Challenges Worldwide ICS

African Business Support Placements for 18-25-year-olds


Challenge Yourself to Change Your World

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Challenges Worldwide ICS Kumasi Academy Workshop
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We support businesses in Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia with an aim of helping them grow. Over time this creates jobs and improves local economies.

At Challenges Worldwide it is our mission to create fair and inclusive economies where everyone has the right to earn a decent living. Because no one wants to rely on charity or aid, a secure income is the first step to ending the cycle of poverty. 

As a Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteer, you will help grow small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), producing everything from organic honey to eco-friendly stoves.  By helping these businesses succeed, you also help those around them – the farmers who can be trained up to produce honey themselves, the local women’s groups who can sell the stoves and fuel to their local community. Challenges help create employment and income for local individuals – the first step to make communities less reliant on aid.

Our programme is fully funded by the UK Government and open to all 18 – 25-year-olds from the UK, Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda.

Don’t worry if you don’t have previous business experience, we will provide training and mentor support that will allow you to contribute to lasting, sustainable change within a fast growing business.


ICS is funded by the UK Government.  This includes the costs of training before you leave, return flights from the UK to your host country, visas and vaccines as well as all food, accommodation and local transport costs for the time you are on placement.  You do not need any cash to take part in our programme, but you will be required to fundraise before you can take part in an ICS placement.



You can take part if our programme if you meet the following criteria: 

  • UK Citizens, EU or EEA Citizens with UK residency
  • Citizens of Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda or Zambia.
  • Aged 18- 25 for volunteer placements
  • Aged 23 – 35 for Team Leader placements


Challenges Worldwide placements use the structure of a widely recognised Chartered Management Institute (CMI) qualification. These resources and activities are delivered through weekly sessions and are designed to support the work volunteers carry out in their businesses. At the end of the programme, all volunteers are invited to complete an assessment and gain the CMI qualification at an exclusively discounted rate for Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteers.





After you complete your online application, you will be invited to a selection day in Edinburgh or London.  


Once you complete your assessment you will be assigned to one of our Pre-departure Coordinators who will walk you through each step of your journey.

You will be setup with an account for Challenges College, our online learning and project management platform, to support you in your preparations.

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There is no financial cost to take part in ICS.  However, in order to show your commitment to the programme and to ensure ICS remains sustainable and required to fundraise a minimum of £800 before you can take part in the programme.


before you leave you will be invited to attend 3 days of Pre Placement Training. 

If you are applying from the UK, we will invite you to Challenges Headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

During your 3 days of training, you will cover everything from getting to meet the Challenges staff that work on the ICS programme and directly with enterprises. You will also have an opportunity to learn more about International Development, and the role of the Private Sector in creating sustainable, economic growth. 

The training will be your opportunity to meet other members of your team and learn about the country where you will be spending 3 months! 



Africa Map


Since 1999, Challenges Worldwide have delivered support to businesses in 16 African countries. 

Since 2014 we have been running the ICS programme in Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia. In that time our ICS volunteers have delivered support to over 700 businesses.

We will place you in either Ghana, Uganda or Rwanda based on a variety of programmatic factors such as team dynamics, experience and the needs of the enterprises.  

If you do have a preference for volunteering in a particular country then you can discuss this with your Pre-Departure Coordinator, but please aware that we may not always be able to accommodate your requests. 


You will live with your counterpart in a local host family home. Host homes have been carefully selected and thoroughly risk assessed to ensure they are safe and comfortable for volunteers to live in.

Host home accommodation may vary but is likely to be basic. It is likely you will share a room with another volunteer. If so, we will ensure they are of the same sex.

You will live and work in an urban environment in the capital cities of each placement country. We strive to place volunteers in host homes located as close to their business placement as possible.

Host families will invite you v into their homes for 3 months, which this is an amazing opportunity to spend time with locals and learn about the culture and traditions of the placement country. Volunteers must respect host homes and follow all rules agreed with the host family. 

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The first week of your placement is dedicated to orientation training. 

You will cover topics such as cultural realities and our CMI accredited business support training. This allows you time to settle into your new surroundings, get to know your team, and learn more about the rest of the project.

During orientation, volunteers are matched up with an in-country counterpart who will be their partner for the duration of the project. We will find out about your skills, experience and business knowledge in order to match you with your counterpart and business placement.



You and your counterpart will spend 4 days per week working with a small to medium enterprise. You will follow a structured approach to gather information, conduct analysis and implement recommendations to help improve the efficiency of the businesses and move them towards investment readiness.

You do not require prior knowledge in these areas: As a Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteer, you will have access to online learning content, tools and resources. You will receive continuous support from team leaders, remote mentors and staff.

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Belinda Greenlife OAR


After spending 5 weeks observing and performing analysis on your business, you will begin to make OARs (Options, Analysis and Recommendations) for your business.

Present you OARs to the rest of your team to gather their feedback before taking these to your business owner in week 7.


