The Feeling That Nothing Is Impossible
Akofa Bart-Plange, participant in the “Afrika kommt!” initiative, on bridges between people, countries, and continents.
“I want to build bridges. Between my home country of Ghana and Germany. Between the continents and between people,” says Akofa Bart-Plange. And those who know her know that this isn’t merely lip service, but that she lives what she speaks. On the other hand, she also speaks about what she lives. With friends, with colleagues, and – if the situation arises – even in front of government officials, high-ranking business representatives, and not least the Federal President. This happened at a reception at Bellevue Palace during the summer of 2017, subsequent to which Frank-Walter Steinmeier personally congratulated her. “This moment was very special,” remembers Akofa one year later, with a smile that is just as radiant as the one in the photo with the Federal President.
Back then, she had just completed her one-year fellowship within the scope of the “Afrika kommt!” program, an initiative for young African managers launched by German businesses and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH with support from the German Federal President, as a Biomedical Engineer at B. Braun in Melsungen. During the selection process, she came out on top against 5,323 competitors. She was inspired by her goal to make a difference through an exchange with experts from other cultures. No wonder that she was more than welcome at B. Braun with this personal cause. Ultimately, “Sharing Expertise” is exactly the area to which B. Braun attaches the most value in its corporate actions.
“I rediscovered myself at B. Braun. Both professionally and personally,” explains Akofa. Initially she didn’t have any idea of the kind of expectations people would have for her, let alone whether she could fulfill these. But it became clear relatively quickly: “I am right where I’m supposed to be. I developed a completely new strength – the feeling that nothing is impossible,” says Akofa. In the meantime, she has already worked a year as a consultant for Business Development for the B. Braun infusion pumps in West Africa. She finds the collaboration in her team as well as with customers and partners very enriching and the past year eventful and productive. She maintains contact with her mentor Pierre Nasser and her former department Sales Middle East & Africa. She has no doubt that B. Braun’s activities in Ghana are of great importance for the strengthening of a sustainable cooperation between Europe and West Africa. And she is definitely not alone in this opinion. This can be seen in, among others, Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visit this past December to Ghana and the visit of the President of Ghana in March to Berlin. Together with Dr. Martin Demlehner, Director Sales Africa at B. Braun, Akofa Bart Plange- represented B. Braun within this context. She was also invited to an official luncheon at the Presidency when Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany visited Ghana in August 2018 as part of her 3-nation tour of West Africa. She attended this program with Prof. Dr. Heinz-Walter Große, Chairman of the B. Braun Management Board, who was part of the Business delegation travelling with the Chancellor.
She is especially thrilled about the decision that the next German African Business Summit (GABS) will be organized in Accra, Ghana’s capital and her hometown. Because one thing is clear: “I am not the only one who wants to build bridges.”
The Afrika kommt! program is entering the next round. In August new participant Eric Pen-ara Naah has arrived in Germany and got to know B. Braun during a welcome visit in September. From October on he will join the Sales Middle East & Africa under the mentorship of Pierre Nasser.
The “Afrika kommt!” initiative is a training program for the advancement of junior executives from Sub-Saharan Africa. It was initiated in 2008 under the auspices of the Federal President by 19 German companies and since then has been coordinated on behalf of the companies by the GIZ. For Prof. Dr. Heinz-Walter Große, Chairman of the B. Braun Management Board, one thing is clear: “Our current fifth participation in the Afrika kommt! initiative has proven itself once again. It is an important factor on our path towards establishing a long-term and quality partnership with Sub-Saharan Africa. While the junior executives receive profound insights into the areas of German economy, culture, and corporations, the companies profit from the expertise and cultural knowledge of the participants and build upon sustainable cooperations.” For over 60 years, B. Braun has maintained trade relations with the African continent. Beyond the business activities of the B. Braun subsidiaries in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, B. Braun is also committed through the Sub-Saharan initiative of the German economy SAFRI. Its president is Prof. Dr. Heinz-Walter Große, who as Chairman of the Management Board encouraged B. Braun’s involvement in the “Afrika kommt!” initiative.