The recipients of Africa Link Solidarity Awards 2018 from R – L: Next to Ambassador Osman Abufatima Mohammed is Mr. Matthias Meier Director Aiducation International Kenya, Mrs. Chantal Ebana representing Ambassador Léonard Henri Bindzi, Hellen Kahuga-Wakapa representing Ms. Sophia Bekele, VP Fepafrika Mr. Ueli Haller, Ambassador Claudinah Ramosepele, Mr. Augusto Moutinho representing Ambassador Osvaldo dos Santos Varela, next to him Ambassador Baba Madugu, and Johnson Oduwaiye, President / Editor-in-chief Africa Link
His Excellency Baba Madugu the Ambassador of Nigeria to Switzerland and Ambassador Osman Abufatima Mohammed, Deputy Permanent Representative of Sudan to the United Nations Offices at Geneva commended Africa Link team in their good will remark at the opening of the 5th Edition of Africa Link Solidarity Awards held on 8 September 2018 in Bern.
Ambassador Madugu believes the two events, Symposium and Awards, held the same day important and necessary to encourage other Africans to serve the continent. The symposium featured important and topical themes, presented by excellent communicators and speakers. There was a lot to take home from the conference, remarked the Ambassador, adding: “I wish to commend Africa Link team for engaging in such activities that show positive side of Africans.”
Ambassador Mohammed in turn showered praises on the team, saying he was impressed at the efforts of the team to be ‘the voice of African community in Switzerland’ with its media. Thank you and keep it up,” he encouraged them.
Africa Link, aka ‘the Voice of Africa in the Diaspora launched its magazine in 2000 focusing on Africa and African related issues, and in 2006 launched the Solidarity Awards to encourage and promote democracy, good governance and development in Africa.
Over the years the categories of the Awards extended to include the recognition and honouring Africans, Friends of Africa and organisations that have made significant contributions to the continent’s social, economic and political developments. It also recognises and honours African diplomats and other players in the African Diaspora Community and the International Community whose contributions have led to the positive appreciation and image of Africa and its people.
Among the past recipients are: Mr. Raila Odinga, former Prime Minister of Kenya, Ambassador Nozipho January-Bardill, Mr. Martin Graf, former Mayor of Illunia/Effretikon Switzerland, former President Kufuor of Ghana, Thurn/Togo Association, Ambassador Mrs. Khadija Rachida Masri former AU Permanent Observer to UNOG, late President Tijan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, Dr. Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Switzerland and Permanent Representative to UNOG, and former ITU Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré.
The 2018 edition honoured four persons and two organisations at September 8 ceremony. They are: Mr. Léonard H. Bindzi, Mr. Osvaldo dos Santos Varela, Ms. Claudinah Ntini Ramosepele and Ms. Sophia Bekele, and the two organisations are Fund for Development and Partnership in Africa (FEPAFRIKA) and Aiducation International Kenya.
Mr. Léonard Henri Bindzi, the Ambassador of Cameroon to Switzerland and also the Dean of African Group of Ambassadors to Switzerland received African Envoy of Excellence Award for, amongst others, his contribution to the social and economic sectors of his diplomatic service and his dogged commitment to the enhancement of the profile of the Cameroonian Diaspora in Switzerland.
One of the notable initiatives that earned him the award was the birth of the Cameroonian Women’s Day celebration in Switzerland that has established itself as a popular and respected community activity. Also for bringing on board other worthwhile initiatives to the African Group of Ambassadors such as the annual January get-together of the group members that strengthens relations among them and contributes to the development of a constructive agenda and working relationship.
The improvement in the celebration of African Day which attracted annually a massive turnout under his able leadership enhanced amongst other things the good image of his country and Africa.
He was represented by Mrs. Chantal Ebana who conveyed his good will message and his gratitude for the award. Ambassador Bindzi had earlier commended Africa Link team for giving promoting Africa’s and African image in the country, and for the honour bestowed on individuals and corporate bodies through the Award. He wished the team more grease to their elbows.
Mr. Osvaldo dos Santos Varela, the Ambassador of Angola also received African Envoy of Excellence Award. He was posted to Switzerland at the time Angola and Switzerland bilateral relations were at an embryonic stage. The time Angola, was reeling from a debilitating civil war that had lasted more than two decades and a time when building bilateral relations meant a lot. He improved on the bilateral relations between the two countries, leading to the signing of a series of agreements with the Swiss Government on issues such as migration and particularly the suppression of visas for diplomatic and service passport holders from Angola, and kick-started an agreement on investment protection.
Ambassador Varela reached out to the Swiss business community through media and personal contacts to inform them about investment opportunities in his country, and wooed them to tap into the opportunities. The results are there for all to see.
