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My dream is to revolutionise African fashion

Ein Mann sitzt an einer Nähmaschine
Ousmane at work

My dream is to revolutionise African fashion

My name is Ousmane and I come from Dakar. I travelled from Senegal to Germany in 2006. At the time I owned a sewing workshop with 15 employees. I actually only wanted to buy goods in Germany, but I decided to stay because I thought that things would be easy in Europe.

I thought that things would be easy in Europe. I thought that people there had the opportunity to realise their dreams, build houses, buy cars – in other words to live a good life. But I soon noticed that I wasn’t well prepared to build a life for myself there.
Things were difficult without a work permit, because I couldn’t earn any money. I also wasn’t allowed to leave the area where I lived. I used the time to reflect and sort myself out, and finally came to the conclusion that I had no future in Germany.

Ein Mann steht neben zwei Schaufensterpuppen, die bunte Gewänder tragen.
New designs: Garments from Ousmane’s sewing workshop

Developing my craft skills

I thought about how I could start afresh in Senegal. I'd seen how well the Germans get on at work because of the way they are trained, so I wanted to take something from that. I wanted to further develop my craft skills, redesign clothes and revolutionise African fashion.

I came back home in 2014. Of course I was sad to leave Germany, but I was also determined and confident. My time in Germany had expanded my horizons. I’d learned a lot, German and English for example but also civic spirit and discipline.

It was difficult back in Senegal at first, since moving between two such different worlds is complicated. People looked down on me – they said I was a loser and had no ambition. I told them it’s not as easy in Europe as they think.

Ein Mann steht auf dem Bürgersteig vor einem Ladenlokal.
Ousmane in front of his sewing workshop

Entrepreneurship training

So I had plenty of problems at first, but my family and friends also helped me a lot. The first few months after my return were spent working in my younger brother’s sewing workshop. Then I started to plan setting up my own business.

One day, a friend told me about ANPEJ – the employment agency for young people. I contacted the agency, which referred me to the Senegalese-German Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration.

The team there really helped me a lot. I learned a lot about how to run your own business, how to prepare a business plan and the risks and opportunities that come with self-employment. Funding from the “Returning to New Opportunities” programme enabled me to buy materials for my studio, such as a sewing machine and fabrics. I also bought a motorbike to help me with deliveries.

Ein Mann sitzt an einer Nähmaschine. Ein anderer steht daneben und erklärt ihm etwas.
A growing business: Ousmane with one of his employees

Now I have three employees and an apprentice. We take on a lot of work, especially around holidays such as Eid al-Adha (the Islamic Feast of Sacrifice) and Christmas. Things are moving forward. I have a functioning business, which means that I can pay my employees and suppliers. My customers appreciate me. I’d like to stay in Senegal, continue to run my business and be innovative. In future, I might even set up another shop selling clothing “Made in Senegal”.

As of: 04/2021

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

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I’d like to stay in Senegal, continue to run my business and be innovative.
Ousmane