Many Africans living in Germany hold German nationality, which makes them eligible to vote at federal, state, communal and European elections.
However, it has been noticed that many don’t regularly participate in elections.
This made Desmond John Beddy, a Ghanaian-born journalist and founder of TopAfric Radio Hamburg, to once remark that Africans should also use their passport to vote and not only for travelling, a reference to the privilege of being able to travel visa-free as a German citizen to more than 180 countries around the world.
Although almost every fourth person in Germany has a migration background, they are still hardly represented in local politics.
Irene Appiah, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and a parliamentarian in Hamburg’s Mitte district, says voting at elections enables citizens to determine those who will represent their interests.
The jurist, who works at the Hamburg education department, advocates that Africans need to take interest in those who preside over the administration of their towns and cities, whose decisions will affect them.
“We must therefore do everything necessary to be part of the political dispensation,” she said.
Appiah has seen what differences individuals can make, which is why she has decided to encourage others to make changes for the better by being politically active through participation in the electoral process.
“When I contested in 2019, it was the votes of members of the African and migrant communities that made me won,” Appiah said.
“Voting me into parliament has made it possible for me to pursue my goal of initiating a centre dedicated to Africans in Hamburg. The State of Hamburg has now granted 4 million euros until 2026 to set up an African Community Centre in the city,” she added.
“I could only have achieved this because I was elected.”
Born in Hamburg-Altona in 1976 to parents of Ghanaian origin, Appiah is a veritable role model for youth of African descent in Germany.
A high-flyer in school, she went on to study law and has worked as a legal case coordinator at Wyccon Europe GmbH, a company that specialises in court reporting, among other aspects of legal protocoling.
Appiah later left law practice to join the Hamburg education department where she has the official title of “wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin der Behörde für Schule & Berufsbildung”.
As co-founder of Bildung ohne Grenzen e.V. (Education without borders), an NGO that focuses on educational development of people with a migration background, the communal parliamentarian has been active for many years in motivating young people in the African community to get education.
Appiah is also the cofounder of Meine Diaspora e.V., an African welfare organisation aspiring to become one of the six umbrella organisations of non-statutory welfare organisations (Spitzenverbände der freien Wohlfahrtspflege) in Hamburg.
“The association serves Black people and people of colour across all age groups who are in need of care, providing entertainment for old people, outpatient care and sponsoring care homes,” she said.
“Social work is one of the ways of giving something back to the community,” she said, explaining why she is involved in many initiatives.
“This is what we can do for ourselves if we exercise our right to vote. And I am very happy our community understood the necessity to support me and my ideas.”
Germany goes to the polls on 26 September to elect a new Bundestag, federal parliament, which will choose a successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is not running after 16 years in office.