Nigerian entrepreneur and activist, Dr. Nkiru Balonwu, was named alongside Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex and rap sensation Stormzy at the 2019 Powerlist Black Excellence Awards 2020 Awards in London. The annual awards, which was held on Friday 25 October, celebrates 100 of UK’s most influential people of African and Afro Caribbean heritage in business, the public sector, science, technology, sports, media and the arts.

Of the 100, only the top 10 names are ranked with Balonwu, British Vogue Editor, Edward Enninful OBE; Rap Sensation, Stormzy; Microsoft’s Jacky Wright; BT’s Micheal Sherman and Makeup artist and Founder Pat McGrath Labs, Pat McGrath in the top 10. Others making the top 100 but not ranked were Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle; Formula 1 world champion, Lewis Hamilton MBE; boxing champion, Anthony Joshua; Tech entrepreneur Nneka Abulokwe OBE; Impact X CEO, Eric Collins; as well as actors Idris Elba and John Boyega.

Now in its 14th year, the 2019 Black Excellence Awards dinner was held at London’s prestigious 8 Northumberland Avenue West end, with only five honorees receiving the evening’s five awards.

Ismail Ahmed, the Somaliland-born founder and chairman of WorldRemit, a digital money transfer company with over 4 million users worldwide received the 2020 Powerlist No. 1 Award. Mr. Ahmed’s revolutionary work at WorldRemit has made it possible for people in remote parts of Africa to receive money using their mobile phones. Dr. Nkiru Balonwu was awarded the Powerlist UK International Award, which is given to a person based outside of the UK who is considered to have distinguished themselves as a change-maker, innovator, inspiration and person of considerable influence. She received the honor for her work as founder and chair of African Women on Board (AWB), an independent, African women-led non-profit organization focused on advancing narratives and improving realities of women and girls of African heritage around the world. AWB works with partners such as Ford Foundation, Wikimedia, Bank of Industry, Nigerian Stock Exchange and other organizations on initiatives that advance narratives and improve realties for women and girls of African heritage globally

While accepting her award, Dr. Balonwu challenged the audience to look beyond stereotypes about women of African heritage. “What do you think of when you think of African women? Do you think of our unsung talents? Or the women on the African continent who have the highest rates of female entrepreneurship in the world?” she asked. “What if the solution to many of Africa’s problems were its women? Because clearly, you cannot win any game playing half your team” said Balonwu. As “African women we do not leave the fate of our children to our men alone, therefore she said, we cannot leave the fate of our continent to our men alone. African women need to get on board to create a brighter future for Africa and our children. We must begin by believing in ourselves and owning our strengths.”

The other three awards of the evening went to US businesswoman Ursula Burns, the Chairman and CEO of VEON, who was presented with the Lifetime Recognition Award. Tech educator and founder of the Urban Teacher, Mark Martin MBE who won the PwC Purpose Award; and Lord Simon Woolley of Woodford, founder and director of Operation Black Vote, who received the Powerlist 2020 Community Award.

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