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"Precisely tailored to the person"

Ein Mann lehnt an einem Geländer und lächelt in die Kamera.
Gildas Bagné himself comes from Côte d'Ivoire and mainly advises returnees from West Africa

"Precisely tailored to the person"

Coach Gildas Bagné, who works for Social Impact’s StartHope@Home project, helps returnees develop a business idea and a business plan for a fresh start in their country of origin. He plans each coaching individually to achieve maximum impact. 

You offer valuable support for people willing to leave Germany. How do they find out about you?
They can come on their own account, or they are referred to us either by their return counsellor, an NGO, a volunteer or other institutions involved in return programmes. 

What happens when they first get in touch with you?
We start with an interview, in which I want to find out where the person comes from and where he or she wants to go. Once a participation agreement is signed, I start the profiling process, which is an individual assessment of the person: his or her professional background, personal history as well as expectations and skills. Then we find a common goal and design a qualification plan. 

Homework to do after each session

What does this plan normally look like? 
The programme can last between two and eight weeks, depending on the time the person has lived in Germany, his or her motivation and of course their abilities. Each qualification plan is carefully tailored because it has to match the knowledge and the aspirations of each person. And then I coach them on an individual basis, usually two hours per day, at the moment via video conferencing systems. After each session there is homework to do that might comprise skills training, planning or research. 

Do candidates usually come with concrete wishes?
Sometimes they have very concrete ideas. Like a participant from Nigeria, who had decided to go back to Benin City to open a shop at a famous market called New Benin. Others come and have no plan at all. Then we have to find out what might suit them, what their strengths and qualifications are, and develop a business idea from there. 

Focus on people from West Africa

Do you notice a preference for a particular sector? 
Definitely yes; about 60 % of my candidates choose agriculture. It might be because the agricultural sector is really important and constitutes a big part of the economies in many developing countries. It also might be due to the fact that most of the participants only completed primary and secondary school education. Another 20 % tend towards fashion and clothes, mostly they want to open shops or boutiques. This is followed by restaurants and catering, crafts, painting, tiling, etc. 

Is there such a thing as a typical candidate?
You do find people from different age groups, as well as varying personal and professional backgrounds. But there is indeed something like a pattern: Most participants are male, only about 15 % are women. They usually have no university degree and are between 25 and 35 years old. The ones I mostly work with come from West Africa – like myself. I am from Ivory Coast.

Ein Mann führt ein Videotelefonat mit einem anderen Mann.
Coach Gildas Bagné talking to a returnee.

Fears over security and infrastructure

What do they need the most when they come to you?
The most important thing is to come up with a viable business idea: One that matches the demand of the market but also their personal strengths. In my opinion, it also takes passion to be successful. So, we try to find out what suits them, what they are really good at and how they can get involved wholeheartedly. From there, we develop a business model and then a concrete business plan. And we take our time for that because it is the core of their new life. 

What do they fear most going back home? 
There are usually two things that worry them: One is security, the other infrastructure. We have to take that into consideration and include it in the business plans. In many African countries for example there is a lack of electricity. So they need to buy generators and anticipate these costs. For example, I had a participant from Senegal. He wanted to do vegetable farming in a rather arid area. He had land, but irrigation was a problem. So we had to make an investment plan that included water supply. 

Ein Mann sitzt vor einem Laptop, auf dem ein Diagramm zur Stärken-Schwächen-Analyse aufgerufen ist.
Analysing strengths and weaknesses is also part of coaching.

During the coaching do you get a feeling of whether they can be successful with their new business?
I do. And I feel that most of them will succeed. Because when they return, they have a real business plan they can follow, and they get financial support from different sources to start out with. Also, I am happy to continue to offer guidance from afar. The coaching programme is intense and the participants leave Germany well prepared to start this new phase in their lives. 

As of: 09/2021

The opportunities for advice and assistance described here are offered as part of “Returning to New Opportunities”.

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The most important thing is to come up with a viable business idea: One that matches the demand of the market but also their personal strengths.
Gildas Bagné

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