A short report AUD 2019

AfricanTide Union hosted a commemoration of the Africa Day on 24-25 May in the city of Dortmund.

Participants from different walks of life and from almost European and African countries gathered for two days to mark the 56th year since the day was conceived in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia at the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (now African Union). It is celebrated annually on the 25th of May also in Dortmund by AfricanTide Union for the 9th time with deliberations on the challenges facing the economic development of the continent and the way forward.

The theme of the conference was “Boosting Africa’s Development – The 2063 Agenda” a reference to the ambition of the African Union to, by that date, create a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. The event featured conferences and workshops on various subjects surrounding the issue of economic development.

Ably moderated by Rahime Diallo and Tari Weber, the opening ceremony was attended by dignitaries, including Jörg Stüdemann, the City Director of Dortmund; Ambassador Mobolaji Sakirat Ogundero, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Nigeria in Germany; Prof Jason Osai, Head of Department of Political Science, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, Nigeria; and Prof. Adams Bodomo, Director of the Centre for Global African Diaspora Studies, University of Vienna, Austria; among others.

The event kicked off with a keynote speech by Dr. Rosalyn Dressman, chairman of the AfricanTide Group.

The political scientist and development expert charged participants to present their ideas for cross fertilization so that sound policy ideas could be jointly formulated during the event.

Diaspora Impact Investments for Resilient Economies

A thematic focus of the 2-day event was Diaspora Impact Investments for Resilient Economies, Dr. Dressman said, that the time had come for new investment models to be developed for a greater Diaspora impact in Africa.

She explained that African Diaspora remittances amounted to more than 40 billion dollars annually, but the money goes mainly into consumption. It was time to think of how remittances could be better invested in Africa to create jobs and drive economic production, she opined.

Dressman extolled the importance of foreign direct investment in Africa, saying it would “spur growth and at the same time bring superior business practices and technology that could be adopted by local companies.”

“The practices and technology will in turn increase productivity and efficiency in the economy at large, creating benefits for both consumers and producers,” she added.

“Countries in Africa are in desperate need of this kind of investment.”

Dressman said the conference aimed to build enduring bridges between the African Diaspora and friends of Africa in Germany and Europe to enable them become change agents in the continent and active contributors to its development.

Dortmund is partner to Africa

In his speech, Mr Stüdemann, the Director of the City of Dortmund, said Africa offered great potential for economic development, citing the fact that half of the fastest-growing economies in the world currently are in Africa.

The German municipal administrator pointed out that by 2035, Africa would have the largest workforce potential in the world, making it imperative to co-operate with the continent to manage the global challenges of the future.

Stüdemann said the prospects of increased German investment in Africa were great as only about 1,000 of the 3.5 million companies registered in Germany were engaged in the continent.

“I was in DR Congo recently and I saw how the Chinese have built a whole district for their engineers, scientists, doctors and other workers, from where they’re building infrastructure across the country,” he said.

“Europe should emulate China in Africa. More German companies should be active in Africa.” Stüdemann called for human rights-based strategies for a successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the AU’s Agenda 2063. The Dortmund director said his city, being a leading centre for technology and research, was well placed to partner with the African tech start-up sector for increased innovation and knowledge transfer.

Stüdemann praised AfricanTide Union for holding the event in Dortmund, a city of 600,000 inhabitants of which about a third is of migrant origin. There are 18,000 inhabitants with African roots in Dortmund which explains the active exchange with African initiatives in the city, he revealed.

Trade instead of aid

Ambassador Mobolaji Ogundero, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Nigeria in Germany, called for a paradigm shift in Western relations with Africa. She said trade should be encouraged instead of aid which encourages a culture of dependency in many African countries.

Mrs Ogundero praised AfricanTide Union and the city of Dortmund for hosting the Africa Day and emphasised that the Diaspora had a very important duty, which is to support the development of the continent.

Prof. Jason Osai of the Rivers State University, who came all the way from Nigeria, stressed the role of the Diaspora in African development. He emphasized that Africans living outside the continent had a crucial role to play in resolving the major challenges facing their countries’ development.

The university don said the Diaspora should become advocates for good governance in Africa. “Be involved in the governance of your countries, speak out when you see things going wrong, offer your perspectives on public policies,” he enjoined the Diaspora. Prof.  Bodomo of the University of Vienna opined that the major challenge to economic development in Africa was how to transform the continent to a producing economy.  This would require the transformation of education in Africa to a skills-based one in addition to improvements in infrastructure.

The professor of linguistics and literatures called on African countries to fashion out the right principles and policies to manage foreign investors. “There’re no good or bad investors. We only need good policies to manage them for our benefit,” he added.

Several workshops dedicated to sub-themes of the conference were held during the 2-day event. For example, the potential of digital technology to drive economic transformation was addressed in a workshop by Robert Quarshie, who spoke on the blockchain technology and its potential applications.

He held the view that virtual currencies such as bitcoin could help stabilize economies and prevent the kind of currency meltdown experienced by Zimbabwe. It could also help guard against currency turbulences which discourage investment.

Moses Acquah, founder of Afrolynk, also held a workshop on starting e-business in Africa while Kizito Odhiambo spoke on ‘Agriculture and Resource Management’ based on his practical experience in his native Kenya.

Clément Klutse and Ibrahim Gueye jointly made a presentation on the need for the professionalization of Black businesses in Germany. And Babatunde Ogboru talked about the Afro German Academic Network (Afro Deutsches Akademiker Netzwerk or ADAN), of which he’s a cofounder, and its work to promote Africa.

