Like many African countries, Rwanda has a young population. The under-fifteen age group accounts for 40% of the population. And while Kigali, the capital, is a surprisingly modern city some 20 years or more since the genocide, it is quite evident that not all young Rwandans from rural areas can find work there.
And while Kigali, the capital, is a surprisingly modern city 20 years after the genocide, it is quite evident that not all young Rwandans from rural areas can find work there. Moreover, there is no longer enough arable land to support Rwanda's population, which is growing rapidly every year. Rwanda urgently needs to diversify employment opportunities for working-age people.
For this reason, Switzerland decided to assist the vocational and technical training sector in Rwanda and signed an agreement with the Workforce Development Authority, an entity under the Rwandan Ministry of Education, to this effect. The project benefits two main groups of people:
- teenagers who have completed compulsory schooling or who have dropped out of school and want to start a technical training programme;
- population groups that sometimes live on the margins of society: women, demobilised combatants, orphans, etc.
Targeted action on behalf of the most disadvantaged
The project aims to provide participants from both groups with high-quality technical skills that better meet the needs of the economy. The SDC is cooperating with the Workforce Development Authority alongside other donors, but its contribution stands out for its direct action on the ground to benefit rural populations, especially the most disadvantaged.
So far, seven new basic vocational training programmes for masons, electricians, carpenters, welders, plumbers, car mechanics and hoteliers have been developed in close collaboration with the local private sector. Five vocational training centres have been built and equipped in Rwanda's Western Province. To date, these centres, which have been supported by the state since they were opened in 2014, have trained 3,000 young people, 830 of which have found work in the field in which they have been trained.
The project is also enabling 20 informal vocational training centres to develop a vocational curriculum designed to help Rwandans who have been left behind to re-enter the job market. Participants take part in awareness raising activities and basic vocational education workshops. The project also targets vocational instructors. Some 50 instructors attend continuing education and training courses to improve their technical and teaching skills.
Developing human capital
The overall goal of the project is to standardise and systematise links between vocational training institutions and potential employers. The SDC's involvement in the vocational education and training sector is in line with the Rwandan government's strategy to develop human capital in order to transform Rwanda into an emerging economy by 2020. Because Rwanda is a land-locked country with few natural resources, in order to attract foreign investment and promote market growth beyond the agricultural sector, it must first and foremost focus on training opportunities to improve the qualifications of its population. Developing the private sector is the most promising strategy for sustained economic growth which, in turn, will help reduce poverty.
Implemented by the Swiss organisation, Swisscontact, the SDC project will be expanded in a second stage to neighbouring South Kivu Province, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to Burundi if the political situation there permits.