The Africa-America Institute

70th Annual Awards Gala

A Look Back at the 2022 AAI Gala

"Africa In The World"

Ceremony Honored the Remarkable Achievements of Africa and its Worldwide Diaspora

Inside the 2022 AAI Gala

Written by Melissa Cook

An inspiring, joyous event. A good time was had by all.

The Africa America Institute opens doors to talented young people, helps them further their education and develop a network, and encourages connections between people from different disciplines who might not otherwise cross paths.  The AAI alumni network welcomes and embraces new graduates, supporting them as they navigate through their career choices. 

AAI’s 2022 honorees were a fascinating group: they work in technology, film, and food science—all areas where Africa has plenty to offer.  A young scientist from Ethiopia working inside the research labs of IBM is spearheading innovations in climate science and other areas that affect Africa—and the world.  His mentors noted that one of his gifts is seeing—and acting on—the link between knowledge and action.

Science & Technology Leadership Award

Dr. Solomon Assefa

A filmmaker sees the depth of creativity all around the continent, and has exposed global audiences to a diverse group of African artists through the African Film Festival.  Her initiative capitalizes on new technology and a rising global appetite for new and different voices. 

Ambassador for African Cinema Award

Ms. Mahen Bonetti

And another scientist is using the resources inside the Rockefeller Foundation to develop new, climate-resilient, insect-based techniques for growing food, cutting food loss, improving nutrition, and reducing hunger.  In thanking the AAI, the honoree noted that she’s proof of “how a small scholarship can make a giant difference”.

Distinguished Alumna Award

Ms. Mahen Bonetti

The AAI also honored the people and government of Botswana, noting that the country has invested in the well-being of its people through policies supporting education, health, environmental stewardship, and entrepreneurship.  The country has made radical improvements in its health and educational systems, which will allow Botswana’s citizens to transition to a knowledge-based economy.  Testimonials from a number of world-renowned healthcare institutions showed the focus on science and innovation from the government—this will help Botswana develop the vaccine manufacturing facility that is currently being built.  The president of Botswana gratefully accepted the honor, citing the contributions made by many ministers, his predecessor, and the country’s long-standing commitment to democracy and good governance.

National Achievement Award

His Excellency Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana

Overall, the event was thoroughly uplifting.  The diversity of honorees, quality of the entertainment, and enthusiasm of the audience made for a very successful event.  And best of all, AAI showed how its programs and graduates can help Africa make a growing contribution to solving the problems faced by the whole world.

Melissa Cook

Melissa Cook
Founder and Managing Director of African Sunrise Partners, an independent research and advisory firm. She is a past member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa.  She is a well-known friend of Africa and is a regular speaker at major conferences and events. Ms. Cook has traveled to 16 African nations during over 50 trips in the past ten years — building an invaluable base of knowledge and contacts.

Africa-America Institute Hosts its Annual Awards Gala

Eenriching the social fabric of humanity.

Ceremony Honored the Remarkable Achievements of Africa

2022 Honorees


The Africa-America Institute (AAI) strives to enrich the social fabric of humanity by connecting students and leaders across sectors, facilitating access to reliable information about Africa, and transforming the way we understand Africa and its worldwide diaspora.   Since its founding in 1953, AAI has awarded scholarships and fellowships to over 23,000 Africans. These individuals comprise an esteemed network of alumni, many of whom are leaders and influencers across public, private, and governmental sectors in Africa and globally. Included in this network are current Heads of State, H.E. Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia; H.E. Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; H.E. Mohamed Bazoum, President of the Republic of Niger; and H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa. Many of AAI’s Alumni have left an indelible imprint, including the late 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Mathaai and the late Barack Obama, Sr.

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