The Kigali Youth Festival Exhibition which celebrates youthful creativity and entrepreneurship, kicked off on January 22 and is set to run until January 26 at Imbuga City Walk, also known as the Car Free Zone.
Organised by the Ministry of Youth and Arts in collaboration with the City of Kigali authority, this week-long extravaganza has brought together 80 exhibitors, with 40 hailing from Kigali city and an additional 40 representing various provinces.
Initially designed exclusively for youth in Kigali, the decision to include participants from across the country was seen as a crucial step in fostering a more inclusive platform, proof of Rwanda’s commitment to nurturing its youth and providing them with avenues for growth.
The exhibition spans four dynamic categories: manufacturing, innovation and technology, agro-processing, and service providers.
Different booths offer different items including locally made clothes, shoes, hair products, bracelets, artifacts, drawings, paintings, electronic gadgets, kitchen utensils crafted from clay soils, hand-made bags, sanitization soaps, unique floors such as those made from pumpkin seeds and ‘sambaza’ flour from Lake Kivu and many others.
Many of the exhibitors are champions of Youth Konnect which not only provides a platform for these entrepreneurs to display their products but also serves as an opportunity for networking, marketing, and cross-learning among peers.
Eric Uyisenga, a 27-year-old shoe maker in the manufacturing category, was spotted at an exhibition. He began his venture in 2019 after completing a one-year course.
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Now skilled, Uyisenga crafts leather belts, playing balls, and various shoes, generating sufficient income for his family. Despite their success, Uyisenga highlights the lack of sufficient markets and schools for training in the sector and urges the government to establish specialised schools within Rwanda for processing skins into leather, aiming to boost locally made leather products.
He also emphasized the need for local machines to reduce import costs and enhance development opportunities for both skilled individuals and teachers in the field.
Elysee Nayihiki whose company specialises in Information Technology support installs essential tools such as the Braille screen reader for people with visual impairements and software like ‘Jay software’, a high-level programming language suited for data analysis and algorithm development.
“We look forward to organising workshops in schools, to extend skills to young people in order to increase the number of skilled users, which aligns with the country’s plan to have a more skilled workforce,” he said.
Yvette Uwamariya, another exhibitor specializes in embroidery – the art of embellishing fabric using a needle to apply thread or yarn.
“The crafts predominantly are about Rwandan culture, featuring elements such as cows, drums, traditional hairstyles, Inanga usage, and traditional attire; however, our focus varies depending on trends and the prevailing cultural demands,” she said.
The exhibitors emphasized the importance of such events in empowering the younger generation, fostering collaboration, and encouraging innovative thinking.