The annual African Business Awards ceremony was once again the highlight of the Africa-based summer season in London. This was the fourth edition of the event that has now become the most important yardstick on the performance of African companies. The event also provides an invaluable platform for some of the most successful and inventive business leaders from all corners of Africa to come together and exchange views on best practice. As usual, the event was hugely oversubscribed but space constraints meant that there was room for only 400 guests, who included Hifikepunye Pohamba, President, Republic of Namibia, and Tomaz Augusto Salomao, Executive Secretary of SADC, Lord Howell, Minister of State for International Energy Policy, and Stephen O'Brien, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development.
The awards gala began with a cocktail reception in the London Landmark Hotel's magnificent atrium before visitors sat down to dinner and the awards. Master of ceremonies, broadcast journalist Henry Bonsu, kept up a lively tempo as nominees and winners of the 11 awards were announced.
In his welcome, African Business editor Anver Versi stated: "This year's African Business Awards coincide with what economists--and investors--within and outside Africa have identified as the tipping point in the fortunes of the continent. External realities and a sea change in the internal management of African nations to place the continent in a position from which it can be realistically expected to evolve into the next phase of wealth creation, i.e. industrialisation."
He added: "Many of the winners and nominees are already world class and others are on their way to that status. Africa's best companies have never had it easy. Those that have come through have been tempered by fire and water. As Aliko Dangote says: 'In Africa, problems are a given; they don't phase us; in overcoming them, we become stronger'."
As it turned out, the Dangote Group, one of Africa's largest business empires, was to achieve a unique double--winning both the Business of the Year as well as the Business Leader of the Year (Aliko Dangote) awards.
Although Dangote himself was unable to attend the awards, he said in a statement "I have been following the African Business Awards which showcase the best of Africar business, recognise industry and innovation and reward those who have driven the continent's rapidly transforming economic, from inception. I must commend you for sustaining the standards over the years.
"I must also commend you for presenting the new face of African champions to the world, through the awards which impacted-in no small measure, on the image of the continent. Your incisive editorials and well-packaged periodic special reports have helped as well to portray Africa in a positive light to the international business community."
Omar Ben Yedder, group publisher of IC Publications, which includes African Business, African Banker, New African, The Middle East and New African Woman magazines in its English-language stable, told the audience the concept for the awards had come about over dinner in Mauritius when Versi and Mohan Kaul, director general and CEO of the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) had sketched out the outlines of a joint award to recognise and reward some of the outstanding work carried out by some of Africa's most progressive companies. "Four years down the road," said Ben Yedder, "the awards have now become the most important benchmark for the performance of our continent's companies. They continue to inspire business leaders to strive for even greater heights and raise the bar on excellence."
He added: "All nominated individuals and companies were particularly strong, and the standard keeps getting higher year after year. The attendance of two British ministers as well as other dignitaries from the …