to try and provide a factual understanding for defining the trends ahead and discussing what needs to be done to establish the post-digital world we all want for Africa/Rwanda.

The country has changed vastly over the past 20 years and not only because of technology but also other factors like government policy and leadership. By 2025, the country’s population will most likely be 17-18 million. The number of people aged 60 years and over will have also likely increased by 40 per cent. Three-quarters of older persons will be living in the country and the majority will be women.

On this I conclude with “human brain and human brawn.” The demographic context of Rwanda should have profound implications for labour markets, social security systems, employment and economic development.

For all the strides the country has made since 1994, we arrive back at the simple truth that the machines and new technology are to continue to be built by human brain and brawn. Now and going forward, the digital economy we want for our continent and Rwanda must be a sustainable one and it must be built on decent work which gives Rwandans and Africans dignity.

Ivan Nkomati

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