Agriculture offers soft landing for the jobless due to Covid-19

Friday October 08 2021
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At least 200,000 Rwandans lost their jobs between August 2020 and February 2021, due to Covid-19 precautionary measures and travel restrictions. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

By Ange Iliza

At least 200,000 Rwandans lost their jobs between August 2020 and February 2021, due to Covid-19 precautionary measures.

Unemployment rate increased from 17 percent to 20 percent over the same period, affecting mainly women and small businesses.

As a result, many have resorted to subsistence agriculture to make ends meet. The sector attracted 206,000 new non-commercial farmers, an increase from 1.6 million farmers in February 2020 to 1.9 million people in February 2021.

While the government was aiming at creating 1.5 million off-farm jobs by 2024, unemployment induced by the pandemic could, however, make the aim unattainable.

Rwanda has created Figures released by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR)’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey, indicated that not only did the unemployed population decrease but also the labour force participation rate decreased drastically from 56.5 percent in November 2020 to 50.6 percent in February 2021.

The report comes after it was announced that Rwanda’s GDP has increased by 20 percent in 2021 quarter 2. According to Michel Ndakize, demographics and social statistics director at NISR, an increase in GDP does not necessarily reflect on the labour force.


“The government has spent majorly on Covid-19 related campaigns which contributed to GDP growth but did not create new jobs.

This added to the fact that Covid-19 lockdowns boosted labour force supply with more people looking for jobs due to financial issues,” Mr Ndakize explained.

He added that the longer it takes to recover, the more complex the issue of unemployment could get.

While people were losing jobs, universities were pouring out fresh graduates in need of more jobs.

The recent graduation at the University of Rwanda in August saw over 9,000 new members of the labour market graduate.

Clemence Uwera, a fresh graduate from the University of Rwanda, School of Journalism and Communication, finds it almost impossible to get steady employment.

“I have been trying to get a job for a year now. Many companies have laid off workers or are working remotely. When it comes to the media sector, in which I am pursuing a job, it is even harder because many media companies made huge losses,” she narrates.