The Voice Achievers Awards will take place in Almere, Netherlands—on Friday, September 29th, 2023—under the theme, ‘Harnessing Our Diversity for The Advancement of Africa.’ Special Africans will be recognised, including Vice Versa Global, which will be awarded the Africa Media Award 2023. Eva Nakato talks to Pastor Ndubuisi Elvis Iruh, the Editor of the Voice Magazine and founder of these awards.
The Voice Achievers Award was established in the Netherlands as a project of The Voice Magazine to recognise Africans and friends of Africa for outstanding achievements every year. Since 2012, the award has taken a global stance by recognising people outside of the Netherlands. It is now an international event attended by hundreds of people.
Who is Pastor Elvis Iruh?
I am Pastor Ndubuisi Elvis Iruh, born on April 9th, 1965, in Owa-Alero, Delta State, Nigeria. I am a professional journalist who started practicing in Nigeria as a reporter, sports writer, and news editor. Due to the nature of my work, I was constantly arrested. So, I decided to travel abroad to continue with my career. I worked for several publications like the West African Magazine, The New Africa, and Trumpet in the UK, among others. On August 12th, 1999, I launched The Voice Magazine in the Netherlands. It has now become an established media house which just celebrated 24 years. In 2005, I was ordained as a pastor. Being a pastor and journalist has allowed me to connect with people through ministry and interviews.
Who was your greatest African inspiration growing up?
Being a journalist, I had some African leaders I admired, like Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. I admired their courage and determination to see their countries properly established. After his release from prison, Nelson Mandela became an iconic figure. His ability to move his country forward despite being tortured inspired me greatly.
What was the reason behind these Awards?
The magazine. When I came to the Netherlands, I realised there was nothing to represent the African voice or her interests. So, I had the idea of starting a magazine called The Voice. To my surprise, the first copies sold off really quickly. Every year after that, we would meet for a simple celebration of the magazine, though I felt the need to add more value. In 2012, we officially launched The Voice Achievers Awards. Our first recipient was the late Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. We wanted to ensure that his work in Zambia was being recognised in Europe.
How have the awards impacted the attendees over the years?
It has become an inspiration for them. It’s a constant reminder of their commitment to do more and work harder, to improve themselves, and to continue impacting Africa within their framework and capacity.
What do you consider as your most significant contribution through these awards?
Bringing people together is very important. In this part of the world, we have been told that Africans cannot work together and cannot be successful because of their differences. Well, we have shown that it is practically possible for us to work together. For 24 years, I worked with a magazine based in Rwanda. However, I left the magazine in the hands of a different team for six years while I was away doing missionary work in Kenya from 2005 to 2011. During my absence, the team did an exceptional job. I have also inspired many journalists to start similar projects, believing if I made it, so can they. The publication has given an open ground for others to come up. Simultaneously, the awards have given it a new dimension by recognising everyone in society—from the cleaner to the President—by bringing them together under one umbrella and platform.
What makes these Awards unique, and what should we expect at this particular event?
It is decided entirely by the people. My team and I have no hand in the final list of the awardees. When we open nominations, we allow them from everybody. Since we receive a lot of them, we have an Award Committee whose member’s identity remain anonymous to ensure there is no outside influence. This time, we had over one hundred applications, and expect forty awardees. This year’s theme is ‘Harnessing our diversity towards Africa’s advancement.’ We are trying to encourage the diaspora population to be involved with Africa’s development. Besides that, there is going to be a lot of entertainment, music, and boat rides for first-time guests to tour Holland.
What is the significance of Africans receiving awards?
If we don’t recognise ourselves, nobody will. We can identify ourselves and what we are doing because we have seen a lot of positivity from Africans towards Africa’s development. For example, people coming back from abroad to establish businesses. Another way we are giving back is through these awards, as a token of appreciation for the good work they have been doing.
Why is it important to highlight the achievements of African people every year?
Every year, I’m asked; Where do you discover these people from? This keeps encouraging the rest that if that person did it, they can do it too. Increasingly, more Africans are acknowledging the accomplishments of their fellow countrymen by nominating them in large numbers to be recognised.
What have been the greatest challenges and achievements?
I see challenges as a way of developing, not as a failure. So, each one we face, we improve on it the following year. We have observed this based on feedback from attendees about the current and past years. I don’t allow these accomplishments to get into my head. I am always critical about myself to improve. We have witnessed how sponsorships have declined recently due to the pandemic. After considering the situation, we asked attendees to cover the cost of the event by paying a fee, which they accepted. This demonstrates that Africans are now taking ownership of the event.
Any piece of advice for our young readers who are trying to follow their dreams in the diaspora?
Hard work, determination, and focus. Like you, young journalists from Vice Versa Global, your determination and hard work have earned you many compliments. That is why The Voice decided to recognise you this year. Let this be an encouragement to the young readers reading this. Do not relent. Take up opportunities that come your way.
Final words to the Award recipients of 2023?
May this award further encourage you to advance our continent. We don’t have any other. We can’t forget our roots and give all our talents to the West. Channel all your resources back to Africa.