Project Aladdin and the Akbaraly Foundation hosted a dinner for 50 prominent political, economic, and cultural leaders from Africa and the United States in New York on September 19 during the opening week of the United Nations General Assembly to honor Mahamadou Issoufou, former President of Niger and Chairman of the United Nations High-level Panel on Security and Development in the Sahel, and Moussa Faki, President of the African Union Commission.
Project Aladdin executive director Abe Radkin opened the ceremony by recalling that the Tangier Dialogue, organized in June by Project Aladdin in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Morocco and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, had called for a result-oriented, systematic, and structured dialogue between civil society leaders in Africa and the West. The meeting in New York was a continuation of that effort to bring together political, cultural, intellectual, and economic leaders from Africa and the West in a bid to explore and propose “out-of-the-box” solutions to some of the major issues facing our societies, from violent extremism to educational and health inequalities.
Ylias Akbaraly, co-founder of the Akbaraly Foundation that works to eradicate extreme poverty and inequalities in the Indian Ocean and southern Africa through sustainable projects that create resilient communities, spoke about the need to change the prevailing Western perceptions about Africa. “We Africans don’t need aids and handouts; we need partners who can work with us to create sustainable economies through education, innovation, and investment,” he said. “African is the world’s fastest growing region, and helping Africa prepare a prosperous future for the 2.2 billion inhabitants that it will have by the middle of this century is an international priority of the highest order.”
Project Aladdin chair Leah Pisar spoke about the importance that Project Aladdin attaches to the work it is conducting with its partners in Africa to promote intercultural relations, to counter hate, and to train young leaders steeped in the universal values of tolerance, peace, and acceptance of others. She noted that after working closely alongside former Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou while they both sat on the jury of the Sheikh Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, she witnessed firsthand the deep attachment of President Issoufou to intercultural dialogue and understanding. In the name of Project Aladdin, Leah Pisar presented President Issoufou with “The Peacebuilder Award” in recognition of his outstanding leadership in promoting rapprochement of cultures during the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013 – 2022).
The other honoree of the evening was Moussa Faki, President of the African Union Commission, who was awarded for his sustained and indefatigable efforts to bring peace to conflicts and strife in different parts of Africa, from Sudan and Libya to Ethiopia and Somalia.
Moussa Faki was Prime Minister of Chad before his election as President of the African Union Commission and held many ministerial posts prior to that. One of his major achievements in recent years was the adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement that, according to the World Bank, can boost economic growth throughout the continent.
Professor Benedict Oramah, President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), a key architect of several landmark development projects in Africa, spoke at the event. Other prominent African leaders present included Gambian Foreign Minister Dr. Mamadou Tangara, Niger Minister of Petroleum and Energy Mahamane Sani Mahamadou, Ghana’s presidential advisor Gabby Otchere-Darko, Aliko Dangote Foundation CEO Zouera Youssoufou, Njack Kane of John Kufuor Foundation, and John Coumentaros, Chairman of Flour Mills of Nigeria.
The American and European participants included Emily Rafferty, President Emerita of The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Eric Gertler, Executive Chairman & CEO of U.S. News & World Report; Thierry Deau, Chairman of Meridiam; Brian Mathis, former advisor to President Obama; Ian Alberg, senior domestic policy advisor at the Clinton White House; Riaz Valani, General Partner at Global Asset Capital; Julian Treger, CEO of Anglo Pacific; Daniel Cruise, Partner and deputy CEO of Tikehau Capital; Amir Dossal, President of the Global Partnerships Forum; Dr. Jeffrey Sturchio, Chairman, and Flori Liser, CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa; and senior corporate representatives Michael Lubin (ViaSat), Lydia Carroon (Microsoft), Carolyn Wu (Apple), and Menassie Taddese (Viatris).