Graduate Unemployment, Job Creation, And Education In Rwanda
After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda has tremendously boosted and diversified its economy. Hence, it is currently considered one of the fastest-growing growing economies in central Africa. It has increased its GDP to approximately eight percent between 2001 and 2014, and the international monetary fund expects the numbers to grow in the coming years (Hutt, 2021). However, graduate unemployment is still a big challenge to the Rwandan communities despite this optimism. According to the ministry of education (2019), around 86,146 students enroll in HEI in Rwanda. Unfortunately, a significant portion of this number becomes unemployed after graduation. And this is caused by various factors such as mismatch between the skills graduates have and what employers require, resulting from poor education systems. And another leading factor is the lack of enough funding opportunities. Some of these unemployed graduates have business ideas but lack the funds to establish their ventures.
Graduate Unemployment in Rwanda
Between 2013 and 2020, the University of Rwanda alone, without counting private universities, has released a total of 49,477 (UR, 2021). Nevertheless, only a few are able to secure a job after graduation. In 2019, the university world news conducted a study about graduate unemployment in Rwanda and interviewed several unemployed graduates. One of the participants was named Christine Umulisa. She had graduated from the University of Rwanda in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration (Mbonyinshuti, 2019).
She said, “ I was among the best performers [in my program] and was positive that I could get a job quickly. I started applying straight away and sat for over 50 written tests, but I am still searching” .
She, therefore, proceeded by saying, “Sometimes I passed the written tests, but I was often among hundreds of applicants all hoping to secure just one position”(Mbonyinshuti, 2019)
Nevertheless, Christine’s story is one among thousands. A lot of graduates go through the exact same process. According to a survey conducted by the ministry of education in 2019, only 50 percent of graduates from technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programs get employment, and about 63 percent of those from universities get employed (Mbonyinshuti, 2019). Nonetheless, the Rwandan government is working hard to mitigate this problem by creating 200,000 off-farm jobs annually (Mbonyinshuti, 2019).
Skills Gap as The Leading Cause of Graduate Unemployment
The rate of graduate unemployment in Rwanda is high and gradually increasing over time, and this is due to various factors such as poor quality education, lack of funding opportunities, etc. Multiple studies have shown a massive gap between the skills students acquire from higher education institutions and what employers need. In 2014, the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) conducted research using surveys and found that in the five East African countries, over 50 percent of the youth lack employability skills, technical mastery, and basic work-related capabilities (Taarifa Rwanda, 2021). Furthermore, according to the same survey, about 52 percent of graduates in Rwanda are unemployable (Taarifa Rwanda, 2021). Therefore, this illustrates that higher education institutions are not equipping students with the necessary skills to compete on the job market, leading to brain drain and, in the long-run, graduates unemployment.
Education systems in sub-Saharan African countries mainly focus on memorization of the materials and put less emphasis on providing students with soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking (EDC, 2021). And yet, these skills are very crucial in the job environment. Therefore, the government should adjust the education curriculums in relevance to what is needed on the job market.
Like every other country on the African continent, Rwanda is mainly comprised of the youth. Therefore, Rwanda has a large workforce; however, due to the mismatch in their skills and what the job market requires, the large workforce becomes redundant. Therefore, as the chief operations officer at BAG Innovation (a digital platform that works directly with universities and employers), Yussouf Ntwali mentioned in one of his interviews with the new times that the skills gap is a significant challenge in Rwanda. And that learning institutions are the ones that can fill the Gap (The new times, 2021). Moreover, learning institutions should directly work with hiring organizations to understand what employers need and what they need to add to their curriculums to ensure effective and skilled students after graduation (The new times, 2021).
As Henri Nyakarundi, CEO and founder of ARED group, said, students’ exposure to internships helps them acquire practical experiences of the job market and permits them to learn soft skills required by employers on the job market (The new times, 2021). Therefore the government should collaborate with non-governmental organizations and the private sector and find a way to provide internships for students throughout their learning journey until graduation. Therefore, eventually, this would equip the students with practical skills that are needed on the job market.
Nonetheless, the Rwandan job market is still small to accommodate this highly increasing number of graduates. Hence the government should encourage the youth to be job creators instead of job seekers by increasing funding opportunities available for the youth to start their ventures. Thus, this would tremendously reduce the level of youth unemployment and increase job opportunities.
- EDC. (2021). Bridging the Skills Gap for Youth. EDC. Retrieved 9 December 2021, from https://www.edc.org/bridging-skills-gap-youth.
- Hutt, R. (2021). 5 things to know about Rwanda’s economy. World Economic Forum. Retrieved 9 December 2021, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/04/5-things-to-know-about-rwanda-s-economy/.
- Mbonyinshuti, J. (2021). Grappling with graduate unemployment. University World News. Retrieved 9 December 2021, from https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20190723141453720.
- Mineduc. (2021). Higher Learning Institutions. Mineduc.gov.rw. Retrieved 9 December 2021, from https://www.mineduc.gov.rw/higher-learning-institutions#:~:text=While%20the%20system%20graduated%20merely,of%2086%2C140%20students%20(2019).
- Taarifa Rwanda. (2021). Why Are There Many Jobless Graduates In Rwanda?. Taarifa Rwanda. Retrieved 9 December 2021, from https://taarifa.rw/why-are-there-many-jobless-graduates-in-rwanda/.
- The new times. (2021). What will it take to address the ‘skills gap’ challenge?. The New Times | Rwanda. Retrieved 9 December 2021, from https://www.newtimes.co.rw/lifestyle/what-will-it-take-address-skills-gap-challenge.
- UR. (2021). Retrieved 9 December 2021, from https://ur.ac.rw/?Facts-and-figures.
- The Skills Gap | QC Training Services, Inc. QC Training Services, Inc. (2021). Retrieved 9 December 2021, from https://qctraininginc.com/the-skills-gap/.
Isaac, K. (2021). Africa’s Youth: Vibrant Population Yet Most Unemployed. Soko Directory. Retrieved 9 December 2021, from https://sokodirectory.com/2021/11/youth-and-unemployment-in-africa/.
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