They are shunned by the majority of the people; and those that do them are ridiculed. Many a time they are underestimated and seen as useless because they are small.

But what is indisputable is that small businesses, like your neighbourhood store, moto-taxi business or fruit vending are the engine of any economy. The heartbeat that runs global economies. And, there’s nothing small about the impact they have on the economy or people’s lives.

These kinds of businesses have been the lifeline of many Rwandan youth and women, among others. They have made it possible for many families to have food on the table; for children to attend school and for many to achieve their dreams as the youth below attest.

Twenty-year-old Fabrice Shyaka sells popcorn in Kanombe, a Kigali suburb. His workplace is situated in a small alleyway next to a music and video DVD dealer at a supermarket.

“I was unemployed until I started selling popcorn. I now make a profit of at least Rwf2,000 a day (Rwf60,000 a month) after meeting all the other expenses,” Shyaka, a high school leaver, says.

He says the money he earns is enough to cater for his basic needs.

Jimmy, 27, has been working as a bicycle taxi operator for three years, a job that he says has made it possible for him to feed his family and cater for his and the family’s needs.

“With this job, I am not a burden to the government or community as I can afford all that I want using my savings from this job,” he adds.

This creativity and spirit of self-reliance is what the government advocates so that the country weans itself from donor dependence.

Richard Hategekimana, the chairman of the Rwanda Youth Organisation for Sustainable Development (RYOSD), challenges youth and other Rwandans to have positive thinking about small businesses or jobs. He argues that many graduates are on the streets searching for white collar jobs due to negative attitude. “If one leaves the university and he fails to get their dream job and then shun small jobs, they may easily be tempted to engage in criminal activities like drug dealing to make quick money, which harm the community, and the individuals involved,” he explained in an interview with The New Times this week.

He says RYOSD encourages youth, especially university graduates to be open minded and see small jobs as a stepping stone to their dream job.

He says the organisation formed the Kwigira Rwanda Youth programme to help youth understand that one can use a small business or job, like selling airtime cards, running a stationery shop or doing small farming projects, to succeed in life.

Gucci, a graduate from the former Kigali Institute of Education, can’t agree more. He says it is more beneficial to do menial jobs or start a small business than walking Kigali and Provincial streets for years searching for jobs.
“Though small businesses and menial jobs are despised, they have done a lot as far as reducing unemployment is concerned,” he argues.

Jean Marie Mukundabantu, who sells snacks like boiled eggs and ground nuts, says people should not take small jobs like his for granted.

Mukundabantu says he has not lacked anything since he started the business, adding that he uses the money he earns to pay rent and buy basic essentials.

“I plan to expand the business and, in the long-run, employ other people to contribute to the community wellbeing,” he says.

According to Germain Niyomutabazi, the in charge of entrepreneurship development at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, small jobs or businesses contribute significantly to the economy and people’s welfare. These jobs can be found in both the informal and formal sectors.

Women have forged a new path

Women have forged a new path

Niyomutabazi says the ministry has initiatives that aim at helping owners of small businesses to get skills and knowledge they require to grow and become sustainable.

“For instance, there’s a handicraft Excellency Award aimed at motivating people in this sector. We also together with the City of Kigali plan to build a free market for small traders and other people like artisans so they can operate from one easily-accessible place,” he explains.

As universities churn out more graduates, only those that think outside the box will thrive, according to pundits.

Rwanda’s 24 universities and colleges are projected to churn out 15,000 graduates this year, up from 13,000 in 2013. The country’s unemployment rate is about 3 per cent, mainly resulting from lack of market-driven skills.

With such a scenario, woe unto those that shun small jobs; graduates and other youth need to understand that starting from a small job does mean one is forever doomed.