Africa Prize

The Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger

In 1987, The Hunger Project launched the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger to call forth the committed, effective leadership that Africa desperately needs. The Africa Prize celebrates, acknowledges and honors the accomplishments of individuals who have exhibited extraordinary leadership for the end of hunger.

Purpose of the Africa Prize

The Africa Prize honors a distinguished African man or woman who has exhibited exceptional leadership in bringing about the sustainable end of hunger at the national, regional or continent-wide level.

The Africa Prize focuses on individuals working in areas such as public policy, science, agriculture, education and health whose leadership and policies reflect courage, initiative, creativity, and, in some cases, personal sacrifice.

The Africa Prize acknowledges and honors the recipient’s outstanding contribution to the general well-being of the people of Africa. In addition, the Africa Prize seeks to generate heightened awareness within the world community of the many African leaders who are making the difficult decisions and taking the necessary actions to resolve the pressing agricultural and economic, political and social issues facing the continent.

Ultimately, the Africa Prize is intended to engender a greater appreciation for and support of the effective and dynamic leadership associated with the end of hunger in Africa on a sustainable basis.

Laureates of the Africa Prize are presented a sculpture by the famed artist Takenobu Igarashi and a cash award of US$100,000 to further their work for the sustainable end of hunger. The Prize has been awarded at prestigious black-tie award ceremonies in New York City, London, Tokyo, Rome and Washington, D.C.

Leadership from Every Sector and Level of Society

The Africa Prize has redefined the very meaning of leadership – expanding it from the traditional “head man” model of leadership to include leadership of both women and men, and leadership from every level and sector of society.

The first Africa Prize was presented to President Abdou Diouf of Senegal in 1987. As chair of the Organization of African Unity in 1985-86, President Diouf played a pivotal role in forging a continent-wide plan for famine recovery. Working with UNICEF, his country was the first to achieve universal child immunization.After receiving the Africa Prize, President Diouf invited The Hunger Project to launch its first on-the-ground African program in Senegal in 1991.


Africa faces unique challenges in health, the environment and agriculture that demand African solutions. In 1992, the Africa Prize was awarded to Dr. Ebrahim Samba, who later became the Africa regional director for the World Health Organization.For centuries, much of the richest farmland in West Africa was idle due to the threat of river blindness. Beginning in 1980, Dr. Samba managed a team of 800 scientists, physicians and pilots, 97 percent of whom were African, in a successful program that has eliminated river blindness from an 11-country region.


Once the Africa Prize was established at the head-of-state level, we then awarded it to grassroots leaders to emphasize that mobilizing action at the grassroots was equally important to a new future for Africa.One of these grassroots leaders, honored by The Hunger Project in 1989, is Dr. Bernard Ouédraogo, founder of the Naam movement of Burkina Faso, Africa’s largest and most successful grassroots movement for self-reliance. He has motivated hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers in the dry Sahel region of West Africa to take charge of their own development.Dr. Ouédraogo participated in the first-ever meeting of Africa Prize laureates, which led to the expansion of The Hunger Project, initially in West Africa and now across the continent.



In its most radical, and most important, expansion of the definition of leadership, the Africa Prize has been awarded to women leaders who, against all odds, have found within themselves the courage and strength to assert their leadership for a better future for Africa.One of the first women to win the Africa Prize was Wangari Maathai in 1991. Prof. Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement of Kenya, one of the world’s most successful programs to combine community development and environmental protection. The movement has enhanced the self-reliance and self-confidence of tens of thousands of people living in poverty.After receiving the Prize, Prof. Maathai became an international spokesperson at the Rio Environmental Conference of 1992; subsequently, she was jailed by the Moi regime for her opposition to environmental destruction. When a new government came to power, she became deputy minister for the environment. In 2004, Prof. Maathai became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. As she has frequently said, “The Africa Prize gave me my first platform.”

A Catalyst for New Strategies


In 1999, in a unique departure from honoring individuals, we focused the prestige of the Prize on honoring those who are doing the most for the well-being of the African people: the millions of women who grow Africa’s food. We used the Prize to launch a special US$1 million initial investment in a program of credit, training and savings to make African women food farmers real economic players, with a voice in their communities.

The Africa Prize was accepted by Nagbila Aisseta, a formerly illiterate woman farmer from Burkina Faso. She was accompanied home by a delegation of investors from 10 countries, and was met at the airport by high government officials, the media and thousands of women. After meeting the prime minister, and after three months of rallies on the importance of empowering women farmers, she carried the Prize statue, like the Olympic torch, to the next Hunger Project country (Benin), where the process was repeated by another woman food farmer, and then again and again in each African country in which The Hunger Project works.

Today, about 45,000 partners (75 percent of whom are women) are actively participating in our Microfinance Program (as AWFFI is now called). In 2010, they deposited savings totaling $1 million. They have become literate, improved their farms, grown more food, started businesses, earned more money and kept their daughters in school. Dozens have become so confident and bold that they have been elected to local office. Learn more about the Microfinance Program.


