The Professional Internship System in West Africa

March 31, 2021 | by: David Kodjani

An internship is the professional practice that a student must do in order to put his knowledge and skills into practice. The trainee is the apprentice, that is to say, the one who carries out an internship with the aim of acquiring experience in the field, while the one who is required to guide and supervise him is the tutor.

According to the National Center for Textual and Lexical Resources (CNRTL), an internship is a probationary period, compulsory in certain professions following studies, during which the person gets hands-on experience. An internship is therefore a period of training, learning or development in a company.

Unlike Western countries where an internship is well regulated (ideal conditions, maximum duration, bonus, number of authorized interns, etc.), internships are not regulated in several West African countries.

The objective of an internship is to offer a minimum hands-on experience to the intern and to prepare him so that he can develop in the field of work related to his future profession. The salary received for an internship is either non-existent or low, which is why in many cases companies take the opportunity to hire cheap labor.

An internship includes the training of the student. When a company hires students for an internship and limits itself to employing them without ensuring the training, then it is a violation of the labor law.

"When I did an internship, I worked as a slave and they didn't even pay me the travel expenses" told us a young Togolese who preferred to remain anonymous. It is therefore important to mention that some companies take advantage of internships to reduce their expenses.

According to blogger Eli Sem who gave his feelings on the subject through his blog My reflection by my words, an internship which should not normally exceed 6 months, can go up to 10 years in some African countries. "Someone can do 10 years in a company with the status of an intern and may not be paid; there is no legislation sanctioning this practice. "

In West Africa, the internship system is more common in private universities which guarantee a minimum internship of 3 months to their students during or at the end of the course. This is where you can hear some people say: "My brother is about to graduate from engineering and he just got a six-month internship in a multinational company" or "Between internship and the exams, I don't have time to rest or to go out "

In public universities, it is up to students themselves to secure internships after graduation. This research is often a real obstacle course as vacancies require either a certain number of years of experience or a specific age group.

To remedy all this, African states will have to put in place specific laws to regulate internships in order to allow students to enter the professional world with peace of mind.

It is important to emphasize that internships are different from scholarships granted by universities. Scholarship recipients are students who rely on university help, usually because they cannot afford to continue their education despite having very good grades. In this case, the university gives them work to do so that they can complete their studies. Moreover, not all scholarship recipients are students. Sometimes they are professors or researchers. Interns, in turn, are students who are almost at the end of their studies or graduates who have just finished their studies and need experience to get started.

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