JEAN PHILBERT NSENGIMANA was appointed Minister of Youth and ICT in December 2011. Gloria Iribagiza talked to him about his vision for the Rwandan youth.

What is your passion as a youth leader?

My vision for youth is summarised as HAPPI. H for Healthy, A for Apt, P for Patriotic, P for Productive and I for Innovative. Since the combination of the Ministry of Youth and ICT, the Innovation part of this vision has been emphasized. We want to streamline the use of new technologies in everything that the youth do in Rwanda. As you know the youth are 61 percent of the active labour force of this country and they are the most receptive to the use of new technologies. So, we want that active labour force to be equipped with the right tools of ICT to be the engine of transform Rwanda’s transformation from an agro-based economy to a knowledgebased economy, as per the 2020 vision.

Economic empowerment of the youth is very important because it helps to realise other youth sector goals such as health because economically empowered youth is less exposed to dangers of HIV/AIDS and the effects of drug abuse.

What priorities do you feel you need to work on for the youth?

We want to encourage the youth to use their innovative and risk-taking spirit with the training and education that they have, in order to become job creators and not job seekers.

The challenges have been in terms of coordinating the pieces of the puzzle needed to create one job. These pieces are; education or having a useful practical skill, civic education since youth need to be well behaved and have life skills to realise the opportunities that the country offers and lastly, entrepreneurship training to start something small and grow it, and finally access to finance and markets.

Sometimes people say, access to finance is the first thing that matters, but I believe this is the last in line because if someone has a good idea, they can start small and grow over time. When these components are put together, the probability of creating a new job is very high.

However, the one thing that has hindered development and growth among the youth is mind-set change. We have got thousands of cases of youth who have gone through formal education and entrepreneurship trainings but failed to shift their thinking. They believe that white-collar jobs or business-plan based entrepreneurship are the only solution to their problems. And this is wrong because they need to learn to start small and be willing to get their hands dirty. In Kinyarwanda they say, ‘gukira vuba kandi utavunitse,’ which literally means, ‘getting rich quickly without effort’. And of course, there is no such thing as this.

What are your major successes?

Well, I have been Minister of Youth for only five months but I attribute most of the successes to the team spirit portrayed here. There are several youth policies that we’ve been working on to guide our efforts on the field. Together with our partners, we have conducted an effective campaign against drugs among youth.

In terms of youth mobilisation, we have engaged the youth to follow up the challenge given by His Excellency the President Paul Kagame for the youth to lead themselves and determine the course of history of Rwanda for decades to come. This is not something that shows immediate results but has long-term outcomes.

Additionally, there are entrepreneurshiptraining programmes like the one at Iwawa, where youth are rehabilitated from the influence of drugs and trained on vocational and life skills.

Additionally, we have been working on building the institutional capacity of the Ministry and we are comfortable with the pace at which different programmes are progressing.

What is your message to the Rwandan youth?

I call upon the youth to stand up and pursue the opportunity that they have been given. They should take charge of their destiny and use the new Information and Communication Technologies to lift themselves out of poverty.

I call upon the youth to be exemplary citizens. We need to work hard and smart, follow guidance from our elders but also take initiative because the future of this country belongs to us.

Brief Bio of Jean Philbert Nsengimana • Worked as the Director of Rwanda Development Gateway between 2003 and 2008, and later as Country Director for Voxiva until 2010.

• Completed his Masters Degree in Software Engineering at the National University of Rwanda and his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science at the same institution

• Holds a Masters of Business Administration from SP Jain School of Global Business in Singapore.

• Married and a proud father of two sons.

• Appointed as Minister of ICT in April, a position he will oversee in addition to his role as Youth Minister.

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