If you follow me online and have ever read the few articles I manage to write, you might have noticed that for the most part, I tend to focus on commodities and macroeconomics. You probably never got a sense of my personal commitment to Africa and to Mozambique in particular.
I won’t go into details (you will have to seduce me first) but the country has genuinely a special place in my heart. And trust me, I’ve been around, so that means a great deal to me.
I don’t usually get this personal – in fact I don’t think I ever did – but last week as I visited Maputo I came across a truly remarkable initiative whilst getting involved with a special economic zone. Let’s be honest, Corporate Social Responsibility is often seen by corporations as just another item on their checklist as they make their way to approving projects. Particularly if their operations have a significant impact on the surrounding communities – think natural resources and infrastructure. I am always surprised by the number of senior executives I come across who “talk the talk” regarding social impact but care very little whenever marketing and compliance are not at play.
In learning more about special economic zones and companies operating in the industrial sector, I discovered an internship programme that is gaining popularity among local youth and much welcome support from selected international DFIs (in this case the UKAid).
The programme is supporting young people in Beluluane, (just outside Maputo) by including them in the industrial manufacturing and export sector. The concept began as many young people would seek opportunities in Beluluane Industrial Park, wanting to submit their CVs to the resident companies. This inspired the park’s management to take action. Their good relationship with the tenants and a common desire to integrate the community birthed the idea to place the candidates at practical internships within the companies.
The park joined forces with JOBA, a skills development project by the UKAid and a year later the program has placed 200 interns within the park’s 35 companies. Further to receiving soft skills training from the park prior to their placement, the interns also have their first contact with financial education as a bank account is opened in their name so that they can receive their MZN7000 (US$150) monthly compensation.
The internship has a duration of 6 months and to date over 50% of the interns have become full time employees. As for the remaining ones, the park offers an employment center where they can come in to get personalised help with their CVs and applying for work outside the park.
Oh, and did I mention that 40% of the interns are women? Companies often speak about gender equality, financial inclusion, social responsibility and community integration as buzz words in order to justify some of the least desirable aspects of development, but I had not seen anything done in such a sustainable way before. The companies win as they receive young talent, trained and eager to perform. The community wins as they become protagonists in the economic development of their region in a sustainable way, taking charge of their own future.
Learning about this programme has made me rethink some concepts. Yes, there is a way to do it right and the passion of this group of managers was one of the key elements to that end!
Congratulations to the Beluluane Industrial Park and JOBA for doing the right thing and the United Kingdom for supporting such an initiative! In my book, you are setting a great example of what it means be truly inclusive.