Rwanda’s Initiative YouthConnekt

Rwanda’s Initiative YouthConnekt

YouthConnekt is a unique, home-grown and innovative initiative that connects youth to government employment, private sector as well as entrepreneurship opportunities and off-farm jobs. It provides a set of policies for youth empowerment, but also looks beyond to provide a virtual platform that connects youth, the private sector and the government through social media and events. The initiative is part of the Government’s goal to engage young people in building up the country and enhance their (economic) empowerment. The programme has reached thousands of young Rwandans (aged 16-34) and contributed more than 4,000 off-farm jobs.  YouthConnekt was endorsed by the African Union as a major implementing modality of their African Youth Charter. An important spinoff of the YouthConnekt initiative has been its popularization and scaling up, leading to the creation of YouthConnekt Africa (2017). Due to the above, its innovative, participatory and holistic approach, and its full respect for the Future Justice Principles, YouthConnekt is recognized with Future Policy Gold Award 2019 for Economic Empowerment of Youth, awarded by the World Future Council in partnership with UNDP with UNDP and IPU and supported by ILO. UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and Youth Policy Labs (YPL).

© Photo Credit: Ministry of Youth and Information Technology, Rwanda

At A Glance
  • The programme was initiated in 2012 and since its implementation in May 2013, it has evolved to become a flagship programme for the Government of Rwanda and across Africa. 
  • The programme is aligned with Rwanda’s ambitious national goals to transform into a green economy and a fair One Rwanda, as well as supporting Agenda 2030 and numerous Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly 1, 3, 5, 8, 9 and 16. 
  • The comprehensive approach addresses environmental, digital/IT, health, social, cultural and economic key issue areas.
  • YouthConnekt fosters youth participation through the National Youth Council and contributes to raising intergeneration awareness about the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994.

Policy Reference
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Rwanda’s National Youth Policy, 2015

National Youth Councils, 2017

Made in Rwanda policy, 2017

Rwanda Vision 2020

Rwanda’s Employment Policy (2006)

National Employment Programme (NEP)

National Information and Communications Infrastructure (NICI) 

Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS2)

National and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Policy (2008)

Education Sector Policy (2003)

National Policy for Family Promotion (2005)

National Gender Policy (2010)

Rwanda Sports Development Policy (2012)

National Culture Heritage Policy (2014)

Rwanda’s National Forest Policy (2014).

Selection as a Future-Just Policy

Rwanda’s YouthConnekt was initiated with the aim to provide a virtual platform that advocates for youth, facilitates employment, job creation and entrepreneurship skills, and connects youth to socio-economic transformation through social media and events. It widens the pool of economic, social and civic leadership opportunities through national and regional initiatives such as connecting youth to their peers, role models, resources, skills and economic opportunities and also offers an avenue for entrepreneurial adventure into new areas like ICT and artisanship. Recently, YouthConnekt was endorsed by the African Union as a major implementing modality of their African Youth Charter.

In its 7 years of existence, the programme has had reached thousands of young Rwandans (aged 16-34) and contributed in the creation of thousands off-farm jobs, permanent jobs and temporary jobs. It has provided a set of policies for youth empowerment, and maintained a virtual platform that connects youth to their peers, to the private sector and to the government. Due to its innovative, participatory and holistic approach, and its full respect for the Future Justice Principles, YouthConnekt is recognized with Future Policy Gold Award 2019 for Economic Empowerment of Youth.

  Future-Just Policy Score Card

  • Our “Best Policies” are those that meet the Future Just Lawmaking Principles and recognise the interconnected challenges we face today. The goal of principled policy work is to ensure that important universal standards of sustainability and equity, human rights and freedoms, and respect for the environment are taken into account. It also helps to increase policy coherence between different sectors.

  Sustainable use of natural resources

  • YouthConnekt is aligned with various SDGs, mainly 1, 3, 8, 9, 16.
  • Impressive number of innovative approaches. The initiative has been able to bring and align resources with partners effectively & efficiently. 
  • The initiative is cost efficient und works in partnerships 
  • “EcoBrigate” Program: reinforce the participation of youth in strengthening the resilience of communities and ecosystems.

 Equity and poverty eradication

  • Focus on vulnerable groups (e.g. teen mothers, young refugees, with disabilities)
  • Follows the principle of “leaving no one behind”. 
  • Ensures that the systems are supporting a fair process under a multi-stakeholder perspective.
  • Promote civic engagement and economic empowerment of youth and gender equality.

  Precautionary approach

  • Youth centres are at all levels and offer spaces for sports, discreet sexual reproductive health, information about risky behaviours (e.g. substance abuse), etc.
  • Conducted tracer survey that looks at the impact of the entrepreneurship programmes.

  Public participation, access to information and justice

  • Developed digital platforms that can convene larger number of youth and continuous feedback process to improve.
  • National Youth Council – the body that represents youth and encourages their elected leaders to speak up for youth.
  • Offers formats to interact with policymakers, employers and other stakeholders.

