When Bashi Gaetsaloe talks about interns his face glows with passion. He is a strong supporter of giving young graduates opportunity.
Through his sterling efforts, young graduates of various disciplines, be it finance, social sciences, or engineering, have been given opportunities to get a glimpse of the corporate environment and eventually streamline their ambitions to choose careers that they are passionate about.
Gaetsaloe is the country Managing director of Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company.
Accenture has over the years built itself an unparalleled reputation as a company that collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments.
It has attained that by combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, as well as an extensive research on the world’s most successful companies.
With more than 190,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, the company generated net revenues of over US$21 billion for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2009.
Accenture was immediately drawn to the ideals and objectives of the International Financial Services Center (IFSC), and saw it as a corporation that shares a common vision about the future of Botswana.
IFSC was created in 2003 with the objective of developing Botswana into a world class hub for cross border financial and business services into Africa and the region.
But it still faces dire challenge, among them the need to convince investors to channel their money to the world through Botswana. For that to be achieved, the investors had to find a ready and willing market as well as a readily available pool of resources and skilled personnel who were not only conventional bankers and accountants, but skilled wizards in global finance and wheeler dealing.
And so IFSC called upon Botswana’s leading corporations to institute internships programs, through which young graduates would be given invaluable training and expertise in financial wizardry.
In the end, foreign direct investors would be able to tap into this readily available pool of experienced personnel and channel their billions to Africa and the world through Botswana IFSC.
Accenture came to the party. For every year in the last three years, Accenture has been taking on ten interns, and exposing them to the wizardry of global finance, outsourcing and strategy. The interns have clearly defined roles and are given targets, to which they are expected to adhere without fail.
Just like full time employees, the interns’ performance is measured through a clearly defined performance management system.
“We treat our interns just like employees. They are given all the requisite accessories and resources needed for a full time financial analyst. They are given lap tops, business cards, funds and all of the company resources. They are given access to Accenture’s global network and career guidance resources, and they are assigned specific clients and projects. They are essentially part of the team,” says Gaetsaloe.
This approach is greatly divergent from the way interns are traditionally treated, especially in government.
In most cases, interns are relegated as coffee boys and girls who are only called on to make photocopies and buy doughnuts at tea time. Not at Accenture. There, they are part of the team.
Accenture has also approached clients and encouraged them to duplicate their initiative and also take on interns.
Even when they are negotiating with clients for a contract, Accenture always ensures that they tell the client that they will have interns as part of the program, and such interns will be given clearly defined roles and monitored.
“It has been an extremely invaluable experience, and our clients have responded positively to this initiative. Interns have added value to the services that we offer our clients, and the clients have also reciprocated by taking on their own interns to partake in the projects that we collaborate on,” explains Gaetsaloe.
To him, this is not only part of his daily job. It is a national duty, and his ambition, as the head honcho of one of Botswana’s leading corporations, is to see Botswana diversifying from a resource based economy to a services based economy.
“Our economy needs new and innovative industries that are outside the conventional careers that we have always encouraged Batswana to follow,” he says. “We need skilled personnel in services, outsourcing and finance. India and Mauritius for example have a big outsourcing industry. They have been able to do that because investors were able to tap into the abundant pool of qualified personnel that the countries have managed to create. That is what we want to do for Botswana.”