By Own Correspondent – Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas from Ghana was awarded the German Africa Prize (Deutscher Afrika-Preis 2010) on October 6, 2010 in Berlin. Dr. Ibn Chambas was the first president of the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) after having served previously as its Secretary General. The prize is awarded annually by the German-African Foundation.
Since 1993, the Deutsche Afrika-Stiftung has identified annually “modern Africans” whose outstanding personalities have contributed in a remarkable way to the continent’s well-being. Especially noted would be their involvement in the fields of human rights, peace, democracy or sustainable development. Dr. Christiana Thorpe, Chief of the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone, was the 2009 laureate.
This year, the selection committee singled out the ECOWAS Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas. His professional negotiation skills and understanding of regional integration have been decisive for the sub-continent. Western Africa is a region of extreme diversity, both in cultures and in languages, comprised of Francophone, Anglophone and Lusophone countries. They differ also in historical and economical terms.
During the awards ceremony in Berlin, Dr. Ibn Chambas emphasized his desire to share the award with all his colleagues in Western Africa; especially with countries that have ended armed conflict and civil wars in a sustainable way. He referred to the situation in Liberia and Sierra Leone by astutely noting, “the peaceful transfer of power is a feat that has not been achieved by many post-conflict countries – or even stable ones for that matter.”
He also remarked on the progress made in the field of economic growth, social development, democracy and good governance, saying that he perceived a “new and more positive image of Africa” is gradually emerging.
However, he also added: “Despite all the progress that has been recorded, the vast majority of Africans are still waiting for what I refer to as ‘the dividends of democracy’. For most of our people, improvements in governance practices are yet to translate into jobs, enhanced welfare and life-chances.”
The speakers at the German Africa Foundation function included the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Guido Westerwelle. The speakers were all pleased with award panel’s choice of someone who is acclaimed not only on the African continent.
Minister Westerwelle praised Dr. Ibn Chambas, stating “your foresight, courage, political sense and sensitivity, and your untiring dedication to freedom in peace, development and reconciliation have had a great impact on West Africa.”
During their annual meeting at their Brussels headquarters, Dr. Chambas was elected Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states (ACP). The majority of ACP countries are from Africa. Their integration into the global economy, poverty reduction and sustainable development are some of the organisation’s key objectives.
Before working at ECOWAS Dr. Chambas was a Member of Parliament and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ghana. In his acceptance speech in Berlin, he set forth his home country Ghana as an example. “Progress in improving governance in Ghana, now with a stable economy and a growing middle class demonstrates the positive dividends that accrue from consolidating democratic values and practices.”
He continued, “the Ghana we see today – characterized by a fiercely independent press, a relatively accountable public service, a vibrant civil society and a thriving private sector – is not the Ghana of several decades ago. …It is deeply gratifying that Ghana stands today as a shining example of what democracy and transformational leadership can achieve against all the odds.”