African Hungarian Union to Promote
Interviw by Hakeem Babalola
I recently spoke
with the African Hungarian Union president, Balogh
SŠndor, who said his union was formed to help promote
African issues both in Hungary and in Africa.óHakeem
Why African Hungarian Union?
Yes...so... the African Hungarian Union [AHU] was
established in August 2006. At that time we were trying
with Omotunde Komolafe to organise a programme
based on his ideas for Africans living in Hungary in the
middle of the summer to move out from Budapest to see
the countryside of Hungary. And for many Africans and
experts in African things and fans of Africa to gather
in Szerencs which is around 200 km from Budapest. We
were talking, discussing with ambassadors and ordinary
people from Hungary and Africa. The feeling was great
hence we decided to form a union that would be in one
direction. To help each other and not to fight or be
jealous of each other. So this is what AHU should be or
we wanted it to be. We want it to be an umbrella
organisation that will join other organisations
(foundations, unions, friends of Africa) together. To
turn their wishes in one direction that could help the
Are you in the right path? Are you following that path?
donít know which is the right path. The right path is to
collect the wishes of Africans and collect all the
things which could help the African issues like issuing
books, sponsoring events and schools or kindergartens or
to buy computers for schools. Any small or big projects
that could help Africa. But unfortunately all the
organisations involved in African issues are not moving
in one direction. They move in zigzag. And this is why
there is no result. For many years there have been a lot
of organisations like this that wanted to help their own
people, country, nation; but they could not because
there is no such an organisation to turn things in good
direction. I really do not know whether we are in the
right path or not.
Firstly we wanted to be known because if you are
unknown, nobody will turn to you for help or to bring
help or to focus on any project. So the first year we
were focusing our activities on being known. This means
that we were trying to be at many events. For example,
we were in the organising committee of the Africa Day
and African nations in Hungary; distributing leaflets;
sponsoring any demands that come our way. Furthermore,
we have been sponsoring a girl going to Congo to search
for the bonobos in the jungle. We have also been
sponsoring InterAfrik Footbal Club monthly so they could
have financial basement or security for their activities
in order to win their matches. So from the bonobos to
the football we were helping anybody who turned to us.
And we were trying to look for possibilities where to
show ourselves. And to sponsor for example books about
Africa. We have been translating two African books. So
we donít know if we are in the right place now but I
think the direction is good and the result has already
started coming . . .
What is this result?
result that we are known. We are among the most known
organisations around African issues. We are the partner
of all the embassies, consulates of African countries in
Budapest and we can be named as a partner with even not
only the high society but all the people of African
society here. Of course probably we are not known by
everybody who is around the African things or the
African policy but I think we are the most well known
for African issues.
Is the AHU a business or charity organisation?
There is no business in the AHU. Only charity. We have
no income. We make no business activity and we plan not
to do so. We plan to be an organisation which collects
all the things around Africa. Our website
http://www.ahu.hu/ also wants to be an entering gate
for African things. We are building it systematically to
help things about all African countries, all embassies,
all data. We refresh daily the news about African
things. Of course we could do more but our financial
possibilities are not so big that we could sponsor all
our programmes even ourselves, the website, the
technical things, so we are trying to make step forward
in a big surface. May be it would be better to just
choose one project and push it forward in order to help
anybody that turns to us.
Do you help only Africans or Hungarians as well?
Hungarians. Only Africans we are trying to sponsor.
Africans in Hungary or in Africa. Of course we cannot
sponsor anybody and everybody but now until as much
demand we got we sponsored all of the demands. We did
not choose. We have no choice. We tried to give money or
to help everybody that turn to us.
I am sure you or the AHU is not a father Christmas. How
do you generate funds?
of course I am not a father Christmas. I am not even
Santa Claus. But you know when we met firstly with Mr.
Omotunde we decided as I mentioned many times in this
interview, to collect all directives . . . all
independent movements under our umbrella. Firstly, what
could be our revenue . . . what could be our recovery?
could be as I mentioned, leading the other African
movements in Hungary to get at least some state money
and to push it down to all the other societies because
they themselves independently have not enough power to
turn to the state, to turn to the companies, to turn to
the financial circles of the country to collect money.
collect the forces under us and we start communicating
in one voice and not many voices to the financial
circles. This could be our role . . . this could be our
gain. And of course for my personal gain, it would be
good for me not to be the one sponsoring the AHU in the
future but sponsored by other financial companies.
However, we need to be known first. And until we are
known, it is my role to sponsor the AHU. I have no
financial target in this field. Of course it would be a
very good thing if we find a big company in Hungary or
in Europe or in Africa which try to open a market for
our network but firstly we need the network. If we could
have such business activities to search for partners and
to get them together to make business. And from this we
want these big companies or NGOs to be our sponsors.
our activity is to open economic relationship between
Hungary and Europe or East Europe. We want to take jobs
to Africa and then buyers for the African products. On
the other hand, to have a sponsor in which any company
will share with us their profit, to give us sponsorship,
to open other market, to open other projects in order to
fulfill other demands.
