Empowering West Africa’s Youth through Work-Based Internships

Empowering West Africa’s Youth through Work-Based Internships

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In West Africa, the potential of its young graduates holds the essential key to driving economic growth and fostering social development. Unfortunately, many of these talented individuals encounter significant obstacles when it comes to securing employment upon completing their studies.

For instance, research conducted in 2017 by the Institute of Statistics, Social and Economic Research of the University of Ghana revealed that only ten percent of university graduates manage to find work within the first twelve months after graduation.

Siddarth Chatterjee, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya, emphasises this distressing reality, stating, “Far too many youths across Sub-Saharan Africa emerge from school without the fundamental skills to progress in their lives.”

It is important to seek ways to respond to the above-mentioned challenge. This can be done through the establishment of more work-based internships in institutions such that a greater proportion of graduates can be given the opportunity to work and acquire skills that will equip them for the job market.

A work-based internship is a structured and supervised programme that provides individuals, typically students or young professionals, with the opportunity to gain practical work experience in a specific industry or field. It involves a temporary placement within an organisation where the intern can apply and enhance their knowledge, skills and competencies in a real work environment. It empowers young graduates and bridge the gap between education and the real world of work.

Navigating the job market in West Africa can be a daunting task for recent graduates. Limited job opportunities coupled with a lack of practical experience and desired skills often result in a disheartening search for employment. Despite their potential, many talented individuals find themselves facing closed doors to opportunities.

To respond to these systemic challenges, organisations and governments must invest in work-based internships that provide young graduates with valuable opportunities to learn and grow. These internships serve as a springboard towards gaining practical experience and developing the skills demanded by employers.

Participating in internships can help graduates bridge the gap between theory and practice, gaining insights into real world work environments and industry-specific challenges. Also, internships nurture essential soft skills such as teamwork, communication, and problem-solving, making graduates more well-rounded and attractive to potential employers.

Forward-thinking organisations that invest in work-based internships reap numerous benefits. These organisations can shape the next generation of talent according to their specific needs and values, selecting interns and providing them with valuable training. Interns bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and an eagerness to learn and contribute. Moreover, internships serve as a talent pipeline, allowing organisations to identify and groom potential employees, reducing recruitment costs and increasing employee retention. It is a win-win situation where companies gain access to enthusiastic, skilled individuals, while interns gain valuable experience and a foot in the door of their desired industry.

An exemplary initiative that highlights the significant impact of internships is the Next Generation Internship Programme (NGIP), spearheaded by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). .

This programme goes beyond providing internships. It offers a comprehensive package that includes mentorship, work-based learning experiences, and exposure to diverse individuals from various levels of society.

Through this programme, interns not only gain valuable insights into the work of civil society but also develop leadership skills and expand their professional networks. Such opportunities create a durable foundation for young graduates to become the catalysts for positive change in their communities.

Work-based internships such as WACSI’s NGIP, are a valuable tool for highlighting the potential of young graduates in West Africa and addressing their employment challenges.  They offer these young graduates a platform to acquire the requisite skills needed to thrive in this ever-evolving world of work. In addition, organisations that invest in internships benefit from a pool of talented individuals who bring fresh perspectives and a strong drive to succeed. Therefore, it would be beneficial for organisations in the region to establish work-based internship programmes to empower West Africa’s youth. Here are some recommendations to help get started:

  1. Collaborate with educational institutions, businesses, government agencies and development organisations to create a network for sourcing interns.
  2. Develop a structured programme with clear objectives and responsibilities for both interns and host organisations.
  3. Assign experienced professionals as mentors to guide and support interns throughout the programme.
  4. Offer skills development opportunities through training sessions and workshops.
  5. Organise networking events and industry forums to help interns expand their professional networks.
  6. Provide accessible funding or stipends to cover interns’ living expenses.
  7. Regularly evaluate the programme by gathering feedback from interns and host organisations.
  8. Engage alumni through mentorship and assistance with job placements.
  9. Continuously improve the programme based on industry trends and feedback from stakeholders.

These recommendations will help organisations create impactful internship programmes that empower West Africa’s youth and contribute to their personal and professional growth. WACSI’s NGIP continues to be an excellent example of a well-structured programme  which demonstrates the value and impact of internships in shaping future leaders and creating a more prosperous and inclusive society.

About the author

Aisha Saliho Dukuray

Aisha is a budding feminist who is passionate about advocacy, women’s rights and issues relating to women empowerment.


WACSI Communications

Aisha is a budding feminist who is passionate about advocacy, women’s rights and issues relating to women empowerment.

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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.