Caitlin McIlwain is pursuing her MPA at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She held an internship with the Namibia Investment Promotion Development Board and contributed to the Growth Lab's project in Namibia. This two-year policy engagement with the Government of Namibia focuses on supporting implementation efforts on a range of growth- and inclusion-related challenges.
Why did you apply to be a Growth Lab intern?
Miguel Santos! Just kidding. I really like the Growth Lab’s philosophy that a way to measure growth is through complexity. Their tools just make sense to even the average person, and often when making policy, that’s the person you need to pander to. I wanted experience in the development sector and I had never travelled to Africa. I spent a lot of time researching Namibia before I applied and found its history fascinating and complex. I was up for the challenge.
What did you work on this summer?
I worked for the Namibia Investment Promotion Development Board which is a public organization under the office of the president in Namibia. I worked with the investment and new ventures team to drive investments to the appropriate industry sector (the sector that was most feasible and attractive for Namibia to grow into) and to facilitate efficiency gains among private and public sector participants who experienced significant constraints to growth.
"Having never been to Africa before and being the only (and first) intern in the NIPDB office, it was challenging to find my footing at first. I had to become independent and self-sufficient quickly..."
Caitlin McIlwain LSE MPA 2023
In what ways were you challenged?
Having never been to Africa before and being the only (and first) intern in the NIPDB office, it was challenging to find my footing at first. I had to become independent and self-sufficient quickly, working on research projects and tasks that were really different from what I’d done in my working life before. I was also having discussions about Namibia’s future with Namibians who had been invested in development long before I arrived, so it felt that I had some catching up to do to be able to participate to the fullest extent.
What was your most exciting experience?
Towards the end of my internship, I worked on a slide deck detailing the ins and outs of green hydrogen for a layman's understanding, noting that I had very little scientific background going into it. I spent days researching green hydrogen and how it could benefit Namibia and I’m surprised by how much I was able to learn and synthesize for a more basic audience’s understanding. I actually became really passionate about green hydrogen. Non-work related: a leopard walking along the road next to our car when on safari in Namibian’s biggest national park, Etosha.
What advice would you give future Growth Lab interns?
Explore the Atlas tool in detail and learn as much as you can about your specific country's history, politics, demographics, and even geography. Everything is important and will likely be relevant in your internship. I know more about Namibia than I do about England at this stage.
What’s next for you?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I have a whole year to figure out which path of policy I want to go down. Something related to development policy healthcare policy would be ideal.