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2014 Most Influential Africans – Religion & Tradition

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2014 Most Influential Africans – Religion & Tradition

Africa is on the move. From politics to business to the arts, things are changing, being driven by innovators and visionaries, both good and bad. To reflect on a busy year for the continent, we profile the most influential Africans of 2014.

Muhammad Sanusi II, The banking aristocrat turned traditional leader – Nigeria 


2014 has been a rollercoaster year for Muhammad Sanusi II, formerly known as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. He started it as Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor, with a global reputation for excellence but seen as being increasingly at odds with President Goodluck Jonathan. In February, Jonathan suspended him after the governor spoke out about $20 billion allegedly missing from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). Sanusi had his passport confiscated and fought his suspension and subsequent harassment in court. In June, the former Global Central Bank Governor of the Year became Muhammad Sanusi II when he was selected to succeed his great uncle Ado Bayero to become Emir of Kano, a position he had openly stated interest in. His new role as a traditional leader places him above politics but will give him a loud and prominent political, social and religious voice. He ends the year knowing that there is now no way that anyone can silence him. And he got his passport back too.

Desmond Tutu. The archbishop activist – South Africa 


Despite his official retirement, Archbishop Desmond Tutu continues to wield huge influence as a moral icon, perhaps even more so since the passing of his friend Nelson Mandela. At both national and international levels, he has continued to call for peace, justice and compassion and to speak out on issues from gay rights to Israel/Palestine to South African politics. Most recently, he called for anti-apartheid tactics to be employed in the fight against climate change.

Nnabagereka Sylvia Nagginda of Buganda, A queen with a cause – Uganda


Nnabagereka (queen) Sylvia of the Buganda Kingdom is redefining her role as the wife of the Kabaka (king) of the Buganda Kingdom. In September 2013, Nagginda co-hosted the launch of the African Queens and Women Cultural Leaders’ Network in conjunction with HRH the Queen Mother of Toro. The Network partnered with both the Africa Union and the United Nations to focus on improving the lives of women and girls in Africa, with a special focus on young mothers. Educated in New York, Nagginda worked as a UN research consultant and after her marriage to the Kabaka in 1999, became the first Nnabagereka to set up a fully-fledged office. With a great passion for women’s rights, Nagginda will continue to use her status and influence for the development of her country, and the continent.

TB Joshua, The preaching prophet – Nigeria 

TB Joushua

Those who love the founder of The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations, believe he can cure HIV and bring people back from the dead. They believe he communed with biblical figures and predicted Michael Jackson’s death and the disappearance of Malaysia Airways’ MH370. Those who don’t love him think he’s a dangerous conman whose prophecies are so vague they can fit any event, whose miracle cures are a way to exploit the vulnerable, and whose multi-million-dollar wealth is the product of a giant scam. All agree that he wields huge influence though.

Mohammed Badie, The spiritual leader on death row – Egypt 


The crackdown on Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has continued, with much of the onslaught happening in the courts. Several lawsuits related to violence, terrorism and other charges have been brought against Brotherhood members this year, including Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader. Many observers believe the mass trials have been travesties of justice and Badie has already been handed several sentences, including one death sentence following an 8-minute trial.

Imam Omar Kobine Layama, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga and The Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyame-Gbangou, The men of God – Central African Republic

Imam Omar Kobine Layama, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga and The Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyame-Gbangou, The men of God - Central African Republic

In a devastating conflict that has become polarised along Christian-Muslim lines, appeals for peace and understanding from the likes of Imam Layama, Reverend Guérékoyame-Gbangou and Archbishop Nzapalainga (pictured below, left to right, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon) are as brave as they are important. As sectarian violence continues, the humanitarian crisis deepens, and the government in Bangui struggles to impose order, the determined efforts of these religious leaders to reconcile the country provide a much-needed glimmer of hope and inspiration.

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