Rwanda aims to transform itself into a middle-income country with a knowledge-based, private sector-driven economy. Sustainable job creation is a cornerstone to achieving these goals.
Rwanda’s economic development policy (EDPRS II) echoes the important role of employment for economic development and poverty reduction. It calls for “200,000 [off-farm] jobs to be created each year” to meet the employment needs of the labour force, influenced by demographic trends and the growing demographic of working-age youth which constitute 70% of Rwanda’s population. To highlight the important role that young people have in achieving its goals, the Ministry of Youth and ICT (MYICT) together with the National Youth Council, organised the National YouthConnekt convention with the theme ‘Economic opportunities and job creation for youth as a way of self-reliance’.
Two programme participants presented the OYE Improved Cook Stoves and biogas projects at a three day exhibition at the convention. “We interacted with many other young people from across Rwanda. We learnt new ways of doing business from youth cooperatives similar to ours. They use WhatsApp, phone calls, short messages and emails to communicate with customers and keep records in the form of order cards,” said Phionah Mukamugema, the president of RwaViCoop, the Rwamagana Improved Cook Stoves cooperative.
The role various vocational institutions training programmes have in realising the Rwandan job target, was recognised in November during a graduation ceremony on the last day of the convention. The Honourable Prime Minister of Rwanda, Anastase Murekezi and the Minister for public service and labour, Judith Uwizeye presided over the ceremony.
OYE youth, among them Judith and her 4-month-old baby and husband Gerard, centre
SNV proudly presented 40 biogas masons during the ceremony. The masons are organised into a cooperative that serves the Kirehe District. The cooperative’s president, Gerard Niyitegeka led the representatives into receiving their certifications. “We are happy to be here, and to have our work validated at the national level. The OYE project has really brought us a long way. We all have jobs now and we can look forward to a bright future,” Gerard said.
An OYE participant shows how a biogas system works to H. P.M. Anastase Murekezi
“Today 2,000 youth will be awarded certificates in different vocation fields. Our dream is to build this country’s economy by the hands of our youth”, Minister Uwizeye said in her opening remarks.
The 40 representatives from Kirehe are amongst 2,963 young people enrolled in the SNV OYE project in Rwanda since it started hree ytears ago. They were trained first on basic life skills, followed by theoretical and practical skills on biogas technology. Even before receiving official registration from the Rwanda Cooperative Agency, the cooperative started marketing biogas systems and undertook repair assignments among residents in the district whose biogas digesters had developed problems. They won the trust of the district authorities, and were granted a registration and contract to build biogas digesters. After a year of steady operations, the group was certified as a biogas technicians’ cooperative under the national NEP-Kora Wigire programme.
The minister for public service and labour thanked partners and institutions for building the vocational capacity of young people and enabling them to earn their own living. “NEP-Kora Wigire has registered 21,248 men and women trained in partnership with different development organisations and government institutions. We could not have achieved this without everyone’s contribution, so this victory is as much yours as it is for these young people.” she concluded and congratulated the youth.
Delivering his keynote speech, the Honourable Prime Minister urged all in attendance at the graduation ceremony to celebrate what the NEP-Kora Wigire programme had achieved. He said this after visiting some exhibition stands and witnessing the crafts, fine art, needlework and food processing products that trained young people were able to create. At the SNV OYE stand, the Prime Minister observed a biogas system prototype, an Improved Cook Stove and solar home systems.
The Kirehe cooperative is one of 18 biogas cooperatives formed by OYE project trainees across the country, formed by more than 1,200 youth biogas technicians and several biogas enterprises.