Mark Shuttleworth shot to fame when he became the first African to go into space. In his last year at university, Mark founded a company which specialised in internet security which he subsequently sold to VeriSign for $400m. Today he funds an investment company based in South Africa, along with the Shuttleworth Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to accelerate social innovation in Africa. He created Ubuntu, a popular and freely-available Linux-based operating system, hoping to attract 200m users. Undoubtedly he is Africa’s whizz kid!
Cheick Modibo Diarra
He was the first African researcher to work at NASA. Born in 1952, this Malian astrophysicist is a specialist in space exploration and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. In 1999 he created the Pathfinder foundation for the education and development of Africa and by 2002 had developed a laboratory for solar research in Bamako. Today Cheick Diarra is the chairman of Microsoft Africa and is tirelessly working at developing the next generation of African scientists, through a variety of different initiatives. A personable individual, he holds sway with international and African leaders on all issues African and especially when it comes to the development of science and technology on the continent.
Dr Thebe Rodney Medupe
Born in 1973, Thebe is an astrophysicist and researcher at the South African Astronomical Observatory, where he runs a programme to encourage black South Africans to take up astronomy. He was also an associate producer of Cosmic Africa, a feature-length documentary film about traditional African astronomy. He says: “I went ahead and built my telescope. I was 13 years old at the time. The first time I looked at the moon with it, seeing crater, mountains and valleys, I was hooked. That’s when I knew I was going to become an astronomer.”
Dr Rashika el Ridi
A pioneering scientist, particulary in the field of immunology, she is based in the Faculty of Sciences at Cairo University in Egypt. She was a 2010 Laureate for Africa and the Arab States, and the recipient of the 2010 UNESCO-L’Oreal Foundation Award for Women in Science for her work in developing a vaccine against he tropical parasitic disease bilharzia, which affects over 200 million people in the tropics.