Mr. Kenneth Ojukwu is a Nigerian businessman from Mbaise, Imo State, but based in Vogel Hutten deich, a suburb of Hamburg-Germany, where he deals on fairly used Personal Computers (PCs), operates an Internet café and call-shop. He told Correspondent REMMY NWEKE, recently that Nigeria has a booming call centre business culture than in Hamburg, Germany.
How would you describe life here in Germany?
Germany as part of greater Europe is nice to live in, but it has a complicated system. In the first instance, it is unlike English speaking European countries such as England or Ireland. Germany is a place where you either come as a student or a visitor.
And as a visitor, once your visa expires and you’re still here it becomes illegal. Then you have to go to the authorities to obtain your papers by seeking for asylum or whatever reason, after which you may be able to meet a woman whom you could marry, and that is the only way to stay.
But if you’re seeking asylum you must have enough evidence to that effect.
What of the racist issues, is it still very high and if yes, how do you as a Nigerian coping?
Racism is everywhere, but unfortunately it is no longer as it were during the time of Hitler. Presently, one can say it’s exists but not much pronounced like before.
I understand Nigerians here have a community, and how has this helped you to survive?
Well, theoretically, we have a Nigerian community branch here in Hamburg, but practically it is not functioning very well. In fact, it does not play much role, rather people are being united by their mush-room communities. We have our individual community meetings but the Nigerian community as a whole does not practically exist.
That brings us to the Igbo community, how well could you say this community is motivated?
For the Igbo community, I can say it’s moving very fine, especially at this part of Hamburg. Though the Igbo community consists now of all those mush-room communities I told you earlier. We have all states in Igbo land represented, but the Igbo community as a body is not active like the Nigerian community too. For example, the Abiriba, Orlu, Mbaise, Anambra among other communities are doing well, so Igbo meetings here are more powerful than the so-called enlarged community meetings.
Tell us about the New Yam festival here, who are those behind it?
Like the Abiriba community held theirs October 1, 2005. The Orlu community scheduled theirs the following Saturday, October 8 and other communities too are planning to hold something similar, but differently. But the Igbo community as a whole has not held such thing. We’re still planning to see how to organize it, that is, if we could be able to organize a party to accommodate every body.
You own telephone center and Internet café business in Hamburg, how would you rate it here and back home in Nigeria?
As matter of fact, if you compare here to Nigeria in this kind of business, Nigeria is better … (cuts in).
Why and how?
Yes, because Internet and call business needs customers, due to more people that come in you make more money. So, if you look at the population we have in Nigeria and fewness of call centers, you would understand my argument. Every call shop in Nigeria is always full. For instance, I have one at Owerri in Imo State and they are doing very fine, much better than what I am doing here at the call center.
What of the infrastructure, such as the power supply not being available all the time, unlike here you have power 24 hours in a day?
Then, we have to make improvise with generating set to supplement the national electrical power supply (Power Holding). You see, it’s unlike here too, the power supply is stable but costly. It’s stable but very costly, unlike Nigeria, our power supply over there (in Nigeria) is irregular but cheap comparatively.
What of the price of Internet access here and at home, how would you compare the two?
It’s almost the same, because, for instance, for you to browse an hour in Nigeria you have to pay between N150 and N200.
It is about N80 and N100 in some popular places …
If it is about N80 and N100, it is still okay, but to browse here you pay about E1.50 cents (about N280) and half an hour is 75 cents. So, if you compare the actual value of E1.50 cents and check the foreign exchange it is almost the same.
By setting up Internet café here, it means you’re providing Nigerians and other Afro communities the current tool to reach the world. What inspired you?
As matter of fact, it has been my utmost wish at a time, like I have been here for almost 15 years and I have been self employed for about 10 years now. I have tried several things; selling of cars, second hand items – fridges and all other stuff and now selling fairly used computers.
It was to be able to compensate my customers that I opened this communication center. As you can see, I combine the call shop with Afro shop and then a place where we sit and drink in the evenings – restaurant.
So, I planned it whereby it would accommodate a lot of other things and bring me nearer to the Nigerian people. That is, it has been my wish to have a set up that could bring us a bit closer to each other.
Like now, most Igbo people use to meet here and most meetings about the Igboland, Nigeria and Africa as a whole are usually held here. And you saw the young man that came in shortly, he would be having a child dedication on Sunday and would like to host people here.
You’re deploying some software to organize your telephone booths for call center operation, can you tell us about the software and the pricing here?
Actually, pricing here in recent times has become highly competitive, because we have a lot of companies or providers that bring a lot of software into the market place. Like what I am using now is called Elemeg. ICT call shop and costs on the whole subscription about E800 (N148,960.14) for the package.
And then, for the servicing, each time they come it would be about three to four hundred Euro, about (N74,480.07).
This is unlike Nigeria where one has to budget between N500,000 and N1 million for a software. So, you cannot compare the two. There are also some that are cheaper than what I am using now.
But is the call shop software serving you as expected?
Of course, it is serving me very well without any disturbance.
Taking a look at home, are you comfortable with the level of political development?
Politics at home, you can just forget it. Now, the problem with our politics is that Nigeria has everything we need except good leadership. If today, Nigeria is politically alright, then, we don’t have need being here in all facets. Politics at home is very dirty but we hope that with time, it would be alright. If you read the history of some of these European countries, there was a time problems like this occurred and today, they’re okay. If we have good governance, we would continue to progress.
You’re here during the German 2005 election last month, September, what’s your view?
You know that politics here is very far from what is witnessed during elections at home. Its better, more advanced, more peaceful than Nigeria. Even though the recent election was unresolved for sometimes, yet they were calm and it was handled very maturely, now is almost a month after, things are still moving on peacefully, without a Chancellor victually.
What would be your message to other Nigerians in Germany, who’re trying to earn a living here?
My advice to every Nigerian is that we have to first of all remember where we are coming from. We came from Nigeria in Africa and all of us who’re here is basically with a mission; a mission of how to survive and better our lives.I want to tell those that are here, that if they take their time and run away from crime, they would reach their target no matter how long it takes. But they must first of all regularize their stay, by that I mean, they must find a way of getting their residence here in Germany, find a job to do and with time get what they want.