African Business Awards Salute Continental Champions: The Most Important Annual Event for African Companies, the African Business Awards, Celebrated Its Fourth Anniversary at the Landmark Hotel in London in June. We Present Brief Profiles of the Winners
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 world over shows the interest Africa is generating, and we, as a continent, are starting to make headlines for all the right reasons."
The awards are held in tandem with the CBC's annual Africa Business Forum. The awards were sponsored by Ecobank, the pan-African banking group and the Bank of Industry of Nigeria. The awards are also supported by the private sector operations of the African Development Bank. Brussels Airlines, with its extensive African network, was the preferred airline and Wavetec were technology sponsors.
African Business Awards 2011 winners:
Business Leader of the year
Aliko Dangote, Dangote Group
In 1999, Aliko Dangote decided to turn a trading business he started in 1979 into a full-scale manufacturing operation. Focusing on his four key trading sectors: flour, sugar, salt and cement, Dangote embarked on a major programme of construction and asset acquisition.
The Dangote Group under his leadership is now one of Africa's biggest cement manufacturers and is rapidly becoming a major multinational across several sectors. Dangote has recently been devoting more time to his foundation which has been active promoting SMEs and developing African talent.
Business of the Year
Dangote Group, Nigeria
The Dangote Group has won the award because of its tremendous achievements in this past year. The group's listing of its cement business on the Nigerian Stock Exchange is the largest in the country's history. It has made substantial investments into other sub-Saharan countries such as Zambia, Ghana and Senegal.
In terms of its social responsibility, the Dangote Foundation has partnered with Nigeria's Bank of Industry to provide loans to SMEs in the country, and also has developed a programme with the World Economic Forum to identify young Africans with high potential and give them the necessary exposure to acquire and develop strong leadership skills.
Businesswoman of the year
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, soleRebels, Ethiopia
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu has shown initiative, excellent leadership and has a proven track record of achievements in terms of growth and returns. She founded soleRebels in 2005 to bring jobs, and sustainable and self-directed prosperity to her community in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2008 soleRebels became the first and only World Fair Trade Organisation-certified footwear company and the first global footwear brand ever to emerge from a developing nation.
Bethlehem's story is one of true entrepreneurship. She used local artisan skills to transform the lives of her community thorough shoe production, realising she could source and make almost all materials locally, thereby creating an export product from 100% local inputs.
Innovation of the year
mPedigree is a system which enables patients to verify the source of pharmaceuticals they purchase by sending a SMS message, thus offering protection from counterfeit medicine. The mPedigree platform allows manufacturers to emboss their medicines with unique, single-use codes. This allows consumers free access to an automated database, using a four-digit access number. In a few seconds, an automatic response is issued back to their phones confirming the originality of the medicine.
The system is being deployed across six African and two Asian countries through relationships with 22 telecom companies. Not many inventions have previously emerged from Africa with the prospect of being able to transform a global industry.
Investor of the year
Etisalat is a long-term investor in telecommunications services in Africa. In 2010 Etisalat invested over $1.4bn in five existing operations in East and sub-Saharan Africa, not only in basic services to enable voice communications but also in broadband, which is a fundamental driver of economic prosperity.
In West Africa, their satellite network, which has been combined with GSM technology, has helped farmers use communication even in the most remote coffee plantations. This has streamlined production and enhanced efficiency many times over.
Green Award of the year
Buchanan Renewables, Liberia
Buchanan Renewables is an integrated renewable energy and sustainable biomass supply company that has been operating in Liberia for more than three years. The business is currently producing and supplying Liberian end-of-life rubber tree woodchips for power generation as well as developing a 36MW dedicated biomass power plant near Monrovia.
It has had to expand operations beyond the core of its business, proving to Europe's fifth-largest energy-generating utility that it could build a long-term energy strategy with Liberian woodchips as one of its pillars.
The company's activities reduce the carbon footprint of European utilities, provide an 80% increase on current capacity in Liberia through clean domestically-fuelled power, and have rejuvenated the country's largest industry thus creating thousands of jobs.
