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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.

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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.

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