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As has become customary for several years now, New African publishes its annual listing of the 100 Most Influential Africans (MIA) of 2019, as thoughts turn to the end of the year and preparations for a brand new one to come.

The MIA listing also 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 in virtually all sectors of life.

As in previous listings, and in keeping with the UN's International Year for People of African Descent, we make no distinction between Africans living and working in the continent and those in the diaspora. Both have germinated from the African seed.

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.

But 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 rocking the" world.

Written and edited by reGina Jane Jere and Anver Versi.

With Omar Ben Yedder, David Thomas, Tom Collins, Shoshana Kedem and Naomi Nwauzu

Politics & Public Service


Akinwumi Adesina

Tireless dealmaker

'Blooming in agriculture and now booming in banking' aptly describes the career curve that defines the bow-tie-loving Akinwumi Adesina, the former Nigerian agriculture minister who is now president of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Adesina is on a mission to prove that Africa is bankable. He has created a dealmaking platform through the Africa Investment Forum but his crowning achievement this year was the record capital increase for the AfDB. The bank continues to be the standard bearer, especially when it comes to international investors benchmarking African risk.


Oulimata Sarr

The connector

Oulimata Sarr is deputy regional director for UN Women, covering West and Central Africa, where she is a continuous source of energy and inspiration. But it is her indefatigable work creating networks, driving and supporting different initiatives, to not only shape the African agenda but transform African outcomes, that make her stand out. She is a truly dedicated servant of the African continent who has always put the interests of Africa before her own. Reflecting her earlier financial background, Sarr is also currently the Jury President of the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards business plan competition for sub-Saharan Africa.


President Paul Kagame

The benchmark-setter

Even if by his standards 2019 has been a relatively quiet year, Rwanda's Paul Kagame continues to make the continent's most-influential lists. Perhaps this is because of his sheer dynamism and the impact his decisions have on other countries.

On a continent where the default speed is 'slow, going to slower,' Kagame is express--whether trying to sort out the AU's finances, or physically remove border barriers or set up industrial zones, Kagame wants it all done yesterday. In the process, he leaves a lot of bruised egos in his wake.

After marking 25 years since the horrific genocide in his country with solemn events and fresh pledges for it never to happen again, Kagame has devoted his energies to making sure the 2020 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali will be one to 'savour and remember'.

But he seems to collect detractors as quickly as he does admirers, and whatever Kagame does, or does not do, causes widespread ripples all around; as such, he remains one of the most influential people in Africa.

"In Africa today, we recognize that trade and investment, and not aid, are pillars of development."


President Nana Akufo-Addo

Africa beyond Aid

In May this year, the UN Secretary General re-appointed Akufo-Addo as the co-chair of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocate Group, which comprises 17 influential public figures, chosen to commit their time to raising awareness and pushing for faster action on the SDGs.

On the home front, the elephant, so the saying goes, continues his merry way to market despite the howling of a thousand dogs. So it seems with the Ghanaian leader; critics keep sniping away at him but he rolls on to ensure that Ghana's record for stability and aims for growth are not tarnished.

This year has seen work continue on the construction of the 400MW Bridge Power Project, the world's largest liquefied petroleum gas-fired power plant, which once complete, is expected to solve most of the country's energy issues. Meanwhile, the country's imaginative 'Year of Return' campaign, marking 400 years since the first slaves were shipped from its shores, has brought a projected 500,000 visitors, boosting the tourism industry.


President Mahamadou Issoufou

'Mr AfCFTA'--champion of African trade integration

In the African economic integration discourse, 2019 was the year of President Mahamadou Issoufou, who is fondly referred to as 'Mr AfCFTA'. While holding the highest office in Niger, President Issoufou has also spent most of the last three years leading the team of experts and technocrats who negotiated and developed the modalities and roadmap of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The operational phase of the much-heralded continental project was aptly launched in Niamey, the capital of Niger, in July this year, in recognition of Issoufou's efforts to champion and push for the formation of one of the largest free trade areas in the world.

Additionally, in terms of recent regional influence, perhaps no other African leader has had as much impact as President Issoufou, who has also been an active force in the collective endeavour to battle the rising threat of terrorism in the Sahel, through the five-nation G5 Sahel initiative, which comprises Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Issoufou is also the current chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This January, under his leadership, Niger will join the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member and there is no doubt he will use the platform to champion Africa's cause.

"Africa must unite in order to be strong in the international system ... the AfCFTA is the foundation. Against this background, our efforts to establish the AfCFTA will produce results if we remain united, speak with one voice and consolidate our integration."


Aya Chebbi

The AU youth envoy shaking things up

Aya Chebbi is the African Union's first-ever youth envoy. The creation of this position comes at a time when the voices of African youth demanding change and inclusion in Africa's political and economic landscape have become hard to ignore. She is vocal in seeking "intergenerational co-leadership", persistently calling for youth to co-lead. Before taking on her current role, Chebbi was already a popular youth activist, feminist and blogger.

She caught the world's attention for her uncompromising, peaceful activism during the Tunisian revolution, which changed the political discourse of that country. She is also the founder of the Afrika Youth Movement (AYM), one of Africa's largest Pan-African movements, taking the agenda of African youth from the margins of society to the centre of regional and international discourse.

In addition, Aya is founder of several other platforms including the Youth Programme of Holistic Empowerment Mentoring (YPHEM), which coaches youths to be positive change agents. She recently launched the Afresist project, a youth leadership programme and multimedia platform documenting youth work in Africa.


Abba Kyari

The colossus

As chief of staff to the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, he is the man with the keys to the Presidency. And as the gatekeeper, he can let anyone in and lock anyone out, making him one of the most powerful figures in the country. A former banker, Kyari is reputed to have made many senior government appointments. This year he was appointed to the board of the NNPC, the national oil company, and the government's main source of foreign exchange.


Josefa Sako

A woman of mettle

Commissioners at the African Union don't always get the credit they deserve. Angola-born Josefa Sako has one of the most important portfolios, which is coordinating Africa's agriculture transformation. She has added credence to this division within the AU, holding African governments to account in terms of their commitments to agriculture. But it is on the international stage that her negotiation skills have earned her praise, for defending the interests of African farmers and African companies operating in this sector, often having to fend off strong foreign lobby and interest groups. Agriculture globally is as much about politics as it is about productivity and Sako has often been the flagbearer singlehandedly fighting Africa's cause.


Amina J. Mohammed

Helping to build an equal world for all

As the United Nations deputy secretary-general, Amina Mohammed remains one of the most respected female figures in the world today. Her determination to advance poverty eradication, gender equality and inclusive development in a peaceful world remains resolute. This year she has remained a key figure in pushing for the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, following on from the MDGs, where her influence was instrumental and is still widely acknowledged. Despite her global responsibilities her heart remains in Africa, speaking up for and supporting African causes. She remains our most important ambassador and influencer amongst global' leaders. Interestingly, despite her distinguished career, she once said that, in the field of politics, she is appointable but not electable.


Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

The reformer, Nobel Peace Laureate fire-fighting on many fronts

Abiy Ahmed, it is said, blew in like a whirlwind and swept away the accumulated debris of an ossified political system when he was elected Prime Minister in 2018. Abiymania has since followed, both among his supporters at home, and in international circles.

At a seemingly breakneck speed, he has pushed through many reforms, including lifting the country's state of emergency, freeing thousands of political prisoners, legalising previously outlawed opposition groups, relaxing media censorship, forming a 50/50 gender-balanced cabinet--including the appointment of the country's first-ever female President--and laid to rest the long-festering border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

He has also become a key figure in resolving potentially explosive issues in the Horn of Africa, which has become Africa's latest flashpoint, involving not only the superpowers but also, rival forces from the Middle East.

This year, the meteoric rise of the Ethiopian Prime Minister was affirmed further when, after just 18 months in office, he was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, confounding some, including his critics and political opponents, who argue that the coveted accolade is premature.

In the citation, the Nobel committee itself noted: "Many challenges remain unresolved. Ethnic strife continues to escalate, and we have seen troubling examples of this in recent weeks and months. No doubt some people will think this year's prize is being awarded too early."

Indeed, within weeks of the award, violence was sweeping the country and Abiy was fire-fighting on all fronts.

Some think Abiy moved too fast with reforms but whatever happens, he has changed Ethiopia forever--and hopefully for the better. Only history will be the judge of that.

"Even if there are disagreements arising from our differences, we should side with justice rather than injustice and correct our moral lenses. Justice should be our main principle; love and respect for all human beings ought to be our moral compass,"

Abiy Ahmed


Mabingue Ngom

Unrelenting youth and women's rights champ

Mabingue Ngom is the regional director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for West and Central Africa, tasked with overseeing and coordinating an amalgam of 23 countries of diverse linguistic, political and social complexities. But Ngom is also one of the most notable and ardent advocates of leveraging the youth demographic dividend, as well as a champion of women's rights and planned healthy families, and is arguably operating in a region where the Fund's services are most needed. By pushing for a change of tack--including by changing behaviours through careful cultural sensitisation and bringing religious and other leaders on board--Ngom is fulfilling the Fund's mandate and has unlocked one of the biggest gridlocks preventing breakthrough in the promotion of women's rights, youth development and healthy planned families, or as they say in the Sahel, "spaced families".

