JOHANNESBURG — Over 200 leading African political, business, and diplomatic leaders gathered in Johannesburg for the 8th African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Award dinner.
They witnessed Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, being honored as the African of the Year 2019.
Themed ‘Africa for Africans – Exploring the Gains of a Connected Continent’, the evening brought together dignitaries including South African Deputy President, David D Mabuza, South African Ministers Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Lindiwe Zulu, and Dr. Ken Giami, Publisher of African Leadership Magazine.
The highlight of the event was the keynote speech delivered by Dr. Adesina. His passion for the continent was palpable, connecting with the attentive audience throughout his speech. Dr. Adesina expressed his humility in being “recognised for my very modest achievements and contributions to Africa. Humbled to be nominated by what I gather to be 60% of the votes cast by some 1 million people, humbled to be at the helm of an organisation that is making a tremendous difference across Africa – the African Development Bank. An organisation that is daily making prosperity a reality.”
He dedicated the award to his wife, Grace, the Board, staff, and colleagues at the bank, his mother, and “to the young mothers, struggling to bring up a child, to the farmer in search of a better tomorrow, to the youth of Africa longing for a better future, and to Africa’s journalists who risk their lives in helping to tell Africa’s true story.”
Dr Adesina, the visionary behind the African Development Bank’s High 5 strategy, explained that primary focus of the African Development Bank is “to light up and power Africa, to feed Africa, to industrialise Africa, to integrate Africa, and to improve the quality of life of the people of Africa. Five simple, strategic, and highly focused objectives.”
South African Deputy President, David Mabuza, delivered the second keynote speech. Accepting the Award on behalf of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his First Vice President, Dr Riek Machar Teny, Mabuza said: “the struggles of our people and their development aspirations remain fundamentally intertwined with those of fellow Africans elsewhere on the Continent.”
He added: “these are the values that President Oliver Tambo and President Nelson Mandela taught us. Our commitment to the cause of a prosperous and better Africa is unwavering. It is in that spirit that as a country, we have placed our resources both human and financial, to the resolutions of conflicts.”
The African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Awards is now the most popular vote-based third-party endorsement in Africa.
Dr. Adesina was elected the 8th President of the African Development Bank in 2015. He has been a leader in the African agricultural innovation space for over 30 years. He has contributed to Africa’s economic growth by helping to strengthen the continent’s food security and promoting a workable agribusiness model.
Under his leadership, in the past four years, the bank has helped 18 million people get electricity, 141 million people get agricultural technologies, 13 million people get finance through private sector investee companies, 101 million people get improved transport services, and 60 million people get better water and sanitation.
In his remarks, Adesina urged Africans to rise, be bold and determined. “Africa does not need anyone to believe in her or to affirm her place and position in history. Africa will and must develop with pride. For right on the inside of us, as Africans, lies our greatest instrument of successes: confidence!” Adesina said.
Dr Adesina is in good company joining some notable previous winners of the African of the Year Award:
Former Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2011)
Sudanese businessman, Mo Ibrahim (2012)
Former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar (2013)
Former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete (2014)
Former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan (2015)
Tanzanian businessman and philanthropist,Mo Dewji (2016)
President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame (2017)
Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Abiy Ahmed (2018