Unemployment rate in Botswana decreased to 17.60% in 2016 from 20% in 2013. It averaged 19.4% from 1991 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 26.2% in 2008 and a record low of 13.9% 1991. The country’s youth have a relatively higher burden of unemployment, which was estimated at 33.3% in 2016. Most of the unemployed youth in Botswana have low educational qualifications and limited skill levels. With the country’s employment mix becoming more skill intensive in both private and public sectors of the economy, it means that each year more skilled workers are required relative to the unskilled.
Implementation of programme/ initiative
The National Internship Program was initiated by the Government of Botswana in 2009. It was aimed at facilitating skills transfer to graduates by placing them in organizations which will give them the opportunity to apply what they learned in tertiary institutions and gain additional skills. The program was implemented by the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development. It targeted unemployed and out-of-school youth aged 20-35 years with a certificate, diploma or degree. The main focus of the program was collaboration and partnership with strategic partners to aid in the transfer of skills among young people, create opportunities for young people to gain lifelong skills and experience for self-reliance. The program gave host organizations the opportunity to tap on the creativity of young people and improve the services in the rural areas by engaging young people in extension work. The youth are placed in the public sector, non-governmental organizations or the private sector. Under the program, a beneficiary can serve for two years and, thereafter given the choice to exit at any time should they find employment.
The program faces two main challenges. Some participating organizations taken advantage of the high levels of unemployment in Botswana and engages the interns in substantive functional areas of employment. The end result is that the interns are exploited and do not benefit from meaningful skills transfer. The high levels of unemployment also mean that beneficiaries of the program stay longer before getting employed. This slows down the exit on interns and increases the backlog of the interns.
The National Internship Program has placed more than 10,000 interns in various sectors of the economy since its inception. In 2015 alone, it placed 4,912 interns in government, non-government organisations, private sector and parastatals. Another 5,764 were waiting to be placed. About 1,340 beneficiaries of the program have been absorbed into permanent employment. It continues to provide a conducive environment to mentor and mould graduates into productive and disciplined workforce. The program also continues to provide the young people with a platform for making a contribution to the community.
Strategies are being explored to pay the interns a monthly stipend of US$ 130 to cover their transport and other incidentals. A database of all graduates who have gone through the program should also be created and closely monitored so as to streamline the placement process. A data base of host organizations should also be established. This is expected to reduce the waiting period for graduate placement. Rules and regulations on how host organizations treat interns especially private organizations should be revised and implemented in a way that ensure proper treatment. Also, monitoring of the standards of originations and ensuring that graduates are learning new skills and practicing good work ethics is critical.
The program can be implemented in other countries. Close attention should however be paid where and how the graduates will be placed and for how long. This will ensure that graduates are not exploited, especially by private companies as has been expressed by some program participants.
Date: November 20, 2017