How the DRC Is Tackling the Youth Employment Challenge in the Green Sector

Learn how for the last seven years the Biodiversity and Sustainable Forest Management program has been supporting the implementation of the 2020 Strategy, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Higher and University Education

Graduates in the Research Degree in Ecosystem Management from the University of Kinshasa at their graduation ceremonies ⎟ Photo: © GIZ

About the new curriculum

By end of 2020, the initiative aims to set up an operational training network in renewable natural resources management (RNRM) replacing the current courses in water and forest management. The curriculum is laid out along the bachelor’s-master’s-doctorate system inspired by the Bologna Process, which standardizes the educational system at European universities. In the DRC, the course credits are used across seven higher education institutions. The objective of setting up the training program is to provide private and public employers in the DRC’s green sector with well trained young men and women who have strong skills to efficiently manage as many of the country’s important natural resources as possible.

Employment data

Since 2014, nearly 450 graduates of the new RNRM have entered the labour market ⎯ 21% of them being women. However, integrating the young graduates into the labour market has proved to be challenging. The Congolese situation remains fragile, mostly because of a precarious economy and a high level of poverty in the country. According to a state of the nation address given by President Joseph Kabila in July, the unemployment rate has dropped by 15% since 1997. The National Agency for the Promotion of Investments calculates a decrease from 84 to 40% between 2001 and 2017. Other sources, such as Congo Autrement in May 2018, estimate the level of joblessness in the economically active population at 46%. Overall employment data are sketchy. The sources provide very little information on the size of the informal sector, the number of part-time jobs or the rate of underemployment in the agriculture sector.

Public employers

The recruitment policy of the civil service remains shaky despite a large-scale institutional reform program. The reason is that the program is still underway facing the tremendous task of having to process a huge caseload. In August, for example, the employment situation of nearly 4,700 new people at the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development has been formalised, out of a total of about 10,000 new people listed in 2010 for the same ministry, only in the city of Kinshasa. This illustrates the difficulty that young graduates are faced with when they are looking for jobs in public administration. Many of those who preceded them actually still hope to formalise their employment.

Photo: © GIZ ⎟  Students in RNR Management from Kisangani University in a practical field session, accompanied by their teacher

Responding to the demands of the labour market

In the Congolese case it is obvious that tackling the issue of employability goes far beyond the reach of the strategy and the capacities of the implementing partners. Professionalization is nonetheless a requirement of the bachelor’s-master’s-doctorate system. Thus, the partners have opted for a number of complementary measures to support the employability of RNRM graduates. It is a priority to ensure that the newly created fields respond as much as possible to the required professionalisation of the training.

During the development of the new RNRM curriculum in 2012, particular attention was paid to adequate skills training, which the various sectors of the labour market demand. At the same time, the emphasis previously put on certain traditional subjects of forestry training has been revised and sized down to make room for emerging themes such as climate change and climate forestry, the human resource interface with rural sociology, and entrepreneurship. Staffing in subjects such as English, computer science and biometrics has been upgraded. A significant emphasis is given to professional practice and quality internships, which is part of the syllabus.

To this effect, the Biodiversity and Sustainable Forest Management Program has supported the development of the RNRM Internship Guide for the Strategy 2020 institutions which aims to assure quality levels in internships at partner institutions.

A graduate of the Research Master in Biodiversity Conservation of the University of Lubumbashi presenting the results of her research to a potential employer at the Job Fair in Lubumbashi in October 2017 ⎟ Photo: © GIZ

At the end of academic training, the Biodiversity and Sustainable Forest Management Program supports capacity building in various ways. With regard to students and recent graduates, the aim is to improve how they handle the demands of the job market. In 2017 and 2018, for example, 170 RNRM graduates (22% of them women) benefited from coaching in job search techniques, or the design of professional internships.

The Program also uses public relations to promote the emerging interfaces between the professional world and the academic world. A key example of this is the organizing of two job fairs for 40 graduates, including eleven holders of a master’s in research in biodiversity conservation, the first from an education system in the bachelor’s-master’s-doctorate format in the DRC.

The first eleven graduates of the master’s degree program in Biodiversity Conservation in the bachelor’s-master’s-doctorate system, accompanied by their dean (Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the University of Lubumbashi) ⎟ Photo: © GIZ

In terms of quantity, the question of the professional integration of RNRM graduates, especially in the green sector, has no definite answer for the time being, due to a lacking follow-up at the side of the training institutions or the ministry. An internal survey conducted at the end of 2015 on the level of satisfaction of green sector employers in the DRC, has engaged graduates from the cohorts of Strategy 2020 (RNRM) and the (previous) Project Training in Natural Resources Management (FOGRN). It came to the conclusion that “… 45% of the graduates contacted are either engaged in a structure or are doing a professional internship or are working as an independent consultant”.

Under the structures, five NGOs or international organizations are mentioned. On the basis of this and taking into account information obtained elsewhere, it is possible to come up with some estimations:

  • For the time being the transition of the public service is insignificant because of the low recruitment capacity of this employer, which used to be, along with teaching and research, a popular career for foresters
  • It seems that the university pathway, in the alma mater or elsewhere, making it possible to approach a career of a teacher-researcher with a doctoral dissertation represents, again and again, an interesting career option
  • The private sector, including logging companies, are potential employers, but it is unclear as to whether they hire RNRM graduates
  • The private voluntary sector (NGOs) is also a potential employer – the Program is currently investigating this aspect to provide better guidance

In order to ensure quality training in the different RNRM sectors and to promote an emerging generation of competent individuals who benefit from modern training, the 2020 Strategy needs to actively face the many challenges. It is important to point out that resistance to change is arguably this most critical.

The people involved are called on to own what we can call the spirit of the new degree, which implies behavior and attitude change at all levels of the national education system and among all its actors. It’ll take time, but the experiences accumulated in this pilot initiative, Strategy 2020, will be replicated and adapted across the nation. The normative framework of the bachelor’s-master’s-doctorate system in the DRC, a guideline and a document on rules and regulations following the reform, are a perfect illustration of how to capitalise on experiences made in the RNR sector, for the benefit of Congolese higher education.


Sarah Mambu, Conseillère Technique GIZ/BGF program, RD Congo