On Friday, May 25, 2018, the last day of the African Development Bank Annual Meetings, which were held this year in Busan, Korea, the Bank celebrated Africa Day, which commemorates the memory of the founding conference of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) on May 25, 1963.
Four finalists invited to Busan
The high point of this commemoration was the awards ceremony for the winners of the Africa of my Dreams writing contest launched by the Bank last February. From over the over 2,000 entries received, four finalists were chosen for the quality of their writing and their creativity. At the Bank’s invitation, all four travelled to Busan to receive their awards from the President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, in the main auditorium of the BEXCO Convention Centre in Busan.
English and French being the official languages of the Bank, each of the prizes was awarded in one of the two languages.
The two top prize-winners were Geraldine Mukumbi of Zimbabwe for the English-language category, and Togo’s Ayi Renaud Dossavi-Alipoeh for the French.
The runners-up were both from French-speaking countries as well. Although she was born and grew up in Abidjan, the Ivorian Ramatou Ly, who is studying for a doctorate in the United States, preferred to write in English. It was Cédric Somé from Burkina Faso who came second for the French language category. He works in Human Resources for an international firm in Senegal. “It is very rare for young Africans to be given the opportunity to express themselves,” he said, recalling his surprise on learning that his writing had been chosen. “And even when they are, no one pays much attention.”
A happy coincidence, the first and second prizes reflect perfect equality, with both going to a woman and a man. Geraldine Mukumbi was keen to pay tribute to “the forthright women who brought her up” and thus inspired in her a love of stories.
Winners who embody a diverse, talented and mobile Africa
While Cédric Somé and Geraldine Mukumbi both have a background in the humanities (Cédric has a degree in Literature and Philosophy and specialized in Human Resources Management, while Geraldine studied English literature and African studies.), the other two prize-winners have a more scientific profile: Ramatou Ly is studying for a doctorate in one of the most advanced fields, materials science and engineering; while Ayi Renaud Dossavi-Alipoeh has a degree in biology, but has devoted herself to writing, with a blog and five published books to his credit, for of which are poetry.
Another sign of this Africa which is pushing the boundaries is embodied in the number of young people from the continent who are mobile and open to the world. Geraldine Mukumbi now teaches in Bratislava, in Slovenia. Born in Abidjan, Ramatou Ly achieved a master’s degree in France before going on to study for doctorate in Texas. After studying in Burkina Faso, Cédric Somé continued his studies in Morocco and then in Senegal – where he now lives.
Shaping the Africa of tomorrow
“My main aim in taking part in the contest was to become an advocate for African youth as one who believes in the potential of Africans and science and technology in Africa,” said Ramatou Ly. Cédric Somé said, “I wanted to use my pen to tell the Bank that young Africans like us are aware of the precarious situation of the continent and ready to do our bit.” That was precisely the aim of the African Development Bank in organizing the contest: to give a voice to young Africans and let them show off their talent and creativity, underscoring that they are the future of the continent and thus have a role to play in shaping the Africa of tomorrow.
“Our finalists embody, in many ways, the creative energy and talent of millions of young Africans who deserve to be given the chance to achieve their full potential,” said Victor Oladokun, Director of Communication and External Relations at the African Development Bank and Master of Ceremonies at the award ceremony. “At the Bank, we are extremely proud of the finalists of the Africa of my Dreams contest and we wish them every possible success in their future careers.”
The ceremony for the presentation of trophies and gifts (portable computers for first place and tablets for second place) was followed by a fashion show featuring celebrated African designers Pathé’O (Burkina Faso) and Alphadi (Niger). This year’s Africa Day ended with a concert by the Cameroonian singer and bass-player Richard Bona, a lively culmination to the last day of the Annual Meetings of the Bank.