In 2013 a youth internship programme was piloted in the Northern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal (KZN) to address unemployment among rural youth. The local youth were provided with an opportunity to increase their work experience, skills and employability working on Open Africa’s tourism routes to help integrate them into the local rural economy. In turn, they inject youthful energy and fresh ideas into the routes and play a meaningful role in the development of their communities. The interns were mentored and monitored by the route management structure and enterprises involved in the respective routes.
A total of 27 interns completed the programme and to date, all have received hands-on business training and experience. Thirteen interns have secured jobs, four have started their own businesses and five are still in the process of completing the programme.
The positive impact of the programme is seen through an intern Nelisiwe Zuma (27) from Haza in Howick, who was appointed along uMngeni Footprint Route in KZN. She had limited work experience after completing her studies in tourism. Neli, as she is known by her peers, heard through a friend about the internship offered by Open Africa.
Neli is eager to explain how the programme helped to build her confidence and give her additional skills to find meaningful employment. After the programme, she views challenges in her community differently and constantly sees opportunities to do more. She would also like to visit other areas around the KZN Midlands so that she can make recommendations to travellers she meets while working in Howick. Neli is inspired to further her studies in tourism and dreams of one day owning a business that offers tourism-related services. Neli explains that the programme helped improve her communication skills. “I was shy when I joined but working along the route has given me the confidence to speak and promote our community to visitors who come from all over the world.”
Seeing the benefits from the programme and the efforts of the route, the uMngeni Municipality has offered to provide a building to house future interns and from where the route can continue its work on community development projects. Already Neli and her fellow interns have revived the Howick Falls Gorge Walk, cleaning up the trail and surrounding areas and have been taking tourists down the trail on a guided tour. Neli received training to become one of four guides that administer the tours, providing her with valuable work experience and income to support her family.
This programme has also resulted in other development opportunities, including the opening of a local restaurant and the development of a ‘bush golf course’ to that will help to generate income for future projects the route is planning.