A new youth exchange scheme known as the German African Youth Initiative (Deutsch-Afrikanische Jugendinitiative – DAJ) was launched in Bonn on July 1st, 2016 by German Development Minister Gerd Müller and the Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology at the African Union (AU) Martial De-Paul Ikounga.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle (DW), Gerd Müller spoke about his hopes for the new scheme.
While there are already exchanges programmes between Germany and Africa, Müller pointed out that Africa is still largely unknown to young Germans.
Africa is a continent which is a hundred times bigger than Germany. It has 3,000 languages, an unbelievable diversity in culture, ethnic groups and scenery. I would like to encourage Germany’s younger generation to take a closer interest in the continent.
Germany is launching the scheme together with three African states. There is a selection procedure to go through and then the young people come to Germany. German teenagers and young adults will also visit the African partner countries.
The three countries taking part in this scheme are Benin, Tanzania and South Africa. Germany already has arrangements in place for youth exchange and is now expanding these arrangements to take in tertiary education, vocational training, economic cooperation, sport and culture.
I would like, of course, to expand the program to include more African countries, but for that I would need the backing of individual German municipalities. Their umbrella organization – the convention of municipalities [Deutscher Städtetag] – has already assured me of its support. I expect the number of partnerships to climb from 300 to 1,000. We also want to get the German federal states involved. North Rhine Westphalia has had a partnership agreement with Ghana for some time, the same applies to the Rhineland Palatinate and Rwanda. We expect this latest project to have a growing impact.
The aim of the exchange programme is to “build bridges” in order to address a range of future challenges, from climate protection to food security. While this sounds like an ambitious goal a first step is to engage in the region, especially with younger generations.
The next step is then to:
set up structures, engage in development work [in Africa] but it has to be a bridge that can be traversed in both directions. In previous years, too many of our exchange schemes have been one-directional. 5,000 students from Cameroon study here in Germany but only a very few take the knowledge and expertise they have acquired back to their home country. That has got to change. German young people, German firms, must also go to Africa, and the reverse should happen as well.
Responding to a question by DW, “How do you intend to stop the children of African elites from monopolising your youth initiative?” Müller repsonded:
By approaching our partners directly and not going through governments. This is the advantage of Germany’s development ministry. We already have roots, traditions, many direct contacts and partners in all these countries. These organisations won’t choose the elites, but young people with the best potential and prospects. Development needs to begin at the bottom and should be pursued more often than not outside state apparatus.
Photo credit: “www.colourbox.com”. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from Deutsche Welle (DW).