Africa America Institute’s 30th Annual Awards Gala Highlights
The Africa-America Institute’s (AAI) 30th Annual Awards Gala held September 22nd, at Gotham Hall, 1356 Broadway at 36th Street, NYC. Honored Ivorian President, Distinguished African Leaders and General Electric.
While accepting the AAI Lifetime Achievement Award, H.E Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire.
He called upon AAI to embark on a continent-wide campaign to encourage African countries to pool resources together and set up a fund that will support the institution’s work towards strengthening African universities and expanding the skills training and professional development for African youth.
President Ouattara himself, is an alumnus of AAI. He received the AAI African Graduate Fellowship Program (AFGRAD) back in 1972, which enabled him earn his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.
“The African-American Institute has done a lot for many of us in Africa. I think it’s our time to share our contribution.” – President Alassane Ouattara.
AAI is a U.S.-based international education and policy organization dedicated to strengthening the human capacity of Africans and promoting the continent’s development through higher education and skills training, convening activities, partner engagement and research.
President Ouattara said that despite many of African countries being faced with budgetary constraints, “we’ll find ways to contribute to a fund to help African universities through The Africa-America Institute. This is a proposal I’d like to make.”
President Ouattara was honored for his exemplary achievements in working towards creating socio-economic progress in Africa by promoting regional and global partnerships throughout his lifelong career as a public servant.
The event was held during the opening week of the United Nations General Assembly; the AAI Awards Gala is one of the most high profile Africa-focused events in New York.
The event was hosted by CNN’s international anchor Isha Sesay (pictured left), with a gathering that drew nearly 400 U.S. and African leaders and top diplomats for a black-tie affair to celebrate the African achievement. The Legendary South African musician, Yvonne Chaka Chaka performed at the event giving the guests in attendance a special music tribute to the 20 years of South African democracy.
The theme for the Awards Gala was, “Powering Africa’s Future through Regional and Global Partnerships.” The event drew attention to the fact of how education is empowering the African youths to attain their full potentials, while at the same time acting as a catalyst for socio-economic transformation through regional and global partnerships.
“Africa is the most youthful continent and will represent 41 percent of the world’s youth by 2030. We believe that the youth are Africa’s greatest asset. If young people are offered projects and opportunities to develop skills and talents and earn a living wage, their potential is limitless.” – Amini Kajunju, President and CEO of AAI.
An experienced banker and international business lawyer, Vivienne Yeda, Director-General of the East African Development Bank (EADB), accepted the AAI 2014 Business Leader Award for her more than 20 years leadership role in practical and comprehensive development banking, finance and business in Africa.
Under Yeda’s leadership, Anne Kabagambe, Chief of Staff and Director of Cabinet in the Office of the President at the African Development Bank, said EADB has invested in companies that have become blue chips boosting the region’s economic growth.
“Today, East Africa is among the fastest growing regions in the world. A great deal of this success is due to efforts made by individuals like Vivienne.” – Anne Kabagambe.
In her acceptance speech, Yeda pressed for African countries and partners like AAI to forge ahead in developing African youth because “they are out future”. Global statistics estimate that in fewer than three generations, 41 percent of the world’s youth will be African.
“I know you’ve been in the sector for 60 years, but I think there will be more work coming now that you have 41 percent of the world’s youth to train.
It’s an opportunity not just for Africa, but for the rest of the world. If we’re able to train African youth to be productive and effective member of society, then the whole of the global community will stand to benefit” – Vivienne Yeda.
Thandika Mkandawire (pictured left), a leading scholar and researcher of African development, was presented with the AAI 2014, Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Mkandawire was the first person to assume the position as Chair of African Development at the London School of Economics and has served as the Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.
Mkandawire is an AAI alumnus, who earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Ohio State University with an AAI-administered scholarship. He applauded AAI’s long-term investments in higher education for African students.
“I’d like to, once again, express my gratitude to AAI for the award, but also for giving me a chance as a young person to come to the US to study.
In the 80s and 90s many institutions lost interest in higher education in Africa. There was a theory that higher education didn’t yield as much returns as primary schools. Many funders simply withdrew from Africa, but AAI kept up the fight for higher education. And I’d like to convey our deep gratitude to the leadership.” – Thandika Mkandawire.
General Electric (GE) received the AAI 2014 Corporate Responsibility Award, for GE’s commitment to building Africa’s sustainable future through education and employment of Africans in senior leadership positions, and promoting trade and economic growth.
Dana J. Hyde, the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, presented the award to GE. Hyde notes that GE made a commitment to investing $2 billion in facility development, skills training and sustainability initiatives across Africa by 2018, during the White House’s historic US-Africa Leaders Summit in early August.
“At the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation, we know firsthand about GE’s commitment to Africa… For us, GE has been a key ally in advancing shared values. So, when we signed a nearly $500 million investment to transform Ghana’s power sector last month during the summit, GE was there to support us.” – said, Dana J. Hyde.
Jay Ireland, President and CEO of General Electric Africa, who accepted the award on behalf of GE, said multinational corporations should not solely focus on selling products, but also in investing in “building our economies.”
“Most importantly, we need to expand the base case of economic development and most of that will be through skills building.” Ireland said referring to GE’s corporate social responsibility efforts. Through the GE Kujenga sustainability program, Ireland said, GE is dedicated to skills-building to develop strong workforces, curriculum development of universities and providing scholarships and internships to African students. Kujenga means ‘to build’ in Swahili.
“We’re going to leave a number – and a growing number – of skilled African workers, African leaders and I look forward to that day as Africa continues to grow.” – Jay Ireland.
The evening’s program featured a Conversation on Africa, moderated by VOA, Straight Talk Africa host Shaka Ssali, on the gala theme, “Powering Africa’s Future through Regional and Global Partnerships” with gala honorees Yeda, Mkandawire and Ireland.
This year’s Honorary Co-chairs were the Honorable George Monyemangene, South African Consul General; Ambassador Alice Dear of A.M. Dear & Associates; Somi, A Rwandan singer and songwriter; Malaak Compton-Rock of the Anglerock Project; Nuno Santo, Global Marketing Director at Pfizer, Actor Jefferey Wright, and South African Singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
Major sponsors for the gala were Chevron, General Electric, Norton Rose Fulbright, World Cocoa Foundation, Ambassador Alice M. Dear, Arik Air International, Devevoise & Plimpton, Dentons US LLP, ExxonMobil and GoodWorks International.
Media sponsors are Financial Times, AllAfrica.com, The Network Journal/AfricaStrictlyBusiness.com and Black Enterprize magazine; and media partners are Africa.com, Face2Face Africa, Applause Africa, Africa Investors magazine, Innov8tiv, Africa Trade magazine and Afrique Expansion magazine.
Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s performance was possible with support from Princess of Africa Foundation and ShcokRA Entertainment.
About The Africa-America Institute (AAI)
Founded in 1953, AAI is a premier U.S.-based international education and policy organization dedicated to strengthening the human capacity of Africans and promoting the continent’s development through higher education and skills training, convening activities, partner engagement and research. For more information, visit aaionline.org