  Good governance and human security

  • Strong leadership from all involved stakeholders. 
  • Cooperates with multi-stakeholders including civil society, private, public.
  • Recognizes youth are the future leaders.

  Integration and interrelationship

  • Brings together various government agencies, civil society, private sector.
  • Is a flagship of the National Youth Policy. 

  Common but differentiated responsibilities

  • Promotes youth empowerment and gender equality and creates inclusiveness for all.
  • Focuses on the ‘learn and unlearn’ concept to nurture a positive attitude of youth. 
  • Highly inclusive: no cost for vulnerable groups and youth.

Context

In Rwanda, young people represent 28% of the total population with 70% of these young people living in semi-urban or rural areas. The Government of Rwanda has set a yearly target of achieving an average economic growth rate target of 11.5% so as to attain a middle-income economy by 2020. In this regard, youth play a significant role in the country’s overall social, political and economic development. Nonetheless, young people are facing significant cross-cutting issues, such as limited access to education and finances, health problems, scarce employment opportunities, low wages and exclusion from local decision-making. In Rwanda, unemployment is overwhelmingly an urban phenomenon, as most youth in rural areas are employed in the agriculture sector (with low productivity) that accounts for 90% of the labour force.

In 2015, the revised National Youth Policy of 2006 was published, taking into account the Post-2015 global agenda and the SDGs. The policy underpins the shift from social to socio-economic empowerment with clear alignment to Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS2), especially its two pillars: economic transformation and productivity and youth employment. The main vision of this new policy is to achieve a Health, Aptitude/Attitude, Patriotism, Productivity, and Innovation – HAPPi Generation. The policy sets out a holistic set of strategies for actions to achieve the Government’s focus on youth economic empowerment by addressing issues related to unemployment and underemployment. A gender inclusive and rights-based approach is applied to the development of all youth programmes, and a multi-sectorial strategy involving partnerships between governments, development partners, private sector, civil society organizations, and communities is the foundation of the policy. Furthermore, the policy establishes comprehensive and targeted youth programming through economic empowerment with a strong emphasis on mainstreaming job-based budgeting in all sectors, youth involvement in private sector activities, improving skills acquisition through TVET training and more. The policy envisages the decentralization of youth structures and a strong mobilization mechanism at the village level. ICT is regarded as a key driver for economic development and, as such, the policy defines a clear mechanism to foster synergies between youth and ICT, and sets out measures to ensure that the formal education curriculum is tailored to the needs of the job market.

Rwanda has opted for a green economy approach to economic transformation with green growth and green technology fostering the creation of more opportunities for youth. The policy aims to enhance skilled human resources, to increase awareness about environment protection, natural resources conservation and climate change among youth, and for them to be both actors and beneficiaries.

“Boosting YouthConnekt” is one the key policy Actions/Flagships mentioned in the policy of the new established Ministry of Youth in 2017, and receiving their strong support to ensure youth’s representation in policy making and decision making. 

Objectives

YouthConnekt was initiated with the aim to provide a virtual platform that advocates for youth, facilitates employment, job creation and entrepreneurship skills, and connects youth to socio-economic transformation through social media and events. It widens the pool of economic, social and civic leadership opportunities through national and regional initiatives such as connecting youth to their peers, role models, resources, skills and economic opportunities and also offers an avenue for entrepreneurial adventure into new areas like ICT and artisanship. 

YouthConnekt is strongly linked to civic engagement and economic empowerment. One of the core purposes of YouthConnekt is to nurture a positive attitude among Rwanda’s youth that encourages them to be more upfront and ready to “learn and unlearn” realities in order to forge a brighter future. With the history of the Genocide against Tutsis in 1994, the initiative also targets a patriotic and inclusive approach. The initiative builds on the Government’s visions for the country and scaling up the (youth) workforce to a (green) transition to become a middle-income country and is backed-up by the revised National Youth Policy 2015. 

By connecting young people with leaders from the public, private sector and the civil society, YouthConnekt also aims to create a space for youth to meaningfully participate in Rwanda’s socio-economic transformation, realize the economic dividend, and be potent actors and driving vectors in the implementation of Agenda 2030 and of “the Future We Want in Africa”. 

Methods of Implementation

The programme combines the development of entrepreneurship skills with access to jobs and finance, raising awareness on issues related to youth development in terms of civic engagement and economic empowerment, and the promotion of youth citizenship. 

 

Within the feature “Learn”, the National Leadership Dialogue provides a platform for youth to learn from past mistakes (especially the Genocide against Tutsi) and includes a session in which the youth can meet and pose questions to national leaders including, among others, President Kagame and The First Lady. The “Meet The President” annual event is included alongside those objectives. Within the feature “Unlearn”, youth are equipped with a wide variety of knowledge, skills development and entrepreneurship, as well as access to jobs, finance, and civic education, and opportunities for engagement in policy making, increasing their access to health services, raising awareness on issues related to youth development, promoting youth citizenship through community work, and inclusion in local and national policy dialogue. 

