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Inspiring innovative minds in Rwanda

Alian, 23, learned the skills necessary to run a successful web firm
Alian, 23, learned the skills necessary to run a successful web firm

In Rwanda, the SOS Vocational Training Centre is empowering young people to break the cycle of poverty. Meet Alian, a 23-year-old graduate from the Vocational Training Centre in Kigali. He owns his own web firm and aspires to be the chief executive of a global tech one day.

“I got into this business because of my craze for computers and the desire to solve problems," says Alain. “The fact that I could offer computing solutions by designing a software was very appealing to me." 

A pillar of SOS Children’s Villages’ work is equipping children and young people with the skills needed to lead independent, sustainable lives. Globally, over 12,300 young adults benefit from 51 SOS Vocational Training Centres. The centres offer programmes that are tailored to the local job market.

Although small in size, Rwanda has been making big strides to no longer be defined by the 1994 genocide. The country is emerging as an innovator in the ICT sector in East Africa. Rwanda has one of the highest growth rates for internet user in Africa. From 2000 to 2010, mobile phone customers grew from 42,000 to more than 3.5 million, according to the UN.

Alian is cashing in on this booming industry. He trained as a web designer and developer at the SOS Vocational Centre in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali. Upon graduation, Alian established his first business, Technology Agent Ltd, and now works with 23 clients.

 “I got my first job to develop a website a year before I finished school,” says Alain. “I was given permission to use the school computer lab in my free time. The client was happy and I got my first income of $200,000 Rwandan Francs (£185) – this was my start-up capital.”

Alian’s first paycheck bought a used desk, a computer and rent for a small work space. He then searched for three like-minded graduates to join him.

“I am good at what I do because I have a passion for it and I have been trained well. Starting a new venture requires a lot of courage. And, while the risk is enormous, I was ready to put my money on the line and live with the consequences of my decision,” says Alain. “I wanted to be self-employed to control my own destiny.”

The challenges students are facing

Students in an electrical class at the Vocational Training Centre in Rwanda
Two students working on an electrical machine at the SOS Vocational Centre in Kigali, Rwanda
The head mater of the vocational school, Kiba Muvunyi, explains that for those who do not wish to be self-employed, finding a job is not always as easy.  However, the unemployment rate among young people aged 15-24 is 4.5%, according to The World FactbookThe centre in Kigali trains young adults in accounting, computer science, electricity, electronics and telecommunications.

“Although, our graduates are highly regarded in the labour market, most of them go onto university before entering the workforce,” says Kiba. “Students have a hands-on education at our centre, and at University they tend to learn a theory-base education. In Rwanda, a lot of companies place a higher value on diplomas and degrees than the skillset a person has.”

Although some sectors are struggling, ICT is not one of them. The Rwandan goverment has went as far as creating laws in order to increase the country's ICT industry – and it seems to be working. Alian explains that his business is booming and he wants to inspire his generation to follow suit. 

“I want to create a new programme that will positively change lives in Africa. Technology will drive this dream to completion,” says Alain.

Education is one of the best ways to empower someone. At SOS Children, we are committed to all children receiving their right to education. Discover for yourself how we are improving the lives of thousands of children and young people through education.