The Ugandan Diaspora community in Canada has selected celebrated journalist and broadcaster, Dr Shaka Ssali, as its 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
He joins an exclusive but growing list of Ugandans, among them UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima and Kwatsi Alibaruho, the black NASA Flight director, who have broken barriers to shine internationally.
A holder of doctorate degree in cross-cultural communication from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Shaka, born in Kabale District, retired from the US broadcaster, Voice of America, in May after 29 years, 20 of them as the founder, host and later managing editor of the legendary Straight Talk Africa talk show programme.
“The choice of Shaka to get recognised this year, is partly informed by the timing of his departure from the silver television screen/international stage (VoA). In the era in which we have lost some of our finest people, I am of the conviction that celebrating their contribution and impact in some of our lives is crucial,” Mr Ronald Mayanja, a co-convener of Uganda-Canadian Business Expo and Convention, said.
Dr Shaka will receive the award at the 4th Annual Uganda-Canadian Business Expo and Convention in Toronto due this weekend, scheduled to coincide with Uganda’s 59th independence anniversary.
Mr Mayanaja added: “The award is also meant to inspire the next generation of leaders to shoot for the stars; that if the Kabale kid could reach [US capital], Washington [DC], then we too can reach moon. It is a lifetime achievement award but I prefer to call it a Lifetime Recognition for the testimony and legacy ndugu Shaka leaves us in the field of journalism.”
Organisers consider Shaka’s story as inspirational because he rose in the ranks from a village boy in south-western Uganda who dropped out of school and became a child soldier before taking leap of faith with a journey to the United States, where he exceeded his dreams, rising to influence beyond borders.
He interviewed Africa’s most notable voices in academia, business and politics, among them presidents and prime ministers, and connected that with the thoughts of ordinary citizens to create a discourse about contemporary, leadership, governance and development agenda in Africa and a better future for the continent.
His guttural voice rang out from the VoA studios to create a platform, as tributes in his last show indicated, for the poor and rich, the powerful and powerless across Africa to interact.
Dr Shaka is a former Ford Foundation fellow and has received numerous honours, including a United Nations Peacekeeping Special Achievement Award in International Journalism, according to information curated from various websites.
During his stellar journalism careers, he won VoA’s Best Journalist Award, The Uganda Diaspora Award 2011, and his alma mater, Kigezi College Butobere’s maiden Highest Achievement Award in International Human Communication.
Mr Mayanja, the co-convener and coordinator of the Toronto Convention, in an email response noted that they selected Dr Shaka because of his accomplishment and contributions to the world are part of Uganda’s global success story and he “touched many lives on many continents”.