Under the auspices of The Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Muller, the African German Youth Initiative (AGYI) was officially launched at the World Conference Centre in Bonn on Thursday 1st July 2016. I met with Birgit Pickel from the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development for her to shed more light on what AGYI is and what both the AU and German Government hope to achieve with this initiative.
Me: Good morning Ms. Pickle. Thank you for making the time to meet with me.
Ms. Pickle: You’re welcome.
Me: Naturally my first question to you is what is AGYI?
Ms. Pickle: AGYI, the African German Youth Initiative has a Political foundation and cooperation between the German government and African Union Commission. It is a political partnership which wants to engage the youth and will be implemented decentrally in countries like Ghana, Benin, Tanzania, South Africa and Germany of course. The programme will be launched officially by Minister Gerd Muller and the African Union Commission, led by Dr. Ikounga, the Commissioner. We want people to come and join us, to participate. We have programmes where you can apply, if you’re interested as youth group and as an individual. We gave organizations that will help you to get into partnerships from the German side with partners in African countries.
Me: Can you please be more specific about the type of programmes you have?
Ms. Pickle: Programmes that target young people, students at schools, students at universities, students that do vocational training and so on. We have short term programmes for youth groups who maybe want to meet for a couple of weeks to jointly talk about topics that the youth are interested in, for example the environment.
Me: When you say “meet” you mean exchange programmes with students from the selected African countries visiting Germany and vice certain.
Ms. Pickle: Yes. They can meet physically and also virtually through social media. What is very important for us is we want quality, not only a two week meeting. Our programme brings together young people from African countries and Germany that start working on a topic for example through social media. They prepare a joint project and then meet. After meeting, we expect them to continue to jointly work on their topic and exchange and spread out in their local communities when they come back. That is how we want to make this sustainable.
We have Engagement Global here in Bonn; it’s an institution where the applications can be sent. They administer some of the programmes like the school exchanges and volunteers programme. With the launch today were starting to build up pilot programmes in Benin, Tanzania and South Africa where we have civil society partner organizations that are supposed to support these kind of programmes on their end. And this is what is new about this initiative. We really want to strengthen structures in your home country too so that we can move into an equal partnership situation. That is the philosophy and the idea of the initiative. We’re starting today, we have to be realistic. We’ll need a couple of years to make his happen together.
Me: You mentioned volunteers. The norm has been for European volunteers to go to Africa. The opposite that is Africans volunteering in Europe is rare. Is this something you have considered?
Ms. Pickle: This is the core of the initiative. We want to work both ways. We want young Africans to come to Germany and young Germans to go to Africa. We’re doing it already in the volunteering scheme, for example since 2013 young people from Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa have come to Germany to do volunteer service here. They have worked in local communities, in kindergartens, schools and environmental projects here in Germany but it terms of the numbers we still have more young Germans going than young Africans coming and we want to work on bringing the numbers close together.
Me: Visa issues are huge obstacles for a lot of Africans. How is that going to affect your attempt to bring more young Africans over to Germany?
Ms. Pickle: That’s why we’re so happy we have the cooperation of the African Union Commission. We need to get governments involved in this initiative to make it work. The German Government is our business but your Governments as well, we have just had a case in which one some young Germans did not get a visa to a particular African country.
Me: Really? That’s rare!
Ms. Pickle: Yes. Yes. It happens both ways. It’s difficult for Africans but sometimes too it’s difficult for Germans so we have a joint issue and want to address it at Governmental level jointly over the next years. It’s quite a challenge. We have to be realistic but I think if through this initiative we can really find a good common ground that this is something we want to do together and we can get governments involved. We hope that this is really a value added to the initiative.
Me: Final question, what is the overall objective of AGYI?
Ms. Pickle: The overall objective of AGYI is to get young people involved at an early stage in issues that have an impact on the global future, on sustainability and development. We want through this initiative to make a small contribution to getting Global Citizens of young people who can then again impact on their peers and make a difference.
Me: Ms. Pickle, thank you so much for talking to me and I wish you the best of luck with this initiative.
*The Writer Akua Djanie is a columnist for New African Magazine. You can read a full review of the AGYI launch in the August edition of the magazine and online. You can follow Akua on Instagram @Blakofe and on Twitter @bkghana You can also contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org*