By The Rwandan Analyst

In 2012, the African Development Bank (AfDB) recognized that youth unemployment in Rwanda is a major challenge to achieving inclusive growth. According to the AfDB, 42% of young people, who make up 40% of Rwanda’s population or 1,982,400 people, were unemployed or under-employed in the subsistence sector in 2012. Skills mismatches and limited employment growth are the main causes.

More and more young graduates in a saturated labour market

 Following the article Echos of Rwanda, the job market in Rwanda in 2013 is a saturated market that struggles to integrate the thousands of young graduates from universities and private higher institutes. These young graduates join the 200,000 new job seekers, while the number of jobs created annually in Rwanda is 74,000 according to the AfDB.

One of the most striking features is that this unemployment affects young university graduates. In May 2014, The East African newspaper reported on the story of Jabil Munyengabe, 26, a computer graphics graduate from the TUMBA Institute of Technology (northern province) who wakes up every morning at 5am, goes to the Kigali shopping centre and returns to his home in Kimironko every night at 7pm. Despite this routine, he has no job. He wakes up every morning to go “to the hunt for jobs.” On good days, he comes home with 100,000 Rwandan francs but on some bad days he can return with nothing. «  

In 2008, the Rwandan daily Igihe quoted the case of the Ministry of Health, which received 1,836 applications following a job offer launched by the ministry for 60 positions on 2-month contracts for archiving tasks. According to a departmental employee, all applications had at least one licence level.

In the same year, the National Statistical Institute of Rwanda (INSR) was obliged to organize written tests at The Amahoro Stadium for the positions of codification staff for the general census because the number of candidates was so large that a single room could not suffice.

In the spring of 2013, it is still remembered that following an inSR job offer for 156 census officer positions for a one-year mission, the organization was overwhelmed by 15,000 applications. Many cases reported by the Rwandan media highlight the scourge of unemployment that is hitting a newly graduated Rwandan youth.

The Rwandan government recognizes this problem and has included it in the Strategic Plan for Poverty Reduction and Economic Development (EDPRS) and the HANGA UMURIMO plan to raise awareness among citizens about creating their own jobs. However, there is still a lack of statistical data on the evolution of youth unemployment in the Ministry of Labor and the INSR.

The skills gap of young Rwandan graduates

In 2012, the National Employment Policy (NEP) highlighted in an AfDB report that at least 70% of job seekers are not qualified for the type of job they are looking for or do not meet employers’ expectations. Data from the National Council for Higher Education show that the majority of 2010 university graduates (12,717) are from the natural sciences (29%) and the literary and artistic sector (26%); only 9% have completed a technical or computer-language course. A national competency audit conducted in 2009 reported an average skills gap of 40% and significant skills gaps in certain categories, including technicians. Current demand exceeds supply by 60% in the public, private and not-for-profit sector. Thus, reform of the education system aimed at developing human resources consistent with the demands of the Rwandan labor market remains a major priority.

The causes of youth unemployment in Rwanda lie on both the supply and demand side. With regard to labor supply, the 2009 National Skills Audit showed that skills mismatches were one of the main factors of unemployment among young people. The 2010-2015 Education Sector Strategic Plan prioritizes the development of a post-elementary education system that is better suited to labor market requirements, in part through joint program development by relevant departments and the private sector. However, it appears that employers do not feel sufficiently involved in the development of informal education policy (EFTP) programs. They recommend a comprehensive industry-oriented training system that is also flexible and takes gender equality into account.

The State has undertaken to reform the current EFTP system by creating, among other things, integrated regional polytechnic centers to improve the quality and relevance of EFTP education, and a workforce development authority. The latter plays a regulatory role and is responsible for the management of the EFTP qualifications framework, national professional standards, EFTP examinations and certifications at the national level, the labor market information system and business incubation.

The skills gap is not unique only to young Rwandan graduates. Indeed, at the last summit of universities of the community of African States of EST (EAC) in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of the EAC area, only 27% of EAC employers said they had confidence in the capacity of young graduates trained within the EAC.

In 2014, 50% of university graduates in the EAC could not compete in the labour market.The conference report also indicated that 47% of EAC employers consider finding adequate skills a major challenge and therefore 70% of employers are willing to offer higher wages to find them. In addition, one-third of employers report that a lack of appropriate skills generates higher costs, missed delays and poor quality of service.

To sum up, it seems that the fight against endemic youth unemployment will necessarily require a profound and courageous reform of the entire education system. Failing this, thousands of unemployed young graduates will continue to flock to an already saturated labor market and become a ticking time bomb.