He has been indefatigable in keeping these issues at the top of the agenda, both in the region and internationally, crafting his work in the most rural and oft-neglected communities. In 2019, his advocacy and efforts of over 10 years bore fruit.

"If we bring about the demographic dividend by improving opportunities for young people, allowing mothers to plan their pregnancies and making childbirth safe for mother and child, the overall effect will make life better for the entire population,"

Mabingue Ngom


Bience Gawanas

The voice of Africa at the UN

Bience Gawanas is the UN undersecretary-general and special adviser on Africa, and as head of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA), oversees the UN's only office with a specific Africa mandate. As such, she carries the weight of Africa on her shoulders at one of the world's leading institutions; and indeed, she is the voice of Africa within the UN--a voice that renders influence at the biggest seat of power in world affairs, and a must-heed voice.

As head of OSAA, it is her duty to promote and build synergies across the UN system in support of Africa's priorities, and promote African views and perspectives that foster an understanding of Africa's experiences on peace and economic development.

A staunch social justice and gender-sensitive development policy campaigner, in her role, she also continues to champion and focus on the fight against social injustice, discrimination and gender inequality.

"The current political and economic global order has brought challenges to multilateralism and is leading to increasing inequality between countries. How are we going to deal with the new challenge?"

Bience Gawanas


Moulay Hafid Elalamy

A stalwart of entrepreneurism

The founder and head of Saham Group, whose subsidiary CNIA Saada is the largest insurance company in Morocco, Moulay Hafid Elelamy has built a personal fortune estimated at $620 million, becoming the 40th richest man in Africa. A stalwart of the Moroccan business scene, he has been Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and Digital Economy since 2013, masterminding Africa's biggest industrial success that is Morocco. Not one to lack confidence, the outspoken minister is at the heart of negotiations with foreign investors in the country. He has also been vocal about the brain drain that has seen European companies poach Moroccan engineers and IT talent from the country. His work includes launching social programmes in support of entrepreneurship, including the MHE Young Entrepreneurs Competition, which provides financial support and guidance to the winners.


Bobi Wine

Political tour deforce

First known for his politicised lyrics as a popular Ugandan musician, Bobi Wine, in his now banned signature red beret, has become the country's unwavering symbol of political resistance. Come the 2021 general elections, the artist, born Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, and currently an independent Member of Parliament, will pose a serious threat to President Yoweri Museveni's long-term rule, having announced his intention to stand against the 76-year-old. In 2019, he has continued to galvanise, his supporters, particularly the' with calls for resolute and fearless resilience, as they fight against Museveni's political might.

"Uganda isn't a kingdom, it's a republic but our President has been changing faces all this time--the President came to power when I was just 4 years old,"

Bobi Wine


Winnie Byanyima

Fighting for social justice

In August this year, Winnie Byanyima was appointed Executive Director, UNAIDS. She had, hitherto, served as Executive Director of Oxfam International--a post she held since 2013. Prior to that, she served for seven years as the Director of Gender and Development at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). With such a roster of high-profile positions, Winnie is one of the most sought-after and influential African women of her generation, and a key figure in the social and humanitarian development world. A mechanical engineer by profession, Winnie, who is married to one of Uganda's most long-term opponents to President Museveni--Kizza Besigye--has herself also been a politician of standing, having served as a member of parliament in Uganda for over 10 years and helped draft the country's 1995 constitution. In addition, she is renowned in the country for being a champion of marginalised communities, especially women. Commentators expect much from her in her new role at UNAIDS.

Business & Finance


Ahmed El-Sewedy

Prince of power

In 2003, Ahmed El-Sewedy took over the family business, which had begun in 1938 as a humble trader of electrical equipment. It's now one of Egypt's largest multinationals--working in almost 45 countries and exporting to over 80. His group was instrumental in Egypt's plan, back in 2015, to increase power generation by more than 40%, a feat they have achieved by building a number of power plants in record time. El-Sewedy is quickly expanding its services, with many African governments courting him to replicate what he has achieved back home.


Tewolde Gebremariam

Scaling new heights

Tewolde Gebremariam and his team can seemingly do no wrong. While almost every other African airline is drowning in debt, Ethiopian's operating revenue jumped 17% in the latest financial year. The airline, Africa's biggest, flew 12.1m passengers during the period, which is 14% more than during the same period the year before. Despite financial success, it has been a testing year for Gebremariam following the fatal crash of the Boeing 737-Max earlier this year. Gebremariam has remained resolute in the face of initial criticism from Boeing, and he has since been vindicated. He has shown all the characteristics of a true leader during these difficult times and is the person the African airline industry looks to for direction.


Sandie Okoro

First black woman general counsel at World Bank

Sandie Okoro is the first black woman and British national to hold the role of group general counsel at the World Bank, where she also holds the rank of senior vice president. Okoro is the principal advisor and spokesperson on all legal matters at the multilateral institution--a truly historic role. Prior to her move to the bank in 2016, Okoro had an extensive financial sector career as general counsel for HSBC Global Asset Management, deputy general counsel of HSBC Retail Banking and Wealth Management, and global general counsel at Barings. Yet Okoro is far from the caricature of a stuffy corporate lawyer, and is a vocal defender and champion of women's empowerment and gender equality, proactively engaging in campaigns around gender-based and domestic violence, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, child marriage, and women's access to justice.


Ade Ayeyemi

Banking on tech

As Group CEO of Ecobank, since 2015, Ade Ayeyemi has transformed the pan-African bank with his 'Roadmap to Leadership' strategy, which stabilised the bank's foundations and is now leveraging the potential of its affiliates in 33 countries to deliver sustainable long-term growth.

The strong and visionary focus of Nigerian-born Ayeyemi has harnessed technology to deliver borderless digital banking products and services throughout Ecobank's footprint at a low cost-to-serve.

Ecobank's commitment to continuously delivering innovative digital solutions is empowering the bank's rapidly growing number of retail, commercial and corporate customers. His target: 100m customers by 2020. Following a challenging start when he took over in 2015, he has managed in the last two years to restore the Bank's financial strength. This year Arise, a European investment consortium, came in as a major shareholder.


Benedict Oramah

Trade warrior

Since becoming President of the Africa Export and Import Bank (Afreximbank) in 2015, Professor Benedict Oramah has played a leading role in driving Africa's economic integration by overseeing the delivery of new game-changing programmes and facilities to finance, promote and expand intra- and extra-African trade and develop Africa's sectors, infrastructure, diversification, trade finance and economies. In July this year, he announced that Afreximbank will allocate US$1 billion as an adjustment facility to help countries adapt to any negative impact that may result during the implementation phase of the AfCFTA.

In the same month, in collaboration with the African Union, he facilitated the launch of the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS)--the first continent-wide payment system focused on addressing the settlement challenges and market imbalances that have hampered intra-African trade.

Oramah has also been the driving force in the creation and delivery of the Intra-African Trade Fair, which resulted in $32 billion of trade and investment deals being concluded at its 2018 event in Cairo, and is targeting $40 billion at Kigali in 2020.

This year, under his leadership, Afreximbank has also been a driving force in developing emerging partnerships to increase African trade and investment links with the BRIC economies, including Russia, where the bank held its 2019 Annual General Meetings.


Ilham Kadri

The alchemist

In March this year, Ilham Kadri became CEO of the Belgian chemicals group, Solvay. The group, at the time of writing, had a market cap of $12bn (similar to MTN, which ranked 12th in African Business' 'Top Companies Ranking') and serves a number of industries from food and agriculture to healthcare and oil & gas. With a PhD in physical chemistry, Kadri describes education as her 'third exit', quoting a Moroccan saying: girls have two exits in their lives: one to their husband's home and one to the grave. Kadri was raised by a grandmother who urged her to find a third exit.


Babatunde Soyoye

Towering ambition

As the co-founder of Africa's largest private equity firm, Helios, Soyoye has pioneered Africa's investment landscape with his bold and innovative approach. Born in Nigeria, he studied in London before leading corporate strategy at British Telecom and Singapore Telecom. Nigeria's growth story in 2004 lured him back, founding Helios with Tope Lawani with the aim of raising the capital to build the country's first telecoms towers. Helios Towers successfully listed on the London Stock Exchange this year. Other notable investments include a stake in Interswitch (Africa's first unicorn) and Vivo Energy, which listed last year.


NJ Ayuk

Energy broker

Cameroon-born lawyer NJ Ayuk, executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber and CEO of the Centurion Law Group, continues to vocally offer his remedies for the continent's 'resource curse'. In his new book, Billions At Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals, Ayuk offers a comprehensive road map for Africa to do a better job at using its vast natural resources to fuel economic growth to improve the lives of millions. The energy negotiator has brokered deals in a number of African countries, including in the most frontier markets. He has the ear of many in oil and gas circles, helping shape policy and structure investments.


