As has become customary for several years now, New African has released its annual listing of the 100 Most Influential Africans (MIA) of 2019 in its December Edition. Who made the list and why? Find out here
The increasingly popular New African 100 Most Influential Africans listing provides a rapid review of some of the major events and developments across the continent through bite-sized highlights of achievements of individuals in various countries and most sectors of life.
As in previous years, we make no distinction between Africans living and working in the continent and those in the diaspora. They all have roots to and in Africa. And as we always indicate, this list is not exhaustive.
The MIA2019 Edition comes with four covers which feature: Amina J Mohammed the United Nations Deputy Secretary General; Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines; South Africans Thando Hopa, model and activist; and Siya Kolisi,the rugby World Cup champion captain.
Extraordinary and Vintage year
How have Africans fared in 2019 compared to previous years and in what ways have they been most influential? There is no easy answer to this as there are so many variables to consider and the world outside Africa itself has been undergoing some extraordinary changes.
That said, perhaps we will look back to this year as one of great vintage. Politically, the people have asserted their rights and in Sudan and Algeria, forced regime changes – putting leaders on notice that they remain the masters of their fates.
By and large, some political leaders, as well as those running continental institutions, put the interests of their people ahead of their own ambitions. It did not come as a surprise that Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. We believe our listing reflects this aspect of the continent’s politics.
We also of course recognise the enormous but often unsung contribution of those indefatigable souls who have dedicated their lives to improving the lot of the ill, the marginalised, the victimised and the vulnerable.
Africa’s economy has had something of a rollercoaster ride – with peaks of performance countered by troughs of regression – especially in the battle against poverty. However, again we find champions at both ends represented in our listing.
But an increasing number of what are termed ‘disrupters’ – those that eschew traditional approaches to business and set off on original paths – are appearing in our listings.
This is wonderful news as these are the pioneers who are providing new solutions for often age-old problems.
In the world of arts, culture and sport – the essential soft power that defines nations – Africa has been going from strength to strength. This is one arena where Africa and the world compete – if that is the right word – on a level playing field.
The yardstick for sporting prowess, whether that is in breaking athletic records, winning world trophies or displaying exceptional skills, is universal. So is artistic achievement in writing, acting, music, fashion. Talent – not entrenched economic, military or political power – is the determinant for success.
And as our listing clearly shows, Africa is full of talent. What is more, this talent can and does travel – whether it takes the form of acting in huge movie blockbusters, or fronting TV shows, or winning literary awards – African talent is ruling the world.
Making the list
The list is broken down into eight categories, of which the Business and Finance section leads with 28 entries, followed by The Arts and Culture, with 18 entries, and Politics and Public Office which has 15 entries.
Overall, Nigerians dominate this year’s list with 27 entries, followed by South Africa and Ghana, both with 9 entries. English speaking countries represented 65% of all entries, while at 42 entries, female representation is down from 50 achieved last year.
Some of the notable names on the list is the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, and Alaa Salah, the 22 year-old Sudanese protester popularly referred to as ‘Lady Liberty’ – the architectural engineering student, who became the face of the people’s revolution in Sudan – that eventually brought down the iron-fisted rule of former leader Omar Al-Bashir.
Two sporting heroes also make this year’s top list, Siya Kolisi, the first black captain of South Africa’s national rugby team, who were crowned world champions in November, and of course Kenyan world record breaker Eliud Kipchoge, the marathon runner.
The full list can be found here