In 2001, coinciding with the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS, the Africa Prize was presented to four African AIDS activists and was used to launch The Hunger Project’s AIDS initiative.

Gender inequality fuels the spread of HIV/AIDS. Societal gender roles encourage men to have unsafe sex with multiple partners, and leave women powerless to negotiate safe sex. To address these problems, The Hunger Project created a grassroots-level workshop that empowers rural communities to know the facts about AIDS and launch campaigns to change dangerous gender behaviors.

Since this workshop was launched in 2003, more than 1.1 million people have participated in it at Hunger Project epicenters across Africa. The workshop has resulted in increased demand for both male and female condoms, reduction in sexually transmitted disease, marked reduction in domestic violence, and visibly shifting gender behaviors, such as men taking responsibility for a share of child care and household chores.

Africa Prize Laureates

Hunger in Africa has moved the world’s heart on many occasions. But sympathy, charity and emergency relief will not solve the underlying problems.

It is the men and women of Africa who must provide the leadership to achieve the sustainable end of hunger. The laureates of the Africa Prize are outstanding leaders from every level and every sector of society. Individually, their accomplishments have improved the lives of tens of millions of people. Together, they represent a new possibility.

Africa Prize laureates represent a body of leadership with the moral authority and the track record of success to chart a new future – to create new strategies and launch new initiatives for a future free from hunger.


Dr. Florence Chenoweth

Liberian Minister of Agriculture

Dr. Chenoweth, the first woman in Africa to be Minister of Agriculture, fights for gender-equal agricultural rights and resources.


Faiza Jama Mohamed

Africa Regional Director of Equality Now

Faiza Jama Mohamed, has spent the last 25 years fighting for women’s rights throughout the African continent.


Janet Nkubana

Founder and President, Gahaya Links

After the devastating war and genocide, Janet Nkubana returned to her native Rwanda, where she organized rural women into a basket weaving cooperative, Gahaya Links, now nearly 4,000 weavers strong,


H. E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

President of Liberia

President Sirleaf is the first woman elected to the presidency of an African nation. She has launched programs to rebuild her nation after 14 years of civil war.


Meaza Ashenafi

Founder, Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association and Chairperson, Enat Bank

Meaza Ashenafi’s organization has led the charge for women’s rights across the political spectrum and across the nation. She has championed women’s rights in the areas of domestic violence, sexual abuse, family, economic and land rights.


Sara Longwe

Gender consultant, Zambia

Sara Longwe, a writer and mobilizer, has pioneered the use of international human rights laws in the fight for women’s rights in domestic courts. She served 6 years as chairperson of FEMNET, a pan-African network that aims to strengthen the role African NGOs in focusing on women’s rights.


Amelia Jacob

Co-founder, SHDEPHA+, Tanzania

Amelia Jacob is an HIV positive woman who had the courage to step forward as a spokesperson and activist. She co-founded Service Health and Development for People Living Positively with HIV/AIDS (SHDEPHA+) to stand up for the rights of HIV positive people, and to ensure “all positive people have the chance to live positively – without fear, discrimination or denial.”


Bishop Dennis H. de Jong (1931-2003

Integrated AIDS Programme, Zambia

Under Bishop de Jong’s leadership, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ndola has established a comprehensive set of programs for prevention, education and community-based care. Bishop de Jong has brought integrity and forthrightness to the programs, allowing participants to explore issues of sexual behavior and personal responsibility rather than only promoting abstinence as the way to prevent HIV/AIDS.




Hiwot AIDS Prevention Care and Support Organization (HAPCSO) is a local grassroots organization seeking to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia by creating awareness of HIV/AIDS in the community and by working to change behavior.



Men’s Forum on Gender, Zimbabwe

Committed to creating a gender-just society in Zimbabwe, Padare/Enkundleni/Men’s Forum on Gender examines the underlying male stereotypes that have lead to the spread of HIV/AIDS and encourages men to take responsibility for their own behavior as well as prevention and care of the epidemic


The African Woman Food Farmer

Her future is Africa’s future

Women are Africa’s most important – and least supported producers – producing 80% of Africa’s food. Yet women receive only 7% of agricultural extension services and 1% of agricultural credit.


Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

Former President of Uganda

President Museveni has made it his mission to ensure peace and stability, adequate social services, support for farmers and diversification of the economy.


Celina Cossa

Founder and Leader of the General Union of Agricultural Cooperatives

Founded an organization of 10,000 peasants, 95 percent of whom are women. The 200 cooperatives produce food for members and their families, and are generating a surplus that enables them to supply the markets in Maputo, the Mozambican capital.


H. E. Joaquim Chissano

Former President of Mozambique

Is reviving Mozambique’s economy with programs that promote rural marketing, provide access to credit and raise the productivity of small-scale farmers.