Abdul Samad Rabiu

Nigeria's quiet baron

Less known than Nigeria's other major industrialist, Aliko Dangote, Abdul Samad Rabiu heads the BUA Group, today a multi-sector conglomerate whose rapid growth he has masterminded. A major investor, a major employer and a true player driving the country's Industrial policy, investing across agriculture, industry, mining and real estate. In the north of the country, where he's from, he is a positive counterweight to the dominant position Dangote Cement enjoys elsewhere in Nigeria. His group today accounts for some 15% of the Nigerian cement market and he is a chief proponent of import substitution, which he is tackling by investing in growing sugar and rice.


Aliko Dangote

The unstoppable

Never a man to settle down or proclaim 'mission accomplished', Africa's richest businessman has set his sights on further domination in the years ahead. In the cement market where he made his fortune, Dangote plans to expand capacity on the continent by 29%. Elsewhere, Dangote Flour Mills of Nigeria is to be sold off to a subsidiary of Singapore agricultural traders Olam in a deal worth around $33m. Despite setbacks, next year will see the completion of the continent's biggest oil refinery. But that's not enough: in November he announced a $2bn fertiliser plant he plans to build in Togo.


Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli

Feeding the future

Africa needs more Ndidis. This former McKinsey consultant is one of the foremost experts in social innovation, agriculture and nutrition in Africa. Through her investment firm she puts her money where her mouth is, investing in numerous ventures across the food value chain. She sits on many international and local boards including Nestle Nigeria, Nigerian Breweries and Canadian investment group Fairfax Africa among others. Through Leap Africa and other organisations and initiatives she is central to, she serves as a mentor to youth and women across Africa.


Koos Bekker

Breaking the internet

Bekker is the architect of the South African media and internet conglomerate Naspers' meteoric rise. Alongside CEO, Bob Van Dijk, he has this year overseen one of the firm's most significant moves since it decided to take a punt on buying a stake in Tencent, then a little-known Chinese internet company and now one of the world's most valuable tech giants.

In September, Naspers, once an Afrikaans media house, combined its internet assets, which include around a third of Tencent, into Prosus, a new company which listed in Amsterdam, with a valuation of $110bn. At least 27% of the company is up for grabs, while Naspers will hold on to 73%. Prosus has already begun to throw its weight around with an ambitious bid for Just Eat, the UK online food order and delivery service. That looks like just the beginning for a company with South African roots that could reshape the world's tech scene.

As if this is not enough, Bekker also recently opened a hotel and restaurant in the UK, having overseen a multi-million-dollar renovation of a 300-year-old property in the Somerset countryside, three hours from London, inspired by Babylonstoren, one of the oldest Cape Town farms.


Bozoma Saint John


It's a known fact that Bozoma Saint John has had an admirable career in the marketing world. She won acclaim as one of Billboard Magazine's top women in music, and was included in Fastcompany's 100 most creative people listing. Burnishing her resume credentials even further, in 2017 she left Apple for a stint at Uber as Chief Brand Officer. In 2018, she joined media and events company Endeavour to head up its marketing operations as CMO.

This year she was one of the celebrities who flocked to Ghana for the 'Full Circle' event, aimed at promoting economic and cultural collaboration between Africans and influential people of African descent living in America.


Karim Awad

The consumate banker

Since assuming the leadership of EFG Hermes in 2013, CEO Karim Awad has turned it into the Arab world's leading investment bank. EFG has advised on a number of international deals, helping list firms on international exchanges and also channelling capital from the Gulf into Africa. Last year, Awad oversaw EFG's 100% acquisition of Nigerian brokerage house Primera Africa. It has also expanded its country portfolio by moving out from traditional markets such as Egypt, the UAE, Jordan and Oman into frontier markets such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as Kenya where it opened operations in 2017.


Tonye Cole

Power magnate

Tonye Cole is undoubtedly one of the most important players in the Nigeria energy sector. Sahara Group, the company he co-founded, is now present in 38 countries globally and throughout Africa. Cole is today the face of responsible business, putting an emphasis on strong corporate governance and sustainable business practice. He's a member of the Private Sector Advisory Group of the United Nations Sustainable Development Fund and was appointed to the World Bank's Expert Advisory Council on Citizen Engagement.


Strive Masiyiwa

The wise entrepreneur

Telecoms billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, Zimbabwe's richest man, is more attuned than most to the rough and tumble of the African business world, and 2019 has been a year of adapting to new market realities. In July, it was reported that Masiyiwa's pay-TV operator Econet Media had placed its struggling satellite broadcasting business, which has $130m debts, under administration. The company, operator of the Kwese brand name, has struggled to adapt to fierce competition in the TV market. His data, voice and IP provider Liquid Telecom appears to be in much better shape--the UK's CDC Group acquired an 8% stake for $180m in April, valuing Liquid at some $2.25bn. It's been a busy few months in Southern Africa too, where Masiyiwa announced plans to list his Botswana mobile operator, but 'went to war' with the Zimbabwean authorities over their decision to ban mobile money. Meanwhile, he remains an outspoken and principled leader, railing against corruption when he delivered the annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture in October.


Samuel Dossou-Aworet

Challenger of la Francafrique

Over a long and distinguished career, Samuel Dossou-Aworet has played a central role in the African oil and gas sector. The founder of the Petrolin Group of companies, where he is the Group Chairman and CEO, he is currently also the Chairman of ND Western, and a strategic advisor to a host of leading oil companies, including Tullow Oil, Engen in South Africa, NDEP in Nigeria and Hess in the US. His posts include having served twice as the Chairman of OPEC's Board of Governors.

His outlook is marked by a belief in the importance of developing Africa with both indigenous and international players, and also by pan-Africanism, challenging la Francafrique and French multinational hegemony in West Africa. As the Chairman of the African Business Roundtable since 2017, he has been a strong advocate of regional integration, and he is also renowned for the humanitarian work of his pan-African NGO, Fondation Espace Afrique (FEA). His awards for services to society include the Grand Officer of the Equatorial Star (Gabon), and Officer of the Legion of Honour (France).


Ismail Ahmed

The world is not his limit

This year, Ismail Ahmed was listed as one of the most influential black Britons in the UK's Powerlist roll call. Born in breakaway Somaliland, Ahmed went to the UK as a young man, where he took on a number of odd jobs--including as a strawberry picker--to send money back to his family. Experiencing first-hand the difficulties of sending money across borders, he created WorldRemit, then named AfricaRemit, using 200,000 [pounds sterling] compensation following unfair treatment after discovering corruption during his work on the United Nations' Somalia remittance programme. The investment was a shrewd move--currently, the business has around 3 million users, who use a smartphone app to remit money to over 125 countries, cutting out expensive middlemen in the process. Partnerships with African banks and mobile networks have further helped to boost the brand--no small feat given major competition from US giants MoneyGram and Western Union.


Dina Powell

Power broker

Dina is arguably the most powerful African in finance. This Cairo-born high flyer has flitted seamlessly between the White House and investment bank Goldman Sachs. She gained a name for herself as a rising star in the national security establishment with a networking and power-broking prowess that helped to forge a close relationship with Saudi Arabia's de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman. She returned to Goldman Sachs in 2018 as a member of the bank's management committee. This year, she brokered a powerful alliance of her own, marrying financier David McCormick, the co-chief executive of the world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater.


Ibukun Awosika

Formidable force

This formidable and distinguished business leader serves as the chairman of one of Nigeria's biggest banks, First Bank of Nigeria, but it is her role as an entrepreneur and business woman that continues to inspire and command influence and respect, not only in Nigeria but, increasingly, globally. A founder member of WimBiz, an initiative to include more women in leadership positions, Awosika leads by example, sitting on many boards and instilling a culture of principled leadership and strong corporate governance. Last month in Ghana, she was also a judge for the Jack Ma Foundation's $1m Africa Netpreneur prize.


Mark Bristow

Man of gold

South African businessman Mark Bristow is the CEO of Africa--focused miner Randgold Resources. He became one of the gold industry's most powerful men following a 2018 merger of Randgold Resources with Barrick Gold, making it the world's biggest gold company by market capitalisation. Thanks to Bristow, Randgold now runs five of the 10 best gold mines in the world, and has succeeded where other miners have failed. This year he also brokered a deal with the Tanzanian government, settling a longstanding multi--billion lawsuit the government had with Barrick Gold.


Halima Dangote

The humble heiress

With the Dangote Group expanding its activities, its founder Aliko Dangote depends on a strong team of trusted lieutenants. One of these is his second daughter, Halima Dangote, who has her father's ear. Modest and humble, she is also highly determined, and has grown in stature while earning her stripes. Having led the turnaround of Dangote Flour Mills, she became the Group Executive Director, Commercial Operations of the group in November. Halima also chairs the Africa Center in New York and is a trustee of the Aliko Dangote Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the conglomerate. Her close friends are a who's who of business leaders and serial entrepreneurs.


