Nairobi News


To pay or not to pay interns: Fiery debate lights up social media

A debate on the purpose of internship and whether Kenyan firms should pay stipends to interns or not has gripped the social media for days now.

Entrepreneurs who shared perspectives in the debate argue that internships should be all about learning work related skills as opposed to earning a stipend.

However, those pushing for interns to be paid cited the current high cost of living, stating that interns should at least be paid stipend for their daily transport and food.

Nailab chief executive Sam Gichuru, in a series of tweets, explained how some of his former unpaid interns have made great innovations and started tech companies with the skills they learnt.

“Let’s talk about paid/unpaid internship. The founder/ CEO of @herdy_co was my unpaid intern, after internship (3 months) he started his company & today hires over 10 people, servers over 1000 customers monthly. I also invested in his company. It’s just been 36 Months. He is not the only one who interned at @thenailab and today is running their own company or have very good jobs. Some were paid some unpaid. If he had asked for pay, I would not have given him a chance. He was actually very specific, he said No Pay,” Sam wrote.


Economist David Ndii tweeted; “This paid/unpaid intern debate is about graduate entitlement culture I wrote about here. Vocational skills are acquired mostly through apprenticeships. Apprentices are not paid, they pay.”

Writer and digital marketer Wamathai had a different opinion; “Pay interns. Otherwise what will they use for transport/support themselves. Only a few in Kenya are privileged enough to work without pay.”

Kelvin Murimi retorted; “Haha this is actually a very useless thread ?. The interns are not asking for a salary. Just a stipend to cover at least transport, not even lunch bruh. Is that too much to ask yet they work as office slaves. Ati they kopa from mshwari nkt. Hata most they don’t qualify.”

Odieng Molo replied to Sam; “You’ve pointed out very good issues, but you cannot refuse to pay interns. They do real work, contribute to company turnovers, and they have basic needs. Pay them at the very least subsistence money.”

Chelah Langat stated; “Fact: Those who have people to finance them through a free internship are the lucky ones. You did a 5000 budget, but what if you don’t live in Nairobi that’s a housing expense added. Internship can give you opportunities but it’s a fact Kenyan companies are exploiting interns.”


Dennis wrote;“This sounded like a very FOOLISH thread. Do you know how many companies operate on free labor from interns year in year out? I know someone who has been working as an intern for a company for 3yrs. Any startup right now the first pool of laborers are interns.”

Eric Mokaya commented; “Those unpaid internships are a significant area of exploitation. For every @herdy_co out there, there are thousands of suffering unpaid interns. If u value the person just at the very least try refund them travel and food expenses. It helps them stay alive and well to serve you.”

Daisy Jepchumba stated; “Unpopular opinion 2: I’m speaking as an SME pale @vaakenya even if we wanted with the increased cost of production hii Kenya yetu tunatoa wapi pesa ya interns and in most cases we have to train them for a while before we realise value. Though stipend inafaa we reconsider.”