Michael Otto has been awarded the Walter Scheel Prize for his commitment to development cooperation. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development presented the Hamburg businessman with the award for founding the Aid by Trade Foundation and the Cotton made in Africa initiative, which seeks to improve the living conditions of African smallholders.
The Aid by Trade Foundation pursues an innovative development cooperation goal: instead of sending donations to Africa, its Cotton made in Africa initiative provides help for self-help through trade on the principle of “social business”. It has created an alliance of international textile companies that purchase and process sustainably grown African cotton for the world market. The initiative improves the living conditions of around 240,000 African smallholders in this way. Michael Otto, who started up the Aid by Trade Foundation in 2005, is currently chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
The idea for setting up the Foundation and the initiative came at the fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancún in 2003. The negotiations there had stalled because of protests by African states against distortions in trade caused by farming subsidies. In order to rectify this injustice in global trade and to improve the income of cotton growers in Africa, Michael Otto created the Cotton made in Africa initiative and the Aid by Trade Foundation.
The prize was awarded for the first time this year on 26 May 2011 in Berlin in the presence of former president Walter Scheel, after whom it is named. It is given to individuals and organisations performing particular services to development in society. The other recipients apart from Michael Otto were Ulrich Wickert for the non-governmental organisation Plan International, the retired German women’s footballer Nia Künzer, and the Ethiopian business consultant and writer Dr. Asfa-Wossen Asserate.