Amy Jadesimi

Game changer

As chief executive officer of Ladol--the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base, an industrial free zone providing logistics and engineering support to the offshore oil and gas industry, Amy Jadesimi is one of the most prominent female executives in Nigeria. The Oxford and Stanford graduate began her career with Goldman Sachs before being appointed chief executive of LADOL, founded by her father, in 2009. Jadesimi's time in charge of the base has coincided with an expansion of facilities, including a huge floating production storage and offloading vessel owned by French oil giant Total.


Herbert Wigwe

The savvy banker

Not someone to seek the limelight, he has been the most influential banker in Nigeria this year, having overseen Access Bank's purchase of Diamond Bank. Alongside his partner Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, they have managed to transform Access Bank, a smallish bank at the turn of the millennium, into one of the biggest banks in terms of deposits and assets. A shrewd and savvy banker with a clear vision, he has built an institution that today sits confidently within the top-tier of African banking.


Jide Zeitlin

Chairman of style

Jide Zeitlin has risen to become one of the most significant corporate figures in the fashion industry. In September, he was confirmed as the new chief executive of the leading fashion house Tapestry--owner of luxury brands Coach and Kate Spade. Zeitlin has got a big job on his hands to boost earnings after Tapestry's shares lost more than half of their value in a year. Yet two decades at Goldman Sachs, and roles as chairman of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority and with the Harvard Business School's Board of Dean's Advisors, mean that he has the authority and connections to turn things around.


Marcia Ashong

Bridging the gender gap

Marcia is the founder of TheBoardroom Africa (TBR Africa), an initiative that champions women in executive leadership positions across Africa. TBR Africa is the most active such project on the continent, providing training for aspiring leaders and working with corporates to have a greater representation of women on their boards. As such, Marcia has developed one of the strongest networks of women leaders in Africa. Her professional training and other passion is oil and gas and she has recently founded an oil and gas services company. Undoubtedly one of Africa's rising stars.


Momar Nguer

Monsieur Afrique

Momar Nguer began working for Total in 1984, after an initial spell working for Hewlett Packard, and has remained with the company since, developing a formidable knowledge of African and French business ecosystems through his roles climbing the ladder at the French oil giant. He was appointed General Manager of the Marketing and Services division in 2016, as well as a member of Total's Executive Committee.

With Total buying Anadarko's African assets earlier this year, his responsibilities will only get bigger. In October, reflecting his growing reputation and social influence, he became Chairman of the International Africa Committee at MEDEF (the Movement of Enterprises of France), France's largest employer federation. He is effectively Monsieur Afrique for the French business community, with the aim of fostering greater investments and partnerships between French and African companies.


Sangu Delle

Defying the odds

After studying at Harvard, Sangu Delle founded investment holding company Golden Palm Investment (GPI) in 2008 to fund promising start-ups that can have a social impact, setting himself the mission of bringing real change to the African continent. GPI invested in start-ups like Solo Mobile in Nigeria and mPharma in Ghana. It has also built a portfolio of greenfield companies in healthcare, real estate, and financial services. Since 2017, he has headed up Africa Health Holdings, which describes its purpose as "building Africa's healthcare future". Delle has received many accolades and this year published Making Futures, a book charting the stories of 18 entrepreneurs across Africa.

Civil Society & Activism


Didier Drogba

Impacting lives off the pitch

Drogba is well-known for his achievements on the pitch but he has also used his influence and fortunes to create change off it.

Through his eponymous foundation, he provides financial and material support--in both health and education--to those living across the continent.


Rasha Kelej

Fighting female infertility stigma

In October, Burundi's First Lady, Denise Nkurunziza, featured in a music video, where she sang, danced and spoke about the stigmas around infertility. Widely circulated on social media, and picked up by the BBC, it drew much praise. The video was made in support of the Merck More Than a Mother initiative, founded by Kelej in 2017 to raise awareness about infertility, a condition that can be misunderstood in African societies, where harsh 'blame' is often put on the woman, without scientific reasoning. Kelej works alongside 18 African First Ladies--as well as musicians--to empower childless and infertile women.


Alaa Salah

'Lady Liberty'

Dressed in an all-white robe atop a car, Salah was singing to a group of protestors near Sudan's army headquarters, her finger pointed to the sky. When a photo of the moment went viral, the 22-year-old became an international symbol, and a catalyst of ongoing reforms in Sudan. She was protesting against the almost 30-year rule of the now ousted Omar Al-Bashir. Salah continues to fight for reforms in Sudan and is especially vocal about the rights and inclusion of women in Sudanese society.

Speaking on her rise as an activist, Salah explained at a UN Security Council Open Debate in October this year: "Before the revolution, I was a student of architectural engineering. I did not grow up around politics, but in an ordinary middle-class family--my mother is a designer and my father owns a construction company. But, as I would walk to university every day and see my fellow citizens around me, struggling to get food and medicine, half of the country living in poverty, how could one not become political?


Ilwad Elman

In her father's footsteps

Elman's father, Ali Ahmed, who spread the mantra 'Drop the Gun, Pick Up the Pen,' was assassinated in 1996 for his work in disarming Somali youths forced to fight for warlords. This, alongside having an activist mother, sparked the passion for her own work.

Elman, the 29-year-old 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, co-founded the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Somalia alongside her mother.

The centre also supports survivors of sexual and gender-based violence through counselling and emergency medical care--it is the first rape crisis centre in Somalia.


Edem Adzogenu

Doctor 'Enterprise'

Dr Adzogenu, a medical doctor, is the co-founder of the AfroChampions initiative, a collection of public-private partnerships and programmes designed to support the emergence and success of private sector enterprise. Adzogenu is active on many fronts and a man of a million ideas. He runs a think tank in his native Ghana. He has recently launched Caravan Africa, an initiative that aims to support 100,000 micro-enterprises. He's helping develop value chains in agriculture, textiles and fashion. He's the chairman of the Campaign for Financial Independence in Africa, to break the poverty cycle. He's a pan-Africanist who is determined to restore African pride and glory. All this and he's barely 40.


Purity Soinato Oiyie

Anti-FGM rebel--Against all odds

Purity Soinato Oiyie was barely 11 years old when she escaped from both Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. She became the first girl in her village in Narok County in the heart of Kenya's indigenous Maasai community to say no to both harmful cultural practices.

Today at 23, Purity has become a powerful voice inspiring other girls and parents facing the same ordeal, and is one of the UN's young champions contributing towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which explicitly targets ending all forms of violence against women and girls, including harmful practices like FGM.

She was one of the speakers at the opening session of the 62nd UN Commission on the Status of Women--the UN's largest gathering on gender equality and women's rights, at which she movingly, yet inspiringly spoke about her ordeal. "I was only 10 or 11 years old when my father decided to circumcise me. I was to become the fifth wife to a 70-year-old man. I talked to my class teacher and she informed the police chief. Just two hours before the cutting ceremony, the police came and took me away ... I lived in the rescue centre in Narok town for eight years. It was far from my village ... until that day, I hadn't even seen a tarmac road," says Purity, who now works for World Vision.


Isha Sesay

African exemplar

Isha Sesay is a journalist who spent 13 years at American news channel CNN. Last year, she left the station to focus on reporting on more African stories. This year, she released the book Beneath the Tamarind Tree, a book focusing on the 276 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Chibok, Nigeria. Her sharp and deep knowledge of African affairs have also made Isha one of the continent's most sought-after moderators and keynote speakers at many Africa-focussed events. The Sierra Leonean also leads a not-for-profit programme: W.E. Can Lead.


Luaty Beirao

Rebel with a cause

Beirao, otherwise known as Ikonoklasta, is a Portuguese-Angolan rapper and activist who uses his music to criticise and raise awareness about injustices. He was part of a group of Angolan activists who were arrested in June 2015, during ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos' 38-year administration.

In protest against his arrest, Beirao began a hunger strike along with other political prisoners, while serving his five-and-a-half-year prison sentence. Their collective strike led to reduced sentences.

Beirao's activism is unique because he is the son of politician Joao Beirao, who was close to ex-president Dos Santos.


Zulaikha Patel

Young but so woke

She made headlines three years ago at only 13 years old, protesting about her school's hair policy, which discriminated against Afro hair. She and her co-protesters were threatened with arrest.

"When I processed that in my mind, I knew that this was bigger than me; this was a bigger fight; this was a bigger cause and this was beyond me ... I was obligated to do this for future generations that were yet to come," she told a South African news channel this year.

Photos and videos of the demonstration spread across national and international media and eventually the school and province's hair policy changed.

Now aged 17, Patel continues to fight against and raise awareness about the struggles females face in South Africa, especially young black females. She has this year been a familiar face and is a popular speaker against gender-based violence, and the rape and murder of young women in South Africa. Her tenacity at such a young age is a cause for admiration.


Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim

Climate warrior

Ibrahim is an advocate and a member of the Peule Mbororo ethnic group, a small sub-group of the nomadic Fulani people of the Sahel, who are being challenged by the effects of climate change. Given this, Ibrahim's advocacy focuses on environmental protection and the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples, especially women. Ibrahim was also selected to represent civil society at the UN Paris Agreement. There, she warned: "If you do not increase finance for [climate change] adaptation, soon there will be no one to adapt."


Rebeca Gyumi

Winning the battle against child marriages

Tanzania has the 11th-highest absolute number of child brides in the world, according to UNICEF. With at least 779,000 child brides, two out of five girls living in the East African country are married before their 18th birthday.

Previously, girls in Tanzania could marry at the age of 14. In January 2016, Gyumi, a lawyer and social activist, decided to fight against this law. She embarked on a mission to change it and empower girls in Tanzania. Following her campaign, in July 2016, sections 13 and 17 of the Marriage Act were ruled unconstitutional. Most notably, the Tanzanian government appealed A against the 2016 landmark ruling. However, in October this year, the government lost the appeal--the 2016 ruling has been upheld.


Eddie Ndopu

Disability rights defender

About 90% of children with a disability across Africa do not have access to education. Ndopu almost became a part of this statistic. Aged 2, Ndopu was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, and given until the age of 5 to live. After outliving his prognosis, he made it his mission to help close the access gaps for those living with disabilities. Ndopu was appointed an SDG advocate by the UN earlier this year, alongside the likes of Nana Akufo-Addo, the President of Ghana. Ndopu secured a deal with TV network MTV, which will film a docu-series about his bid to go into space.


Olusegun Obasanjo Baba no rest

The former Nigerian President remains a tireless activist, putting many current heads of state to shame with his energy and drive. Even though he finds it hard not to comment on Nigerian politics, his biggest impact today is across the multitude of initiatives and institutions he chairs and lends his support to, in areas ranging from agriculture to peace and security. He remains a committed pan-Africanist and an influential voice in international circles, fighting for Africa's interests and holding its leadership to account.


Hamzat Lawal

Anti-graft crusader

It is estimated that $400bn has been stolen and misused by Nigerian government officials. In 2012, Lawal founded Connected Development (CODE) to tackle this issue of corruption in Nigeria.

His team, including journalists, lawyers and 5,000 volunteers, identify development projects and send freedom of information letters to the officials in charge. Upon receipt of project details, including the total funding allocation, the team transmits the information to the beneficiary community--this pressures officials to act appropriately. If a project is not progressing as planned, CODE holds talks with those in charge and publicises the shortcomings via the media. By doing this, the watchdog says it has impacted more than two million people and facilitated the appropriate usage of over $10m.

This year, Lawal was the recipient of a UN Action Award, a prize which recognises those working to achieve the SDGs in the most transformative ways. In 2016, CODE was the winner of the ONE Africa Award. Worth $100,000, this acknowledges African organisations that tackle challenges impeding development.

Lawal also leads the Nigerian arm of Not Too Young To Run. The movement successfully campaigned for the reduction of the minimum required age for Presidential eligibility--it was lowered from 40 to 30 years old.

"I believe you do not need to hold a political position before you can be impactful ... I'm not seeing myself in Nigerian politics,"

Hamzat Lawal

Innovation, Health & Education


Roy Allela

Inspired inventor

Many in Africa may not have heard of Sign-10, and yet, it is one of the most heartening tech innovations to come out of Africa, having been * created by an African for some of the most underserved people in Africa--the deaf or those with other hearing impairments. In Africa, sign language is not widely known or understood. And when 27-year-old Roy Aliela found himself with a predicament, while his deaf niece was endeavouring to communicate with him, he took to his skills as a tech innovator to find a solution, creating Sign-10, smart gloves that turn a user's sign language into audio. According to the UK's Guardian, Allela this year piloted the gloves at a special needs school in rural Migori County, southwest Kenya, to positive feedback. This unique invention, when rolled out further, could become a much-needed social-inclusion game changer in Africa.

"I was trying to envision how my niece's life would be if she had the same opportunities as everyone else in education, employment, all aspects of life,"

Roy Allela


Onyeka Akumah

Agri-tech genius

For over three years, Onyeka Akumah has been making waves in the agri-tech space as the head of one of the continent's most successful agriculture start-ups. Operating as a platform which drives local finance into smallholder farming across Nigeria, Farmcrowdy has so far impacted the lives of over 25,000 farmers across 14 states. Working his way up through Nigeria's tech scene, he has a background in marketing with the likes of Konga, Jumia and Wakanow. Growing up in a family of four sisters in the 80s, Akumah decided he wanted to become a software engineer after stumbling on a book about coding in the Sokoto college library, northwest Nigeria.

He is now a leading pioneer in Africa's burgeoning agri-tech space. His desire to improve the lot of smallholder farmers is second to none.

"Agriculture is not a quick-win business; it's long-term and it will take a while to reap the benefits from improvements in the sector."


Professor Kelly Chibale

Pharma pioneer

Prof. Chibale is the founder and director of the University of Cape Town's H3D, Africa's only fully integrated drug discovery centre. Born to a working-class family in Zambia's Copperbelt Province, Chibale's life reads like a rags-to-riches story. After attending the University of Zambia, he went to the UK's Cambridge University in 1989 on a scholarship, where he earned a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry in just three years. He then joined the University of Liverpool as a research fellow, moving on to the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, where he studied anti-cancer drugs. His enterprise H3D, which has grown from a team of five to over 60 post-doctoral scientists, is working to put South Africa, and Africa at large, on the map in terms of pharmaceutical research and development.

"I want to debunk this myth that Africa cannot lead international efforts to innovate in the pharmaceutical space and actually discover drugs ... It's what I call confronting Afropessimism,"

Prof. Chibale


Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum

Africas Ebola warrior

Back in 1976, he was part of the research team that investigated the first known outbreak of Ebola. Since then, he has dedicated 40 years of his life to further research on the deadly virus.

But 2019 has been truly special for Dr Muyembe, who is director-general of the National Institute for Biomedical Research and Professor of Microbiology at Kinshasa University Medical School in DR Congo.

In August this year, at the height of the new outbreak of Ebola in his home country of DR Congo, news broke that two Ebola patients who were treated with new drugs in the city of Goma had been declared "cured" and returned to their home.

Dr Muyembe and his team would later, according to the BBC's Focus on Africa, announce that a new cure had proved effective in curing 90% of Ebola patients when symptoms were detected and reported early.

"These two cases were detected very quickly" he said. "As soon as the response teams identified them, they brought them here to the treatment centre. We gave them treatment that is effective and here in a short time, both were cured" he later elaborated at a press conference in Goma.

Dr Muyembe and his team's research and efforts have galvanised global hope that the battle against one of the world's deadliest diseases can be won. Accolades have been flowing in, including from Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who on 30 August this year honoured the good doctor with the 2019 Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize.

"Ebola kills quickly and Ebola heals quickly. That's the message."


Precious Lunga

Pioneering scientist

Precious Lunga, who has a PhD in neuroscience, began her career at UNAIDS Geneva, where she helped with the implementation of HIV prevention programmes. She then pioneered Econet's mobile health platform, mHealth, a technology-based product that delivers services using mobile money payments. She now runs the Baobab Circle, a health technology company that offers services via phones across Africa. Its app allows users to communicate remotely with doctors, monitor chronic conditions and receive advice on lifestyle and treatment.


Francisca Nneka Okeke

Educator extraordinaire

Ever the pioneer, Francisca Nneka Okeke led the way when she was appointed the first female dean at the Faculty of Physical Sciences, the University of Nigeria, demonstrating that the sciences are open to both genders. In post from 2008 to 2010, her advocacy led to the inclusion of more women in the department, with the hiring of three new female faculty members. Okeke has spent much of her career studying the ionosphere and the V "equatorial electrojet phenomenon, an electric current which traverses the globe. Her work could lead to a better knowledge of climate change and help pinpoint sources of climate disaster like tsunamis and earthquakes. She was appointed a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science in 2011.


Aig Imoukhuede

The noble investor

Aig Imoukhuede could easily appear in our business section given his active investments through his asset management and investment vehicles. But he stands out for his work in mobilising private capital towards health and education. He also has a unique determination and single-mindedness.

Close to the Nigerian and African business elite, he has helped to bring the Global Citizen Festival to Nigeria next year, promising to make it the biggest and most impactful to date in terms of advocacy. He has made it his personal mission to deploy and channel more capital, private and public, towards issues of health.

"By fixing health, you fix Africa,"


Thierry Zomahoun

Making education count

A tireless thought-leader on the continent, Thierry Zomahoun has been leading innovative education initiatives for over two decades. Having worked on educational and scientific programmes for businesses and NGOs Africa, Asia and Latin America, he currently heads the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), a pan-African network of centres of excellence for postgraduate training, research and public engagement in the mathematical sciences. He also founded the Next Einstein Forum, which positions itself as Africa's global science forum. A key belief held by both the forum and the institute is that Africa can and will produce the next Einstein. Zomahoun is also the founder of the Kifra Prize, which honours research breakthroughs in science, technology and maths.


