38th Annual Africa-America Institute Awards Gala — Connecting People, Connecting Worlds


Last week in New York, more than 425 guests gathered at Cipriani 42nd to celebrate the 38th Annual Africa-America Institute Awards Gala, recognizing the vast contributions of Africa and its global diaspora. This year’s awards reflected the theme of ‘Global Africa’ and honored a group of illustrious leaders from across industries who have used their platforms to advance and effect substantial change locally, nationally and globally. .

The evening began with a celebratory reception hosted by the NAACP with a welcome from the President of the NAACP Derrick Johnson followed by dinner and award ceremony co-hosted by the author Bozoma Saint-Jean and New York Times bestselling author Luvvie Ajayi Jones.


Derrick Johnson.
Bozoma Saint Jean.
Luvvie Ajayi Jones.

President and CEO of AIA Kofi Appeng highlighted the organization and set the tone for the evening in his opening remarks by stating that the night’s mission was to “…connect people who might not otherwise cross paths and highlight connections between ideas that might otherwise be obscured – connections between the arts, commerce, technology and the basic necessities of life, while centering Africa.




AAI administrator, founder of the Life Line financial group and philanthropist, Humble Lukangaand Tanzanian-American filmmaker, producer and screenwriter, Ekwa E. Msangi presented the first prize of the evening to Founder and Executive Director of the African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) and Executive Director of the New York African Film Festival, Mahen Bonetti who received the African Cinema Ambassador Award. Ms. Bonetti was honored for her role as Senior Curator of African Films and Champion of African Diaspora Filmmakers and for her commitment to creating platforms that give voice to African filmmakers and their work for over 30 years.


Humble Lukanga, Mahen Bonetti and Ekwa E. Msangi.

This year Science and Technology Leadership Award Recognized Vice President of IBM Research Dr Solomon Assefa for his work in leading IBM’s efforts to develop core technologies for climate change mitigation and adaptation, health and life sciences, IT and technology. Additionally, Dr. Assefa is responsible for IBM’s Africa Labs, creating new partnership models with government, industry, academia, non-profit organizations and start-ups.

Under his leadership, researchers in IBM’s Global Laboratories apply and advance disruptive technologies that will transform industries and benefit society. AAI Administrator and Director of Communications at the ACLU Rebecca Edwards and Professor Philip Clayformer Chancellor of MIT who first met Dr. Assefa while a university student, served as presenter.


Professor Phillip Clay and Rebecca Edwards.
Lozenge and Osagie Imasogie, Meron Demisse and Dr. Solomon Assefa.

Betty Wambui Kibaara — Director of the Food Initiative at the Rockefeller Foundation and a former AAI received the Distinguished Alumna Award. Presented by IAA Trustee and Former Professor Ousseina Alidouand former AAI Trustee and Vice President for Africa at the Rockefeller Foundation Guillaume Asikothe award recognizes an alumnus of a AAI program that has made a significant contribution to their country or field of work.

Kibaara short the Rockefeller Foundation’s investments in food systems and its efforts to increase access to nutritious foods and improve nutrition. She is the regional champion of the Foundation’s initiatives to build food security, agribusiness and resilience to the devastating effects of climate change to enable real, sustainable and equitable economic growth.


William Asiko, Betty Wambui Kibaara and Ousseina Alidou.

The final prize of the evening celebrated the People’s Republic of Botswana with the National Achievement Award in recognition of the country’s commitment to democracy and stability in the region as well as its emphasis on the importance of education, health and youth development. The award was accepted by His Excellency Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana. In a dynamic and engaging speech, His Excellency detailed Botswana’s successes, including its focus on addressing education, health and youth development issues. The country has one of the world’s longest economic booms, with growth rates since the late 1960s comparable to some of Asia’s largest economies.


Kofi Appenteng, President and CEO of AAI, His Excellency Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana, and Christal Jackson.

Under the leadership of President Masisi, Botswana has also begun to transition from a mineral-based to a knowledge-based economy, and the government has implemented reforms to make its products and services more competitive in the market. global. With regard to health care, the country has demonstrated a strong commitment to the fight against the HIV/AIDS crisis, having met and exceeded the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets: with 95% the population knowing their serological status, 98% of people on treatment and 98% virally suppressed. Mamadou BeyeAAI Trustee & General Manager, Corporate Affairs for the Middle East, Africa and South America at Chevron, and Professor Benedict Oramahthe Chairman and Chairman of Afreximbank presented the award.


Michelle Gavin, David Bonfili, SE. Hilda Suka-Mafudze, First Lady Neo Masisi, HE President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Christal Jackson, Peter _ Marie Laugharn, John Olajide, Mamadou Beye

The evening included an incredible performance by the classical singer, poet and humanitarian Abiodun Koya and closing remarks from the Chairman of the Board of Directors Christine Jackson.

Other notable guests included: HE Prime Minister Philip Davis and First Lady Ann Marie Davis of the Bahamas, HE Neville Gertze (Namibian Ambassador to the United Nations); Hon. Linda Thomas GreenfieldUnited States Ambassador to the United Nations); Hon. Dr. John Nkengasong, (US Global AIDS Coordinator); Hon. Patrick Gaspard (President and CEO, Center for American Progress); HE Hilda Suka-Mafudze (African Union Ambassador to the United States); HE Dr. Mamadou Tangara (Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Gambia) Jean Olajide (President and CEO Axxess); Florie Liser (Chairman and CEO, Corporate Council on Africa); Hon. Ed Royce (former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee); John Damonti (Chairman, Bristol Myers Foundation); Travis Adkins (Chairman and CEO, US African Development Foundation); Hazel Dukes (President of the NAACP New York State Conference and civil rights activist); and Hon. Joe KennedyIII (Former Congressman).


L. to r. : Abiodun Koyo and Tosan Aduayi; HE Prime Minister Phillip Davis and First Lady Ann Marie Davis (Bahamas).
L. to r. : Stephanie Appenteng and Bruce Hubbard; Bernardo Cuaresma, Diana Espitia and Gene Kornegay.
Chester Higgin.
L. to r. : Hazel Dukes; Joe Kennedy III.
Kalaa Mpinga, Amb. Linda Thomas Greenfield, Samuel Debessay, Desiree Smith Cormier and Ghebre Selassie Mehreteab.
Brandi James, Dana Banks, Travis Adkins, Deniece Laurent-Mantey, Desiree Smith Cormier and a friend.

Launched in 1984, the AAI Awards Gala is the most anticipated Africa-focused event held in New York. Held during the week of the United Nations General Assembly, the Gala brings together a host of distinguished personalities, including heads of state, diplomats, government officials, business and civil society leaders, academics, journalists and other leading personalities for an unforgettable evening. AAI is already planning next year’s gala which will celebrate the organization’s 70th anniversary and is scheduled for September 26, 2023.

The Africa-America Institute (AAI) strives to enrich the social fabric of humanity by connecting students and leaders from all sectors, facilitating access to reliable information about Africa, and transforming how we understand Africa and its global diaspora.

Since its founding in 1953, the AAI has awarded scholarships and fellowships to over 23,000 Africans. These individuals constitute an esteemed network of alumni, many of whom are leaders and influencers in the public, private and government sectors in Africa and globally. This network includes the current Heads of State, HE Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia; HE Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; HE Mohamed Bazoum, President of the Republic of Niger; and HE Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa. Many AAI alumni have left an indelible mark, including 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Mathaai and the late Barack Obama, Sr.

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