Our Achieve programme in Rwanda equipped Alphonse to become a successful eco-entrepreneur, employer and homeowner.
Today, Alphonse (27) is a thriving young businessman. He runs a tree nursery just outside Rwanda’s capital Kigali which, at the busiest times of year, employs up to 20 other young people. He’s been able to use the profits from his business to build himself a house.
But prior to joining the Achieve programme, Alphonse had no clear goals in life, and had never been able to earn enough to build up any savings. He credits the programme both with showing him how to set goals for himself, and equipping him to achieve them.
‘Goal setting was a very important session,’ Alphonse recalls. ‘Before training, I was living a life with no goal.’
The Achieve programme, delivered in Rwanda through our partner Akazi Kanoze Access, is a personal development training programme that helps young people to build the essential skills they need to learn, earn and thrive. Setting goals, and planning the steps to take to achieve them, are key components of the course.
Seizing green opportunities
Alphonse explains that he came up with the idea of setting up a tree nursery while his Achieve group was discussing the importance of environmental protection, and the earning opportunities available in that field. ‘Currently in Rwanda, environment protection and planting fruit trees is in high demand,’ Alphonse explains. ‘It minimizes soil erosion, protects buildings and supports with providing fruits for eating.’
Once Alphonse was clear about his goal, the programme also supported him to create his plan to get there – and equipped him with the skills he would need to succeed. ‘What helped me most was how to turn my business idea into a business,’ he explains, adding that in terms of specific skills, he found the financial management content, especially around keeping records, particularly useful.
Bridging the skills gap
We launched the Achieve programme in Rwanda in 2022, after holding a skills gap consultation with government agencies, young people, trainers and employers. The consultation event identified communication and leadership as critical skills that many jobless young people were lacking, along with personal development skills: being able to identify their strengths, interests and challenges, and to set goals.
Based on that input, we set up a pilot programme, known locally as Work Ready Now, built around these three areas. In other countries, the Achieve programme is often run through schools or colleges, but in Rwanda the programme is based in youth centres, with a focus on upskilling young people, like Alphonse, who are out of work.
After completing the core part of the programme, participants can then choose between two final modules, depending on the path they hope to take. One focuses on skills for finding and keeping work, and the other on entrepreneurship.
Keen to work for himself, Alphonse opted for the Be Your Own Boss module, which is based on identifying and developing business ideas, and on gaining the financial skills for enterprise.
The steps to success
Once he had completed the Achieve programme, Alphonse knew what he wanted to do and, step by step, he made it happen. After applying for a two-week tree husbandry course, he launched his nursery. Today Alphonse sells macadamia, mango, avocado and mandarin saplings to individual customers, schools and offices, as well as supplying a local farming charity.
Already a seasonal employer, he is keen to grow his company and create even more jobs. ‘My plan is to expand my nursery and employ more youth,’ Alphonse explains. ‘I now employ between 10 and 20 youth during busy periods but I plan to expand and work in other districts, I’m now doing lots of networking and linkages.’
After previously living hand-to-mouth with no savings or safety net, Alphonse has used the income from his nursery to build his own home and invest in livestock: he has been able to buy two goats and has diversified his income further by breeding them and selling the kids. Livestock are a common form of savings in Rwanda, with the added bonus of generating significant extra income each time they produce young.
Our new Achieve programme in Rwanda has so far reached over 450 young people in eight youth centres in and around Kigali. We are now gradually expanding the programme, with a view to eventually building partnerships that will allow it to run in youth centres across the country.