Peter Tabichi

The benevolent teacher

In March this year, Peter Tabichi--a maths and physics teacher at a little-known secondary school in the remote village of Pwani in Nakuru, Kenya--became the first African to win the $1m Global Teacher Prize, awarded by the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation. He beat 10,000 other nominees from 179 countries.

On a continent where it is well documented that teachers are some of the lowest paid and make do with basic or little resources, Tabichi selflessly spends 80% of his monthly income on supporting Keriko School and his community. It a rare story of altruism that has caught the attention of millions worldwide--including from an unlikely fan, US President Donald Trump, who even invited and met him at the White House. But for Tabichi, the prize will not change him.

"I am still the same person, and Nakuru is where this prize found me and Nakuru is where I will always be,"

Peter Tabichi



Serge Daniel

Ruling the airwaves

This Benin national, now based in Mali, is one of the most respected African voices on RFI, the French public service radio. An old hand in the industry and in Mali for over a decade, he has an unrivalled network and is a trusted source on issues around security matters, especially those in the Sahel, to the degree that some have accused him of being a secret agent! But his journalistic qualities are unquestionable and many people of influence go to him for counsel and advice. In October he received the Norbert Zongo prize for investigative reporting for his work on traffic corridors in the Sahel.


Afua Hirsch

Speaking truth to power

Afua Hirsch is the most vocal, and arguably the most articulate, commentator on issues of race. A barrister by training, she is not one to take prisoners, standing up to the establishment in supposedly superior Western democracies. Following the successful publication of her book on identity, Brit(ish), last year, she has now published an illustrated children's book on Judge Brenda, the supreme court judge who made the historical judgment finding that the British Prime Minister unlawfully advised the Queen to prorogue parliament this year. Hirsch is currently producing a documentary on the transatlantic slave trade. She has also been a judge for the 2019 Booker Prize--one of the most prestigious English language book awards.


Edward Kobina Enninful

Fashion futurist

It is two years since Ghanaian-born Edward Enninful became the first man, as well as black man, to hold the post of Editor-in-Chief of the iconic British Vogue magazine in its 103-year past, and made his debut with a history-making, sales-record-breaking cover which featured the Ghanaian-British model, Adwoa Aboah. In an industry known for being notoriously white and routinely dismissive of ethnic diversity, all eyes have been on Enninful, watching how he is keeping to his word to revolutionise one of the biggest magazines in the world. And without doubt, Enninful is delivering and cementing his commitment to producing a magazine that embraces all forms of diversity and inclusiveness.

To celebrate his 2-year journey at the helm of Vogue, one of the double December 2019 covers refreshingly features plus-size black American singing sensation Lizzo. Posting on Instagram, Enninful wrote: "Seeing such a positive force for good on k our cover in all her glory makes me realise how far we have come ... I'm so pleased that inclusivity remains at the core of British Vogue and that, in the time since I began here, the fashion and publishing industries have started to embrace a much more exciting and diverse idea of who can be a cover star. How incredible is that?" This year he also convinced Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, to guest edit the magazine.


Folly Bah Thibault

The analytical anchor

Thibault is one of the leading anchors at Al Jazeera English, the network she joined in 2010. She is renowned for her hard-hitting interview style on some of the biggest topical news stories--be it analysing Donald Trump's impeachment saga, dissecting tensions in the Gulf, or interviewing African leaders on the campaign trail. A familiar face on the channel, many will recall her covering major events such as the 2004 tsunami, Barack Obama's election campaign and victory in 2008, and North Africa's Arab Spring. Her ability to break down complex news stories and present them to viewers in a sharp and engaging way have garnered her wide praise and admiration. Thibault is also the founder and president of the Elle Ira a l'Ecole foundation--which promotes the education of girls in Guinea.


Trevor Noah

The showman

Trevor Noah is one of the most successful comedians and TV talk-show hosts to come out of Africa in recent years. The Emmy Award-winning The Daily Show, which he has hosted since 2015, is not only a global phenomenon and crowd-pleaser, but an awards magnet too. This year The Daily Show was nominated for three Emmys, including Outstanding Variety Talk Series. But awards aside, Noah exerts a lot of influence and ignites debate among his millions of fans, keen on his witty, satirical take on global politics and more so, the current state of politics in Donald Trump's America. Noah's comedic approach is also increasingly being credited with winning over and engaging diverse audiences, including the youth, helping them to process the news and politics.

In November the witty showman achieved a solo highlight with a prestigious Grammy nomination for Best Comedy, for his stand-up show, 'Son of Patricia'.

"I don't think it's healthy for people to exist perpetually in a state of news. And I think the news has benefited from that for a long time, putting you through a 24-hour news cycle. So I'm trying to create a show where I go, 'Hey, jump in, enjoy yourself for 30 minutes ...","

Trevor Noah, from Born a Crime


June Sarpong

Diversity champion

Born in London to Ghanaian parents, broadcast journalist June Sarpong has been a familiar face on British television and pop culture for many years. In recent years she has been a staunch campaigner for diversity in the UK's media. "The media is self-selecting--with the result that newsrooms are not reflective ... Editors and gatekeepers need to realise that there's a slew of talent out there that could bring a whole new market," she once argued in an interview with a BBC reporter. June went one step further last July when she released Diversify--Six Degrees of Integration, a book in which she discusses the negative impact of stereotypes on social interactions. Working with the University of Oxford, the book also introduces for the first time in literature, an 'ISM Calculator' encouraging readers to calculate the level of their discriminatory views and beliefs. In October this year she was appointed the new Director of Creative Diversity at the BBC, where she "will lead a renewed drive to further transform and modernise the BBC and its culture ... [and] work to increase representation and ensure that our content reflects the public we serve," the BBC said.

"We are all guilty of 'otherising' and excluding people who seem different to us, and if unchecked the results can be catastrophic,"

June Sarpong


Julie Gichuru

A voice that carries

The former TV anchor Gichuru is a I household name in her native Kenya, where she's been an important commentator and voice during the most important events the country has experienced in the past decade.

Describing herself as an entrepreneur and media personality, her services are sought after not only at the continent's biggest gatherings, but as an adviser to a. number of people and institutions on their outreach and communication strategies.

Commenting prolifically on political and social issues on her social media profiles, Julie--the "Afro-optimist", as she describes herself--exerts enormous influence over her followers, and has a combined total of over a million.


Mark Eddo

Master communicator

Mark Eddo is the CEO of Mark Eddo Media, a Lagos, Nigeria-based communications consultancy that works closely with governments, as well as non-government and private sector organisations to build consensus and achieve goals. He is one of Africa's leading conference presenters and has moderated many major international forums. This year, Eddo has been a key player in facilitating projects and events including the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area for the African Union, and the creation of the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund's Private Sector Initiative for the UN. The initiative, which focuses on the northeast of Nigeria, is a first for the UN, enabling the private sector to contribute to the humanitarian assistance provided by donor countries, and will serve as a blueprint for how businesses can engage with the UN to support humanitarian action globally. In 2019, Eddo, who is also a former BBC and ITN business correspondent, and his business partner Joanne McNally, created the African Influencers for Development (AID) partnership initiative for the UNDP's Regional Bureau for Africa. This harnesses Africa's creative, intellectual and entrepreneurial energy through a coalition of African influencers in business, academia and the arts.

Arts & Culture


Sherrie Silver

Dancing to stardom

She may have risen to fame as the creative force behind the dance moves in the acclaimed, albeit controversial, American rapper, Childish Gambino's award-winning hit 'This is America,' which has so far amassed over 600m views on YouTube. But, 2019 is the year Sherrie Silver came into her own. Silver, who is also an actress, has gone on to do more choreography, including for the catchy 'Drogba (Joanna)' by Afro B, and TV campaigns for Vogue, Nike, Hunters Cider, Whole Foods and SportPesa.

She is also becoming a respected philanthropist in Rwanda, where she works with underprivileged kids.


N'Gone Fall

Arts maven

A renowned curator, essayist and cultural policies specialist, N'Gone Fall is currently the General Commissioner of Season Africa 2020--an initiative championed by France's President Macron to bring more understanding of the world, from an African perspective. As a cultural policies advisor, she produces strategic plans, orientation programmes and evaluation reports for governments and international institutions. Her past roles include being Editor of the African art magazine, Revue Noire. She has also previously curated numerous exhibitions in Africa, Europe and the USA, including as a guest curator at the Dakar Contemporary Art Biennial.


Mati Diop

The one to watch

In May this year, Mati Diop made Africa proud by winning the coveted Cannes Grand Prix for her film Atlantics (Atlantique). She became the first black woman director to win an award in the Festival's 72-year history. At the Toronto International Film Festival, Diop was the recipient of the inaugural Mary Pickford Award for emerging female talent. Back home, Atlantics was selected as Senegal's entry for the international feature film category at the upcoming Academy Awards. The film has also has since premiered on Netflix, to much acclaim and putting African cinema firmly on the map. Diop is the niece of the late Djibril Diop Mambety--the celebrated Senegalese actor, poet and cinema pioneer.


