SAP invites young African entrepreneurs to Germany to enhance their business skills. In return, the company aims to build a talent pipeline in this growing market.
When she visited SAP for the very first time, Yvonne Oluoch couldn’t believe the sheer size of the company. Yvonne comes from the countryside outside Nairobi and founded a start-up called “S.K.I.R.T.S.” in her home town to support women working in the technology sector.
In April 2016, she was selected from 30 African participants to come to Germany for a year to attend a three-month language course and then work in a large company to gain experience on the job. “It’s one thing to say from afar — ‘Wow! SAP is so big!’ — but it’s another to come here and see it for yourself,” says Yvonne.
As SAP’s sixth AFRIKA KOMMT! intern, she worked with the SAP IoT Moving Assets team for nine months. At the end of that time, SAP’s size was no longer one of the stand-out impressions she took away with her: “I got to work with a very dynamic team and with great leaders. I admired the level of expertise we had in the team and I learned a lot in the time I was there. The ability to stay focused and get things done will help me become a better leader myself.”
“My own startup, S.K.I.R.T.S., offers a portfolio of tech capacity building to address women, make tech jobs more appealing to them, and help them get started. If you want to succeed as a business woman, especially in Africa, you need to have good management skills. For me, having the opportunity to spend my AFRIKA KOMMT! internship at SAP was a dream come true. I got to work in the tech field, which is really close to my heart, and I took away many important skills that are transferable to my start-up and will help me give something back from my great experiences in Germany.”
— Yvonne Oluoch, program year 2016
In 2008, 19 major German companies, one of them SAP, came together to establish an initiative aimed at providing training for young managers from selected sub-Saharan African countries. They called it “AFRIKA KOMMT!” — German for “Africa is coming!” and a reflection of their belief in Africa’s huge potential and bright future.
The program provides a framework for sustainable economic cooperation with Africa and gives participants knowledge and experience that they can continue to pass on in their home countries. The core of the program is one year’s management training in Germany. After completing a German language course, participants spend at least eight months at a company and are involved in the work processes there. The internship is also supplemented by three international management courses, a study tour, and weekend seminars offered by the participating foundations and German development agency GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH).
Strengthening Education and Growth
For SAP, as one of 162 companies worldwide that have committed to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), AFRIKA KOMMT! is a key initiative in the implementation of Goal 4: Quality Education. Having benefitted from SAP’s contribution to their personal development, young African managers can go on to find unique ways of leveraging their experiences inside and outside SAP, often promoting education and growth in their home countries in the process.
“SAP was in line with my vision for my professional career, and I really fell in love with technology during my internship. I also appreciated the way that SAP sees Africa – as a place of great challenges, but also of many opportunities that can be unlocked by leveraging technology. Young people are one of Africa’s greatest assets, and I was inspired to see SAP investing in developing Africa’s youth. I currently lead SAP Next-Gen and SAP University Alliances in Africa, where we partner academic institutions, students, startups, and incubators with the SAP ecosystem to develop Africa’s future talent and drive innovation with purpose.”
— Kwena Mabotja, program year 2014
AFRIKA KOMMT! Helps SAP Grow
Companies benefit from the program, too, because the AFRIKA KOMMT! participants stimulate intercultural exchange and bring a different perspective to their respective teams at SAP.
Michaela Degbeon, vice president of Product Management for IoT Moving Assets, who mentored Yvonne, says: “It was great having a young, ambitious, and smart colleague like Yvonne joining the team and bringing in a completely new perspective. She shared many insights about Africa with us, which helped us understand the continent better from a business perspective. I believe that AFRIKA KOMMT! is a great opportunity for both the participants and the hiring companies. I even think SAP should consider taking on more participants from AFRIKA KOMMT! in the future. Growing a talent pipeline in Africa would give us a great strategic advantage.”
SAP Global HR Business Partner Ilka Wiskemann, the SAP representative for the program, points out: “The AFRIKA KOMMT! initiative provides a great opportunity to build bridges between Africa and Germany. To do business in any country, SAP needs people who understand the local culture and who are experienced in the way businesses are run locally. That means hiring talented people from the countries where it intends to innovate and expand its business. For their part, the program participants learn about successful business operations and about how leaders can set up organizations and manage teams and processes effectively. Africa is highly relevant for SAP’s future digital journey.”
“I was working part time as a tutor at the State University of Zanzibar and as a software developer at a small IT consulting firm when I decided to participate in AFRIKA KOMMT! It was the best career decision I have ever made. Not only does the program provide technical experience at one of the top companies in the industry, but it is also a good opportunity to get business and cultural exposure. During my master’s studies, the experience I gained at SAP helped me stand out, and I am still benefiting from all that I learned at SAP in every aspect of my career.”
— Salim Salim, program year 2014
Ann Rosenberg, senior vice president and global head of the SAP Next-Gen, SAP University Alliances, and SAP Young Thinkers programs, says, “My team is fully aligned with SAP’s commitment to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including goal four, Quality Education, both on a global basis, and also with a dedicated focus for Africa. What we see there is a tremendous opportunity to enable the next generation of Africans with SAP knowledge and skills to accelerate them in becoming the future developers, data scientists, entrepreneurs, and business leaders for Africa. We strongly support AFRIKA KOMMT! and look forward to continuing to sustain educational initiatives to prepare a next-generation, SAP-skilled talent pool for Africa.”