Source: Heritage
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has received the African-American Institute's (AAI) African National Achievement Award for Literacy to Support Life Skills. The Liberian leader was one of five honorees to have received an AAI award at a dinner in their honor at New York City's Grand Hyatt Hotel on September 26th.

Other recipients included: President Joyce Banda of Malawi, who received the AAI Award for Championing Women's Rights and Business Leadership; Founding Chair and Co-President of the Sirleaf Market Women's Fund, Dr. Thelma Awori, who received the Institute's 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award; the CEO and Chairman of Equatorial Cross Acquisitions Ltd., Nik Amarteifio who also received the 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award; and the Chair of Lazare Kaplan International Inc., Maurice Templesman, who received the AAI 2012 Distinguished Trustee Award.

According to an Executive Mansion Dispatch from New York, President Sirleaf, upon accepting the award, said:"I do so on behalf of the thousands and thousands of women farmers, women marketers who spend a lot of time in the sun and the rain, ensuring that the nation is fed; who take great risks for peace in times of trouble; who grieve when they don't have the means to send their children to school; who pray for our nation's prosperity; to them, I give this award". To the AAI, she expressed gratitude and special thanks.

President Sirleaf also dedicated the award to the many people who have been on that long road with her. "I don't dare call their names because they are so many and I don't want to miss anyone," she said, adding, "As I look around the room and our eyes connect, they know that I know what they've done for me, for women, for Liberia and for Africa."

Earlier, the Chair of the AAI Board of Trustees, Kofi Appenteng, welcoming guests to the event, said this year's dinner gala, celebrated under the theme: "Jobs for Africa's Future," is premised on AAI's understanding that no strategy to develop the private sector and achieve economic growth and prosperity in Africa can succeed without accounting for the pivotal role of youth and women.

"In 2012," Mr. Appenteng said, "the African continent, much like the rest of the entire world, is facing a serious job crisis, especially for the youth ages 15-24. Among those already in the workforce, some 85% of African women are more likely than men to be in vulnerable employment."

Despite this, the AAI Board Chair indicated that the African continent boasts one of the world's fastest growing economic regions, with increasingly attractive prospects for investment and a growing middle class; with a majority of African countries averaging more than 6% growth per annum; Africa's consumer spending expected to reach more than US$1 trillion by 2020; Africa's rapidly emerging middle class, which now comprises over 300 million people; and that at nearly 40%, the level of women's entrepreneurship in Africa is higher than in any other world region.

In her farewell message, the outgoing President and CEO of AAI, Mora McLean, said serving at the helm of Institute had been an honor and privilege. As the AAI approaches its 60th Anniversary, she said, it is poised to harness the power of a unique, multi-generational, multi-disciplinary and transnational network of highly trained Africans who are applying their acquired skills and natural talents to benefit others in Africa and around the world.

She noted that under new dynamic leadership, AAI is committed to revamping its mission and developing new programs to support and engage the active participation of AAI Alumni in efforts to advance the cause of African progress.

"Tonight as I pass on the baton, I want to say how deeply indebted I am to my AAI colleagues, our institutional partners, donors and contributors, and AAI Trustees, past and present who, through thick and thin, have worked on AAI's behalf with generosity, grace and no small amount of wisdom," Mrs. McLean said, concluding, "It has been an amazing journey: always challenging, at times exhilarating - and every bit of it worthwhile. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you."

AAI was founded in 1953 by a small group of visionaries who saw the need to provide Africans with advanced education and professional training opportunities, enabling them to grow into effective leaders. Nearly 60 years later, they have produced 23,000 alumni who have benefitted from AAI-administered scholarships. AAI alumni continue to distinguish themselves and impact the lives of others in positive and far-reaching ways.

More On Legislative Spotlight

At the latest edition of The USAID Funded NDI/LMDI LEGISLATIVE POTLIGHT, Grand Bassa County District #3 Representative, Gabriel Smith, has expressed optimism that the new Coastal Defense Fund of Liberia will save the country from future Sea erosion along the coastal belt of Liberia.

Rep. Smith also indicated that the coastal Defense Fund would address some challenges posed by climate change. He warned that coastal erosion if left unchecked could lead to the destruction of coastal line communities, beaches and all of their natural attractions.

Mr. Smith, who is the crafter of the bill seeking to protect Liberia's Coastal line Communities, lamented that it was a matter of urgency and a compelling need to save the country's coastal belt that the bill was passed by members of the 53rd National Legislature.

Appearing on the LMDI/NDI Legislative Spotlight on Wednesday, September 26, 2012, the Grand Bassa County Lawmaker said for the past five years the world has witnessed an unprecedented rise in Sea level influence by climate Change with its attending environmental consequences. Representative Smith also said the global phenomenon of Climate Change poses serious threat to the Planet, leading to crisis with crops, livestock and coastal areas being destroyed.

"The time to act is now and Government cannot effectively respond to the Economic, Social and Security threats posed by Sea erosion without the establishment of a coastal Defense Fund," said Representative Smith as he named Montserrado, Buchanan, Cape Palmas, Robertsports and Greenville as some of Liberia's Cities already affected by Sea erosion. The coastal Defense act charges the Liberia Maritime Authority with the responsibility of protecting Liberia's coastal belt against erosion, he indicated.

According to the act, the Maritime Authority (LMA) will employ hard and soft engineering technologies such as beach nourishment, construction of Sea Walls, boulders, revetments, groins and gabions. The LMA is also empowered to lobby and raise funds through an escrow account subject to a quarterly review by the legislature to implement its agenda.

The LMA will work in consultation with EPA and the Ministry of Lands Mines and Energy to formulate policies that would ensure clean and sanitary conditions for beaches and coastal communities Representative Smith concluded.

Deliberations from the LEGISLATIVE SPOTLIGHT were recorded and produced into a one hour radio and TV program for syndication and subsequent broadcast on LMDI's entire National and Rural partner Network of 45 electronic Media outlets across Liberia. The LEGISLATIVE SPOTLIGHT is an NDI/LMDI initiative with support from the USAID is working to increase public Awareness on the 53rd Legislature and establish a link between the lawmakers and their constituents.

This program is made possible by the generous support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development USAID. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Government.

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