“Young people are the future of our society”

Wolfgang Reisen from Erfurt, Germany, has been an SES expert since 2010. In our interview, he talks about his assignments in Mali and why he’d like to undertake a joint tandem assignment with a young expert through the African-German Youth Office.

Wolfgang Reisen

Wolfgang Reisen, *1943, Erfurt, Germany. Electrical engineer, political scientist and jurist, spent 24 years as Managing Director of SWE Stadtwirtschaft GmbH and B&R Bioverwertung und Recycling GmbH in Erfurt. He retired in 2009 and has already undertaken seven assignments in Kati, Mali, since 2010.

The interview

Mr. Reisen, how and when did you join the SES?

When I was about to retire, Erfurt City Council contacted me to say that, being a pensioner, I surely now had time for volunteering. They wanted me to go to Kati, Mali, which is one of Erfurt’s twin cities. Kati is a small city, just 15 kilometres away from the capital, Bamako.

Were all of your assignments so far to do with your specialist field of waste disposal/separation/recycling or were there exceptions?

In principle, it is true that I’ve mainly volunteered in that field. But really, it’s more than that because it’s a field that takes in almost all areas of human life. It’s interesting to consider what we’ve achieved by working with local people in Mali. Theoretically, as much as 80% of the waste in Kati alone could be reused and we managed to achieve 50 to 60% in the end. It included biological waste, which was used for compost, a natural fertiliser in other words, to help farmers increase their yields. Film, plastic and metal waste was also reused. The plastic waste is now being used in Bamako, Mail’s capital, to make articles for everyday use. Things like containers, rubbish bins and other household goods.

For all humans, irrespective of where they’re from and where they’re going, the important thing is that we all have to support each other to promote peaceful coexistence and a good life for all of us on Earth.

As an SES expert, you can support both sides in our programme: you can take a young German expert to one of your assignments in Mali or mentor a young African expert who comes to Germany for a few weeks on placement in a German enterprise. What is your motivation for getting involved?

Young people are the future of every society. We older people have a duty to the younger generation to help them shape that future. But we have to give them the space they need to be able to put their own ideas into practice. Not just the way the older generation wants. We should give young people the opportunity early on to shape the future the way they would like to see it.

If there were three things you could wish for for Team works!: with AGYO, what would they be?

My first wish would be for all of us who work on the exchange programme to be open and honest towards one another. The second would be for the young expert in my tandem team to make an active contribution to the assignment and for us to work together on the concrete solutions that we’d predefined together. And the young expert should have the courage to take the suggestions we develop and actually translate them into practice. And the third one: the best thing would be to get a positive reaction after the assignment and for the young person to feel motivated and inspired to pursue their own path.

What do you think the programme can do for young experts?

I think the main point is that they realise that, for all humans, irrespective of where they’re from and where they’re going, the important thing is that we all have to support each other to promote peaceful coexistence and a good life for all of us on Earth.

Last question: when would you like to go back to Kati?

Straight away. As soon as Covid and the political situation allow.