The Sunday Mail
Perception matters. Germany-based Kumbirai Chipadza realised both Zimbabweans and Germans had a biased perception of each other and came up with an idea to change that.
This drove him to start Deutsch Connect, a German-based Afrocentric consultancy that links African and German business people through business-to-business (B2B) matchmaking, market linkages, talent acquisition, and investment. The organisation has grown to become a force to reckon with in Germany and is now a member of the Make-IT Alliance — (a grouping of biggest tech companies in Germany), IHK Luneburg/Wolsburg, SA German Chamber of Commerce among others.
The 38-year-old Mr Chipadza said he realised that there were vast opportunities for business co-operation between Zimbabwe and Germany, but there was no link to connect them from either country as well as across the African region.
“The idea of Deutsch Connect started in 2017. I had recently moved to Germany and realised that there was a disconnection between Africa and Germany. What Africans thought about Germans was not true and what Germans thought about Africa was also not true,” he told The Sunday Mail Business by email.
“In 2017, the German government enacted the Marshall Plan for Africa to accelerate Economic Co-operation with Africa and since I had been an entrepreneur in South Africa and Zimbabwe, I felt I could take advantage of this.
“The president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) told us that most German decision-makers have never been to Africa so it is difficult for them to envisage the potential of Africa as a new market for Germany. One of my key goals is to organise Start-up Safari Tours for German businesses in Africa and already we have lined up one in Namibia for February 2022 in partnership with the Namibian Ministry of Tourism, Start-up Namibia, and Base Camp where the German businesses will spend a week in Swakopmund doing tourism as well as B2B matchmaking and market linkages,” he said.
Through Deutsch Connect, Chipadza has spearheaded online training for over 3 500 Zimbabwean entrepreneurs in partnership with Afrolynk and Tofaraonline. In 2020, the organisation hosted a virtual Global Entrepreneurship Summit with 11 global experts and over 700 entrepreneurs from the region.
Currently, a German Ecosystem Tour is in the pipeline and scheduled for May 2022 to allow Zimbabwean businesses to meet industry experts, create market linkages, and pitch to investors in Germany. Before that, a delegation from the DRC will tour Frankfurt in December at the invitation of Deutsch Connect. This is in addition to 500 scholarships to give away from European Business University of Luxembourg specifically for women and youths.
He said: “We also work with start-up hubs like Berlin Start-up School , leetHub in Hamburg as well as Ignition Hub in Zimbabwe. We also offer online German language courses, social year volunteers, students and skilled persons looking to relocate to Germany. We believe in smart migration and brain gain not brain drain
“We are also organising a Start-up Safari to bring German businesses to Zimbabwe for tourism and business. We have a tourism expert in Germany from Zimbabwe (Elitah Sandau) heading this initiative.”
His sterling efforts to create linkages between African businesses and Germany, landed him a spot among 40 African and German young leaders to accelerate economic co-operation between Africa and the European powerhouse.
Mr Chipadza highlighted vast opportunities were in mining, agriculture, infrastructure development logistics, and talent acquisition.
“There is a favourable report on Zimbabwe from the German Chamber of Commerce on the whole mining value chain).
“I believe there are many synergies between Germany and Zimbabwe and I applaud the work ZIDA (Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency) is doing in ease of doing business as well as ZimTrade in training and promoting Zimbabwean businesses globally.
“We are looking at working with such organisations to accelerate economic co-operation between Germany and Africa. As for talent acquisition, we believe in #smartmigration and #braingainnotbraindrain. Germany has a shortage of 400 000 skilled workers per year which it needs from outside EU. Zimbabwe has educated and hardworking people who if afforded such opportunity will get knowledge and skills, expertise, networks, and remit much-needed foreign currency back home,” he said.
Mr Chipadza, however, emphasised the need to uphold quality standards, professionalism, credibility on the part of Zimbabwean companies in order to attract investment from the European giant. Prospects for Deutsche Connect remain high with the organisation looking at becoming a leader in Germany – Zimbabwe business cooperation by creating market linkages, B2B matchmaking, talent acquisition and investment expanding reach to rural entrepreneurs, smart energy, tourism agribusiness, as well as vocational training.