EDITORIAL: Put more resources in agriculture for it holds the key to unemployment

Sunday November 17 2019


Many graduates who fail to find jobs in Kigali city return to their rural villages to live with their parents or relatives. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

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More than 9,000 young and new jobseekers entered the Rwanda labour market recently after they graduated from the University of Rwanda, further adding to a saturated pool.

This number of the unemployed is growing bigger, threatening to overrun the government structures set up to deal with them.

And much as the burden of employing the youth should not rest entirely on government, the state has a role in creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurship to flourish and facilitate meaningful investments needed to absorb the youth.

The National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda reported that unemployment grew to 16 per cent this August — even with various job creation initiatives and programmes by the civil society and the government.

The most affected age group is that of youth between the ages of 16 and 30 years, a critical but also vulnerable demographic, because at that age many don't have the requisite skills or even capital to start any business.

Although the mindset of many young people could be the problem, the lack of a transitional structure to help even those aspiring to become entrepreneurs is largely to blame.


Eight years ago, the government came up with a programme under the Ministry of Trade — dubbed Hangumurimo — to address unemployment but the programme ended up funding a negligible number of youth.

While the investment code gives investors with up to $50 million a tax holiday of up to seven years, no incentive is given to struggling entrepreneurs.

Some organisations like Inkomoko are working closely with banks to come up with interest-free financing for some suitable and innovative businesses, but these funds are going to only a few.

The government needs to go back to the drawing board and find pragmatic pathways between the education sector, including TVET's, to first of all establish why the majority of the technical and vocational graduates are not creating jobs as they study to do.

The economy also needs to be more liberalised, starting with the government revisiting some of its agricultural policies to make them more attractive to young people.

Agriculture is the biggest employer, and it's that sector people fall back to, yet it is critically underdeveloped, with many doing subsistence and a lot of arable land lying idle.

The budget allocation to the sector has been reducing over the years and climate change has ensured that agriculture cannot thrive without serious mechanisation.

It is, therefore, critical for the government to reconsider the agriculture sector as an avenue for job creation for the youth.