A LETTER FROM GERMANY:
Finding our economic role in Germany
– Prof. Brando Okolo
As the saying goes, “the market which you are unaware of will still trade”
Consider what might happen if all the people of Turkish origin were to depart from Germany; there will be no Kebab shops, piles of garbage will accumulate in the country, fewer taxis will be on the roads, low cost grocery shops with fresh Halal meat will also depart with them.
Also consider what might happen if all east Europeans decide on going back home; the offices will be dusty and evidently in need of care and a clean, factory floors will be less busy, the night-shifts might be altogether scrapped from the working hours and construction sites will certainly need more hands.
Now consider what might happen if all Africans decide to go back to Africa. Well, none of the business sectors will badly miss our absence. It will be as though nothing has gone wrong in the socio-economic life of this country. This is not because there are few Africans leaving in Germany. The latest demographic data on foreign populations in Germany indicates that there are about 277 thousand Africans within the detection limits of the Federal authorities. This is about the population of the city of Karlsruhe (!) and yet we provide no impact factor on the national economy. It is sad. The fact is that our collective skill-sets are so diffuse that the German socio-economic structure has difficulties appreciating it. We have simply failed to organise ourselves in an economically inclusive form.
In the 1990’s a deliberate effort was initiated particularly in the developed countries to formulate policies which will foster the globalisation of social and economic practices. This move provided the basis for the social and ethnic diversity currently seen in Germany. The ethnic base created by immigration reforms in this era gave minorities the leverage to network amongst themselves and position themselves economically. This has however not happened within the African populations.
We need to identify a realistic skill-set and adapt this to a piece of the German economy. It maybe in the service sector or the production sector but it truly has to be a realistic option. Now, you take some time to think deeply about this situation. Make notes on economic activities which can fairly be pursued by an African resident in Germany and how this activity should be packaged to make it painfully indispensable in this country.
In future articles on this column I will carefully unpack this topic, drawing our attention to its urgency and try to create the necessary social combustion needed to find and consolidate our economic role in Germany.
Professor Brando Okolo, African Heritage Man of the year 2011 is a full Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the German University in Cairo – Egypt