Africare, the oldest and largest African-American led non-profit committed to advancing development in Africa, hosted more than 1,000 global leaders in government, business and international development on April 19th at its annual Bishop John T. Walker Memorial Dinner and fundraiser at the Hilton Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C. The gala honoured President Barack Obama and Dr. Mo Ibrahim for their outstanding accomplishments and life-changing impacts in Africa.
“President Obama and Dr. Ibrahim have both played critical roles in helping to improve the quality of life in Africa,” said Darius Mans, President, Africare. “Their contributions, along with the consistent support of our sponsors and donors, are helping to provide underserved communities in every major region of Sub-Saharan Africa with access to food, technology, healthcare and more opportunity. We celebrate our progress to date, and eagerly look forward to making an even greater impact on the continent in years to come.”
President Obama was recognized for providing funds through his Nobel Peace Prize award to support the development of Africare’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Health (WASHH) Project in the Wasa Amenfi West District of Ghana, which not only improved access to clean water, but also implemented sustainable strategies for the continuation of healthy environmental water practices.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough accepted the award on President Obama’s behalf.
Africare also presented Dr. Ibrahim, the renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist, with the 2013 Bishop John T. Walker Leadership Award for his work to improve leadership in Africa through The Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Dr. Ibrahim also established the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which recognizes heads of state who demonstrate economic and social development and encourages and current leaders to practice better governance.
“I’m really humbled and so grateful for Africare’s kindness,” Ibrahim said during his remarks. “Africa is moving forward – there’s no question about that. It doesn’t mean we are there yet. We see a great rise in the African servant society, mainly from young people and women. These two forces, I believe, are what will change Africa.”
The Africare Bishop John T. Walker Memorial Dinner is held each year and plays an important role in enabling Africare to both broaden awareness about its work in Africa and to raise funds.
President Obama addressed the dinner by video, highlighting his administration’s Africa policy, which focuses on economic growth through trade and investment.
In his speech, Ibrahim – father of Africa’s mobile phone revolution – spoke of what he sees as US disengagement from Africa.
“We are witnessing a gradual and continuous U.S. retreat from Africa,” he said. “We don’t understand that. The US has been a great friend all these years, but as soon as Africa found itself starting to move up, the US is really disengaging, to be frank, and as friends we must be frank with each other.”
He said Africans felt “a bit uneasy” when it came to the United States. “The US administration and US businesses are disengaging in Africa. Everywhere in Africa you see Indian, Chinese, Brazilian businesses,” he noted. “Other than Coca Cola and the oil companies, it is very rare to see American businesses.”
“For this disengagement to happen on the watch of our son (Obama) in the White House is strange for us,” he said. “This is not about aid money. We know it is hard times here with Congress and other issues. We really love you. We want a little bit of love, Mr. Obama, come and give us a hug now and then.”
Ibrahim also spoke of the importance of regional economic integration. “We can’t be 54 disconnected little countries, going nowhere – we can’t compete in this world like that,” he said. “Africa is a very rich continent. There is no reason to have poor and hungry people.”
Civil Society is a ‘Game-changer’
“There is no question that Africa is moving forward. There has been tremendous economic growth in the past decade. Also health, education, and women’s rights are improving,” Ibrahim said. “This doesn’t mean we are there yet. But African civil society is changing the game.”
He noted that half of all Africans on the continent are under 19 years of age, and they are better educated, informed and connected. “That is changing Africa,” he said. “They don’t respect the status quo.”