Africa, It Is Possible!
In 2015 while studying for his International Business Administration Bachelor's degree at Rotterdam School of Management, Hans Hanschke attended his first African Business Day (ABD)event by chance. Without prior knowledge of business dealings within the African continent, he learned from a friend who was part the ABD event organising team and he was "blown away by the myriad of business opportunities" presented. Fast forward to today, Hans is now the Executive Assistant at the Kwarleyz Group of Companies, one of the leading Indigenous Infrastructural development organizations in West Africa. ABD PR Strategist Charlotte Bedet, sat down with Hans to learn more about his aspiring story:
Charlotte Bedet: What inspired you to choose Africa?
Hans Hanschke: Initially, I was looking at South America to do my internship. Africa was not my choice because of lack of information. We learn a lot about Africa's problems but what we do not learn is that West Africa's problems differ from North African and Southern African ones. And attending the ADB event opened my eyes to Africa's diverse business opportunities and from then on I started looking at Africa differently.
Charlotte: Can you walk us through that single moment that this happened to you?
Hanschke: During the ADB discussions, a moment came when I started to realise that providing aid to Africa is not the solution for growth and that Africa needs to resolve its issues internally. This struck a chord with me as my thinking till that moment was that sending donations to Africa is the best solution for Africa's problems. The realisation hit me that Western nations or China cannot save Africa but the African people who are privy to information of their lived experiences are better candidates to tackle their own issues.
Charlotte: You joined Kwarleyz Group in 2016, was this decision a result of your attendance of the ABD event?
Hanschke: Yes, absolutely. Surprisingly as a German national with a remarkable CV, I couldn't acquire an internship within multinational companies. Most companies I approached lamented on the training of interns and were looking for those who can stay within the company for two years. I was frustrated and ABD became my last hope. I have lived in 8 different countries on my own and worked in Hong Kong and Dominican Republic- therefore; I was looking for companies that I can convince of my adaptability.
And as one of the 2016 ABD event speakers, Nana Kwame Bediako, the CEO of Kwarleyz Group in Ghana made an impression on me. There stood a confident young African man not only telling everyone about business opportunities in Africa but also proving with his successes how it can be achieved. Although reluctant of my internship proposal at first, I later worked hard to convince him that not only was I looking for an internship opportunity but I also was driven by a strong desire to learn about the culture, the economy and the challenges that come with it. A few months later, I was sitting in a plane flying to Ghana.
Charlotte: How long was your internship and what were the duties assigned to you?
Hanschke: My internship lasted for 4 months but I was given an opportunity to learn so much within a short period of time. I started as an Executive Assistant and with each successful task I was given more responsibilities. Kwame is a visionary and fast thinker and you have to match his vision with substantial results and I managed to do just that. At the end, I found myself sitting at a table with a major banking group discussing affordable housing. Two weeks ago I was in Milan for a meeting with our European partners and I will soon be moving to our European headquarters in London, where I will be taking on more responsibilities.
Charlotte: Any advice for students/graduates looking for business opportunities in Africa?
Hanschke: They have to ask themselves this simple question: How much am I willing to give up in exchange for the amazing opportunities that Africa has to offer? They will definitely find themselves isolated from everything and everyone they know and conducting business within a different culture can be a daunting task. However for me, every discomfort I felt was compensated by the most rewarding experience of my life.
Charlotte: Any pleasant surprises?
Hanschke: As an exchange for my matching his 10 to 13 weekday working hours, Kwame took over the reins of my social life and promised me a full African experience. True to his word, I attended two weddings and I was introduced to his family within my first week of arriving in Ghana. I was amazed by the friendliness of the people, their curiosity and how they welcomed me with open arms. This left a mark on me and it is this positive outlook towards life that I miss while in Europe.
Charlotte: Last word about the ABD?
Hanschke: What I really liked about the ABD event was that within the workshops I was given an opportunity to pose questions to experts from their specific field and received instant feedback. Moreover, being able to communicate with the speakers made it a perfect setting to receive knowledge while exchanging ideas and viewpoints. One thing though, most students and young professionals are not aware of the incredible opportunities an event like the ABD offers. Looking back, attending that first ABD event is amongst the best decisions I have ever made.