Rwanda grapples with youth unemployment

Saturday May 3 2014

By Edmund Kagire Rwanda Today

Jabil Munyengabe, 26, wakes up at 5am every morning and heads to Quartier Commerciale in Kigali city centre to “work,” returning home in Kimironko at 7pm.

But despite this daily routine, he does not have a job. The holder of a computer graphics diploma from IPRC Tumba College of Technology actually goes to town to “chase deals.” On a good day, he goes back home with Rwf100, 000 but for most of the days he returns with nothing.

“If I am lucky, I will get enough money to have lunch, but on a bad day it is even difficult to get a handout,” says Mr Munyengabe, who finds buyers for merchandise and pocket a commission from traders. “It is not a sure deal; sometimes buyers don’t come by.”

Mr Munyengabe is one of the dozens of youth who lounge around the city centre, chasing unpredictable or even non-existent deals,. He says he knows many degree holders who are also jobless.

“If I had capital, I would set up my own workshop. I would rent a small corner in one of these shopping malls but the rent too is high,” he says, adding that he has no collateral to take a bank loan.

His parents asked him to leave the family home after he spent more than a year without a job following his graduation in 2012.

“They were equally frustrated and thought I was lazy,” he points out, adding that he was prompted to look for a place to live with friends who also do not have permanent jobs.

As the world celebrated the International Labour Day, the majority of its youth were struggling to find a job or access bank loans to start a businesses.

While the Fourth Rwanda Population and Housing Census (RPHC4) figures do not paint a grim picture, the reality could actually be different on the ground.

Census results published last month indicate that of the entire population aged 16 and above, 74 per cent were economically active. The economic activity rate is higher in rural areas, at 75 per cent, compared with urban areas (68 per cent). It was higher among males (76 per cent) than females (72 per cent).

Of the more than 10 million Rwandans, 4.1 million are officially considered “employed people,” or 71 per cent of residents aged 16 and above, though this may not necessarily reflect steady incomes.

“Unemployment in Rwanda is an urban phenomenon and affects young people (16-35 years) more than adults. The unemployment rate in urban areas, at 7.7 per cent, was more than twice as high as the one at the national level,” the final report said.

According to the figures published by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), unemployment at the national level stands at 3.4 per cent. It is 2.6 per cent in rural areas.

However, while rural youth find work in low-income, hard labour jobs, others prefer to head to urban areas to hunt for white-collar jobs.

Figures show the unemployment rate among active youth (16–35 years) was four per cent and 8.7 per cent, respectively, at the national level and in urban areas and 2.6 per cent and 5.6 per cent among adults (36–65 years).

Youth with a secondary school and college education are most exposed to unemployment. Some 13 per cent of active persons with a high school were unemployed at the rate of 10 per cent for university graduates.

Under the EDPR 2, the government targets to create a million jobs to absorb the unemployed youth.

Speaking this week during the national labour forum, Minister for Labour and Public Service Anastase Murekezi said the government plans to spend more than Rwf12 billion to implement a new National Employment Programme (NEP) in the next fiscal year (2014/15).

He pointed out that the government plans to generate 200,000 off-farm jobs every year.

Alphonse Nkuranga, the executive secretary of Rwanda National Youth Council (RNYC), says more Rwandan youth are coming up with workable innovative ideas but banks are yet to trust them.