He worked assiduously to attend to the plight of Angolans in Switzerland. This was not an easy task as many of them had fled the country during the civil war and did not wish ever to return or have anything to do with the government. He opened the door of his office to them with soothing words and programs to a point where they eventually warmed up to the embassy and they considered it their second home.
The Ambassador was represented by Mr. Augusto Moutinho who expressed the Ambassador’s appreciation for the Award. “I would like to thank you for the award granted me. It is very special for me,” he remarked.
He noted with pleasure the great work Africa Link has been rendering to the African diplomats and community in Switzerland.
Ms. Claudinah Ntini Ramosepele who was South Africa’s Ambassador to Switzerland till late last year flew in from South Africa to receive her African Envoy of Excellence Award.
She is the second South African to receive the Award in this category; the first was Ambassador Nozipho January- January-Bardill who received the Award in 2006.
During Ambassador Ramosepele’s tenure of office in Switzerland there was a remarkable improvement in the South Africa’s socio-economic and political relations with Switzerland which translated to a more effective business and social relationship between the Swiss people and South Africans. Also it was during her tenure that the South Africa’s film industry won a prize for one of its productions, Days of Cannibalism at the 48th Vision du Réel.
Her savvy use of the media in disseminating news about her activities in Switzerland and also news about her beloved country was exemplary.
She demonstrated that a diplomat’s service is not limited to the bilateral relations alone and proved that her services were incomplete without also giving the Diaspora a listening ear.
Receiving “this prestigious Award”, Ambassador Ramosepele said: “When one is called upon by the State to represent the nation, I think it is fair to say in my case I felt a sense of humility at the same time overwhelmed by the enormity and weight of the task ahead. One worries of the expectations, in the end you resort to performing at your utmost best, and leave others to judge. This is what I did and to be recognised in such a manner by this highly regarded group of Jurists it is quite humbling. For this I thank you very, very much!”
Ms. Sophia Bekele, Founder and CEO of DotConnectAfrica Group, was honoured with Champion of Development Award for her initiative Miss.Africa Digital Initiative which hundreds of young women and girls have benefited from through training opportunities or applications supported by the Miss.Africa Seed Funding.
This Pan-African initiative, a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programme targets young females throughout Africa. It offers grants to support and empower women and girls in the Information and Communication Technology, ICT, sector so as to increase their personal involvement in early technology use, adoption and innovation.
She was represented by Mrs. Hellen Kahuga-Wakapa. Ms. Bekele says in her written message: “I’m very pleased, humbled and grateful to accept this prestigious award in joining your August body of past recipients. This recognition is excellent morale-booster that will encourage me and my team to continue doing our best in our contributions to the development of ICT in Africa.
None of this great effort and accomplishments would have come to fruition without the support of our team on the ground, our participants in the program, our financial supporters and the global network of people and institutions that have recognized our work including Africa Link. Therefore we thank you so much. God Bless you and God Bless Africa.”
Fund for Development and Partnership in Africa (Fepafrika) an organisation based in Zimbabwe for over 60 years and working with small farmers received Friend of Africa Award for introduced the small farmers in Zimbabwe to new skills and knowledge of farming, and the management of small farms leading to improved outputs. These skills were replicated in many regions of Zimbabwe, engaging them in training that empowered them not only to have sufficient to feed their families but also to finance their children’s education.
In partnership with the Centre for Rural Legal Studies (CRLS), it encouraged and guided farm workers on how to improve on their often devastated living and working conditions.
Fepafrika also supports the empowerment initiatives of youths, and young women in civil society. It empowered former street children to fend for themselves by engaging in Dangwe Arts, supported them to have roof on their heads, and to finance the education of their children.
Mr. Ueli Haller, the Board Vice President of the organisation was appreciative of the Award, and dedicated it to the workers and supporters of Fepafrika.
Aiducation International Kenya organisation received Friend of Africa Award. It offers merit-based scholarships to bright, needy and motivated high school students in Africa so that they can eventually contribute to the development of their families, communities and countries.
The beneficiaries of the scholarships participate in Aiducation’s unique mentoring programme and thus become parts of a network of future decision makers who develop a culture of giving back to their communities. Over 6,365 children as at 2017 have benefitted from Aiducation’s scholarships in Kenya and eight have received start-ups support launched in 2014. Over Ksh130 million has been expended on the project up to last year
Matthias Meier the Director of the organisation said the Award would encourage them to strive harder to enable them support more of the over a million needy but clever and brilliant children in Kenya whose parents could not afford their high school education. He conveyed the gratitude of the three founders of the organisation Jeremiah Kiponda Kambi, Kristin Kapitza, Florian Kowalke.
The next edition of the Awards is expected to hold in 2020. Africa Link appeals to individual and corporate bodies for support to enable it back up the Awards with financial emoluments.