Interview with Christof Ehrhart on SOS Children’s Villages in Africa
Deutsche Post DHL Group and SOS Children's Villages have been working in global partnership for five years now. The worldwide logistics company and SOS Children's Villages marked the milestone with an inaugural regional conference mid-July. Christof Ehrhart, Head of Corporate Communications and Responsibility, talks about the future of the Group's cooperation with SOS Children's Villages in Africa.
Christof Ehrhart, Director of Corporate Communications and Corporate Responsibility, Deutsche Post DHL Group
Mr. Ehrhart, SOS Children's Villages and Deutsche Post DHL Group just held their very first regional conference in Africa. The event drew SOS Children's Villages representatives from the eleven partner countries as well as DHL representatives from the corresponding regions. What was the aim of the conference?
Christof Ehrhart: With the partnership nearly half a decade old, we thought it was a good time to consider our activities more closely, exploring ways in which they could be adjusted to better meet the needs of the SOS Children's Villages and better leverage our capabilities as a global company. Although we are in constant dialogue with our Village partners, it's always a good idea to take a time-out and take a deeper strategic look at things. During this conference, we showcased best practices from the partnership, conducted a qualitative evaluation of where we are, and initiated a new strategic direction.
What has been your focus so far - and where do you hope a new strategic direction will take the partnership?
Christof Ehrhart: Over the course of the last five years we have successfully set up partnerships with SOS Children's Villages in eleven very diverse African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mauritius, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar and South Africa. The underlying goal is to improve the educational opportunities and employability of SOS Children's Villages children. It has been a very successful half-decade. Since launching our partnership with SOS Children's Villages, we have provided support to over 3,500 young individuals, giving them valuable exposure to the working world through internships, mentoring programs, training and job shadowing. All of this, of course, made possible by some 2,000 DPDHL Group employees across Africa, who have volunteered their time and experience to the partnership. They are the ones who share what they know one-on-one with the teens, providing access to a world otherwise inaccessible to them. Our goal for the years to come is to develop the offers further, make them even more effective and so to reach out to even more young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. This way, we want to accompany the development in Africa and empower the young people to become independent, self-reliant young adults.
What's your view on economic growth in Africa? And what kind of role do you see your partnership playing in this development?
Christof Ehrhart: Africa is up-and-coming. It's on the move and it's incredibly diverse. In Africa, countries can vary dramatically from one another in regard to their economic, infrastructure and educational development. Being a global company allows us to play a direct role in this development and draw comparisons. Our DHL divisions do business in all 54 African nations - we operate hundreds of branch offices across the continent and have our own road and air fleet. We have insider knowledge when it comes to the infrastructure and economic conditions in each country. And that's how we know that Africa is on an upward growth curve. This will also augment the demands and skill requirements on the labor market; tracking and responding to these shifts is crucial. We believe that education and employability make an important contribution to economic stability and prosperity throughout the world. If we succeed in providing especially the socially and economically disadvantaged with a perspective on the future, then we will have reached our goal. This is what our partnership with SOS Children's Villages is all about.
How does your partnership bring about real change?
Christof Ehrhart: We work closely with SOS Children's Villages to develop support measures that are tailored directly to the needs of the community and its young persons and at the same time, make the best use of the local DHL organization's resources. Great projects are the result. One such project, a program in Uganda, supported youths in the founding of 27 small businesses - ten of these start-up projects had their own DHL mentor in the wings, with four of them passing the business test. The kids who took part in the program experienced the entire business development process first hand, from start to finish, gaining skills, business know-how and insights into the local market environment along the way. Another example is a project in Madagascar that involved the development of a new product - Express Easy - exclusively with young professionals from SOS Children's Villages. The youths who took part in this project are now DHL employees and our fellow colleagues. It is examples like these that demonstrate the power of social commitment to tackle and quite successfully help solve the challenges of today.