Honoring Africa's Leadership
Overview: The Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger
In 1987, The Hunger Project launched the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger to call forth the committed, effective leadership that Africa desperately needs. The Africa Prize celebrates, acknowledges and honors the accomplishments of individuals who have exhibited extraordinary leadership for the end of hunger.
Purpose of the Africa Prize
The Africa Prize honors a distinguished African man or woman who has exhibited exceptional leadership in bringing about the sustainable end of hunger at the national, regional or continent-wide level.
The Africa Prize focuses on individuals working in areas such as public policy, science, agriculture, education and health whose leadership and policies reflect courage, initiative, creativity, and, in some cases, personal sacrifice.
The Africa Prize acknowledges and honors the recipient's outstanding contribution to the general well-being of the people of Africa. In addition, the Africa Prize seeks to generate heightened awareness within the world community of the many African leaders who are making the difficult decisions and taking the necessary actions to resolve the pressing agricultural and economic, political and social issues facing the continent.
Ultimately, the Africa Prize is intended to engender a greater appreciation for and support of the effective and dynamic leadership associated with the end of hunger in Africa on a sustainable basis.
Laureates of the Africa Prize are presented a sculpture by the famed artist Takenobu Igarashi and a cash award of US$100,000 to further their work for the sustainable end of hunger. The Prize has been awarded at prestigious black-tie award ceremonies in New York City, London, Tokyo, Rome and Washington, D.C.
Leadership from Every Sector and Level of Society
The Africa Prize has redefined the very meaning of leadership - expanding it from the traditional "head man" model of leadership to include leadership of both women and men, and leadership from every level and sector of society.
To establish the Africa Prize at the highest levels possible and to underscore the vital importance of committed political leadership, the first and many subsequent Prizes were awarded to heads of state.
The first Africa Prize was presented to President Abdou Diouf of Senegal in 1987. As chair of the Organization of African Unity in 1985-86, President Diouf played a pivotal role in forging a continent-wide plan for famine recovery. Working with UNICEF, his country was the first to achieve universal child immunization.
After receiving the Africa Prize, President Diouf invited The Hunger Project to launch its first on-the-ground African program in Senegal in 1991.
Africa faces unique challenges in health, the environment and agriculture that demand African solutions. In 1992, the Africa Prize was awarded to Dr. Ebrahim Samba, who later became the Africa regional director for the World Health Organization.
For centuries, much of the richest farmland in West Africa was idle due to the threat of river blindness. Beginning in 1980, Dr. Samba managed a team of 800 scientists, physicians and pilots, 97 percent of whom were African, in a successful program that has eliminated river blindness from an 11-country region.
Once the Africa Prize was established at the head-of-state level, we then awarded it to grassroots leaders to emphasize that mobilizing action at the grassroots was equally important to a new future for Africa.
One of these grassroots leaders, honored by The Hunger Project in 1989, is Dr. Bernard Ouédraogo, founder of the Naam movement of Burkina Faso, Africa's largest and most successful grassroots movement for self-reliance. He has motivated hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers in the dry Sahel region of West Africa to take charge of their own development.
Dr. Ouédraogo participated in the first-ever meeting of Africa Prize laureates, which led to the expansion of The Hunger Project, initially in West Africa and now across the continent.
In its most radical, and most important, expansion of the definition of leadership, the Africa Prize has been awarded to women leaders who, against all odds, have found within themselves the courage and strength to assert their leadership for a better future for Africa.
One of the first women to win the Africa Prize was Wangari Maathai in 1991. Prof. Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement of Kenya, one of the world's most successful programs to combine community development and environmental protection. The movement has enhanced the self-reliance and self-confidence of tens of thousands of people living in poverty.
After receiving the Prize, Prof. Maathai became an international spokesperson at the Rio Environmental Conference of 1992; subsequently, she was jailed by the Moi regime for her opposition to environmental destruction. When a new government came to power, she became deputy minister for the environment. In 2004, Prof. Maathai became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. As she has frequently said, "The Africa Prize gave me my first platform."
A Catalyst for New Strategies
African Woman Food Farmer Initiative (AWFFI - Now called the Microfinance Program)
In 1999, in a unique departure from honoring individuals, we focused the prestige of the Prize on honoring those who are doing the most for the well-being of the African people: the millions of women who grow Africa's food. We used the Prize to launch a special US$1 million initial investment in a program of credit, training and savings to make African women food farmers real economic players, with a voice in their communities.
The Africa Prize was accepted by Nagbila Aisseta, a formerly illiterate woman farmer from Burkina Faso. She was accompanied home by a delegation of investors from 10 countries, and was met at the airport by high government officials, the media and thousands of women. After meeting the prime minister, and after three months of rallies on the importance of empowering women farmers, she carried the Prize statue, like the Olympic torch, to the next Hunger Project country (Benin), where the process was repeated by another woman food farmer, and then again and again in each African country in which The Hunger Project works.
Today, about 45,000 partners (75 percent of whom are women) are actively participating in our Microfinance Program (as AWFFI is now called). In 2010, they deposited savings totaling $1 million. They have become literate, improved their farms, grown more food, started businesses, earned more money and kept their daughters in school. Dozens have become so confident and bold that they have been elected to local office. Learn more about the Microfinance Program.
HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality Workshop
In 2001, coinciding with the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS, the Africa Prize was presented to four African AIDS activists and was used to launch The Hunger Project's AIDS initiative.
Gender inequality fuels the spread of HIV/AIDS. Societal gender roles encourage men to have unsafe sex with multiple partners, and leave women powerless to negotiate safe sex. To address these problems, The Hunger Project created a grassroots-level workshop that empowers rural communities to know the facts about AIDS and launch campaigns to change dangerous gender behaviors.
Since this workshop was launched in 2003, more than 1.1 million people have participated in it at Hunger Project epicenters across Africa. The workshop has resulted in increased demand for both male and female condoms, reduction in sexually transmitted disease, marked reduction in domestic violence, and visibly shifting gender behaviors, such as men taking responsibility for a share of child care and household chores.