Reflections on the Expert Trip to Berlin
by Ernest Armah
The thought of Africans and Europeans coming together to work on a mutually beneficial project would have sounded like bad humour to the African in the early part of the 19th century, whose imaginations were capped by the zeitgeist of the 80s. But change, with the full force of its audacity, came to shove the past, restoring to the African the birthright to dream and a chance to make the dream happen.
Following the launch of the Marshall Plan with Africa, there have been tangible actions backing Germany’s goal to “bring new quality to cooperation” with Africa. If unfolding actions correspond with this ideal, this cooperation can provide the scaffolding needed to ensure global economic inclusivity and geopolitical stability.
We all can see an African youth population that is growing by leaps and bounds. Present estimates say there are about 420 million young Africans. Per projections, this demographic will double by 2050. Failure to connect these energies, also called Africa’s population dividend, to meaningful economic activities poses significant risks not just to Africa but also to the rest of the world, considering the urge, driven by hopelessness, to seek greener pastures in developed countries. Now, more than ever, it has become imperative to democratize opportunities to an extent that can contain the population dividend’s entrepreneurial spirit. And on this, Africa is not asking Europe to come aboard as the Messiah but as a development partner.
The AfricaBerlin Network project is a working example to illustrate this.
Between 7-10 June this year, 12 African ecosystem leaders from four rapidly growing African startup ecosystems were immersed in the Berlin startup ecosystem. The goals were to identify gaps, explore strategic partnerships and collaborate across the five ecosystems (Germany, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa).
“The most exciting part of the AfricaBerlin Network’s experience is to have met all the incredible people, to learn about their work, and to network with them with the actual intention of doing work and business together”, says Allon Raiz, the Chief Executive Officer of RaizCorp and a member of the African delegation. The AfricaBerlin Network offers these platforms to support African and Berlin startups to achieve their growth and internationalization goals to strengthen their global competitiveness.
The innovative talks, country insight sessions, interpersonal conversations and networking at Motion Lab, Berlin Partner and re:publica enabled the visiting ecosystem enablers to have a firsthand experience of what is driving innovation in Berlin’s ecosystem. These activities also allowed them to share viewpoints with key stakeholders, some of whom had keys to the doors of power, and further, they were allowed to engage stakeholders of choice directly. No intermediaries.
The diversity of the AfricaBerlin Network can be both a source of strength and weakness. The multi-cultural dynamics of its members and the sectoral diversity of its scope present great opportunities for innovation and collaboration. But the Network is also amid varying interests. This reality calls for pragmatism in its approach to realizing its objectives.
The AfricaBerlin Network is building a bridge, not for itself and not just by itself. It must always be mindful of these and, whilst at it, keep delivering many unforgettable moments and turning points for many.