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Stocktaking and perspectives of German language promotion in Sub-Saharan Africa: networking and exchange at a conference May 14–17, 2023 in Stellenbosch, South Africa

© Mathew Jordaan

Africa is multilingual. German is taught and learned alongside other foreign languages. The reasons for learning German in Africa vary. While studying in Germany is one of the main reasons why students in higher education want to learn German, there is also increased interest in internships, job opportunities, family reunification, and migration. The promotion of German in sub-Saharan Africa is therefore becoming a focus of the Federal Foreign Office. The demand for skilled workers and labor in Germany will continue to grow, making the promotion of German as a foreign language (DaF) a necessity, especially in countries where skilled workers are to be specifically recruited. The DaF Regional Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa 2023-2025 is about to be approved by the Federal Foreign Office. It aims to increase the number of qualified German teachers in the first step and then to increase the number of German learners in the second step.

Under the motto “Stocktaking and Perspectives of German Studies and German Promotion in Sub-Saharan Africa”, 34 representatives and DAAD Lektors of German Studies and German departments from Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Togo, and Uganda met in Stellenbosch, South Africa, for an intensive exchange. It became clear how heterogeneous the inventory within Sub-Saharan Africa is: Bachelor programmes with 1,000 students in West Africa to departments in East Africa and Southern Africa that have to fear for their continued existence due to declining student numbers In general, a great demand for German lessons accompanying studies can be identified as a trend for all countries. In the working groups and plenary discussions, it became clear that in some German departments, a process has already begun to integrate more practical professional references into the German-oriented curricula. Other German departments are responding to the increasing demand for German teachers and are developing DaF master’s programmes for training and continuing education. It also became clear how the DAAD’s funding instruments intertwine: In quite a few biographies of today’s professors, the connection to Germany begins with a university summer or winter course scholarship, followed by funded study and/or research stays after graduation. Finally, re-invitations are used, among other things, to gain new cooperation partners.

Matthew Jordaan (left); Beate Schindler-Kovats (right)

The importance of South-South exchange and regional networking was emphasized. This can create multilateral cooperation and synergies. More political visibility for the necessity of foreign language learning in times of geopolitical change with a view to China and Russia seems necessary, also because the image of Germany in some African countries is in upheaval. An overview of German language offers, funding opportunities for the “promotion of German” is to be implemented in a joint web presence.
The supra-regional conference was initiated, organized, and carried out by the Nairobi Branch Office in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Carlotta von Maltzan (Prof. em. University of Stellenbosch) with funds and support from Department S14 (German Studies, German Language, and Lectureship Programme).

© Beate Schindler-Kovats

We would like to thank all the committed participants who discussed goals and target groups for the promotion of German, the changing demand for German, the training and continuing education of German teachers, needs-oriented training, the promotion of young talent, and digitization, and who developed options for action and ideas for cooperation.

Matthew Jordaan : The organizing team: from left to right: Prof. Carlotta von Maltzan (em. University of Stellenbosch), Beate Schindler-Kovats (Regional Director of DAAD Nairobi Office), Dr. Simone Heine, Consultant S14, DAAD Bonn© Matthew Jordaan

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