Internship in Kenya: Is it really what it looks like?

In Typical Fashion, Most companies in Kenya would instead hire a total of 5 inexperienced interns who will either work for a meagre amount of money or free rather than appoint an experienced professional who will deliver instant results.

Globally, in almost every field of study, a college student needs to undergo an internship program before graduation. Through an internship, students apply whatever they learn in a classroom environment and develop the academic concepts into a professional setting. Higher institutions allow us to understand the theoretical approach of study, while internships through real-life practices develop our career growth.

In developed countries, interns are not supposed to go straight into a company and bring results; instead, they exchange services for experience between a student and a company. Major companies do not expect much from an intern. They see it as a win-win situation where they discover new and hidden talents, give management practice for senior employees and, most importantly, increase productivity and retention. In general, interns are more like an apprentice. They are not required to have the necessary work experience because they are a mere assistant to management, hence requiring a supervisor.

In the Kenyan labour market, getting an internship position is as difficult as getting a full-time job. The problem stems from the reality that most companies prefer interns with a lot of experience and skills to fill an incredibly delicate position that requires instant results.

Why would Kenyan companies hire interns to manage sensitive positions?

The Pursuit of Cheap Labour

Employers in Kenya seek interns for cheap labour. They view it as a cost-effective strategy aimed at receiving services with no cost or compensation to them. This practice eliminates the employer labour cost of paying taxes whenever they pay wages to interns.

To Make Up The Numbers

Most companies that are opposed to the employment of an experienced, high-wage expert would instead use many interns to compose the figures. They come with the notion that hiring three interns who will work for free is better than hiring a high salary experienced professional who will deliver exceptional results.

Is there value in hiring an intern?

The prospect of bringing energy and fresh ideas

Most employers prefer interns because they believe fresh graduates would be beneficial to them, especially in technology, since most young people are becoming more tech-savvy.

Most companies in Kenya follow the tradition of employing interns for result-driven positions. A business developer in a reputable advertising agency told me that he nearly quit because the management kept on hiring interns instead of an experienced professional for a strategic position he desperately required. He complained that most of his projects suffered because most interns were not up to the task.

What is the risk of hiring an Intern?

It is a false assumption that an undergraduate intern should have the same knowledge and skills as experienced professionals. Hiring an intern will result in the following:


When you hire an intern for a strategic position, you may go for someone who may go above or beyond what is required of them. Decision-making is a critical skill in any profession, and some interns might try too hard to impress, which may lead to a dysfunctional work attitude.

Low Contribution

The reason why people purchase new products rather than used products is because of durability. You end up spending more when you buy used products because you pay more for another one in the event of damage. Working with an intern is way different from working with an experienced full time professional. They will not contribute to the business in a more consistent way than a professional would. The possibility of having disgruntled clients due to inadequate projects will end up becoming a norm in your organization. Remember, most of them are in a learning phase, even though they might not necessarily tell you.

Inability to withstand Pressure

To thrive ahead of your competitors, you need to have employees who can work under pressure. Some tasks come with so much stress, and they require dealing with constraints that are often outside of one’s control. When you hire an intern for a position that requires instant results, an intern with insufficient knowledge to deal with that particular task will cause mistakes, leading to a company’s damaged reputation.

With proper assistance and tutelage, an intern can become better than a current full-time employee. Where urgent results are needed, using an experienced professional should be prioritized, and this practice should defeat the myth of expensive result-driven professionals rather than cheap inexperienced labour. As Always, it’s my opinion.

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