Turning Problems into Opportunities

As 11 million young people enter the African workforce each year, the STRYDE program is training schools to give students the tools and the confidence they need to create their own jobs through innovative enterprise development.

Amid the rolling green hills of northern Rwanda, hundreds of students are learning a new way to earn a living.

Every weekday, they stream into the bright brick buildings of Musanze Polytechnic, a government vocational school that has traditionally taught skills like plumbing, carpentry, and hospitality. But in the past year, the school began teaching something extra: a curriculum from the Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise (STRYDE) program.

A partnership between TechnoServe and Mastercard Foundation, STRYDE is a rural youth entrepreneurship training program that gives young people the skills to identify and act on economic opportunities in their communities.

The first phase of the program trained over 15,000 youth in East Africa and resulted in an 80 percent drop in the rate of participants who were either unemployed or not in school. On average, participants more than doubled their incomes, increasing them by 133 percent.

But with 11 million young people entering the African workforce each year, the STRYDE program needed to scale up in order to achieve greater impact.

In 2014, the program began working with institutional partners like vocational schools, universities, civil society organizations, and prisons – entities that routinely reached thousands of young people, and could continue training activities well after STRYDE’s official end.

The timing couldn’t have been better for Musanze Polytechnic, one of STRYDE’s 77 institutional partners so far in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

“Many graduates would come back to us, needing help to find jobs,” explains Betty Niyigena, head of the school’s entrepreneurship department. “Students had the right skills, but didn’t know how to make their own business. They would ask for jobs from the government but fail to get employment.”

Last year, TechnoServe trained 19 Musanze Polytechnic staff members on the STRYDE approach, and they soon began incorporating these lessons into the school’s coursework.

The process was not without challenges. Extra classes meant expanded school hours and additional teacher time. The thick STRYDE manual was difficult to produce and distribute on tight budgets, and classes often faced material shortages.

But almost immediately, teachers noticed a significant positive impact on students.

“The students were very attentive, very motivated, and right away started thinking of some business ideas,” said teacher Jean Claude Twagirimana. “We had been giving them theories, but there were no practical methods to start a business…After being trained [in STRYDE], they felt very confident.”

Dozens of Musanze Polytechnic students have now been trained in the STRYDE entrepreneurship approach, and have started businesses in baking, carpentry, juice-making, and a range of other products and services. The class was so effective, in fact, that the school incorporated additional STRYDE coursework and made the approach a mandatory part of its curriculum.

Eight other institutional partners are instituting the STRYDE curriculum across Rwanda, and have already trained nearly 4,000 students. With the country’s median age around 18 years old, and 125,000 youth entering its labor market each year, these kinds of scaled-up, self-sustaining approaches are critical to ensuring meaningful employment for the next generation in Rwanda – and Africa.

As Betty Niyigena summed up her school’s approach using the new STRYDE model: “We are helping young people turn problems into opportunities.”

Read more about how TechnoServe has adapted the STRYDE methodology to enterprise development initiatives around the world.