- In Africa, job seeking can be cruel and many people end up in careers that are totally different from what they studied
- Companies in Africa should strive to offer opportunities to fresh graduates and other deserving cases if they are to inject freshness into their brands
- For newly graduated job seekers, internships offer a platform to learn, innovate and gain experience
If you look for ‘internships in Africa’ on Google, the search will return 19 pages of results with varied opportunities.
These results offer hope to job seekers, mostly from institutions of higher learning and also to people who have been in employment and have either lost their jobs or those who are willing to do anything to get better job opportunities.
In Africa, job seeking can be cruel and many people end up in careers that are totally different from what they studied or they end up becoming entrepreneurs. Companies in Africa should strive to offer opportunities to fresh graduates and other deserving cases if they are to inject freshness into their brands as well as have the human resources to run their operations when some of their team members retire or decamp to other companies.
For newly graduated job seekers, internships offer a platform to learn, innovate and gain experience.
An internship is a short-term work experience opportunity that could be paid or not. The short-term position serves as an introduction to a career path. Internships allow interns get real-world experience in their chosen subject.
Depending on opportunity availability, an internship may take place during the school year, over a school break or during a certain quarter. Completing an internship could help one obtain college credit for it.
An internship helps with gaining useful work experience, completing college requirements, and enhancing one’s curriculum vitae. During the period, many parts of full-time employment can be introduced while allowing one to explore their own interests and establish their own professional goals through internships.
The benefits of an internship for African students, graduates
Internships are an excellent way to beef up someone’s CV adding value to their bachelor’s degree. A CV, no matter how well-crafted it is, will be lost in the pile of similar ones submitted by recent college graduates fighting for the same job.
An internship experience gives one an edge when they are job hunting since it is a demonstration that one is qualified for the position. An internship can provide a “little more” in terms of the experience that other candidates may not have.
Fighting the No Experience-No Job Conundrum
African companies can make sure that in giving back to the societies that they are in, they offer students opportunities to the intern. This will make it easier for many job seekers who are locked out when companies advertise job openings that require several years of experience. By opening up their spaces to interns, companies could register better returns by investing in fresh brains which could help improve their brands by incorporating fresh ideas and a different outlook and perspective.
Internships will also offer more opportunities to network. This means that the students who land an internship are more likely to meet people and build their professional network while still in school.
By doing this, governments – in partnership with corporations- will be addressing the double-pronged challenge of ballooning unemployment and the youthful population out of work.
Offering internship opportunities means that companies will be investing in Africa’s future which is already here and arresting the likelihood of a chaotic unemployment crisis when a majority are out of work.
In terms of land area and population, Africa is the world’s second-largest continent after Asia, with an estimated 1.3 billion people.
Making up about 16 per cent of the world’s population, the need for job creation is growing.
In just under eight years, by 2030, Africa’s population is predicted to expand to between 1.65 billion and 1.71 billion people which will put even more pressure on the continent’s youth to find work.
Internships will play a major role in ensuring that the youth are taken in when they are most productive and creative.
Small enterprises, which make up the majority of the continent’s workforce, remain a rich ground for absorbing these youth. This is because Africa, despite being home to the world’s youngest population, the continent’s political, economic, and social climate remains hostile to young people.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) notes that the continent’s 15-24-year-old population is predicted to more than quadruple by 2055, from the current figure of 226 million. This is enormous!
Africa’s future prosperity or misery will be determined by the success or failure of not only the African governments’ efforts to solve youth unemployment but also the role companies play in ensuring that they absorb as many of these youths as possible.
Unless collaborative measures are taken, Africa will be at risk of not only economic stagnation and a brain drain, but also criminality, political and social upheaval, and possibly armed conflict.
While an internship can help one gain the self-assurance necessary to succeed in the workplace after graduation, companies in Africa need to do more than just taking on cheap labour.
By ensuring that the interns are inculcated with all the skills they need for the job, they should also have structures to ensure that interns are accorded respect and not as beasts of burden to do menial jobs which would not only defeat the intended purpose but could make them loathe these companies.
There has to be humanity as the interns are prepared for the job market which will ensure that they will be able to comfortably meet and exceed the expectations of their supervisors. If the host companies cannot absorb them, which is usually the case, the interns will leave better equipped to take on roles elsewhere.
As a rule of the thumb, though, any intern who surpasses expectations should be given an opportunity to add value to the company. Letting go of an intern who is a performer denies them the opportunity to showcase what they can accomplish given the responsibility.
The biggest downside of an internship is the low pay.
A low-cost intern is the norm for most businesses with a stipend to cover basic costs. Occasionally, internships do not pay at all. Internships might be a financial strain if one does not have the means to sustain themselves. This is a big reason to weigh the options one gets and where companies should consider facilitating their interns. If it is not possible to pay the interns for the hours they put in, this could negatively affect their output and thus disadvantage them in getting the job.
As mentioned earlier, interns are often exploited by employers or supervisors who like employees would make them feel much more at ease and improve their contribution to the growth of the company.
Governments’ role in nurturing interns
Internship opportunities are an enormous opportunity that the government can exploit to ensure continuity and efficiency in public service.
Despite the need to nurture and empower young human resources in Africa, governments on the continent do not have substantive programmes towards this endeavour. Interestingly, most governments have many civil servants nearing retirement which means that there will be a quandary when the time for their replacement comes.
In Kenya, for instance, a continuous looming crisis hangs like a cloud over the civil service as many government employees exit public service after attaining retirement age. In 2021, documents from the Public Service Commission (PSC) showed that about 50,000 civil servants had retired in three years up to December 2020.
The challenge is not retirement but the limitations of having people who would take up these jobs.
Kenya’s National Treasury said it would not be lifting the suspension of employment meaning that the national and county governments were running on a stretched workforce.
To avoid this, having internship programmes would be useful and foresighted.
However, such programmes are few and far between. The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) has been pushing the government for internship programmes but, again, the programmes are not consistent. KEPSA is the body representing the private sector and its programmes have empowered many in Kenya who are joining the workforce.
Continent-wide, it is difficult to get any government-sponsored internship programmes. This points to a dire situation when the time comes to get new teams to replace those who retire.
Could this be the reason most job seekers feel disenfranchised when it comes to public service employment?