In Rwanda, like in many other economies, this pandemic has impacted largely the employment opportunities and careers among youth. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of young professionals find opportunities in SMEs, which, at the moment have been hit hard by the pandemic.
How will the covid-19 pandemic affect youth employment?
Well, the economic shock of the pandemic will be felt by everyone, but it will be especially harsh for the youth. For instance, in Rwanda most of the youth population is low skilled, and likely to struggle in any economic downturn. Plus, many of the SMEs where these young people find jobs are at a high risk of collapse, if effective measures to respond to covid-19 are not implemented. Moreover, Rwanda was already facing a youth employment crisis and the effects of covid-19 pandemic are an unwanted addition to this rapidly growing challenge.
Additionally, Coronavirus will reduce individual consumption, and neither Rwanda SMEs nor the government entities have the market infrastructure ( such as internet connectivity) to help mitigate this shock. This decline in individual consumption will drive the unemployment rate even higher. In fact, the sectors that are most at risk of the pandemic disruptions in Rwanda are: wholesale and retail trade due to border closure, manufacturing administration services, and hospitality ( including tourism), all of which are key sources of youth employment. The decline of consumption in such industries will undoubtedly result in increasing youth unemployment.
Another key aspect to youth unemployment is lack of skills. The skills gap that currently exists among youth is likely to widen due to training programs shutting down following Covid-19 breakout and the fact that many businesses are minimising costs by firing or canceling any internship programs. As a result, youth unemployment will continue to rise due to lack of on demand skills.
Responding to youth employment after the covid-19 pandemic:
While the current outlook may seem worrisome, there are a number of opportunities for us to respond to the crisis. Here are some ways we can innovate upon existing tools and infrastructures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on youth.
First, we should be supporting the resilience of SMEs, the largest employment base of young people in Rwanda. These businesses will be looking to bounce back quickly after the pandemic, so benefits like funds to create more internships opportunities and training might help stimulate quicker recovery. However, quick incentives from the governments are not sustainable for job creation, thus, this calls for the private sector to join forces together with the government. These current interventions should also somehow improve creation of jobs in the long run.
A great example would be the Alibaba Global E-commerce Talent Challenge 2020 that the government of Rwanda together with Alibaba a chinese e-commerce company and African Leadership University established which seeks innovative digital solutions to support people, businesses and other institutions during the covid-19 pandemic. Such initiatives will not only help with the Covid-19 relief but will also result in creation of more jobs in the long run.
Finally, to combat the impact of Covid-19 both in a short run while ensuring sustainability in the long run, we need to recognise the importance of skills development and the need that currently exist. Many young people need to be prepared for the market when things start to pick up. In the short run, however, it is urgent that there are systems in place that allow youths to continue to gain hands on experience and to learn the skills they need to succeed in a workplace.
Ventures such as Talent Match that are working tirelessly to best equip youth with practical skills through their training and mentorship program should be supported especially during this time when such platforms are critical to ensuring that we build an agile workforce.
In an effort to combat the negative effects and the disruption caused by coronavirus, Talent Match is working on a number of initiatives to help youths stay at work while supporting SMEs to stay afloat through talent sourcing and skills training. Reach out to them if you need talent support or would like to partner, there is no better time for their services than now.
Youth unemployment in the covid-19 world is no doubt a huge challenge, and it will require strong and determined players across the development sector to innovate and adjust our current support systems. But, if we act quickly and do it in the right way, we can support an employment-rich recovery, improve economic resilience and reduce the impact of the pandemic and its economic fallout on the youth.