Increasing youth employability in the informal sector

Rwandans have mentioned how savings and employment programs “made the youth busy, forward looking with hope.”

Rwandans are talking about how savings and employment programs “made the youth busy, forward looking with hope.” Hard to imagine greater impact than that—the ability to look forward with hope. That’s not the only change people are reporting. They are confident, respected, and feel self-respect. That’s a lot for youth to accomplish in just a few years.

“Before, I used to do tailoring on my own. I had one tailoring machine. I struggled very hard and lived by the day. Today, it is a different story. We are now saving 5000RWF ($5) per week. How many people do you think can save 5000RWF per week in this country? Moreover, I have managed to complete my house; I have put cement, painted it and brought tapped water to my compound. I live in a beautiful house. Furthermore, my husband never had a job. But I have managed to set him a boutique in the neighborhood worth 800,000 FRW ($800).”

“I am confident of a bright future. I am now a respected member of the society. Today, I have constructed my own house, bought a plot of land and own my piggery project with 25 pigs now. I employ two youth whom I pay 20,000 RWF ($20) per month. As I speak now, I have 600,000 Rwf ($600) in saving on my personal account”

With a little more than $200,000 in funding from the European Union and The Austrian Development Agency, CARE worked under the leadership of the Rwandan organization Youth Association for Human Rights Promotion and Development (AJPRODHO-JIJUKIRWA) and in partnership with YWCA to reach 9,323 people between 2015 and 2019.

What has changed?

  • Incomes went up and youth graduated out of poverty. Incomes went up 28%, and by 2019, 65% of youth were earning above the poverty line—a 41% increase.
  • Youth have better access to financial services: youth were 45 times more likely to have formalized businesses (up to 97%), and 70% more likely to have a bank account. They were also twice as likely to access bank loans. From zero at the beginning of the project, now 89% of people are using mobile money services.
  • Young people invested in a more stable future: Young people were three times more likely to invest in productive assets—like bicycles, land, or other items to grow their businesses, and 100% of youth built more diverse income sources and businesses to protect in case of shocks.
  • People are investing in each other. Not only did every participant invest in health insurance, they also got together to pay for other people in their communities—people the youth identified as at-risk or in need of extra help—to get health insurance, too.
  • There are better safety nets: The government passed a new national policy that extends full protections to informal sector workers, including young people and domestic workers. That includes standards around workplace safety, protection against Gender-Based Violence, minimum wage, and access to social security.
  • The private sector is buying in: The National Youth Council is partnering with Kenya Commercial Bank to offer more than $3,000 in loans to youth cooperatives to start businesses.

How did it happen?

  • Help groups start and thrive: The project helped set up savings groups (VSLAs) for 9,323 young people (75% were women) and 214 youth cooperatives.
  • Support access to training: the project set up technical and vocational training for 1,445 young people in the informal sector.
  • Work with local groups: CARE worked as a sub-contractor to the Rwandan organization AJPRODHO-JIJUKIRWA, and supported the National Youth Council on advocacy activities to influence local decisions. That included advocating to pass the International Labor Organization’s policy on protecting workers (ILO Convention 189) into local laws.
  • Help people understand their rights: People were 2.6 times more likely to be aware of the laws and protections they can claim at work.

Want to learn more?

Read the evaluation.