Corporate Social Responsibility or the year
Olam, Nigeria / Microsoft, South Africa
Microsoft's aim in Africa specifically is to enhance capacity for development, so that the continent can benefit from locally generated and sustainable development. Citizenship projects are embedded with a sustainable model focused on partnering with public and private sector organisations that share the company's goals and passions for education, innovation and employment. In 2010 alone, it is estimated that their programmes reached more than 27,000 people in Africa.
Olam Nigeria Ltd, a major rice importer, decided to test a new business approach by investing in local production of high-quality rice for Nigeria's domestic market. The goal of this partnership was to promote demand-driven production by developing a supply chain model that encouraged the use of improved technologies, farmer capacity building, commercial linkages to credible market outlets and strategic public-private partnerships.
This initiative has made significant progress in increasing farmers' yields by 320% but, more importantly, has increased their net income by over four times. The initiatives are unique as they provide total support packages to the rural farmers through distribution of improved seeds, providing capacity-building programmes, by direct buy back, and the input of supplies worth $3.1m as credit in 2010.
Good Corporate Governance of the year
Nedbank Group, South Africa
As part of its commitment to sustainable operations at every level, Nedbank Group operates within a clearly defined governance framework. Over the past five years, the Enterprise Governance and Compliance Division has applied itself to establishing a solid ethical foundation across the group, including the revision of the Nedbank Board Ethics Statement, creation of a user-friendly Nedbank Code of Business Ethics and Code of Conduct, and the development of a Nedbank Pledge for agreement by all staff members and directors.
Considerable work has also gone into mentoring and guiding more than 12,000 employees in adopting and applying ethical business practices as well as the development of dedicated channels to reinforce positive, values-driven behaviour.
The Most improved investment Climate of the year
Mauritius has not only steadily improved its standing in the CBC Business Environment Report and World Bank Index, but in 2010, it was the highest-ranking African economy in the World Bank Doing Business Index at position 20. This is a very significant achievement, and puts Mauritius ahead of more than 20 European economies. According to the World Bank report Investing Across Borders of July 2010, it is one of the highest recipients of FDI per head of population.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr Ishmael Yamson
Ishmael Yamson served for many years as the CEO of Unilever Ghana and in leadership roles for many companies with the highest reputation in Africa, including Barclays, Standard Chartered Bank, MTN and Nigerian Breweries. He was Chairman of the Council of the University of Ghana and is active in support of social development in his community. He has been an adviser to successive Ghanaian presidents, and is currently Economic Adviser to the President on business-related issues, and continues to advocate for good corporate governance, the establishment of a sound business environment and promotion of a vibrant private sector. He is widely respected for his business acumen, integrity, and as a role model. The African Business Awards board is recognising that he was a pioneer for the private sector when governments dominated the economy, and that he has made a major contribution to redefining the role of business in Africa.
Distinction in Public Service
Arunma Oteh, DG Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria
In her current role as Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Arunma Oteh's interventions in the Nigeria capital market have led to accountability, transparency and deepened public confidence in the sustained ongoing financial market reforms. The passionate public debates over the reforms, as well as her modernisation of systems and processes of doing business in the financial markets have captured the imagination of players in the market and kept everyone involved in the strategic change implementation. In addition, the formation of a new management team for the Nigeria Stock Exchange is expected to broaden the investment offerings in the market, reduce the cost of transactions to boost trade volumes, encourage new public listings and strengthen liquidity in Africa's largest market. She has demonstrated outstanding professional sagacity in regulating the Nigerian capital markets.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: African Business Awards Salute Continental Champions: The Most Important Annual Event for African Companies, the African Business Awards, Celebrated Its Fourth Anniversary at the Landmark Hotel in London in June. We Present Brief Profiles of the Winners. Contributors: Not available. Magazine title: African Business. Issue: 378 Publication date: August-September 2011. Page number: 60+. © 2009 IC Publications Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.