HAVE YOU MET AHMED SALIM SAKARA?
Could you please introduce yourself briefly?
My name is Ahmed Salim Sakara and I am from Ghana. I am a petroleum engineer and business development specialist by profession. I have worked across the downstream oil, gas and renewable industry for close to ten years. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering from KNUST and a Master’s degree in Project Management from the University of Ghana Business School.
In three words, how would you describe your first three months in Germany?
I wish I would be given more, but with three words I would say “enlightening”, “refreshing” and “educative”. Coming from a different culture, a different background and a different setting in Africa to then being here in Europe, in my case for the first time, I found the difference in the way of life very informative.
Back at home, things are more communal. We do things together and everyone is in everyone’s face, so to speak. It is more a nuclear here with people are doing things in smaller sects and are quite reserved.
One thing which stood out for me is the transport system. It still baffles me to see four different transport systems on the same road. Implementing such a system back home would be quite challenging – to have a tram, busses, and people’s private vehicles all on the same routes without having collisions. I found that very, very impressive.
Is there a cultural aspect that you find especially interesting?
Something else I noticed were the festivities for Christmas: I had never heard of Christmas markets, so it was really nice to see them and to taste traditional Glühwein. Unfortunately, I do not drink, so I had to take Kinderpunsch. But it was still interesting to see hot wine being drunk.
In terms of cuisine, back home we are more used to carbs and meat form a major portion of our diet, but then here, I find that, Germans do not joke with their “Brot”, you will find a “Bäckerei” in almost every corner, which is good because it means you can always grab a snack and not go hungry😊. There are a good number of vegetarians here as well, so you can be sure to always find a good mix and healthier option on a menu when you go out. I always like to try something new.
What do you miss most?
In my case, it is the weather. Adjusting to the cold was very difficult for me. And I never thought that I would miss the sun and the warmth that comes with it, because we really complain about the weather back home, it can get very warm. Some sunshine in my first few weeks here would have been very welcomed. There was a day I had an appointment at the doctor’s office, and I had to wait outside for a bit and then thankfully the sun came out. And I just stood in the middle of the walkway, just basking in the sunshine and realizing how much I had missed it.
In addition to that, obviously, my family, it’s always difficult being away from them. As a dog lover, I miss mine back at home when I see people walking their pets every day.
What do you do in your free time?
I am big on physical activities. Together with some of the other fellows, we formed a basketball team and looked around where the closest basketball court was. We found one at the Rheinaue-Park, and so on weekends, we tend to go there to shoot some hoops. I also like to hike a lot, and thankfully, where I live, there is just a hill close by where our neighbors go hiking. Meeting up with the other fellows in our ‘African Pub’-Pendel after a long week in Goethe tended to be on the to-do list from time to time.
Which aspect do you find most interesting regarding German language?
One time I picked up a newspaper. I had heard so many times that German is a difficult language, but I didn’t want to buy into that idea, just to maintain a positive mindset and learn as much of it as I can. But in the newspaper, I saw words that I have never seen before, and I could not find them in any dictionary. As we undertook the Deutsch lessons at the Goethe, we soon learned that a lot of German words are compound words. You have for example three different words with three different meanings put together. Then you really have to understand each word before you understand what the author is trying to convey in entirety. But those are not the words people use in everyday conversations.
What is your general expectation towards the company phase?
Thankfully for me, I had the pleasure of having my company visit in person. I was invited by Bosch Rexroth to visit the Mobile Hydraulics plant in Elchingen where I had the pleasure of meeting my mentor, together with other department heads. I was lucky enough to be given a preview of what my rotation plan and training phase would entail, which – I must say – was quite detailed and carefully thought out. Personally, I am an advocate for bridging the industrialization gap between Africa and the West. The candidate profile fielded by Bosch Rexroth very much aligned with this vision of mine as well as my career objectives. To be given this once in a lifetime opportunity is a dream come true. So, I am very much looking forward to the company phase.
What makes you nervous before the start of the company phase?
There is always lingering uncertainty on how you are going to navigate alone. In Bonn, I had the company of 53 other fellows you were likely to run into because for sure somebody would always get lost within our first three weeks there. Then you bump into them and then you say: “Ok, we are both lost, let’s figure out our way together.”
In contrast, going to Bosch Rexroth is more a lone journey for me. I am very sure that within in the first two weeks at most I will hit the ground running. If there is anything at all I would be nervous about, that would be it, but that is part of the experience anyway.
How can you enrich your partner company?
Coming from Ghana, with a solid network base built up over the years from work experience, I believe it would be invaluable for the course of Bosch Rexroth to see Africa and particularly Ghana as a green turf to further grow their business and expand their reach in Sub-Saharan Africa. The exposure, training and support I am being given here would stand me in good stead, coupled with my very good working knowledge of the Ghanaian terrain to help deliver value to our numerous clients in the sub region. Industrialization in Africa still has a long way to go in my opinion and therein lies the growth potential. I am happy to be affiliated with an organization with a strong presence in this area.
How do you profit from the contact with the fellow fellows?
If there was ever the opportunity for one to interact with people from all walks of life regardless of their background or professional experience, this one such avenue. There are people from health, engineering, pharmaceuticals, and a lot more brought under the umbrella of this program.
During any interactive exchange, be it at language school or during our IMT sessions, expert exchange sessions, book club sessions, you get to see the worth of experience people bring on board. And there within lies opportunities one can tap into. It may possibly trigger an interest or get you to appreciate things from different perspectives as the group is very diverse. New insights into problem solving particularly in Africa is always of interest to me, and that is where networking and collaboration starts.
So personally, the fact that I can pick up a phone and talk to a colleague in Namibia, in Egypt, Kenya, etc, regardless of their field, is great. These are seeds that are being sown now to bear fruits in many years to come.
This interview was conducted by Matthias Ogiermann. Matthias was an intern in the AFRIKA KOMMT! programme from October 2021 to March 2022. He studied Geography and Mathematics in Münster, focusing on Development Geography and International Cooperation.
He particularly enjoyed being an intern in the programme since it allowed him to meet many brilliant young leaders and visionaries from Africa and exchange with them about their ideas for sustainable development in both Europe and Africa. When not interning, he is enthusiastic about listening to podcasts and hiking – as a Geographer self-evidently without map and without getting lost.