The rehabilitation and development of new infrastructures in Rwanda provide an opportunity for the development, training, and employment of youths. It is a fact that economic growth and development cannot be achieved without the availability of appropriate economic and social infrastructures and the need to improve the quality of infrastructure services is therefore the cornerstone for future growth and the achievement of Vision 2050.

In general, infrastructure is defined as electricity, gas, telecoms, transport and water supply, sanitation, and sewerage. Rwanda’s Ministry of Infrastructure and its affiliated agencies recently announced that it will be spending an equivalent of USD 630 million in the next fiscal year on various infrastructure projects. These include roadside stations, ports at Lake Kivu, roads, a water treatment plant, water supply systems, energy, and connectivity. These projects present significant opportunities in the various infrastructure supply chains for youth-led businesses.

It is desirable that any direct investments in infrastructure must lead to the creation of new production facilities that stimulate economic activity and growth, improve the ease of doing business, and reduce the overall cost of doing business, especially trade and transaction costs thereby improving competitiveness and provide new employment opportunities directly and indirectly. This can only happen when we have the optimal infrastructure mix. Added to this, infrastructure development must be in tandem with an industrialization policy to maximize synergies therefrom.

The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) “Rwanda country strategy paper 2022-2026” also makes some insightful observations about infrastructure development challenges and opportunities going forward. In this report, the AfDB has identified priority strategic areas for Rwanda that it will be actively supporting. Priority area 1 is the “Strengthening Physical Infrastructure to Enhance the Productive Resources and Reduce the Cost of Doing Business”. These include;

  • Increased access to clean and sustainable energy which will emphasize private sector-driven development of renewable energy, notably solar and hydroelectricity, and expansion of transmission and distribution networks to enhance access.
  • Increased access to safe drinking water and improved water and sanitation infrastructure. Investment in water and sanitation will focus on the construction and rehabilitation of water supply infrastructure in both the rural and urban areas, as well as the construction and rehabilitation of sanitation facilities.
  • Better Connectivity to reduce the cost of transportation and increased access to markets by developing Rwanda’s road infrastructure through investments in the transport sector to help address the infrastructure fragilities and connect agricultural producers to markets within the country as well as across borders.

As I have previously reiterated, youth unemployment and underemployment constitute central challenges to Africa’s development. If youth unemployment rates remain unchanged in Africa, nearly 50% of youth – excluding students – will be unemployed, discouraged, or economically inactive by 2025. Youth employment and participation in infrastructure projects are therefore key to overall economic growth and lead to increased incomes, higher standards of living, and better health and education access. Any infrastructure deficit must therefore be viewed as an opportunity to create a window of opportunity for our youths, but this requires a deliberate strategy to ensure that infrastructure rehabilitation and development is inclusive.

To ensure maximum benefits for youths, it is first important that there is a policy that ensures local content for all infrastructure projects and the local employment of youths and women. Other governments have a youth quota which ensures that government contractors are required to include youths in their project proposals. Added to this, there is a need to provide adequate information on infrastructure projects so that youths are sensitized and well-informed to be able to take advantage of new opportunities. Recruitment and engagement of youths must be more transparent and inclusive.

A youth policy in infrastructure development could include;

  • Facilitate youth participation in key infrastructure development projects through public works and engagement with infrastructure companies;
  • Establish technical incubators and colleges which train youth in the necessary technical skills;
  • Promote youth affirmative procurement by companies that are awarded infrastructure projects;
  • Compile a dynamic youth database of those who have technical skills and ensure they are placed into infrastructure projects;
  • Ensure youths are involved in infrastructure maintenance; and
  • Initiate youth-led projects.

The paradigm shift necessary is that it is not a luxury but a necessity to ensure that youths are deliberately included in all sectors of the economy and that facilities are in place to train and equip them with the necessary skills. These must be seen not as a cost but as an investment in human capital which will benefit the country for many years going forward. Infrastructure development and rehabilitation projects can indeed expedite the absorption of youths into the mainstream economy.


SOURCE: Newtimes

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