Wallace (Randy) Short, an 18-year-old senior at William McKinley Senior High School, was born to travel. In fact, Short says, he was born on the move: in an elevator in George Washington University Hospital.

This time, Short, whose 16-page paper won the second annual Africare essay contest, will be taking off, courtesy of the nonprofit group, on a seven-day tour of Niger and Senegal, along with a two-day tour of Paris.

Short, who lives at 226 Ascot Pl. NE, will be a freshman at the University of Virginia this fall. In an interview yesterday, he said that one reason he entered the contest was because "my family originally came from Senegal in 1731" and winning would provide "my chance to kiss the soil of the motherland."

Short was given the award this week in one of several ceremonies held to celebrate Africare Week, which ended yesterday with speeches and awards presentations at Howard University Law School.

The honors student, whose father is a world-traveled Pentecostal minister, already has visited Australia, New Zealand and Bermuda with his parents. The Australian trip, he said, came after his father, traveling in Singapore, met two Australian clergymen who assured him that there was no racism there. They invited his father to see for himself and the family spent two months touring Australia.

"I can assure you, racism is alive and well in Australia," Short said yesterday.

In his essay, Short, who interviewed South African and Nigerian embassy officials as well as U.S. Commerce Department officials, traced political, economic and strategic interests between the United States and Africa.

Short called for increased U.S. aid to Africa, a continent of "immense political and diplomatic importance" to this country and one that is a "center of a struggle" between the Soviet Union and the United States.

"A stable Africa means a stable United States . . . ," he wrote. "Africa is a great land; it needs help to develop. America is a great nation; it needs the love of Africa's people within its borders and beyond to survive."

"Africa's problems are huge," Short acknowledged in his paper, with a "vast need for development capital." But he concluded that "when the U.S. and Africa work together, the answers to both lands' problems will be solved."

Eleven persons received awards yesterday at a reception at Howard University Law School sponsored by Africare, a 12-year-old, private, nonprofit organization that works to improve conditions in rural Africa through emergency assistance and self-help programs in agriculture, education and health. Africare is funded by foundations, corporations, the federal government, and private groups and individuals.

Honored were: Niger President Gen. Seyni Kountche; Fisk University professor Ethel L. Payne; Africare treasurer Clyde B. Richardson; Dolly D. Adams, national president of The Links, Inc.; Oumarou G. Youssoufou, executive secretary and United Nations ambassador of the Organization of African Unity; Lesotho's ambassador, M'Alineo N. Tau; Africare Seattle Chapter president Dorothy F. Mann, and William Lucy, international secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

An award also was given to the Besser Foundation, in recognition of the Michigan-based foundation's contributions to African development.