Rwanda is a country with an eye toward the future. It has made significant investments in infrastructure to support its economic growth and has a goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2020. Nowhere is this goal more evident than in Kigali, home to the many technology startups and innovation labs that are powering Rwanda’s transition to a knowledge-based economy.
But it’s also a young country—40 percent of Rwandans are between the ages of 14 and 35—and many of these young people need to find meaningful, productive work until the technology jobs of the future come online.
For nearly a decade, EDC’s Akazi Kanoze projects have been helping the Government of Rwanda improve opportunities for hundreds of thousands of young people who are coming of age during the country’s economic transition. Akazi Kanoze originally delivered livelihood and work-readiness trainings for out-of-school youth, but it was so successful that the program’s core approach—which included Work Ready Now! and partnerships with local employers—has been scaled up nationally, reaching over 92,000 high school and TVET students each year. (Akazi Kanoze was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development from 2009 to 2016; funding for Akazi Kanoze 2, the current phase of the project, is provided by the Mastercard Foundation.)
The goal of Akazi Kanoze 2 is simple—facilitate a smooth school-to-work transition by teaching students entrepreneurship and workplace skills and giving them opportunities for work-based learning.
“We encourage youth to set realistic goals and build on the strengths they have,” says EDC’s Tim Haskell, who has directed both projects. “Akazi Kanoze doesn’t just place youth into one opportunity—it gives them the skills they need to get the second, third, and fourth opportunities.”
A recent evaluation found that the approach is making a difference. Seventy-eight percent of students who participated in Akazi Kanoze 2 reported being comfortable developing a business plan, versus just over half of those students who did not take the program. Akazi Kanoze 2 participants were also more likely to set personal goals, communicate effectively, and exhibit higher levels of confidence than students who did not participate.
“Akazi Kanoze doesn’t just place youth into one opportunity—it gives them the skills they need to get the second, third, and fourth opportunities.”
According to Haskell, support from the country’s Ministry of Education and Workforce Development Authority has been critical to the program’s success. He believes that the program came to Rwanda at just the right time.
“Rwanda is a case where it has all come together,” he says. “It has the political will to advance education, and it has enough businesses that can provide real employment and real work experiences for youth. The country is ripe for empowering and transferring work skills to young people.”