A Born Optimist Who's Dedicated to Africa
by Michael Zipf, SAP Global Communications
A delegation from Africa is visiting SAP; a Cameroonian or other African university wants its students to learn about SAP software; a diversity event featuring African culture is being planned in Walldorf. In cases like these, SAP employees generally turn to Jérôme Monteu Nana for help and advice.
Jérôme is a “go-getter” in the best possible sense of the word, and he’s an expert on francophone Africa too. And it is not just SAP that benefits from his wide network of contacts and tireless commitment to his home country. He is the founder of Europe’s first ever cooperative of Cameroonian “diaspora” (people who have settled far from their ancestral African homelands) and of the German Association of Cameroonian Engineers and Computer Scientists.
He is also an executive member of the Global Cooperation Council (GCC Forum), which promotes dialogue between the northern nations and Africa, Asia, and Latin America. “I have to invest a great deal of time in these official duties on top of doing my regular job. But I don’t see this extra work as a burden,” says Jérôme, who works as a scrum master in Financial Accounting/New Analytics. “I just want to do what I can to work for progress in my home continent.”
Cameroon-born Jérôme came to Germany in 1991 to study electrical engineering – specializing in process information technology – in Wuppertal. Even then, he was active in the service of others – as manager of a club for African students. Ever since leaving Cameroon for Europe, he has always given a great deal of thought to what he and other “diaspora” like him can do to help promote Africa’s development. “It’s all about sharing the knowledge you acquire abroad with the people back home,” he says.
Networker and fundraiser
After graduating, Jérôme worked at a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank, where he came face to face with SAP solutions for the first time. The two must have “gotten along well together” because he applied to SAP soon after and began working in Walldorf in September 2001. Not surprisingly, he was quick to make contact with his African colleagues and founded the “African Community at SAP” (AC@SAP), which currently has about 20 active members. AC@SAP is part of the Cultures@SAP employee network and is involved in collecting donations and supporting a wide range of CSR initiatives, such as providing aid for schoolchildren in Rwanda. “We also share our experiences and come up with ideas of what we can do for Africa,” says Jérôme.
The fact that this is by no means easy in a continent that is plagued by extreme poverty, conflicts, and corruption does not deter him. “I’m an optimist and I tend to focus more on the progress that we manage to make,” he says. And progress is visible. For example, with the help of the SAP University Alliances Program, Jérôme has helped ensure that an increasing number of universities now teach information and communications technology (ICT) – so that Africans can share in the opportunities offered by mobile communications and other innovative technologies.
It sometimes takes years to convince African universities of the benefits of this kind of education for both teaching staff and students and of a collaborative partnership with SAP, says Jérôme. But there is a growing realization that IT can lead to greater prosperity and that business software can help fight corruption and create better-run companies.
“There’s obviously still a long, long way to go,” says Jérôme, but the growing interest among African universities in cooperating with SAP is encouragement enough for him to continue visiting a university to present SAP and the University Alliances Program every time he travels to Africa. It’s important for him that both sides benefit from his commitment: the people of Africa and SAP, which is expanding its position on the African market and helping combat the shortage of SAP specialists there.
Together with his wife, who works in Germany as a doctor, Jérôme wants to show his three young children (aged one, three, and five) that dedication to a cause is worthwhile. “If we try hard, we really can achieve something,” he says. Even though his children are growing up in Germany, Jérôme wants them to know that Africa is their second home. “It’s important to do what you can for people wherever they live,” he says, “because – in the end – they’re all equal.”