 

The programme YouthConnekt consists of seven components:

YouthConnekt Convention Annual event that gathers youth from all districts of Rwanda and abroad. The aim is to inspire young people with new ideas in order to promote sustainable development, economic growth and social progress and to bring regional level youth representatives to speak up to the government.
Dialogue Provide a platform for young people to address the issue of restoration of their identity and enhance unity and reconciliation
Awards Annual competition that brings together top 90 young innovators country wide, three per each district. The 30 best innovations are awarded and the three finalists win best prizes. Aim: young people will be able to showcase their technology developments and acquire skills and knowledge about running a business.
Champion Awards in partnership with IMBUTO Foundation. Aim is to recognize significant efforts that have been made by public sector, private sector, civil society and NGOs in steering their activities, focus, resources and determination towards youth.
Hangout A portal of interactions of youth with their peers, leaders, and role models for inspiration and sharing opportunities through video chats and live streaming on established Google+, Youtube, TV and radio channels (main medium to disseminate).
Mentorship A platform to reinforce the capability of YouthConnekt Awardees, and other promising innovators, with regular knowledge skills and practical business advice (failures and successes) in order to promote business growth and foster job creation. This is also a linkage mechanism for business expansion opportunities.
Month A commitment of youth to contribute to national development through hands on activities. This is also a tool for raising awareness among communities about youth’s contribution to nation-building and developing future-just solutions to challenges they encounter in their communities.

 

The programme is financed by several stakeholders who contribute financially or in-kind.

Impact

Since its launch in 2012, Youthconnekt is said to have reached thousands of young Rwandans (age 16-34). The programme has created a strong network of young entrepreneurs, policy influencers as well as a platform to share opportunities, advance skills, construct collaborations, promote promising entrepreneurs and showcase achievements. 

  • Thousands of young Rwandans have been involved in civic engagement activities such the construction of thousands of houses for vulnerable people in their respective communities, and the rehabilitation of roads, bridges, classrooms and other facilities. 
  • Youth actively participate in relevant policy discussions and have recommended different programmes and policy formulations, such as having youth representation in all levels of decision making in the country’s administration. 
  • Recently created start-ups were granted the two-year’s tax exemption by the Revenue Authority. “The Made in Rwanda policy” has put in place measures to facilitate entrepreneurs who are in the manufacturing sectors. Youth entrepreneurs have gained more visibility and support, which increases their likelihood to succeed.
  • YouthConnekt Rwanda has spurred the creation of 4,000 off-farm jobs for youth.
  • Thousands of young men and women have been engaged in positive values programmes through physical and digital platforms, and have been directly involved in both decision-making and economic empowerment.
  • More than 18,000 youth have been directly engaged in national policy dialogues.
  • More than 20 YouthConnekt debates known as ‘Hangouts’ have been organized, raising awareness among more than 13,000 youth on issues such as employment, entrepreneurship, and ICT. 
  • 46 TV shows were produced and broadcast on both Rwanda national television and radio, raising awareness among more than 1 million young men and women on the importance of technical and vocational training, ICT skills and attitudes to boost youth entrepreneurship and job creation.
  • Four YouthConnekt boot camps were organized to coach 360 young innovators selected from the 30 districts of the country, awarding a total of 120 innovators. Within only three years, the YouthConnekt boot camps have resulted in the creation of about 1,000 permanent jobs and 2,700 temporary jobs.
  • Four YouthConnekt conventions have been organized gathering 12,000 youth around the national dialogue platform discussing youth related issues and providing opportunities to contribute to national policies.
  • Five ICT competitions were organized, aimed at boosting the ICT and mobile application environment in Rwanda including the MsGeek competition, which encourages young women to showcase their skills in ICT, and a mobile app competition to improve public service delivery provided by the Government of Rwanda. These competitions resulted in the training of 100 youth and the creation of 25 startups. 
  • Thousands of youth have participated in three YouthConnekt months organized to engage them to actively participate in the country’s development.   

The 2017 Summit marked the official roll out of YouthConnekt and the creation of YouthConnekt Africa aimed at empowering African Youth to take a more proactive role in shaping the bright future of the continent, and established several new components: a) YouthConnekt Africa Summit; b) YouthConnekt Africa Hub; c) YouthConnekt Africa empowerment fund; and d) YouthConnekt Innovation.

Potential as a Transferable Model

YouthConnekt is recognized as a model that can be replicated and scaled across Africa. YouthConnekt is also recognized as a Continental Initiative -“Connekting youth for continental transformation”. As such, ten countries have already subscribed to the youth connect model and several more are expressing an interest in engaging in the process of subscribing to the model. The YouthConnekt programmes in these countries are not necessarily similar to what Rwanda is implementing but the principles are similar, to ensure that YouthConnekt is a “consortium of partners” coming together in order to combine resources, learn together and co-invest. Such concerted efforts ensure that youth have access to opportunities, to mentorship, to markets, and to “civic engagement in terms of bringing young people to the highest level of decision-making as much as addressing the issue of economic empowerment”. 

Additional Resources

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