The PIE: Can you tell me about your agency?
Adedamola Oloketuyi: My agency is AOC Schengen, which is my initials – Adedamola Oloketuyi Consulting Schengen because we deal mostly with the Schengen region, but we’re focusing on the German market.
I studied in Germany for my master’s so I got the opportunity to work across different industries. But now I work with different schools in Germany. I started as the manager, then director for Africa for a different school. Now I work with AOC, and I own my own firm.
“With Nigeria, we have the bandwagon effect”
The PIE: And how’s it going?
AO: Good, good. We have been able to get a large market share because of our specialisation and market intelligence. I help students to study in Germany and I also help schools when they want to get market share in the country.
So, for example, if a German school says, “Okay, Adedamola, now we’re trying to get into the country”, I help them with their penetration strategy and ways to retain market share. That’s where my intelligence is.
The PIE: And in terms of the Nigerian market, Germany doesn’t come like first to my mind as a destination nation for its students…
AO: It’s changing. I always say with Nigeria, we have the bandwagon effect. The bandwagon effect is saying, “Okay, it’s cool to study in the US”. And everybody rushes there. “It’s cool to study in Canada.” Everybody rushes there. The UK, and also Russia is there. Canada, UK, US, Australia are the top.
But Australia fell back because the visas were too constrained and it was very expensive to go. And it’s far away. Then Germany took its place. Now Germany is not for everybody in Nigeria – it’s for the adventurous. People that are willing to learn another language and also have the opportunities that countries like Canada have. So if you can’t go to Canada, Germany is the second alternative for you.
“The Canadian visa is getting very difficult [to obtain] in Nigeria”
The Canadian visa is getting very difficult [to obtain] in Nigeria. Germany has its own [issues] but it’s a lot less constrained than Canada. Germany has become one of the largest destinations in demand. It’s growing steadily.
I started this whole push because when I started with a school, the German market was very new. People thought, “you are going to Germany, of all places?” But I started educating the market, pushing, pushing, pushing it, then now it’s getting more popular.
The PIE: So how many Nigerians go to Germany now?
AO: For public and private schools together per intake, estimated across all schools around Germany and everything, we can say its in the thousands. [In 2018, there was a 5.3% in student numbers from sub-Saharan Africa to Germany – bringing the total to 15,019].
The PIE: Is there a particular state that is more attractive?
AO: The NRW region – the Nordrhein Westphalia – that’s the friendly place for a lot of foreigners. Generally, Germany is fine, but NRW is nice, and Berlin.
In NRW area you have Bonn, Cologne, Leverkusen, Dusseldorf. These are places that are attractive to foreign students. But Berlin is Berlin. Everybody wants to be in Berlin.
There are a lot of international students here. You can speak English, it’s fun, the nightlife is good, the job opportunities are there. There are a lot of startups here. Leipzig is growing. Munich is very good also.
The PIE: People have been talking about accommodation being an issue in Germany, especially in Berlin.
AO: Accommodation in Germany is quite a problem, even for Germans. You have this thing of German landlords only wanting to only rent to Germans sometimes. But for schools, the trick is if you go to a school that in a village or town, you get accommodation. If you go to a school in the city, you have to rely on third-party accommodation.
“Germany is not for everybody in Nigeria – it’s for the adventurous”
I don’t think there’s any school in Berlin that has its own accommodation. They have to rely on people that offer those services. So schools partner with those guys.
The second alternative for accommodation is guests families. Some schools have a relationship with people that say, “Okay. You can stay in one room in my home.” But that’s more popular with students aged 16 or below. They need a legal guardian. Or it for people that want to learn the language and are studying with language schools mostly.
The PIE: And then what about blocked accounts? Do any of your students have issues with that?
AO: Yes, it’s €10,236 every year. At the end of the day, the German government just wants to make sure that you have money to take care of yourself for a whole year. But the upfront [payment] is crazy sometimes. The problem now is that in other countries, for example, the UK, you can just show your bank statement, and it’s fine.
But you know, Germany works in a certain way. It doesn’t want students to be a liability. So that’s why they do the blocked account. It’s kind of a challenge. People have to save more for it.
The alternative to the blocked account is called in German Verpflichtungserklärung – that is the sponsorship letter.
The PIE: Tell me more about Nigerian students, and the study abroad options they choose.
AO: There are the leavers, the career climbers and the “too rich to stay”. Leavers are the people that are really seeking opportunity. Those are the guys that would want to come to Germany – looking for post-study visa options, stay back options and return on investment.
The career climbers go to countries like the UK or the US, and they want to move further in their academics or in their career. Petroleum engineers might go to Scotland because that’s where oil and gas is. Maybe the finance guys would look for countries where finance and banking is big. These guys also want to return to their country. Kenyans fall into this category [often].
“Accommodation in Germany is quite a problem, even for Germans”
“Too rich to stay” – those are the guys that look for the elite. They want to go to Switzerland, or go to expensive universities in the UK, like Imperial College. They just want to study there, come back with a degree and say, “yeah. My father, my father’s father’s father’s father went to Imperial.” It’s similar to the culture in the US of going to Yale and those kinds of universities.
The PIE: How many students are too rich to stay?
AO: They are 1% of 80 million – the youth population. The youth population is very high.
The PIE: You mentioned visas. That’s a big issue for certain markets. Is that stopping people from choosing certain destinations?
AO: It’s a big, big barrier. As I said, Australia was very nice before, but the visa constraints are now too, too much. So that’s why Germany enjoyed market from the UK when the post-study visa was not there. It enjoyed the market from the US because the visa was getting crazy, and it enjoyed the market from Canada because of the visa also.