Steve Ngatia Maina, alumnus of ‘Afrika kommt!’ from Kenya
From a scholarship holder to an employee: Steve Ngatia Maina from Kenya spent nine months at Merck in Darmstadt thanks to the ‘Afrika kommt!’ (Africa is coming!) programme, before subsequently being taken on as an employee. As part of the ‘Afrika kommt!’ initiative, 19 of Germany’s leading companies are offering African managers the chance to gain an insight into their operations and management methods. GIZ plans, organises and evaluates the programme on the businesses’ behalf.
What has ‘Afrika kommt!’ given you?
This one-year programme has changed my life. I’d never been to a foreign country before. I did attend a three-month language course before leaving home though, so I was able to get by when I arrived in Germany. I then spent nine months at Merck and I’ve learned a great deal about German culture and the way things are done here.
What kind of cultural differences have you noticed?
Here when someone says ‘no’ they really mean it. In Kenya a ‘no’ can turn into a ‘yes’ by the next morning. The supermarket was something of a small-scale culture shock, too. In Nairobi we have someone at the checkout to put your groceries into a bag for you. It’s standard practice. But in Germany a lot of processes have been optimised, so you don’t find so many people working on one and the same thing.
What are your plans for the future?
At Merck I’m currently developing business strategies for markets in the Middle East, the Gulf Region and in North-West Africa. It goes without saying that these experiences will serve me well back in Kenya. I want to put the knowledge I acquire here to further use. My contract ends in a year’s time and I’d like to go back to Nairobi – or somewhere else in the world. I like to keep my options open.
What have you learned by taking part in ‘Afrika kommt!’?
In addition to learning about operations at Merck, I have been on several courses to upgrade my management skills. That’s all part of the programme. I often go to Bonn to meet up with fellow alumni and scholarship holders from the ‘Afrika kommt!’ network. I frequently take part in these meetings in Kenya, too.
What advice would you give young managers?
You have to embrace change and understand that nothing ever stays the same. Young people in Africa have a lot of opportunities to shape the process of change. In Africa today it’s really important to look to the future and not to get too tied up with the past.
Win-win: For Steve Ngatia Maina the investment in ‘Afrika kommt!’ has been just as worthwhile as it has been for Merck.
More and more people are applying to the ‘Afrika kommt!’ programme – this year saw more than 3,000 applications. 21 scholarships were awarded.
Back home the alumni from ‘Afrika kommt!’ are key business partners. One in three joins a subsidiary of their host company. Others set up their own business.
Steve Ngatia Maina is well liked by his colleagues in Darmstadt. He enjoys working in a team…
…but he’s not averse to taking decisions either. He has been able to hone his management skills during the programme. Photos: Andy Kassier
19 German companies are giving young managers from Africa the chance to gain an insight into their operations and management methods.
He might not be able to get chapatti in the canteen at Merck, but Steve Ngatia Maina still feels happy here in Germany.
Building bridges between Africa and Europe – during the lunch break too. Steve Maina’s favourite word in German is ‘natürlich’ (naturally), which you can always use.
Darmstadt is now a home away from home for Steve Ngatia Maina.
In Nairobi Steve Ngatia Maina works for two companies as a strategic adviser.
Germany’s Federal President – who is the programme’s patron – received the scholarship holders taking part in the third cycle of ‘Afrika kommt!’ at Schloss Bellevue.