Africa’s Only Two Female Heads of State Honored at AAI’s 28th Annual Awards Gala

October 10, 2012

CONTACT: Shanta Bryant Gyan 646.290.8211•


Africa’s Only Two Female Heads of State Honored at The Africa-America Institute’s 28th Annual Awards Gala

Mora McLean stepped down as President and CEO after 16 years of service

NEW YORK, October 1 – At a historic U.S. gathering honoring Africa’s only two female heads of state, The Africa-America Institute (AAI) paid tribute on September 26 at its 28th Annual Gala to Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Republic of Liberia and Her Excellency President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi for championing the rights of women and their full inclusion in economic development to boost economic growth. AAI is dedicated to advancing education and professional training for Africans, and promoting engagement between Africa and America through education, training and dialogue.

More than 350 distinguished U.S. and African business, philanthropic, academic, political and diplomatic leaders gathered to recognize African achievement under AAI’s theme of “Jobs for Africa.” Held annually during the U.N. General Assembly, the AAI Awards Gala is the most high profile Africa-focused event in New York City. This year’s major corporate sponsors are Chevron and Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P..

President Sirleaf accepted the AAI African National Achievement Award for Literacy to Support Life Skills in recognition of her leadership to rebuild Liberia’s national education system following years of a brutal civil war by emphasizing literacy as a catalyst for expanding opportunity for all Liberians. Sirleaf thanked AAI for recognizing her country’s efforts to strengthen its educational system with a special emphasis on girls’ education.

Her Excellency President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi received the AAI Award for Championing Women’s Rights and Business Leadership for her life mission to assist women — and youth — gain social and political empowerment through business and education. “Africa needs political will from the president way down to all other decision makers – political will for governance would ensure micro-economic stability,” said Banda, who is an AAI alumni.

Maurice Tempelsman, former member and chair of the AAI Board of Trustees and chairman of the Board of Directors of Lazare Kaplan International, received a special recognition and was honored with the AAI Distinguished Trustee Award for his five decades-long support to AAI and service as a member of the AAI Board of Trustees. Tempelsman has been designated Trustee Emeritus of the Africa-America Institute.

The celebratory black-tie event also honored AAI Alumni who are leading African leaders for their contributions to Africa and the world. The AAI 2012 Distinguished Alumna Award was presented Dr. Thelma Awori, Former Assistant Secretary General and Director of Regional Bureau for Africa at United Nations Development Program and Founding Chair and Co-President of the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund. Awori co-founded Liberia-based The Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund, an organization that improves the lives and work conditions of market. A three-minute video showcasing the work of the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund, which was named in honor of Africa’s first female head of state President Sirleaf, was shown during the gala.

Nik Amarteifio, CEO & Chairman of Equatorial Cross Acquisitions Ltd. and Omni Media and owner of Citi FM Radio and The Globe newspaper of Ghana received the AAI 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Amarteifio is also Lead Director of the Central Bank of Ghana and Chairman of Dannex Pharmaceuticals Ltd. and Ghana Agro Foods Company.

At the Gala, Mora McLean formally stepped down as CEO and President of AAI after 16 years of outstanding service. McLean will become a Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University Center for African Studies.

“It has been an extraordinary journey, and I feel privileged to have served and to now pass the baton to my successor to take AAI to the next level,” said McLean, who was presented with a spectacular African art piece. Amini Kajunju, former CEO of New York-based Workshop in Business Opportunities, succeeded McLean as AAI President and CEO effective October 1, 2012.
Femi Oke served as the Masters of Ceremony. The Rev. Calvin O. Butts, III, pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, offered the invocation for the event. Additionally, the evening’s festivities featured music from Azania, a world music singer from Sierra Leone. A silent auction featured fine traditional and contemporary African art.

On the day after the gala, AAI hosted the 2012 Africa Business Investors Conference in collaboration with UN Women, the African Women’s Development Fund and the African Business Roundtable to further delve deeper into the gala theme “Jobs for Africa’s Future”. African heads of state and U.S. and African leaders attended this high-powered networking and dialogue to draw attention to Africa’s emerging market potential, innovative solutions for private sector development, and the pivotal role of African women as powerful drivers of African economic development.

ABOUT THE AFRICA-AMERICA INSTITUTE (AAI): Founded in 1953, the Africa-America Institute, a leading New York-based international education and policy organization, is dedicated to advancing education and professional training for Africans, and promoting engagement between Africa and America through education, training and dialogue.

Photo highlights from the Awards Gala

For additional photos, please contact Shanta Bryant Gyan at or call (646) 290-8211.

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