What is influence and how do you measure it? It will always be hard to agree on a common understanding and meaning of influence. Understandably, this always generates wide debate.
How do we determine these people’s influence? And why does it matter that we assemble this list, you may ask. One yardstick we used was to emphasise that influence is not about popularity and popularity is not always influential. The influencer’s impact on public, social and political discourse, however, is what largely helps us determine their influence. They contributed in redefining the African narrative in 2013 and we feel they will play a big role in 2014 – hopefully, for Africa’s good.
Denis Mukwege, Rights Activist – DR Congo
Dr Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital in Kivu for victims of brutal rape and war in the region. The surgeon and his team have operated on nearly 40,000 rape victims. He has become a leading expert on the surgical procedure for traumatised victims. After a speech at the UN in 2012 he condemned the rebel violence and called for the severe punishment of perpetrators. Soon after, there was an attempt on his life and he was forced to flee his country. He is now back and has resumed his poignant work at Panzi Hospital. His commitment is invaluable, and some have him odds-on to be Africa’s next recipient of a Nobel Prize.
Dr Abbas Gullet, Head, Kenyan Red Cross – Kenya
This year Kenya experienced one of the worst terror attacks ever witnessed in the region. The world looked on as live TV showed the rescue operations of the four-day siege at Nairobi’s affluent Westgate Mall. As head of the Red Cross, Dr Abbas Gullet personally led the rescue efforts, coordinating evacuations, medical supplies and emergency services for the victims. A Kenyan hero, Dr Gullet was seen as a pillar of strength and a source of comfort through a difficult four days, and with his use of social media and new technologies has influenced the way Kenya responded to a national emergency.
Edna Adan Ismail, Health Activist – Somaliland
At 76, Edna Adan is at the forefront of the fight for women’s maternal health in Somaliland, which has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world. A former World Health Organisation civil servant, she returned home in 1997 after retirement, to build the Edna Adan University Teaching Hospital of Somaliland in Hargeisa, the country’s capital, in an area where no hospital had ever been built before.
Leymah Gbowee, Social Activist – Liberia
The powerhouse that is Leymah Gbowee is a Nobel Prize Laureate, peace and women’s rights activist and author. She holds no political office, yet her voice, story and work reverberates across the globe for her unflinching courage, strength, determination and leadership skills in mobilising Liberian women, whose daily peaceful protest during the country’s civil war, forever changed the historical course of the nation. Gbowee’s work consistently focuses on the rights of women and girls, their political participation, and bringing an end to the sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls during conflict times.
Zuriel Oduwole, Filmmaker/Activist – Nigeria
She is not even in her teens, and yet she has already made a significant impact on the global stage. Many have to wait for years to get a chance to achieve what documentary filmmaker Zuriel Elise Oduwole has in just under two years. The 11-year-old has produced two highly-acclaimed documentaries that focus on Africa’s political and developmental trajectory. She is also the brainchild of the popular Dream Up, Speak Up and Stand Up mentorship programme for the girl-child, and has already interviewed eight African heads of state, quizzing them on their leadership style. We can’t even begin to question how far this young mind’s star will travel. She will continue to shine bright in 2014.