Other speakers include Collins Nweke, a municipal councillor in Belgium, who delivered a paper on developing young people for leadership while Bridget Fonkeu spoke on ‘Education as a Bridge to Socioeconomic Dissimilarities’.

Moreover, Dr. Maurice Kwem spoke on ‘Equipping Young Africans for the Digital Economy and Global Play’ and a paper by Prof. B. C. Dida, Vice Chancellor of Rivers State University, on ‘Promoting Innovative Economies through Education’ was delivered on his behalf by Prof. Osai.

Another major feature of the 2-day event was the Young Leaders Forum, bringing together future executives from Africa and the Diaspora to exchange ideas and experiences. The aim was to enable the young people address issues such as cultural identity and structural disadvantages and encourage them to become co-designers of Africa’s future.

Other dignitaries at the African Union Day Dortmund 2019 were Grace Obar, London- based chartered accountant, Vire Komolafe, Secretary-General of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization Europe (NIDOE), who came from Dublin, Dr. Obiora Nduka-Agu, Prof. Abaribe Anyanwu and Clara Meierdierks, an author and motivational speaker.

Experts talk about mistakes African entrepreneurs in Germany should avoid

Clément Klutse, a Hamburg-based management consultant, made a presentation on ‘Promotion and Professionalization of Black Businesses in Germany’.

He said the increasing bankruptcy rate among migrant entrepreneurs had made it important to focus on how they ran their businesses.

Klutse, founder of KMC – Klutse Management Consulting, observed that businesses owned by migrants often do not plan well which is why they fail. He observed that African entrepreneurs were especially affected by typical problems and that most even shun professional advice as they did not consider it important. He said such an attitude, which he described as ‘advice-resistance’, was dangerous as a little, avoidable mistake could spell doom for their enterprises.

Klutse, who holds an MBA from the University of Hamburg, listed the mistakes often made by Africans, including

  • Lack of proper feasibility study showing that such a business is viable
  • Inadequate knowledge of the business
  • Lack of adequate financing
  • Choosing a wrong location
  • Lack of qualified staff
  • Poor management practice

An example of a poor management practice that Klutse had observed mainly among restaurant owners is setting prices too low in the mistaken belief that it would draw more customers even when the potential for patronage is not very flexible. “If your price is too low you can never break even,” he said. “You have to carefully calculate your prices.”

Klutse, who is also a communal politician in Hamburg and member of the CDU, said a business is resilient when it can withstand competition and master complex challenges in the market. “Entrepreneurs must understand the nature of challenges in their business to be able to anticipate and master them,” he advised.

“Always think about the future and learn to recognize early warning signs of change in the market.”

Klutse, who is the organiser of the ‘The Night of African Entrepreneurs’, an annual event that takes place in Hamburg,  advised that African entrepreneurs and those planning to set up businesses should seek professional advice as they could only gain by doing so.

Klutse said demographic changes in Germany, driven by migration, provides plentiful opportunities for migrant entrepreneurship. The management consultant however agreed that Africans like other migrants often have problems securing bank loans which force some to resort to raising capital in their countries of origin.

Klutse opines that a way to overcome that challenge is to seek professional counselling as a bank would not grant a loan without a well-prepared business plan.

“Learn to seek professional advice,” he reiterated in the conclusion of his presentation.

About 2 per cent of the 755,000 migrant-owned businesses in Germany belong to Africans, who are mostly active in retail trade (shops), services (barbing and hairdressing salons, travel agencies, handwork) and import & export (shipping agencies, auto/machinery/equipment export and raw material/agriculture produce import).

In a second presentation, Ibrahim Guèye talked about the importance of forming associations by people doing the same thing.

Guèye, a Dusseldorf-based journalist and PR consultant, said associations were useful because their members could share ideas and experiences and collectively tackle common challenges and problems.

He emphasized the need for African entrepreneurs to form associations. “We don’t need a hundred people to form an association in Germany,” he said. “Seven people are enough.”

Associations are useful for African professionals as well, he said, revealing that there are more than 7,000 medical doctors with African origin in Germany. “Are you aware that there’re about 5,000 Cameroonian engineers working in Germany?”

Guèye advised Africans to be active in their professional associations to learn how such bodies are organized and run. And they should make it a duty to attend German events on Africa.

Guèye, who worked for a long time with the German business weekly Wirtschaftswoche, said African professional bodies could offer consulting services, organize conferences and group business visits to Africa, and mentor/ train young students.

“Africans have to learn how to work together,” he advised.

AfricanTide Union, organizers of the event, is of the view that successful African entrepreneurs in the Diaspora could serve as a bridge to Africa and contribute to the continent’s economic development.

The 2-day event was rounded up with a gala night, featuring a business dinner and a fashion show. Solitha Shortte a designer from Canada who held a workshop for young aspiring models during the event and AfricanTide’s Impress yourself, entertained and inspired with her African themed creations.

The fashion show featured models, dancing to the Afrobeat music of Wizkid, Davido and Yemi Alade, offering different perspectives to their beautiful dresses. And there was plenty of live music courtesy of the band Fulani feat as well.

It was a fitting climax to two days of serious brainstorming over challenges to Africa’s development, giving the participants the opportunity to unwind.

The prestigious venue, the event hall of the German Football Museum glowed, enhanced by the colourful dresses of the attendees.