South Africa’s Dr. Sooliman emerges African Of The Year 2023
By Rashidat Oladele
South African altruist, Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman, has emerged winner of the Daily Trust African of the Year award for 2023.
Sooliman, a medical doctor who gave up his career to pursue the field of humanitarian aid, was named winner of the coveted award on Friday, December 1, 2023 at the end of the virtual meeting of the pan-African prize committee.
The six-member committee is chaired by former Prime Minister of Botswana, His Excellency, Dr. Festus Mogae who succeeded the pioneer Chairman and former Prime Minister of Tanzania, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim.
Mr. Amadou Mahtar Ba, the acting chairman who unveiled the winner, said Dr. Sooliman’s work transcends the boundaries of race, religion, culture, class and geography.
Mr. Ba, who is Executive Chairman of AllAfrica Global Media Incorporated, said the winner was chosen out of nine finalists drawn from a list of 736 nominations received at the end of the first phase of the selection process in October, 2023.
A press release issued by the Secretariat of the Daily Trust African of the Year Award and signed by Ahmed I. Shekarau, described Dr. Sooliman as “a worthy and exemplary humanitarian, characterised by his solid belief in the common humanity that unites people of the world.
Mr. Shekarau, who is the Ag. Group Chief Executive Officer of the Media Trust Group, promoters of the award, said Dr. Sooliman and his relief workers have always identified with victims and provided relief materials wherever disasters strike, since 1992.
“He has guided the Gift of the Givers Foundation for more than 30 years to respond to andj dispatch humanitarian and medical supplies to disaster areas on the continent and abroad”, the statement added.
“From the provision of food parcels in impoverished communities in South Africa to search and rescue teams and medical specialists in response to natural and man-made disasters, Gift of the Givers has shown commitment to alleviating human sufferings in varying contexts”.
Mr. Shekarau cited examples of the Foundation’s interventions in Turkey, shortly after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake of 6th February, 2023; the provision of food parcels, potable water, mattresses, clothing and hygiene packs to community members affected by the devastating flooding in Komani (formerly Queenstown) in Eastern Cape of South Africa, in February, 2023; as well as notable interventions in Libya, in the wake of the distressing flooding of September 11, 2023 in Shahhat City.
He said the Gift of Givers has since the outbreak of the October 7, 2023 war in Gaza Strip equally been providing humanitarian support to victims, resulting in the killing of the head of its relief workers in the Region, Ahmed Abbasi, on the 16th of November, 2023.
The nine finalists included Qabale Duba, a Kenyan Nurse/Epidemiologist by profession, who is using the Qabale Duba Foundation to educate nomadic pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya; and Tatenda Ndambakuwa, a Zimbabwean Mathematician and Urban Planner, who is passionate about ending hunger, and is using her organization called Shiri, a digital platform, to connect farmers to critical resources like weather updates, market prices, and farming tips.
Also among the finalists is Dr. Ola Orekunrin, a Nigerian medical doctor and helicopter pilot, who founded the Flying Doctors Nigeria, West Africa’s first Air Ambulance Service, which she uses to take trauma care to the most remote parts of West Africa.
NatureNews reports that the African of the Year Award project was instituted in 2008 by Daily Trust, one of Nigeria’s leading independent newspapers, in line with its commitment to African unity and sustainable development.
The African of the Year award recognises and rewards an exemplary African who has made extra-ordinary contributions to human development in any part of the continent, and in any sphere of human endeavour in the award year.
Congolese medical doctor, Denis Mukwege, is the first African of the Year award winner in 2008. Exactly 10 years after the Daily Trust recognition, Dr. Mukwege won the Noble Peace Prize in 2018, for his wonderful work of treating women who had been abused and raped in his war-torn country.
Other members of the pan-African Advisory Board/Prize Committee are: Ambassador Ms. Mona Omar Attia (North Africa), Ms. Gwen Lister (Southern Africa), Mr. Amadou Mahtar Ba (West Africa), Pastor Rigobert Bihuzo Minani (Central Africa), and Mr. Kabiru A. Yusuf, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Media Trust Group, who represents the award promoters on the Selection Board.
The award comes with a cash prize, and the presentation of the 2023 award will be done during the Daily Trust Dialogue in January, 2024.