So the goal will eventually be a business enterprise
since you are speaking about business now.
. . . yes I am talking about to get together in
partnership enterprises but not for ourselves (the AHU)
to make business. Our business will be if we collect
enough data on our website or if somebody does not know
how to make business in Senegal, Lesotho, Kenya. Because
we have the knowledge in these things. I mean a kind of
consulting but we donít bill anybody for consulting fee.
Another part of our activity is to establish the African
Hungarian Chamber of Commerce. And this will be a
business activity. But that would be later.
Many Africans in Hungary believe the AHU is a business
enterprise disguising as a charity organisation. What is
your reaction to this allegation?
Probably the people are thinking . . . because nobody
understands that I am not stupid just a bit rich. And so
from my richness I am trying to give back. As I am
involved in African issues this is a natural target for
myself to give our strength and our sponsorship in this
direction. Of course I could make Albania Hungarian
Union or Eskimo Hungarian Union but I have chosen
Africa. If anyone can say which type of business
activity we do in the AHU or what kind of profit we
could arrange in this . . . because there is no
sponsorship from outside, no state money, so this is a
target, as I mentioned earlier, is to make sure that it
would not be only me to finance the AHU but other
companies that believe in our efforts. Therefore, we
have to be nice, beautiful like a woman to have a
husband. We need to be seen by others and to be
believed. We, like a Chamber of Commerce, will only help
our members to open business between Africa and Europe.
We ourselves donít plan to make business.
Do you mean foundation members?
not foundation members. How I imagine the future we have
a nice website
http://www.ahu.hu/ , we have the knowledge, we have
the experts, we have the books, we have the office and
someone is thinking that maybe I can sell my product in
Sudan but who can help me with the knowledge to achieve
such goal. And he or she calls us because the AHU is in
his or her mind.
Then we may charge yearly fee for our service before
providing some data. However, it is quite different from
when someone calls us to find his or her father whom he
or she had lost contact with. For example, there is a
girl in Bťkescsaba who has lost contact with her father
in Congo. Someone like this does not need to be our
sponsor before access to our database.
What would you pinpoint as the achievement of the AHU
since it was formed?
I mentioned already that we are known. I think the main
good thing we have done that we donít separate people.
As I used to say, we are close and at the same time we
are far from everybody. So we donít have any country
which is closer to our heart and there is no African
country or society or people or nation which is most far
from our heart. And this is, I think, our biggest
achievement we really try to turn this movement in one
direction. It is not visible now but I think the fact
that we donít discriminate against anybody is a big
achievement. So we are not widening the gap but making
What about the Agricultural University being implemented
by the AHU?
Yes, we have collected enough money to buy the building
itself. And we have small fund for the future to make
plan of the building and we will begin in February
probably some mission to collect money to build the
school. This will be a school for Agriculture but not
accredited in Hungary. It is going to be a private
college for only Africans.
Does that mean there would be tuition?
course there are some who will pay and some will be on
scholarship because we would pay on their behalf.
Donít you think that the African problems should be left
for the Africans to solve themselves?
do. I do think so. But I think the Africans themselves
will not be able during the short time to collect enough
money and other things to move fast not to be colonised
for example by China. Of course it would be better if
the African nations could become democratic and have
free elections and so on which sometimes are lacking in
African countries. But we are not interested in telling
anybody how to develop their countries. We are trying to
concentrate mainly on the schools and studies because we
believe this is the base in which a country could
develop their own economy.
You recently visited Sierra Leone under the AHU
umbrella. Why is such visit necessary?
order to establish our connections everywhere. And we
are not choosing our way but God shows us where to go.
If we are invited, we go there. We are following the
path that life is showing to us. We had the invitation
for the inauguration of the new government in Sierra
Leone and so we graced the occasion. As I said we donít
choose and we have no choice about the countries we go
if we are invited. Going to Sierra Leone is a
confirmation that we are as close as we are as far to
Why did you change the name from African Hungarian Elite
to African Hungarian Union?
African Hungarian Elite is a trial of having a group
which organises events for Africans but Elite means not
the same maybe for you guys from Africa and guys
Hungarians. It is basically not to widen the gap between
the people, nations and organisations. I think we donít
have to say that we are elites and others are not. Or
that we are better and others are worse so this itself
shows that we welcome everybody. The movement should
turn to direction of the goodwill of Africa.
As of now, how many members?
have thirteen members who founded the African Hungarian
Union. We have not received any application for
membership since then. We tried to collect applications
for sponsoring members to our society but there is not
much demand for such a thing.
How often do you meet?
meet every month. With Mr Omotunde we are trying to make
the monthly meeting compulsory. Usually everybody has
his own work. Of course everybody is very busy.
Everybody is making his own life. It is common in
Hungary for people to forget about the discussion in a
meeting as soon as they get in their cars. Even when we
sent questions by e-mail, we normally get few answers.
This is why I enforced monthly meetingóat least.
And every member attends?
I donít say so. Usually half of the members do attend.