Joyce Banda

Founder, National Assn. of Business Women of Malawi

Founded organization that has empowered thousands of women, predominantly rural, to become economically self-reliant.


H. E. Amadou Toumani Touré

Former President of Mali

Brought democracy to his country by ending 23 years of single party rule in 1991.


Chief Bisi Ogunleye

Founder, Country Women’s Association of Nigeria

Founded Network of African Rural Women Associations that is widely known for its programs in credit, agriculture and small business development.


H. E. Sam Nujoma

Former President of the Republic of Namibia

President Nujoma led his nation to independence over a 30-year period, and is now leading it to reconciliation and rapid progress in the rural areas.


Mrs. Joyce F. Mungherera (1934 – 2015)

National Executive Director, YWCA – Uganda

Under Mrs. Mungherera’s leadership, the YWCA – Uganda has grown into a powerful force for literacy, family planning and improved incomes. With 1.5 million paying members and 1,000 staff, it is one of the largest nongovernmental organizations in Africa.


H. E. Nelson Mandela

Former President of the Republic of South Africa

In peacefully ending apartheid, President Mandela ended one of the greatest causes of hunger in the region. Today, he is leading South Africa to meet its next great challenge – liberation from hunger, want and deprivation.


H. E. Jerry John Rawlings

Former President of the Republic of Ghana

President Rawlings has transformed his country from a condition of economic crisis to a model of self-reliance, consistently focusing on the need for increased food production.


Father Nzamujo Godfrey

Director, Songhai Project, Benin

“Commitment to Excellence” is the motto of the innovative research and training center established by Father Nzamujo in Benin. A Dominican priest, Father Nzamujo left a comfortable job in the US when famine hit the continent in 1984.


Mrs. Graça Simbine Machel

President, Foundation for Community Development, Mozambique

Mrs. Machel, at the time of Mozambique’s independence, took responsibility for the most vital step in nation building the education of mozambique’s people. During her decade of service as minister of education, student enrollment nearly tripled.


Dr. Ebrahim M. Samba

Africa Regional Director, World Health Organization

For centuries, much of the richest farmland in West Africa was idle due to the threat of River Blindness. Since 1980, Dr. Samba has managed a team of 800 scientists, physicians and pilots 97 per cent of whom are African in a successful program that has eliminated river blindness from an 11country region.


Mrs. Maryam Ibrahim Babangida

Founder, Better Life Programme for the Rural Women (BLP), Nigeria

Mrs. Babangida was the founder of the Better Life Program for the Rural Woman, a program which has achieved dramatic results since its founding in 1987 and seeks to empower women’s social, economic and political status.


Prof. Wangari Muta Maathai

Founder, Green Belt Movement, Kenya

Professor Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement of Kenya, one of the world’s most successful programs to combine ecommunity development and environmental protection. The movement has enhanced the selfreliance and selfconfidence of tens of thousands of people living in poverty.


H. E. Olusegun Obasanjo

Former President of Nigeria; founder, Africa Leadership Forum

Olusegun Obasanjo is a vigorous advocate of disarmament, democracy, agriculture and development, and has spoken out unflinchingly on the challenges facing Africa. To set an example for the importance of agriculture in his country, he became a farmer himself upon leaving office after his first term.


Dr. Esther Afua Ocloo (1919-2002)

Founder and first chair, Women’s World Banking

Dr. Ocloo, a highly successful entrepreneur, industrialist, philanthropist and international leader, was the first woman to be awarded the Africa Prize for Leadership. She has devoted her life to providing appropriate training and access to credit for African women so that they can start their own enterprises.


H. E. Dr. Ketsumile Masire

Former President of the Republic of Botswana

President Masire has directed the fruits of Botswana’s strong economic growth to small-scale farmers. When Botswana was hit by drought from 1981 to 1987, President Masire pledged that not one person would starve. Through programmed of nutritional surveillance, early warning systems, food distribution and “cash for work,” he kept that pledge.


Dr. Bernard L. Ouédraogo

President and founder, the Naam movement, Burkina Faso Co-founder, International Six-S Association

Dr. Ouédraogo is a founder and leader of Africa’s largest and most successful grassroots movements for self reliance. He has motivated hundreds of thousands of small scale farmers in the dry Sahel region of West Africa to take command of their own development.

(See our August 2001 statement on the situation in Zimbabwe).


H. E. Abdou Diouf

Former President of the Republic of Senegal

As chair of the Organization of African Unity in 1985-86, President Diouf of Senegal played a pivotal role in forging a continent-wide consensus on a priority program for Africa’s recovery.


Professor Thomas R. Odhiambo (1931-2003)

Director, RANDFORUM: Research and Development Forum for Science-Led Development in Africa; former Director, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi, Kenya

Professor Odhiambo was one of the world’s leading scientists. His research focused on developing environmentally sound solutions to the pressing need for increased food production and improved health in rural communities.

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