Sho Madjozi

New national treasure

What a year it has been for the 27-year-old from Limpopo, who has crafted her own genre of rap by blending her local tongue Xitsonga, English and at times Swahili, into catchy tunes. But who knew, when she started singing on Instagram three years ago, that in 2019 she would not only win the fan-voted category, the Best New International Act, at the BET awards, but also take America (and the world at large), by storm with her global hit 'John Cena', referencing the WWE wrestling legend.

This year she has also been an unflinching vocal critic of xenophobia in South Africa.


Rami Malek

King of the Nile

He donned the persona of one of the world's greatest music legends--playing Queen frontman Freddie Mercury--in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, a role for which he won an Oscar for Best Actor last year. Malek, a US citizen born of two Egyptian immigrants, has lately, according to Screenrant, been rendering an authoritative voice on the plight of immigrants in the US.

Malek, who is also a recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Award and the British Academy Film Award, wound up 2019 by playing Safin, the primary antagonist in the much-anticipated upcoming James Bond release, No Time To Die, alongside Daniel Craig and Naomi Harris.


Burna Boy

The Giant of Africa

The 28-year old Burna Boy--born Damini Ogulu--has without doubt been one of Africa's fastest-rising and most popular stars of 2019. His fusion of dancehall, Afrobeats, pop and reggae have captured the world--bagging him a number of awards this year, including the much-coveted International Act of the Year prize at the popular Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards. In June, Apple Music gave him a shout-out as the "next artist" to watch and included his music on Beats 1--a music station owned and operated by Apple Inc. He crowned the year with a featured song on the one and only Beyonce's Lion King: The Gift album, and received a Grammy nomination for Best World Music Album.

"I can guarantee you that at least 90% of people my age have no clue about the real origins of Nigeria. There's so much truth that we need to know in order to be respected. Because right now the only thing that can save the youth is knowledge and financial independence,"

Burna Boy, in an interview with Fader


Thando Hopa

Inclusion activist

People born with albinism are some of the most marginalised in Africa. And growing up with the genetic skin disorder, Thando has borne it all, and has shared the paradoxical ignorance her condition ignites in people: "There is a contradictory belief that people with albinism bring either good or bad luck. People hug and hold me for good luck, or conversely spit into the necklines of their tops to ward off bad luck," she says. But against all odds, the model, who is a lawyer by profession, has become a powerful voice and advocate for diversity and inclusion in the beauty and fashion industry. And she is being heard. She crowned 2019 by appearing on the Cover of Vogue Portugal's April edition, the first person with albinism to grace a Vogue cover in the history of the magazine franchise.

"In stories there needs to be a greater level of representation --we shouldn't limit certain images to stereotypical roles and narratives."


Nelson Makamo

Star painter

This year has been a coming of age for this talented 36-year-old South African artist. He has a unique and recognisable style and is best known for his charcoal and oil paintings portraying African children. With superstar fans all over the world, including the likes of Oprah Winfrey, hip hop artist Swizz Beatz and filmmaker Ava DuVernay, he was approached by Time magazine to produce the cover of their 'Optimists' issue. It is unquestionable that he has become one of the most sought-after African artists.


Joana Choumali

Re-imagining African art

Joana Choumali's bold and emotion-evoking photographic and textile art won her the 2019 Prix Pictet--the world's leading award for photography. She is the first-ever African to win the exalted prize, whose theme this year was 'hope,' a word that in many ways inspires Choumali's artistic drive and journey. Her winning collection, titled Ca va aller (It will be OK), was part-inspired by the 2016 terror attacks at three Ivorian hotels in the popular seaside town of Grand-Bassam. A prolific worker who draws inspiration from personal experiences, Choumali has this year alone been invited to 8 exhibitions worldwide. That's the power and popularity of her work.


Joel Kachi Benson

Daughters of Chibok

It has been more than 5 years, and that hashtag #bringbackourgirls Is but a fading memory. But to remind the world about Chibok, filmmaker Joel Kachi Benson produced and directed the tear-jerking Daughters of Chibok, which this September won best virtual reality story at the Venice Film Festival--the first African film to win the award.

Benson, who is the founder of VR360 Stories, a pioneering Nigerian virtual reality video production company, said about the film: "I use immersive storytelling to amplify the voices of those who would ordinarily not be heard. In January 2019, five years after the kidnap, I made my first trip to Chibok and I met Yana, woman leader and mother of Rifkatu Galang, one of the missing girls. Like many others, Yana can't move on--she still washes her daughter's clothes and packs them in a small bag, waiting for her return. Many mothers in Chibok feel the world has moved on and forgotten about them, their pain and grief."


Adut Akech

Model of the year

Since signing up, at just 17 years old, to model as an exclusive for Saint Laurent on Anthony Vaccarello's debut show in Paris in Spring/ Summer 2016, Adut Akech has become one of the world's most recognisable and in-demand fashion models. Her face now appears on almost every other high-end fashion billboard, and she has featured in numerous editorial campaigns, both in magazines and on TV across the globe. Such Is her clout that in the month of September alone this year, she graced four different Vogue magazine covers (Japan, British, Germany and Italy), among numerous others. Now 19, Akech has continued to be the muse for such powerhouse fashion houses as Valentino and Chanel. She has become a staple at opening catwalk shows, including for Alexander McQueen, Prada, Versace, Givenchy, Lanvin and many more.

But outside fashion, Akech--who lived in a refugee camp as a young child--began to work with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to highlight the plight of refugees around the world, and inspire others from her background.

"Beauty to me, now, is about just expressing myself and being exactly who I am. What I am doing makes me feel the most beautiful, not caring about what anybody thinks,"

Adut Akech, speaking to Elle


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The devoted feminist

The award-winning author and feminist is like a gift that keeps on giving. Although the prolific author did not write new work this past year, the world is fixated with her previous volumes and continued advocacy championing women's rights globally. The United Nations Foundation honoured her with a Global Leadership Award in November "for her work using literature and storytelling to connect with people across generations and cultures on issues of gender and racial equality."


Lupita Nyongo

Writing Sulwe

Since her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win 6 years ago, for her first feature film role in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita has hardly been out of the limelight, with relentless magazine covers and features. But just when we wondered what else she can do, the icon of 2018's Black Panther released her debut children's novel, Sulwe. In true Lupita style, this is not just a book for kids--it's an inspiration, about a young black girl who doesn't think she's beautiful, because all she finds in books and on TV is the beauty of white or light-skinned people. The illustrated book shows how Sulwe, the heroine, overcomes that. Widely acclaimed, it is set to be translated into many languages.


Alain Mabanckou

Congolese literary icon

The Congolese indigene Alain Mabanckou--the renowned novelist, poet and teacher, remains a key figure in the African and global literary scene, two decades after emerging as a fledgling novelist at the age of just 23. Originally from Pointe-Noire in Congo Brazzaville, he moved to France on a scholarship after studying law at Marien-Ngouabi University in Brazzaville. It was here that his prolific writing career began, as he won the Grand prix litteraire d'Afrique noire for his first novel Bleu-blanc-rouge, in 1999.

He has since won 16 literary prizes, including the Prix Renadout, one of France's most distinguished awards, for his novel Memoires de porc-epic, published in 2006. This year he teamed up with French-Djiboutian novelist Abdourahman Waberi to create The Playful Dictionary of African Cultures, the first of its kind and a recommended read--it would be an ideal festive gift.


Leila Slimani

Unsung novelist

Leila Slimani is perhaps one the most unsung, yet phenomenal authors to come out of French-speaking Africa right now. But that is all about to change. According to media reports, including the Hollywood Reporter, the film production company Legendary Entertainment are in the process of turning her novel The Perfect Nanny into a feature film. Published in France in 2016, the book has received major prizes including the Prix Goncourt. It persuasively explores a diverse range of issues from motherhood and race to social discrimination, with a focus on neglected and mistreated migrants.


Goretti Kyomuhendo

The literary activist

This unassuming Ugandan literary great is the author of prize-winning works including The First Daughter, Secrets No More, and, most prominently in terms of international acclaim, Waiting: A Novel of Uganda's Hidden War. She has also published children's books and a writers' guide entitled The Essential Handbook for African Creative Writers, Kyomuhendo deserves further celebration for her developmental literary work--as the founding member of FEMRITE, the Uganda Women Writers Association, and, since relocating to London, UK in 2008, the African Writers' Trust, both of which have been acclaimed for nurturing writers' voices.



Leader of the rap pack

Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo, the chart-topping rapper popularly known as Stormzy, has had a quite remarkable 2019. In June, he became the first black British solo artist ever to headline the Glastonbury festival--one of the biggest events in the music calendar. He used his politically-charged performance to draw attention to the experience of young black people in the UK. The performance got everyone in his expanding global fan-base talking about how pop culture can be an influencer of positive change. And then there were the awards that followed: the Ivor Novelio and two Brits, to mention some.

