Hon. Kenneth Gbandi is the chairman of the HiBC (Heritage International Business Concept GmbH). In this interview with the afrika! Portal, he tells us about his projects, about cultural variety and integration in Germany.
1. Kenneth, you are the editor-in-chief of the African Heritage magazine and the chairman of the HiBC (Heritage International Business Concept GmbH). What are the magazine and the whole African Heritage project all about?
HiBC is an African-European media service specialising in publication, promotion, multimedia and consulting. As the first Afro-European lifestyle magazine in Europe, the AFRICAN HERITAGE magazine comes out four times a year .
Germany has developed into a multicultural country during the past years. Our goal is to pass on the life-affirming African lifestyle and Africa´s positive energy and to emphasize the African image with the German population positively. Through the African Heritage Magazine, Afrika Outlook TV and African Heritage on Radio, we want to give this ethnic minority the chance the prove their willingness to integrate and to encourage all sections of the population, both Germans and migrants, to perceive variety as a gain.
2. Which significance do the magazine, the tv show and the radio show have for the African diaspora in Germany and the whole of Europe?
The media create opinions, that is a well-known fact. Just look at the incidence which took place in the night of the 24/6/2015 in Hamburg/Jenfeld, which attracted a lot of attention and which the media from all over Germany flocked to. An incident in which a person was killed in an exchange of fire with a “normal” citizen. What happened? Who was involved? Why did it happen? How did it happen?
These questions could have been answered just like that if it was pure and simple coverage. But unfortunately, it is not always like that, especially when migrants are involved. It is the goal of the magazine, the tv show and the radio show to clarify this one-sided coverage and to tell positive African stories through Africans themselves.
At first glance, the focus of the Heritage Media Network is pure supply of information, but through these media we offer a platform for presentation and exchange above all. Therefore, we give Afro-European politicians, business people, singers, designers and dancers living in Germany the opportunity to present their talents in print and digital media.
3. Which topics do you deal with in your media channels?
We deal with all societal questions, especially with matters of integration, but also with business, culture, politics and entertainment.
4. You also organize many events in Hamburg and the whole of Germany. Which kind of people do you reach with that and what can you achieve through these events?
Our first public event was Miss Africa 2005 with more than 1000 visitors and since then, we have carried out the event almost every year in Hamburg, Berlin and Münster until 2009 as well as its continuation Miss Nigeria in Hamburg since 2010, with 500 to 800 visitors. Miss Africa and Miss Nigeria Germany comprise spectacular catwalks, cultural performances, African and Nigerian fashion shows and performances by talented African and Afro-European artists from different countries. Additionally to our music festivals and award events, we have organized African football tournaments with up to nine African countries participating, with more than 190 players and 5000 fans.
In the last 10 years, I observed the development that Germany does not view the Africans as a burden anymore but that a relationship has developed which is marked by mutual respect and responsibility. Nowadays, you know and see Africans as participants in Germany´s Next Topmodel, project managers of The Voice of Germany, bus drivers and policemen.
5. In your job, you also organize different projects apart from the African Heritage Project. Tell us a little bit about that.
The African German Information Center (AGIC) informs people about the job market, professional training, advanced training and the recognition of foreign professional qualifications. AGIC builds bridges to the authorities in charge and to integration offers in Hamburg. The project in which I am involved is called Recognition Now and BeConnected. It is directed at all new immigrants in Hamburg, especially Africans, and informs them about the integration offers of the Hanseatic city so that they can find a better access to the job market.
The Welcome guides advise, place and accompany new immigrants on their way to the professional recognition. The project members show them ways to the existing offers of the institutions like for example the Agentur für Arbeit and the job center. With that support, qualified migrants are able to undergo the recognition procedures.
The project is carried out by the African German Information Center (AGIC) in cooperation with the Arbeitsgemeinschaft selbstständiger Migranten e.V. (ASM) and operates under the roof of the IQ Network Hamburg – NOBI.
Additionally, I have been elected a member of Hamburg´s integration council in 2011. It is the task of Hamburg´s integration council to constructively and critically advise the local authorities for employment, social matters, family and integration and Hamburg´s senate concerning questions and plans in integration politics. I am one of the two advisors for the African region.
6. You have been living in Germany for 21 years yourself. Why did you come to Germany from Nigeria back then? Do you see any differences in the African community between those days and today?
“Home is where you start a family.” I have been the father of two children for 12 years now. There are positive differences between those days and today. Nevertheless, I sometimes have “mixed feelings” in Germany. In Nigeria, I know people to be very open. Instead of that openness, I experienced open discrimination in Germany. You often hear of the “closed society”; in night clubs and with job offers, first Germans, then EU citizens, citizens with an association agreement with Germany and then finally migrants from third world countries get their turn in a selective manner. And among these migrants, Africans take the last place. Thank God society is opening up; today, there are migrants with an African background in the Bundestag, in town citizenries and in integration councils. Today, I see candidates and jurors at Germany´s Next Topmodel and the Voice of Germany, CEOs and politicians with African origins. These are noticeable positive changes, but it could still be better. If I could be “King of Germany” for a year, I would make an effort for mutual respect.
7. Which big differences do you see between your home country Nigeria and Germany?
One of them is in Africa and the other one in Europe, which also makes the people, cultures, and mindsets different.
8. What does the future have in stall for the African Heritage Magazine and the HiBC? What can you achieve through them?
You cannot look into the future, but through the African Heritage Magazine and the HiBC, I strive to send a message: that people of all colours of skin have a chance to make their contribution to a co-existence in peace and get their chance to show their skills. I pragmatically advise other migrants to become active and learn the language as “it is the key to the people”. I also advise them to get professional training, to keep their dreams, to stay on the ball and to wait for the future has in stall.