Ilsa Wiskemann is the SAP representative for “Afrika kommt!” – an initiative aimed at helping young Africans find work in German companies. Among them are Yvonne Olouch from Kenya and Eze David Maduka from Nigeria.
Eze David Maduka arrived for an assessment in the Kenian capital Nairobi along with more than one hundred other potential candidates, yet he immediately caught the eyes of company representatives from SAP, BOSCH, and B. Braun Melsungen.
“He wasn’t just smart, but also exceptionally well presented,” says Ilka Wiskemann, who spent a week in Nairobi for the selection process. No one knew at first that Maduka came from a small Nigerian village of 300 inhabitants. “When the village locals heard that he’d been invited to Nairobi, they gathered money together for him to be able to buy a suit,” reflects Wiskemann. If Maduka were to succeed in entering the “big Western business world,” the whole village would come together and celebrate.
My heart beats for Africa. – Ilka Wiskemann
It’s moments like this that prompted Wiskemann to involve herself in the Afrika kommt! initiative five years ago. The campaign was introduced only 10 years ago by former German President Horst Köhler, and counts SAP as one of its founding members.
Wiskemann organizes the project for SAP, and is a member of the working group GIZ (Society for International Cooperation), which plans, organizes, and assesses the scholarship program for young Africans. When Wiskemann travels to Nairobi for the assessments, she also takes her regular work along with her. As a global HR business partner, Wiskemann is also responsible for supporting global head of Digital Assets & IoT Tanja Rückert in HR matters. If she’s travelling for “Afrika kommt!” which isn’t part of her regular work, her “normal” SAP work continues alongside.
“I love Africa, and from a business perspective this initiative is really fascinating,” says Wiskemann. The participants learn about the working methods and processes in German companies, and can expand their professional and managerial expertise. These experiences should serve to bring about positive changes when they return to their home countries. Companies are establishing trusting partnerships, and are becoming part of a network of German-African economic cooperation.
Wiskemann’s hope is for “SAP to build on its involvement with the “Afrika kommt!” initiative, select more candidates, and actively participate in plans on the African continent.
Ideally, Wiskemann would like to combine her work with her involvement in the initiative. Since November 2016, Yvonne Olouch has been supporting IoT product management at SAP.
“I am passionate about technology that helps make people’s lives easier. I’m currently working on a dashboard for a new product, and trying to find out what customers really want,” explains the trained software developer. “It seemed like a good opportunity for me to develop my managerial skills,” says Olouch.
I am passionate about technology that helps make people’s lives easier. – Yvonne Olouch
Her involvement in the initiative has also boosted her self-confidence and her academic reputation.
Olouch, who comes from the countryside outside Nairobi, founded the start-up “S.K.I.R.T.S.” in her hometown, which supports women working in technology. In April 2016, Olouch was selected from 30 Africans participants to come to Germany for a year to attend a three-month language course, and work in a large company to gain experience.
After her time at SAP, it is likely that the young Kenyan will return to her native country. It’s not just down to the German weather; Olouch’s friends and family are back home, and she wants to return to give full support to her start-up. She has nevertheless positively embraced the German approach to work, and the challenges, and will take a lot away with her.