You will spend the remaining weeks working with your business to implement the changes you have recommended. 

It may be difficult for you to measure your impact within the business during this final part of the programme so we encourage you to stay in contact with your business by following them on Challenges Marketplace as we continue to work with them to reach their goals. Your role here is to get the business on to the runway, ready for trade or investment.


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After completing your business support placement, you will summarise your work in an Enterprise Summary document.  One copy will stay with Challenges Worldwide, another will go to the enterprise owners.

We will use your Enterprise Summary to follow up with your enterprise after 6 months to see if they are still working through your recommendations and offer them further support if relevant. 


After completing your placement you will be invited to attend a Return Volunteer Event with the rest of your team.

The purpose of the Return Volunteer Event is to learn how your placement can contribute to your personal and professional development, learn how best to communicate your experiences and explore future opportunities.






Your Challenges Worldwide ICS journey doesn’t stop at the end of your overseas placement. We support all ICS volunteers to complete an “Action at Home” project. This is your chance to carry on making a difference, inspiring and engaging people in your own community and bringing about positive social and economic change.

We’ll encourage you to take part in at least one project that benefits your local community or seeks to bring about positive social change – and support you all the way. This is called Action at Home.

You’ll get all the support and advice you need to succeed including a dedicated Professional Development Coordinator to see you through the final stages of your journey!


All Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteers who complete the programme will be invited to sit an assessment with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in Professional Consulting or Management and Leadership, at a hugely reduced rate!

We offer qualifications in both Professional Consulting or Management and Leadership, at a hugely reduced rate!

There are 3 levels of qualification to suit your needs and our Qualifications Coordinator will be on hand to assist you while you complete your assessment.

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Growing enterprises is what we know!  After your placement, our Challenges Catalyst Business Development Managers will continue to support the enterprises to maintain the improvements you have made, and help them to make further developments towards the trade or investment deal that they seek.

  • CDC's Impact Programme

    Ellinor Jensrud completed a placement with Challenges Worldwide as a Business Support Associate in 2014.  A standout volunteer, she went on earn a position as the Portfolio Manager in Challenges Worldwide's Ghana office. Here, she worked with a portfolio of 150+ SMEs to connect them with opportunities in trade, finance and consulting.  In June 2017, Ellinor left Challenges to join CDC’s Impact Programme in their Technical Assistance Facility.

    CDC's Impact Programme
    Ellinor Jensrud
    Technical Assistant
  • EY Foundation

    Vaneza Lourenco was a Team Leader with Challenges Worldwide in 2016.  Following her placement, she successfully fundraised to complete her CMI Certificate in Professional Consulting.  With a qualification under her belt, Vaneza went on to a position as Fundraising and Events Coordinator at the EY Foundation. Her role there focusses on the School Leavers programme, aiming to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by giving them work experience and training. As the Foundation’s School Leavers programme was based on CMI leadership training, Vaneza felt her success in earning the role all started with her Challenges Worldwide ICS placement!

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    Vaneza Lourenco
    Fundraising events coordinator at
  • Challenges Zambia

    Precious Nkandu Lumpa completed two placements with Challenges Worldwide. Initially as a Business Support Associate in Kitwe, Zambia and then as a Team Leader in Lusaka, Zambia. Precious won the Award for Outstanding In-Country Volunteer, receiving a fully funded CMI Certificate in Professional Consulting, which she chose to top up to a Diploma.  Since then, Precious has applied for and won almost £1000 of funding from ICS through the ICV Alumni Grant for a project in early September. Precious will be running an Enkindle Junior Workshop, offering a hybrid of financial literacy and entrepreneurship lessons to 100 young women in Matero, Zambia. She is also returning to Challenges Worldwide to work as a Junior Consultant to provide further support to a selection of SMEs in Zambia.

    Challenges Zambia
    Precious Nkandu Lumpa
    Junior Consultant


Unfortunately, Challenges Worldwide ICS has now closed.

Please check back for updates or sign up to our newsletter for news and information on future programmes.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Absolutely nothing! International Citizen Service placements are fully funded by the U.K Government.  We cover the costs of international flights, visa’s, vaccines and in country travel and accommodation.  We will also provide you with a personal spending allowance for your time on placement.

  • We chose to run our ICS programme in Sub-Saharan Africa because of the amount of potential to create economic opportunities for SMEs and young people across the continent.  With almost 20 years experience of growing businesses, we wanted to test our model in markets that need our support the most!

  • Fundraising demonstrates your commitment to the programme, is a great way to raise awareness of International Citizen Service and is a chance for you to develop skills that will be useful on your placement. Read more about fundraising on the ICS website

  • It is normal for your parents to have concerns.  Make sure you tell your parents about your plans to volunteer with us and give them a copy of our guide for parents which you can download here

  • No, during the programme you will receive weekly training sessions in Professional Consulting, you can get the knowledge and experience for free, however there is a cost associated with getting the qualification.  Check our learning page for the latest prices. 

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