Sophia Bekele, the founder and CEO of DotConnectAfrica (DCA), has been honoured with Champion of Development Award at the 2018 Solidarity Awards for her program, Miss.Africa Digital Initiative, which enables hundreds of young women and girls to benefit from training opportunities or grants provided through the Miss.Africa Seed Funding.
The Miss.Africa Digital Initiative is a pan-African initiative, a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program which 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.
Ms Bekele was represented at the awards ceremony by Hellen Kahuga-Wakapa. In her acceptance speech, Bekele stated: “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.”
Over the years, the Solidarity Awards’ categories have been expanded to include the recognition of 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.
Africa Link, a media organisation founded in April 2000, the publisher of Africa Link magazine, and Africalink Online, hosted the 2018 SolidarityAwards for the African community in Switzerland and Africa. Africa Link, launched the awards in 2006 to encourage and promote democracy, good governance and development in Africa.
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.
Apart from Ms Bekele, others honored were:
- 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 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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 Ramosepele’s tenure 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 her Award”, 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!”
- 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.
- 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 Kshs 130 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 Solidarity Awards will be held in 2020 and Africa Link is appealing for support from individuals and corporates.