But I can say mainly that the Hungarian members do not
come often but the Africans who are also Hungarians do
attend the meetings.
I asked the question because it seems that only you and
Komolafe are deeply involved. Okay, in what capacity do
they contribute to the union? I mean the founding
founding members paid their founding fee which was
around 80 euros by person.
80 euros every year?
it was a founding fee. But this is the first year ending
now so I hope that they will pay again for the next year
as a sponsorship to our society. You see us (Omotunde
and I) mostly together because this is my room that I
lent to the union. I go to a smaller room because I also
work here. I have my private businesses but the people
you see in this room are working for the AHU. All the
other members, of course, they are trying to help us by
participating in the events where we can show ourselves;
where we can explain our activities and plans for the
next year. And sometimes they give money for some
projects. For example, one of our members provided the
bus that took people to the Szerencť summit in August
What happened to one of the founding members Ė Sami
Yes, he resigned in the first meeting of the AHU. He was
initially to be the chairman but at the first meeting he
decided that he would not have so much time to
participate in the activities of the organisation.
Not that he was kicked out? Because that was the rumour.
We didnít kick out anybody. Otherwise what I have been
telling you would not be true. In that case we are not
covering the gap but widening it even if it is just one
person. No, we pushed nobody out. Sometimes I think we
should ask some people to leave because of their
carelessness, but I never carried it out. Of course if
there will be a crime like killing someone. In that case
we should take drastic action. But we didnít push out
Mr. Sami Charles. He resigned in this very room where we
are now after an argument with other members about the
target of the AHU. He said politely that he would not
have the time.
In what way is the Miss Afro Pageant part of the AHU
Miss Afro contest is a very good chance for the AHU to
show itself as an organisation that cares about events
involving African things. The AHU does not give or
receive anything. But I am a bit sorry because not many
AHU members participated but everybody liked the success
of the Miss Afro contest. Financially it was zero for
I understand that you are going to Bamako by road in
January 2008. What is the connection between this trip
and the AHU?
Once again I can only say that the AHU target is to show
ourselves as an organisation involved in all African
issues. We paid 3000 euros to make a borehole in
Mauritania and we have prepared to make sure that the
car will not develop any mechanical fault on the way. We
are not going to race but establish our connections in
these countries. It is more or less a publicity in the
newspapers, radio and so on. We hope to have connections
in Morocco, Mali, Mauritania, West Sahara. As for myself
and my team, it is good to know the life in these
countries. Not only to see things on the internet or
television but to have real experience.
Why did you accept to be the president?
know I studied in multilingual school in Russia. I met
many Africans, Asians, Venezuelans. My friends were not
Hungarians because Hungarians sometimes do not like
their fellow Hungarians. As I came home I met myself in
business life. And previously I had wanted to make
business so international network. My studies in the
socialism was to be an international business man. So I
thought through such organisation I could return to my
dreams of working in the international field.
Is it rotational or are you a life president?
no. This is five years long. And of course the members
will choose another president.
You said earlier that you help Africans here. Do you
look for them or do they come to you?
donít look for and we donít look for as an organisation.
As I mentioned, we donít have big financial base so if
any demand or project comes to us, we try to get money
for it. Until now we have been lucky not to say no to
anybody but we donít look for. Looking for people to
help would be against what I said before about closing
the gap. We donít want to choose. If anybody comes, we
try to help financially. For example, we have given
money for issuing books about Africa. We are now
sponsoring a radio programme in the radio cafť. It is
not a business thing. We are trying to give possibility
to listen to African issues. We want everybody to have a
voice from Uganda to Lesotho through this radio
programme. For the radio programme we pay approximately
25,000 dollars yearly. And we will also pay another
25,000 dollars for TV programme but for three months.
This is also for everybody around African issues to show
themselves, although the selection falls on the editorís
desk. This is the first step because we must be known in
order to get help.
Arenít you afraid of competition?
I am not otherwise what I have been saying would be
What is your parting sort for Africans living in
They should not fight or be jealous of each other. I
think Africans in Hungary though they like to be
Africans, but maybe because they have so many troubles
in the street or during their lives, the first thing
they do is to change their nationality to Hungarian.
African natives or African Hungarians must join together
either in the AHU or another one. But if they are acting
separately like an island, they may not be as successful
as if they were to be together.
Finally, I would like you to describe yourself
Yes I would like you to describe yourself
This is not easy you know. Our picture is not the same
as the others see us. Maybe I am a stupid idealist. I
have my own business in another field and I have enough
to live without any involvement in any African or
Albania or Eskimo thing. I think I have strong luck but
weak knowledge and from this strong luck I would like to
give back something to others who do not have such a
strong luck. I think that is who I am Ė maybe.
currently teaching English Communication in Budapest,
Hungary. He loves writing, a vehicle by which he rides
to relieve himself of certain emotions. His articles
have appeared in Nigerian newspapers including
respectively. He is also a contributor to several online
magazines like Nigeriavillagesquare.com,
Chatafrikarticles.com, voiceofnigerians and a
host of others. Hakeem is a member of Association of
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