Dr Georg Bouché is the Honorary Council of the Republic of The Gambia in Stuttgart, Germany. In this interview with What’s On-Gambia, he talks about how and why he was identified for the job, the fate of Gambian migrants in German refugee camps, among other things.
What’s On-Gambia: Tell us briefly about yourself?
Georg:My name is Georg Bouché and I was born in Stuttgart in the South of Germany in the year 1978. I have also lived, studied and worked in the United States, Ireland, Poland, Spain, France, China as well as the United Kingdom where I received my masters and my doctorate degree in business administration. I have returned to Stuttgart in the year 2008 where I still live today with my little daughter. Besides being the Honorary Consul of The Gambia I currently work as a sales director for a medium-sized company called Proline Systems.
How and why were you identified to be the Gambia’s Honorary Consul in Stuttgart?
The Republic of The Gambia has an Embassy in Brussels in the capital of Belgium and in Paris in the heart of France. There is no embassy or consulate in Germany. In order to be present in countries where there are no embassies or consulates – not only the Republic of The Gambia – appoint so called Honorary Consuls, people who are well connected and do not only serve as contact persons by opening up an Honorary Consulate but who are also familiar and involved within a certain country, like myself, with and in The Gambia in West Africa.
Together with friends from Holland, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States, we run a private nursery school in Brufut, The Gambia for 200 kids from the age of three to seven years. The school is entirely funded by sponsors, but officially “accepted” and accredited as well as welcomed by the Gambian government. We spend a lot of time at the Ministry of Education in Brikama, to sort things out in the past.
To put it in a nutshell, I was appointed by the Gambian and the German government in order to serve the needs of not only the Gambians in Germany but also to assist Germans who are interested in the “Smiling coast of Africa”.
What are your duties?
There is no difference between the duties of an Embassy, Consulate or Honorary Consulate of The Gambia. All of these institutions have similar duties.
Just to name a few tasks, we issue visas for The Gambia to people of all nations. The Germans, for example, can stay in The Gambia up to 28 days – only if one wants to stay longer, one needs to apply for a visa in our Honorary Consulate.
But more important we try to help the citizens of The Gambia in Germany. Up to now we still do not issue any passports, but soon you will be able to apply for one through our Honorary Consulate. We also deal with mainly German ladies who want to get married to young Gambians. And sadly enough, we also handle all sort of cases with Gambians in jail; they can talk to us and contact us anytime, since we are there to help. As an Honorary Consulate, we can be compared to a lawyer’s office. While talking to “ordinary” people is prohibited, we are the ones to be contacted at any time.
How do you intend to develop The Gambia’s diplomatic ties with Germany and ensure that it is mutually beneficial?
We also represent The Gambia on a regional level e.g. in Stuttgart and Munich where we are in close contact with the mayors and the presidents of the corresponding states Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bayern, but also on a national and European level in the capital of Germany in Berlin and in Brussels in Belgium where many of the European institutions are located beside Strasbourg in France. Most of the the Honorary Consuls belong to the “Consular Corps”, an official organisation where we interchange ideas with Consuls and Honorary Consuls from e.g. Asian, African and European countries
Do you have any idea how many Gambians live in Germany?
It is hard to say but it is a five figure numbers, by far more than 10.000 Gambians are living in Germany right now. Officially the Honorary Consulate of The Gambia in Stuttgart is in charge of two out of the 16 States in Germany. But since my colleague, the Honorary Consul General Dr Rolf Becker stepped back as Honorary Consul General in Cologne after having served The Gambia for over 30 years, and my colleague in Frankfurt passed away, the other two Honorary Consulates - in Berlin and Stuttgart – out of four altogether, serve the Gambians currently by themselves.
We also issue so called emergency passports to Gambian without a passport if they want to return to The Gambia. A proof of the Gambian nationality is necessary.
How is your office helping the hundreds of young Gambians in German refugee camps?
We are in constant contact with the German authorities. The interests of the parties involved vary greatly from one to the other. Germany is in need of young people in order to help the country grow, but The Gambia is now seen as a secure country since His Excellency President of the Republic of The Gambia (PORG) Adama Barrows came into power. Therefore the chances are not high of being able to stay in Germany. Also, many Gambians who live in Germany and also the Minister of Culture and Tourism is asking the Gambians to return to the “Smiling coast of Africa” in order to rebuild the country now and to get married to the “Gambian sisters” since many men have left the country.
So their chances of securing asylum are very limited, right?
To be honest, the chances are very low. My colleagues at the Bundespolizeipräsidium, i.e. the Federal Police tell me, that 99, 5 per cent of the cases will be rejected. Very often, we managed, with our help, to get Gambians to start an apprenticeship in order to get involved in Germany, learning and studying for an official profession with a degree. We keep our fingers crossed.
The number of German tourists coming to The Gambia has dropped in the past ten years. What or who do you think is responsible for this?
I remember being in The Gambia in the year 2014 and the year 2015. Many tourists were afraid of Ebola in West Africa, but as far as I know, there was not a single case in The Gambia. To be honest, it is also a bit further away than France, Spain, Turkey, Greece or Italy from Belgium, Holland, the United Kingdom, and Germany, where Europeans tend to spend their holidays.
I am personally looking forward to my next trip to The Gambia in October 2017 with a delegation consisting of an architect who works in China, a gentleman from Stuttgart and a lady from Ukraine who are interested in getting involved further in The Gambia. I will also visit the German Ambassador in Dakar, Senegal who is in charge not only of the Senegal but also The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, in order to strengthen the ties between all countries involved.
Besides visiting the kids in my school in Brufut I am always also happy to visit the SOS Children’s village in The Gambia and the local hospitals. Great work! Also looking forward to meeting with the Rotary Club of the Gambia as well as my colleagues and friends at the different ministries in Banjul.
So you see, I am a big fan not only of The Gambia but also of the nice a delicious dish from the “Smiling coast of Africa” - a plate of Benachin, and a cold JulBrew.
Is your office helping to sell destination Gambia in Germany?
That is also what we are here for. Provide help to the Gambians in the diaspora, attract investors to The Gambia and help to market “The smiling coast of Africa” to further grow as a tourist attraction with lovely beaches, fishing trips on the Gambia river, the Gambian lifestyle. Many high-class hotels have been opened up, so there is something for all budgets. My four and a half-year-old daughter by the way doesn't want me to travel to The Gambia anymore. I showed her pictures of crocodiles in The Gambia. She is now afraid that I might not return anymore since I might be eaten up by one. I promised to stay away from the crocodiles and stick to the monkeys, the horses, the fish and the other animals in The Gambia. Hopefully not to the mosquitos.
Any special message for Gambians in Germany
Be patient, we are here to help. Sometimes things might take a few days since we are working on a completely voluntary basis. No money is paid to any Honorary Consuls, neither to diplomats like myself – Honorary Consul of The Gambia in Germany – nor to Honorary Consuls in any other parts of the world.
To find out more about Dr. Georg Bouché and his school in The Gambia please visit: