Africare Gala Puts Africa in Spotlight

Barrington M. Salmon | 4/24/2013, 9 p.m.
Defying Expectations. These words – emblazoned on the front page of Africare's 2013 annual report – embody the organization's 40-year ...
Dr. Darius Mans (right), president of Africare, presents Dr. Mo Ibrahim with the 2013 Africare Leadership Award as Stephen D. Chashin (left), Interim Board Chairman and Dinner Chairman, watches on Saturday April 20, 2013, at the Hilton Washington Hotel in Washington. Photo by Roy Lewis

"I'm grateful for this honor and want to commend you for the work you're doing," Obama said. "You're bringing dignity and hope to African people and [you have implemented] an extraordinary program for more than 40 years. I see this as a moment of promise for Africa."

Obama's White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough spoke on the president's behalf.

"Africa is emerging as a new center of economic growth and people are enjoying new opportunities for prosperity," he said. "We're nurturing success where it's rooted, advancing peace and security in Africa, supporting freely elected governments, and working on the delivery of basic services."

McDonough cited countries such as Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cape Verde and Malawi as countries where fair and transparent elections have taken place, where the rule of law is respected and good governance is paramount.

"The U.S. is continuing to expand engagement with leaders who are willing to take steps to [build] governments in their countries," he explained. "Increased transparency makes them more capable."

Africare also honored Ibrahim, a billionaire businessman and philanthropist, with the Bishop John T. Walker Leadership Award for his work on promoting and rewarding good governance and stellar leadership on the continent.

Da Silva presented Ibrahim with his award.

"He is a brother I've met many times before," said da Silva, who received the first leadership award in 2011 for his countless contributions in trade, investment and diplomatic relations between Brazil and Africa. "I'm convinced that hunger in the world, and especially in Africa, is the most important struggle for those responsible for peacekeeping. It's inadmissible with all this wealth that so many people are hungry. Mothers are waking up with one meal to feed their children."

"You all know that the African continent is going through a great period. It is experiencing six percent of growth and the cycle is not interrupted by the global economic crisis."

Of the one billion people on the continent, da Silva said, about 300 million live in absolute poverty and food insecurity.

Da Silva, who is recovering from throat cancer, said budgets need to be allocated to development welfare programs, and he suggested that a coalition of business elites, non-governmental organizations and other civil society institutions would be the catalyst for meaningful change in Africa.

"There should be an obligation of rich countries to invest in the development of these African countries," he said. "They must act to raise financial resources and take food to those affected by hunger and starvation."

Ibrahim said he was speechless and humbled by the award.

"Africa is moving forward, there's no question about that," said Ibrahim, whose foundation launched the $5 million Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership for African heads of state who practiced good governance, transparency and who selflessly restructured their governments and transformed citizens' lives. " ... Now the landscape is changing in Africa and two forces, women and youth is what I think will change the continent."