African Business Awards 2009 - A ray of sunshine in the gloom
The 2nd African Business-CBC annual awards ceremony took place in the understated luxury of the Grosvenor House Hotel where some 400 invited guests had gathered to salute this year's best African businesses. The mood was very different to the exuberance of the previous year's event, when African growth had seemed unlimited, but reflected a satisfaction that Africa had escaped the worst of the recession and would actually post a modest 2% growth this year. This resilience on the part of Africa, reflected in the above-average performances of the African companies shortlisted for the awards, was heart-warming while the awards themselves, as they had done last year, generated considerable discussion with winners drawn from all the regions of the continent.
While it was a time to celebrate, it was also time to keep in sight Africa's future. President Paul Kagame, the guest of honour, wisely reminded the audience that Africa's progress was still fragile and that while the private sector would in all likelihood drive Africa's growth, the public sector was just as important. He reiterated his confidence in greater public-private sector partnerships as the only tried and tested formula for accelerated economic growth.
The Minister of Finance for Mauritius, Rama Sithanen, underlined this sentiment and added that perhaps the most urgent task facing governments in Africa was to create environments wherein businesses of all nature would have unfettered opportunity to thrive. This was the approach that had made his own island nation one of the world champions in terms of economic performance.
The African Business Awards judges were at one with Sithanen's views and presented Mauritius with the Most Improved Investment Climate Award.
The multi-talented broadcaster and MC Henry Bonsu reminded the audience that this was essentially an African event and required the proper African celebration to do it justice. It was time to relax, enjoy the food and drink (excellent champagne had been provided by Laurent-Perrier) and bask in the glow of Ubuntu--or African togetherness.
Earlier, Omar Ben Yedder, the publisher of African Business, summarised the purpose of the occasion saying: "In Africa, business is as much about doing good in society as it is about doing well for shareholders--and it is most encouraging to see local business champions leading the way and creating pan-African leaders." This was echoed by Pascal Dozie, founder and chairman of the Diamond Group and chairman of MTN Nigeria, and winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, who urged young entrepreneurs to "think pan-African from the word go" if they wished to succeed in business.
The sponsors of the Awards night also reflected the diversity and richness of the continent's business environment. They included the world's biggest resources company BHP Billiton; Africa's home-grown banking multinational, Ecobank; Nigeria's largest insurance group, IGI; and the great champagne house, Laurent-Perrier.
African Business Awards was partnered by the Alliance for a Green Revolution and supported by the African Development Bank. The judges, Amadou Ba (president, AllAfrica Global Media), Jean-Louis Ekra (president, African Export-Import Bank), Stephen Hayes (president, the Corporate Council of Africa), Yvonne Ike (former head, JP Morgan Chase West Africa), Omari Issa (CEO, Investment Climate Facility for Africa and Tim Turner (director, private sector and microfinance operations AfDB) had the unenviable task of choosing the winners from a large entry.
Omar Ben Yedder and Isabelle Dana from IC Events, managed this superb international occasion. Along with the CBC team, the dedicated IC team comprising Anna Rosenberg, Alex Enahoro, Ogo Okafor and Anne Suenen worked tirelessly on every detail. They were permitted a few days rest and recovery before their next assignment, the African Banker Awards to be held in Istanbul, Turkey in October.
The 2009 ABA Winners
Lagos State, Nigeria
Presented by: Yvonne Ike, (1. right) Former Director West Africa, JP Morgan Chase
The judges' citation reads: Lagos State has shown exemplary leadership in the way business is conducted in all its activities, ensuring results, transparency and accountability, changing procedures and setting standards which need to be adhered to from its suppliers and in the running of its activities.
Winner's comments: "The Governor of Lagos will be very proud of this award. He will take it as a challenge to work even harder"--Supo Sasore, (1. left) Attorney General of Lagos State.
The other nominees were: British American Tobacco, BHP Billiton and Youngstars Development Initiative.
Tourism Destination of the Year
Presented by: Stephen Hayes, President of the Corporate Council on Africa, USA
The judges' citation reads: The winning country has achieved strong growth in tourism numbers despite the economic slump, has significantly developed its travel, hospitality and leisure...