Mail & Guardian President Jacob Zuma had the prestigious African President of the Year award 2009 bestowed on him on Tuesday. "As we accept these awards, it is proper that we pay special tribute to our African elders who fought for freedom and independence," Zuma said at the African Consciousness Media Leadership Awards ceremony in Johannesburg. "These leaders fought for the unity of the African people," he said. The award, founded by the African Consciousness Media and the Kenneth Kaunda Foundation, recognises achievement and serves to honour African leaders. Zuma said: "What is most special about the award is that it is Africans recognising what they regard as achievement and appreciating their own. "While individuals are singled out for awards, this ceremony is also about acknowledging the collective efforts of Africa's people to build a better life". African leaders pledged that they would strive for the eradication of poverty, disease and conflict, he said. They pledged to promote trade, investment, economic growth, skills development and stability on the continent. "To promote good governance, we established the African Peer Review Mechanism. To foster economic integration and development, we established the New Partnership for Africa's Development. "These must be the instruments we use to advance the cause of our continent," said Zuma.