Rwanda marked International Youth Day yesterday with hundreds of youth members gathering at different points in the country and talking about how to replace drug abuse with jobs.
It was a one-day campaign organised by the Ministry of Youth and ICT in partnership with the National Youth Council as Rwanda joined the world in marking the International Youth Day under the theme of “Youth and Mental Health.”
Officials used the opportunity to engage the youth in talking about employment as the only way many they can get off drugs.
“In our country, we have decided to show the relationship between mental health and employment and youth empowerment. Those are issues that matter for young people in Rwanda,” said Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the minister for youth and ICT.
The minister made the remarks to journalists at the launch of yesterday’s campaign in 10 districts at the sector level.
Participants from youth cooperatives, young innovators, students, and organisations, among other young actors, gathered to discuss issues that affect them and how they can take advantage of available work and job creation opportunities in the country.
Jean Paul Niyomugabo, a youth leader in Masaka Sector in Kigali City’s Kicukiro District, said most members of the youth in the area who engage in drug abuse are often jobless and have no information about creating or seeking employment.
“We would like to show them different opportunities so that they can take advantage. Some of them are educated and have different talents; they are able to create different jobs,” he said.
Niyomugabo cited government’s Business Development Fund (BDF), a multi-million fund that ensures 75 per cent of collateral to banks when small- and medium-sized enterprises or local cooperatives apply for loans, as one of the schemes that the youth need to be aware of.
“BDF will be on the district level soon, instead of working at the national level. Our youth need to know about this and start applying for loans from their local Saccos,” he said.
Hard getting bank loan
A few metres away from where Niyomugabo was speaking to The New Times from at Masaka Sector Headquarters, young men in cycling transport business were teasing each other as they waited for clients.
One of them, 31-year-old Vincent Ndagijimana, said he wouldn’t mind acquiring a bank loan to upgrade his business and offer transport on a motorcycle.
But banks simply won’t give him a loan because he has no collateral.
“My current job is better than drug abuse or theft. But I would definitely buy a motorbike if I had the means,” he said.
His workmate, 27-year-old Telesphore Manirarora, said most young people in his area who smoke marijuana and drink too much alcohol are often jobless and desperate.
Drug abuse is the main cause of mental illness among the youth in the country and Minister Nsengimana wants economic empowerment to be the incentive for the youth to be off drugs.
The government has planned to spend Rwf12 billion to implement a new National Employment Programme in the current fiscal year.
One of the expected results of the programme is the increase of integrated crafts production centres, locally known as Udukiriro, which would be scaled up in all districts to provide means for the youth and women to develop hands-on skills.
It is those skills that they will then use to eke out a living and even get decent jobs.
“You cannot take advantage of those opportunities if you’re not mentally sound,” Minister Nsengimana told the youth on the International Youth Day.
Rwanda’s 2012 Population and Housing Census revealed that 67 per cent of all unemployed people in Rwanda are youth aged 16-34 years.
The census estimated the country’s unemployment rate at 3.4 per cent with the issue remaining tougher in urban areas of the country, at 7.7 per cent.