In June, he bagged a Time magazine cover, which described the 26-year-old as one of the "next generation leaders". But that's not all. The rapper has also created what the prestigious Cambridge University has termed "the Stormzy effect". Following the rapper's funding of a full scholarship to two students this and last year, the university says more black students are now applying and being admitted into Cambridge than ever before. "The rapper's scholarship has been part of the change in culture," reported the BBC.


Felwine Sarr

Afrotopian agitator

Senegalese-born Sarr is one of Africa's most prominent intellectual voices, clocking in at number 6 of the highly-influential Art Review 'Power 100 for 2019' for his work on the decolonisation of Western museum collections. With Benedicte Savoy, he was commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron in 2018 to produce an advisory report on art and antiques acquired during the French colonial period. Sarr has also received the Grand Prix for his book on decolonisation, Afrotopia, and lectures at Gaston Berger University in Senegal.



Salwa Eid Naser

The Nigerian connection

Salwa Eid Naser's victory over Olympic champion Shaunae Miller--Uibo in the 400 metres was the major upset of the World Athletics Championships in Doha. Her rival had stood down from the 200 metres to concentrate on the longer distance but, although she beat her regional record and made herself sick by her efforts, the Bahamian could not stop the 21-year-old Bahraini athlete's surge to victory. Naser finished in 48.14 seconds, the best time for over 30 years.

In spite of Miller-Uibo's record and reputation, the result should not have been unexpected. Naser has been in outstanding form since winning the 2015 World Youth Championships and taking silver medal in the World Championships two years after. In Doha, Salwa destroyed the opposition with her stunning initial burst of speed--"poetry in motion, as one television commentator described it.

Naser, who is an inspiration for what youth can achieve with talent, training and determination, is one of the few top middle-distance athletes to come out of West Africa--she was born in Nigeria (as Ebelechukwu Abgapuonwy) before relocating to her Bahraini father's country.

"I still can't believe the time," she said of her history-making time. "When I saw it I went completely crazy. I was training so hard but I never expected to run this fast."


Brigid Kosgei


In an exceptional weekend for marathon running, Brigid Jepscheschir Kosgei broke the women's record in the Chicago Marathon with 2:14:04 on 13 October (the day after her compatriot Eliud Kipchoge had lowered the men's two-hour barrier).

It has been a stunning year for the 25-year-old Kenyan: she also became the youngest woman to win the London Marathon and set a course record of 1:04:28 in winning the Great North Run.

Brigid's victory in Chicago, confirming her victory there the previous year, broke the 16-year record of the UK's Paula Radcliffe, who was on hand to congratulate her, by an exceptional 81 seconds. Inspired by the spectators, she started the first mile at break-neck speed and just kept going to cut more than four minutes from her best personal time. It was a triumph for dedication and commitment. But Kosgei does not intend to stop there.

"I think 2 hours 10 minutes is possible for a lady. I am focussed on reducing my time again."


Mohamed 'Mo' Salah

King of hearts

If he's good enough for you, he's good enough for me, if he scores another few, then I'll be Muslim too--so rings out one of the Liverpool fans' most popular chants whenever their 'favourite son,' Mo Salah plays.

But after a sensational season in 2017/18, Salah no longer belongs to Liverpool or for that matter, Egypt--he belongs to the world. His fan base across the globe is in the tens of millions. Some who know these things say he is already a legend in his own lifetime.

He is one of the very few soccer players to feature on the cover of TIME magazine's '100 Most Influential People of 2019' issue, as a testament to his influence globally.

Will 2019/20 be as sensational for him as the last season? Planet Football has reassuring stats for any of his fans who may be worried: they show this is actually the forward's best start to a campaign--not just for Liverpool, but in his entire career. Stats for his first 10 games: 2017/18: 6 goals, 1 assist; 2018/19: 3 goals, 1 assist and 2019/20: 6 goals, 3 assists. The Pharaoh, it seems, is still set on not only winning games and awards, but also hearts around the globe.

"Always believe in your ability and in your goals. This is the only way you will be able to reach them."


Siya Kolisi

Man of destiny

When Siyamthanda (Siya) Kolisi, the captain of the victorious Springboks rugby team, lifted the coveted William Webb Ellis Trophy after an emphatic 32-12 demolition of England at the Yokohama Stadium in Japan on 2 November in the final of Rugby World Cup 2019, it was inevitable that the symbolism of one of world sport's iconic moments transcended a mere rugby match, to embrace the legacy, hope and aspirations of millions of South Africans.

10,000 adoring fans lined the routes; 0 the 'Champions Trophy Tour' in Pretoria Soweto, Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town to welcome tin triumphant Boks.

When the Springboks won their first World Cup in 1995, Kolisi was a 4-year-old toddler, oblivious to the history-making in progress at Ellis Park. Then there was only one Black player in the team--Chester Williams, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

Fast-forward to 2019 in Japan, and here were six Blacks in the final, not counting the substitutes and members of the overall squad. In less than a quarter of a century, sports transformation in South Africa seems to have come of age, led by Kolisi, whose inspiration and role model was none other than Madiba.

It is this legacy that Kolisi is passing on to the next generation. It is a 'work in progress' and something that he is destined to be involved in whatever post-rugby career he embarks on.

His ascendancy to the apex of South African rugby is unique and compelling. He came from a desperately poor beginning where his parents could not afford basic school fees, let alone his rugby kit. He impressed scouts with his demeanour and prowess, which earned him a scholarship at the prestigious Grey Junior School.

"I was given the opportunity and I took it with both of my hands. Every time I step on the pitch, I want to inspire everyone that's been in my situation. You can always make it, as long as you believe. Your past doesn't determine your future."


Masai Ujiri

King of the court

As the President of the Toronto Raptors in Canada, Masai Ujiri sits proudly in Africa's basketball hall of fame. He was named the NBA Executive of the Year in 2013 for helping the Denver Nuggets return to the playoffs after a bad period. Following the success, he moved to the Raptors and helped the Toronto team win five division titles. This year he oversaw his side to the NBA championship title, the first win by a team based outside the United States. Ujiri was born in England but returned to Zaria in Nigeria when he was two years old. His interest in basketball began as a 13-year-old playing with friends at outdoor courts in Nigeria. After playing in America during high school, he then played in Europe for six years before being introduced to coaching by friends in the NBA. The rest is history.


Israel Adesanya

The undefeated champ

Fighting out of Auckland, New Zealand, by way of Lagos, Nigeria, Israel Adesanya is an undefeated UFC middleweight champion with 18 wins under his belt, 14 from knockout. Growing up in Lagos, his love for fighting began at an after-school Taekwondo club. Adesanya was then sent to New Zealand at the age of ten to get a better education. Inspired by the Thai martial arts film Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, he started amateur kickboxing until he made his professional debut in 2012 in Hong Kong. Since then he has signed with the UFC and recently, won a title fight against Robert Whittoker to become the middleweight champion.


Amadou Gallo Fall

Shooting for glory

With so many African players--or players of African descent--topping the American NBA charts, it's time some of that hype was redirected to Africa. Amadou Gallo Fall, the new president of the Basketball Africa League, has the privilege of doing exactly that. Ahead of its launch next year, Fall has been responsible for helping execute a number of Africa-focused NBA campaigns on the continent. In South Africa, he helped open the league's office in 2010, and established the NBA Academy Africa in 2017, which provides scholarships to 25 young hopefuls. Before that, Fall worked for the Dallas Mavericks, as vice president of international affairs. A Senegalese citizen, he rose to prominence at the country's Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Senegalese Basketball Federation.


Eliud Kipchoge

To the moon and back

Eliud Kipchoge, the 34 year-old Kenyan, made marathon history by breaking the 2-hour barrier in the Ineos 1:59 Challenge at the Prater Park, Vienna on 12 October. He completed the 26.2-mile course in 1:59:40, roared home by a large crowd on the final straight before embracing his wife, grabbing a Kenyan flag, and being mobbed by his pacemakers.

The achievement, though spectacular, is not classed as an official marathon record because it wasn't in an open race and due to the special conditions of the event (which were, themselves, a technical wonder).

Even so, Kipchoge does also hold the official marathon record at the 2:01:39 he achieved at Berlin in 2018, and earlier this year ran the second-fastest time of 2:02:37 to win the London Marathon. The Kenyan has dominated long-distance running since his senior international debut in the 5000 metres at the Paris World Championships in 2003 and has won 12 out of the 13 marathons in which he has competed (in the other he was runner-up). His performance is important, too, in lifting athletics from the controversies which have threatened to engulf it.

"Today we went to the Moon and came back to earth ... This shows no-one is limited. Now I've done it, I am expecting more people to do it after me,"

Eliud Kipchoge
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Author:Jere, reGina Jane; Versi, Anver; Yedder, Omar Ben; Thomas, David; Collins, Tom; Kedem, Shoshana; Nwa
Publication:New African
Article Type:Cover story
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Dec 1, 2019
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