RCA Flag
RCA Flag
Connecting Africa’s Skilled Professionals
RCA Flag

ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.


MBA Graduate combines academic work with learning business practice

ImageFor Kofi Atuah, a chartered Chemical Engineer with a certificate in Engineering Management, an internship in Africa was the solution to his desire to undertake a relevant project for his MBA degree while beginning his search for a job in Africa.

Through the Graduates for Development programme, Ghanaian-born Kofi, an MBA student at Cranfield School of Management, was introduced to Akuaba Ltd., a furniture manufacturer and retailer in Accra and a project was structured around a ‘business check up’, focussing on financial management, market focus and internal management structure. Akuaba Ltd. has one of the largest furniture factories in the geographical area and the primary objective of the business check up was to identify the immediate key issues facing Akuaba, examining the organisation as a whole, and to make recommendations that would be of strategic benefit to the company.

The project was developed under the supervision of Dr. David Molian, a member of the Enterprise Group at Cranfield, and a leading expert in the area of business start-ups, marketing for the smaller business and corporate and entrepreneurial venturing.  In addition to Graduates for Development, Mrs. Mary Adusei-Herbstein, the founder and Managing Director of the company, was also a project sponsor.

Akuaba is believed to have the highest factory capacity of its competitors, but is currently operating under its potential capacity. Kofi’s project report examined the business strategies and market orientation required for successfully targeting relevant markets and generating sustainable business growth, and included a review of the industry landscape, a competitor analysis and the implications of the political, social, economic and technological factors affecting the furniture industry.

ImageKofi undertook the project using in-company data gathered while at Akuaba, background research from relevant industry experts based in Ghana, as well as interviews with industry procurement professionals with an affinity to Cranfield and with a range of experience including major European furniture retailers.  Also consulted was the IFC in Ghana, a key financial supporter of SMEs in developing economies.

Structured internal meetings enabled Kofi to get a better understanding of the manufacturing process and key production issues, some of which proved typical of the industry.  “My meetings with the new Marketing Manager revealed that competition is highly fragmented, with price competition from a large number of small manufacturers. Therefore, one key advantage in terms of competition was Akuaba’s ability to fulfil orders from large institutions, who demand high quality and consistency.”

Through discussions with senior management, another issue that became apparent was the need for clear role definition to avoid duplication of management effort, and the need for teams to find time to carry out more strategically based planning.

As Kofi notes, “these issues are not unique to Akuaba as an enterprise contemplating growth in a developing economy”, a view echoed by the Managing Director, who is currently seeking additional senior management support.

The academic strengths of Kofi’s MBA programme were put into practice during his evaluation of the company’s financial status.  One of the key issues facing the company is cash flow management and the project looked at strategies to better manage the release of cash flow. 

“My meetings in the Finance department helped me to understand how market focus and improved cash flow management would benefit Akuaba by making cash available for gaining new business and reducing reliance on the bank. Subsequent interviews with industry experts confirmed that other SME’s faced similar demands on their resources.”

“The project exceeded my expectations in terms of learning and experience”, he adds. “I was able to put my MBA skills to practical use, and now appreciate some of the issues facing numerous Ghanaian SME’s. I was able to assist the Managing Director, a dynamic entrepreneur, in areas of financial management, management structure and market focus, which highlighted the need to make the transition from ownership to management, to facilitate growth. “

Kofi completes his MBA in August 2004 and the time spent in Ghana has helped him to better focus his approach to his career. 

“As someone who would like to live and work in Ghana, this was an excellent opportunity to also explore both business and career opportunities by networking with other professionals, including industry experts. This network will help to develop future return opportunities at the end of my MBA programme.” 

Internships offer a chance to work within a company or institution for a short period on a voluntary or expenses only basis.  More importantly, short term internships and contracts also provide an opportunity to evaluate the implications of a permanent return to Africa.

In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience.

Take the experience first; the cash will come later.

             ~ Harold Geneen

Getting an Internship

A number of companies offer internships within their African operations but applications to join these programmes can be extremely competitive.  To increase your chances of securing an internship or contract opportunity in Africa:

  • Make sure your applications are well written and focused and that your cv/resume is tailored to the needs of the company youare applying to. 1
  • Do your research on the company you are applying to.  What kind of skills are they looking for and what can you offer?  If you get an internship, how will the work experience you gain benefit you?
  • Research the country you will be working in, even if it is your country of origin.  Remember that once you have been away for some time, it is likely that you are out of touch with more recent events.
  • Use your network.  Family, friends, ex-colleagues, school friends, network groups are an invaluable way to identify contract or internship opportunities. 

Investing Time

Internships and short contract projects offer a way to build your professional skills and your experience of working in Africa.   Rather than considering an internship as unpaid labour, consider it as an investment that provides you with experience and an excellent way to build your networks and test the waters. 

As an African graduate or professional contemplating returning, internships offer the chance to experience the realities of working in Africa.  Working within the business means you can learn about the company’s culture and policies and gain some experience of the type of job role you aspire to.  Most importantly, an internship offers you an invaluable chance to network and to make new contacts.

Internships and short contracts will also benefit the receiving company, enabling it to showcase its business, demonstrate the career development opportunities available for permanent staff as well as gain an insight into how you would perform, if employed permanently. 

Developing a Positive Attitude

Your attitude as an intern is critical.  Returning to Africa for your career is not just about going home but about adopting the right strategies to make your return successful.  Keeping a sense of humility and remembering that you there are many equally qualified and considerably more experienced people already on the ground will stand you in good stead.  Bear in mind that, as a new arrival, you have a great deal to learn before you can fulfil your undoubted potential.

“Rather than considering an internship as unpaid labour, consider it as an investment that provides you with experience.”

Focus on what you can contribute and not on what you think is due to you.  Be flexible and show enthusiasm and resourcefulness.  Avoid the temptation to directly compare salaries and instead investigate the lifestyle that a potential salary package offers you in comparison with your peers at home.  Remember that you have to adapt to the culture on the ground, not the other way around and listen and think before offering solutions and opinions. 

Should you decide to return to Africa, your internship will stand you in good stead - if you have used the experience wisely.

Welcome to the new, upgraded ReConnect Africa website.
Please help us provide you with information relevant to your needs by completing the fields below (just this once!)