Veye Tatah : « Before we Cameroonians complain of racism in Europe, we should first of all keep our own house clean »
Veye Tatah is a black lady, native of Cameroon and living in Germany. She is also the Manager director of Africa Positive Magazine, publish in Germany.
Could you please introduce yourself?
I am 35 years old and was born in the Nso, Bui Division. I am married and have two sons.I did my primary and secondary studies in Cameroon before travelling to Germany in 1991 for my University studies. I attended the University of Dortmund, where I studied Computer science. At the moment I'm working at the computer science department of this university as an assistant with the aim of pursuing a doctorate degree in a few years to come.
You are the only woman owner of an international magazine in German speaking countries. Could you tell us more?
Well why I started the project called AFRICA POSITIVE is because the media mostly reports about wars, hunger, poverty and disease in Africa. The usual pictures we see on European and US TVs are those of Africans who can hardly hold up their skeletal bodies, brawling for food and gifts thrown out at them from trucks owned by western aid organisations.
Not that there aren't similar sights in Europe and in America, but they make it appear to be the norm in Africa. Just because there are wars in, for instance, Sudan, Congo or Somalia doesn't mean that there is war in all of Africa. As already mentioned Africa is comprised of 53 states and not only of the few that have wars.
Africans and Europeans who have travelled to Africa know the incredible richness of cultures, the hospitality of its people, the abundance of its natural beauty. With the rare exception of travel reports, the majority of the western media neglect these aspects of the continent. The African continent is mostly portrayed as the source of war, hunger, corruption and disease. AFRICA POSITIVE magazine has been contributing to change this negative image.
I am aware that Africa has many negative sides, but I am equally aware that the continent has many positive sides. What has Africa done or what is happening in all of Africa that causes many people to be afraid of it and treat it so badly? Africans have always generally been good-tempered, hospitable and happy people contrary to the western world.
The general negative attitude of our hosts in Europe and in the US is at first shocking to us and we tend to be full of anger as a result. But we ask ourselves why we should be angry with innocent people when they don't see or read anything else in the media about Africa? We are aware that such anger doesn't help.
These reasons motivated me to start this project, in order to change the pictures and perceptions of the German speaking people. I was convinced that, what would help us is an information campaign, portraying the other sides of Africa.
Firstly, AFRICA POSITIVE tries to provide a different introduction of the African continent and its peoples. AFRICA POSITIVE shows the world that, there are not only wars and conflicts in Africa but a rich heterogeneous culture and warm hearted people.
AFRICA POSITIVE is the magazine that returns pride and courage to Africans, because most Africans feel inferior and lack the will of changing their own lives, thinking that manner will fall from the western world to save them.
AFRICA POSITIVE is the forum in which Africans speak about their strides to solve their problems and report about their successes.
We try to demonstrate to Africans that they can achieve their goals; they only need to try. And most importantly, the African Child needs to read more and also see many African role models. AFRICA POSITIVE will not be a propaganda machine for any government.
In my opinion, the African continent could enormously improve its economy, if its image in the world can steadily and decisively be improved. Therefore, the incredibly, many positive factors happening on the African continent need to be promoted. For obvious reasons, we would like to point out that we are well aware of Africa´s many problems, but we are equally aware of the continents many positive developments.
You are actually working on your Ph.D. What is it about?
At the moment I'm working on my Dissertation to develope a framework for the Modelling and Analysis of logistic systems. Modelling is a process that needs a lot of decision support and this framework aims to assist the users in construction adequate models, which can be used for analysis and optimization.
We will be interested by some facts and data about AFRICA POSITIVE....
In 1998 I founded the Africa Positive organisation which publishes the AFRICA POSITIVE Magazine. It is a non profit organisation based in Dortmund, Germany. The members of the organisation are Africans and Europeans working on a voluntary basis in order to promote a positive image of the African continent and its people.
The first issue of the Magazine came out in July 1998, black and white and with 20 pages. Today the AFRICA POSITIVE magazine is the most popular and highly appreciated magazine in the German speaking countries with 60 pages and prints 20.000 copies. AFRICA POSITIVE magazine is published quarterly and distributed in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Although we don't sell it in other European countries, we do also have some subscribers from the Nederland. We also have Subscribers in some African Countries, mostly people who once lived in Germany before or Germans working there.
AFRICA POSITIVE magazine serves as a forum for dialogue among the diverse opinions about Africa. AFRICA POSITIVE is unique because it covers objectively and independently the political, economic, touristic and cultural developments of the whole continent.
You have decide to use the german language as communication tool for your newspaper instead of English, one of your colonial mother language. Why?
Well, I chose the German language because I realized how ignorant the majority of Germans were, when it comes to Information about Africa. There are a lot of African newspapers and Magazines in English and French. But how many Germans do read these languages? So my idea was, if we want them to know much about Africa, we need to give them the information in their own language.
Before any person starts a publication, he/she has some objectives to achieve, either financial or for educational purpose. As you know, most of the magazines you mention are being published by companies. If I'm not mistaking AFRICA POSITIVE is the only International Magazine published by a non profit Organisation for educational purpose.
How does people of african descent and the german publc appreciate the work of Afrika Positive?
Well, most Africans from other countries do appreciate the work we are doing. Unfortunately most Cameroonians and their Institutions on the other hand do not seem to appreciate AFRICA POSITIVE. For example almost all the African Embassies based in German do invite us to events taking place in their Embassies. We have never got a single invitation from the Cameroonian embassy in Germany. At times I have the feeling that because I am from the English Cameroons, they just want to snub the project.
Not withstanding, most Germans who have seen AFRICA POSITIVE like it very much. They say it is the best African Magazine they've seen, quality wise. The German media also appreciates the work we are doing. They publish many articles about AFRICA POSITIVE and I do get many invitations to participate in Television programs. Most institutions here always recommend us, when it comes to topics concerning Africa or the Migrants from Africa. For example I have been featured in 'POLITEA' calendar 2007, which portrays active Women in Germany.
Are you happy to study, work and live in germany? What are the challenges for a black woman like you living abroad?
Well I cann't really say if I am happy living in Germany or at home. But as you know, home is always the best place to live. But the conditions are home are not conducive for me to live there, that's why I'm in Germany.
The disadvantage of living here is that I cannot contribute physically to the development of my own country. But if the people in charge of curving the future of the country do not seem to care if the country develops or not, then my present home will be of not profit to any body. Development is a collective task and it implies that the society be matured in thinking. In Cameroon, at times I get the feeling; most people do not want development, because they are always putting obstacles to stop the hard working citizens from progressing. Jealousy, racism, corruption, selfishness and greed, are the bottlenecks to our development in Cameroon. The Media and the state in Cameroon need to educate the majority of Cameroonians to respect each other in order to solve the problems I just mentioned. Just as AFRICA POSITIVE is educating the Germans and Africans.
The advantage I have living in Germany, is that I can express myself well and have room for creativity. When somebody is hard working here, one can achieve various goals. A lot of people complain about racism in Europe but they forget that in most African countries especially Cameroon, the racism practice there is worst than the racism in Europe.
At least in Europe, if they don't like you because of your race but you have skills, they will still employ you, because they will gain something from you. In Cameroon, most people do not get the jobs they deserve, only because they belong to a certain group. I call that destructive racism and that's one thing that is keeping Cameroon underdeveloped.
Before we Cameroonians complain of racism in Europe, we should first of all keep our own house clean. This form of destructive jealousy, racism and hatred is seldom in Germany. I hope one day all Cameroonians will learn to love, appreciate and work together for the interest of this country.