On Sept. 25, the Africa-America Institute, a leading global education and policy organization, hosted its 60th Anniversary Awards Gala in New York City, honoring international innovators in business and philanthrophy. The event brought together the who’s who of African and American leadership to celebrate the organization’s efforts to promote bridging the gap between Africa and the diaspora and advocating for the advancement of professionals and entrepreneurs on the continent and abroad.
Before the dinner, honorees participated in a news conference where bridging the gap between America and Africa in terms of business was a prevalent topic.
(Photos: Getty Images)
“AAI has been a very good partner to Africa. … As it happens, it is also [a time of] the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union … the 50th anniversary of [Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington speech]… So, this is a day that crosses many important events, especially in the lives of Africans and those in the Dispora,” said Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Ph.D., (far right) chair of the African Union Commission. “As we move forward with Africa—as it’s rising—-for the rise to be sustained, we need a skills revolution in every sector.”
“Thirty years ago I landed in this country… a young African, 23 years old, full of dreams, but no cash,” said Kandeh K. Yumkella, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. “But one guarantee I had was a that I had a scholarship to go to one of the best institutions in this country, Cornell University. I availed of that opportunity and thanks to that, I am where I am today, 30 years later. As we look ahead to the next 60 years … [Africa] is the next frontier.”
On business development:
“Just to say to African Americans … there is opportunity in Africa. … Come take a look for yourself. You should be part of looking at that business opportunity and say, ‘We want to be there,’ because others are coming. …We could be the last frontier to feed the world… so I see a good link with the black, agricultural universities, and let’s begin the cultural exchanges. We want to see more African Americans coming in.”
“We want to see a lot more in the relationship between America and Africa,” said Tony Elumelu, Nigerian entrepreneur, philanthropist and chairman of Heirs Holdings Ltd.“America is key to Africa and Africa is also strategically important to America. … The gathering of Africans and Americans doing things together can help to develop Africa. Entrepreneurship and philanthropy are quite close to one’s heart.”
On changing negative perceptions:
“Africans in the diaspora have a role to play in shaping the information [everyone has] about Africa. Explore, interrogate and find out what’s going on and take it from there … Modern information is key in attracting investment to the continent. Let’s help, through our various platforms, to begin correction of wrong information about Africa.”
“We have seen how Africa has grown. If you look at the GDP, since 2011, on average it has increased by 5%. That’s second to Asia and beats Europe and the Middle East, therefore Africa is in the right trajectory, said Ali Moshiri, president, Chevron Africa/Latin America. “With the human capacity and capability, it will be one of the major growing continents on Earth.”
On building human capital:
“Today our operation in Africa is run by more than 90% of people from the continent we operate in. … There is also cross-training in the different places of operation, some in the U.S. and in other countries … The pace of human-capacity building needs to be accelerated through formal education. … Also, Africa is closer to the U.S. than the Middle East and provides a lot of resources to the United States. … Therefore whatever you can do to help out and create the human capacity is the right thing to do, and that’s the reason we believe in AAI.”
ABC News’ Byron Pitts was the MC for the dinner and awards ceremony for the night.
The dinner gala was filled with the who’s who in international and domestic business, media, politics, philanthropy and entertainment.
A special highlight during the event was a personal address, read via letter, from President Barack Obama, congratulating AAI and the honorees on the anniversary and commending them on their global leadership efforts. The success of Africa is increasingly valuable to America, Obama indicated via the letter. The U.S. must continue long-standing work with the continent.
Africa-America Institute president and CEO Amini Kajunju is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the first African ever to serve at the helm of the oldest nonprofit organization of its kind in the United States.
Ali Moshiri, president, Chevron Africa/Latin America, accepted the AAI Corporate Award for corporate responsibility initiatives across Africa.
Tony Elumelu of Heirs Holdings accepted the AAI Leadership Award in Business and Philanthropy.