AAI Announces Honorees for its 38th Annual Awards Gala
(New York, NY – July 28, 2022) – The Africa-America Institute (AAI) – the premier U.S.-based international organization connecting Africa to America through education, training, and dialogue announced details for its 38th Annual Awards Gala celebrating the vast contributions of Africa and its worldwide diaspora. Returning to an in-person format, the Awards Gala will take place at the upscale Cipriani 42nd St. in New York City, on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 at 6 P.M.
Launched in 1984, the AAI Awards Gala is the most anticipated African-centered event convened in New York City. Held during the week of the United Nations General Assembly, the Gala brings together a host of distinguished notables including heads of state, diplomats, government officials, business and civil society leaders, scholars, journalists, and other leading figures for an unforgettable evening.
Hosted by marketing executive, entrepreneur, and author Bozoma Saint John, this year’s awards will center around the theme of “Africa in the World.” During the ceremony, AAI will honor an illustrious group of leaders across industries who have used their platforms to advance and affect substantive change locally, nationally, and globally in their respective areas.
The 2022 Awards and Honorees include:
National Achievement Award
AAI will honor the 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 focus on addressing the importance of education, healthcare, and youth development. The Award will be accepted by His Excellency Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana. President Masisi – the 5th President of the Republic of Botswana – comes from a background dedicated to education, having worked as an Education Project Officer with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Throughout his career, he has worked to promote and strengthen global partnerships supporting Botswana’s youth.
Ambassador for African Cinema Award
Mahen Bonetti – Founder and Executive Director of the African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF) and Executive Director of the New York African Film Festival (NYAFF). She will receive the Ambassador for African Cinema Award recognizing her role as a master curator of African films and champion of African Diaspora filmmakers. For more than 30 years, Bonetti has created platforms that have given a voice to African filmmakers and their work and has devoted her life’s work to generating opportunities for Black storytellers to tell their stories through film. Under her stewardship, NYAFF has taken African cinema out of the art houses and into communities while AFF has given countless filmmakers their first introduction to U.S. audiences and has developed the world’s largest digital database on African film.
Science and Technology Leadership Award
Dr. Solomon Assefa – Vice President of IBM Research. Dr. Assefa heads the global effort at IBM Research focused on developing core technologies for climate change mitigation and adaptation, healthcare and life sciences, computing, and technology. Additionally, he is responsible for IBM’s Africa Labs, forming new models for partnership with government, industry, academia, non-profits, and start-ups. The Africa Labs are instrumental in not only addressing Africa’s grand challenges, but also serving as a model internationally. Under his leadership, researchers from IBM’s global labs are applying and advancing disruptive technologies that will transform industries and benefit society. With the Science and Leadership Award, AAI will recognize Dr. Assefa for his work in advancing purpose-driven global innovation to enable sustainable futures.
Distinguished Alumna Award
Betty Wambui Kibaara – Director of the Food Initiative at the Rockefeller Foundation. Kibaara leads the Foundation’s investments in food systems and its efforts in increasing access to nutritious foods and improved nutrition. She serves as the regional champion for the Rockefeller Foundation’s initiatives in strengthening food security, agribusiness, and resilience to the devastating effects of climate change to enable real, sustainable, and equitable economic growth. The Distinguished Alumna Award recognizes an alum from AAI’s programs who has made a significant contribution to their country or field of work. Kibaara participated in AAI’s Strategic Technical Assistance for Results with Training (START) program where she received a Master of Science in Agricultural and Resource Economics from Colorado State University in 2005.
“The occasion of this year’s Gala is especially exciting as it marks our return to an in-person event. We are delighted to have the opportunity to honor the people of the Republic of Botswana for their steadfast commitment to democracy and ground-breaking global partnerships in medical research and education,” said Kofi Appenteng, AAI’s President & CEO. “We’re also celebrating Dr. Solomon Assefa’s crucial work in deploying AI to enable sustainable futures, Betty Kibaara’s work championing food security and agribusiness investments, and Mahen Benetti’s legacy of bringing African and Diasporan voices to the forefront of global cinema. In geographical, scientific, artistic, and cultural terms these honorees embody this year’s Gala theme of Africa in the World.”
“Given the challenges the world has faced over the past two years, we are so excited to gather in person to celebrate the genius of Africa and its worldwide diaspora,” said AAI Board Chair Christal Jackson. “Our collective journey is a reflection of our commitment to excellence and the legacy we want to leave for generations to come.”
AAI strives to enrich the social fabric of humanity by connecting students and leaders across sectors, facilitating access to reliable information about Africa, and transforming the way we understand Africa and its worldwide diaspora. For the past six decades, AAI has provided over 23,000 scholarships and fellowships to African students. The Annual Awards Gala raises funds to support AAI programs and initiatives, such as its work to assist K-12 districts and schools in the United States that want to expose students to scholarly, unbiased knowledge about Africa, and advanced education and training scholarship programs for professionals across the African continent.
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The Africa-America Institute (AAI) strives to enrich the social fabric of humanity by connecting students and leaders across sectors, facilitating access to reliable information about Africa, and transforming the way we understand Africa and its worldwide diaspora. Since its founding in 1953, AAI has awarded scholarships and fellowships to over 23,000 Africans. These individuals comprise an esteemed network of alumni, many of whom are leaders and influencers across public, private, and governmental sectors in Africa and globally. Included in this network are current Heads of State, H.E. Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia; H.E. Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; H.E. Mohamed Bazoum, President of the Republic of Niger; and H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa. Many of AAI’s Alumni have left an indelible imprint, including the late 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Mathaai and the late Barack Obama, Sr.