2023 is an anniversary year for the DAAD Nairobi Office: for 50 years, the DAAD has been represented with a regional office for Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. For half a century, the DAAD, with its staff, lecturers and a large alumni network, has been providing information in eastern Africa about Germany as a location for study and research and advising on funding opportunities, scholarships and university cooperation. Germany enjoys a good reputation as a partner country for higher education, for business and in political relations. German-African academic relations, together with diplomatic relations, which look back on 60 years in 2023, have shaped the biographies of many alumni and are visible in the regional diversity, in the diversity of cultures, disciplines and academic traditions.
The DAAD is proud to have supported significant careers in East Africa, namely in Ethiopia, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, for over half a century: People with impressive experiences, encounters and stories that have triggered and continue to trigger sustainable developments and impact in their countries. The Alumni Gallery ” 50 Years – 50 Portraits” presents alumni from 50 years of DAAD work in East Africa. They are representative of many others whose professional careers document the many years of good German-academic relations in East Africa.
A look back: The development of the DAAD Regional Office in Nairobi
German-Kenyan diplomatic relations are close and based on partnership. In 1963, Germany was the first country to recognise Kenya diplomatically. 60 years of political and economic cooperation and 50 years of academic partnership in East Africa stand for continuity, trust and sustainability.
A glance at the DAAD Annual Report of 1973 initially revealed a surprise: there was no mention of the opening of a DAAD office in Kenya. Instead, it reported on the posting of a coordinator for the Surplace and Third Country Scholarships for Kenyan students, which the DAAD had already begun awarding shortly after Kenya’s independence in 1963. With Wolfgang Armbruster, there was a representative office in Nairobi in 1973, and the DAAD was able to establish and expand further academic exchange with Germany directly on site with universities and partner organisations. Armbruster was followed by nine directors, and since 2019 Beate Schindler-Kovats has headed the field office. In the years after 1973, the branch office grew steadily and with it the network of grantees, alumni and projects. Today, it is an important hub for academic exchange between universities and research institutions in Germany and Kenya and the entire region of East Africa.
A packed programme of anniversary events in September 2023
The 50th anniversary was celebrated with several events during the week of 18-21 September 2023.
The DAAD invited alumnae and alumni from across the region under the jurisdiction of the Field Office to a networking event on 19 September 2023. Approximately 150 alumnae from the seven countries of different disciplines and of all ages – the youngest alumna was 26 and the oldest 70 years old – represented the multitude of alumni over the age of 50, including notables such as Dr Rose-Asha Migiro, former United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, most recently High Commissioner of the United Republic of Tanzania to the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, and Professor Hirut Woldemariam, three-time Minister from Ethiopia. On “A Road Well Traveled – My Journey with the DAAD”, alumni discussed how the DAAD and other German funding organisations have influenced their lives.
Kenyan President William Ruto is also a DAAD alumnus, he had confirmed his participation and until the very end the Kenyan State Chancellery kept rescheduling – and in the end the President was at the United Nations in New York and not at the DAAD alumni meeting. The one-day alumni meeting was brought to a successful conclusion with a festive reception at the residence of the German Ambassador.
The Science Forum on 20 September 2023 shed light on German-East African science and research relations with a stocktaking, presentation of ongoing projects and cooperations and discussion on future cooperation and perspectives for even stronger research activities.
The focus is on topics related to the SDGs and of political relevance for the global South (climate change, food security, health care, access to education, freedom of science, etc.). The political context with 60 years of diplomatic relations will provide the framework for the panel discussions and poster exhibition. Monica Juma, National Security Advisor to President William Ruto, emphasised in her keynote speech the importance of international cooperation in a world undergoing geopolitical changes and advocated in particular for the promotion and consideration of women in leadership positions.
Participants at the anniversary events of both events expressed their appreciation and satisfaction: Innocent Muhwezi from Kabale, Uganda, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to attend the Network Meeting and Science Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. “I was honoured to participate in such stimulating lectures and presentations. I was also able to network with both young and experienced scientists. I am interested in collaborating with them on future cross-continental projects involving East African countries.”
Looking to the future
Networking, a common platform for more intensive intra-regional exchange and more frequent meetings – these were the wishes and suggestions the alumni gave the DAAD. “Today, Africa is increasingly perceived by the public as a continent of opportunities,” said Dr. Kai Sicks, Secretary General of the DAAD, in Nairobi, “East Africa was and is an important partner region for the DAAD in cooperation and in solving global challenges, and is increasingly establishing itself as an internationally oriented location for research and innovation. In future, we would like to promote traditional development cooperation towards genuine partnership-based cooperation.”
The anniversary days in Nairobi were a complete success: the DAAD delegation, alumni and researchers were able to exchange ideas and network. All interlocutors expressed one expectation: that the DAAD will continue to promote academic exchange between Germany, Kenya and East Africa in the coming 50 years. Moreover, according to Ambassador Sebastian Groth, it is important to broaden one’s view and to see where Germany can benefit and learn from dynamics and developments on the ground. Looking to the future, the topic of “give-back” also came up, how DAAD alumni can have an impact in the future and help those who follow in their footsteps.