This year, an estimated 125,000 young people will enter Rwanda’s labor force. But many of them will struggle to find employment, as the country’s emerging economy is creating far fewer than that number of formal jobs. This gap forces many young people to make a choice: start their own microbusinesses or risk being out of work.
Abel Nsengiyuma is confident that he will fall into the former category.
“I feel ready to embrace my future,” says the 23-year-old from Gasabo. “I’m able to make a plan and execute it. I dream of working for myself, and I’m able to visualize all of the next steps I need to take to make that happen.”
In March, Nsengiyuma was one of 227 youth taking part in a graduation ceremony for EDC’s USAID Huguka Dukore program. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, Huguka Dukore provides out-of-school youth between the ages of 16 and 30 with technical and work readiness skills to succeed in Rwanda’s growing economy. The centerpiece of the project is EDC’s Work Ready Now! curriculum, which covers a variety of soft skills, including interpersonal communication, problem solving, workplace behavior and attitudes, and financial literacy. Huguka Dukore also offers entrepreneurship training and coaching and partners with local businesses to offer internship opportunities for youth.
Nsengiyuma, who studied culinary arts, credits USAID Huguka Dukore with helping him get ready for the future.
“I’ve changed so much since joining this training,” he says. “I gained a lot of skills like self-confidence. I can now speak confidently in public. I also realized that it’s never too late to do something. If you desire to make something happen, you can.”
That’s just the message that Bill Potter, chief of party for USAID Huguka Dukore, wants to hear. He believes that the program is an important component in helping Rwanda’s youth build a bright future for the country.
“Two thirds of Rwandans are below the age of 30,” says Potter. “These young people could play a transformational role in the nation’s economic growth if they are provided market-relevant work readiness skills and can engage in meaningful employment and self-employment. Stories like Abel’s show that USAID Huguka Dukore is making encouraging progress to assist thousands of youth nationwide to become work ready.”
The graduation ceremony was organized by Esther’s Aid, one of 18 local partners helping to implement USAID Huguka Dukore. Youth wore gowns and mortar boards and snapped photos with family and friends. Potter addressed the graduates, congratulating them on what they had already accomplished.
Rosemary Mbabazi, Rwanda’s Minister of Youth, was also in attendance. She spoke about the importance of entrepreneurship—even on the smallest of scales.
“A seed is so small,” she said. “You plant it and it grows into a big tree, into a forest. You can start small, but you can grow.”