100 Most influential Africans of 2015.
Politics and Public Office
President Muhammadu Buhari
Man of the moment
By James Schneider
Writing of a French coup in the 19th century, one great thinker wrote that history repeats itself "first as tragedy, then as farce". For Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria, a late 20th century coup may have ended in tragedy, but Buhari's triumphant return to Aso Rock through the ballot box this year was far from a farce.
Buhari started 2015 as the underdog in Nigeria's most significant election since 1993. The former military ruler was the flagbearer for a powerful opposition, united for the first time. He had a great deal of popular support and was undergoing an ultimately successful image makeover. However, his opponent, the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, had the power of the state security services harassed journalists and opposition politicians--and huge campaign funds: newspapers practically doubled in size during the election period with pro-Jonathan adverts and supplements.
Then, in early February, the military postponed the elections for six weeks. The official reason was to fight Boko Haram, but many feared foul play. History might repeat itself: 1993 the tragedy, 2015 the farce. The 1993 elections were meant to transfer power from a decade of military rule, which Buhari himself started with his 1983 coup, to a civilian, elected government. Instead, MKO Abiola won the election but military ruler Ibrahim Babangida annulled it, ushering in another six years of dictatorship.
But the farce wasn't to be. When elections were eventually held at the end of March and beginning of April, Buhari and his All Progressives Congress swept to victory. Jonathan conceded defeat around 12 hours after New African was the first outlet in the world to project a Buhari victory. The doom mongers had warned that elections could even lead to civil war. Instead, the world watched as Nigeria had its first transfer of power from one party to another at the ballot box, in elections that were generally fair and mostly free of violence.
Buhari's first six months as elected president, having assumed office on 29 May, were focused on two things--tackling corruption and Boko Haram--and overshadowed by one: a lack of a cabinet. The president, elected as an anti-corruption broom to sweep out Nigeria's stables, has received praise for his efforts to make Nigeria's petroleum sector and ministry finances more transparent. He has also successfully increased cooperation between Nigeria and its neighbours in the fight against Boko Haram.
Buhari finally swore in his cabinet on 11 November. But much of the government's power will remain centralised with the president. Not only will he be the oil minister, but his appointments suggest he will continue to be the driving force in defence, foreign, and much of economic policy. 2015 was Buhari's year. With power seemingly so centralised in his hands, Nigeria will need him to repeat the feat in 2016.
Gracious in defeat
2015 should have been a year to forget for Goodluck Jonathan. He entered the history books as the first Nigerian president to be voted out of office. His People's Democratic Party's (PDP) 16-year run in power that started with the return to civilian rule ended under his watch. In November, the PDP tried to distance itself from Jonathan, suggesting he was the wrong candidate and shouldn't have been the flagbearer in 2015 and even in 2011.
However, losing power and accepting that loss is likely to be Jonathan's greatest legacy and history will treat him kindly for it. It was Jonathan that appointed the independent-spirited Attahiru Jega to head the electoral commission. Jonathan endorsed Jega's process of improving the fairness of Nigeria's elections, which ultimately led to the president's ouster.
It should not be forgotten that halfway through the results being announced--a process that took two days--Godsday Orubebe, a Jonathan ally from the Niger Delta, disrupted proceedings accusing Jega of "tribalism" in what was later reported by Reuters to be part of a plot to kidnap the election supremo. Jonathan's brief phone call to concede defeat and then his request to his more excitable supporters to respect the result did much to prevent disaster.
The zoologist from Bayelsa came to power after his predecessor died, ending a possible constitutional crisis, and left power in a manner that avoided another potential crisis. His successes and failures on policy can be debated, but he helped entrench constitutional and electoral norms. For this, he will be well remembered.
Profiled by James Schneider
Amina J. Mohammed
She's got the goals
Amina J. Mohammed is a technocrat with serious pedigree. She has spent the last three years as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning. In other words, Mohammed is Ms Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So, for the billions of people across the world whose lives will be influenced by the SDGs over the next 15 years, Mohammed is one of the most influential people they may not have heard of.
Hardly a stranger to the public in her native Nigeria, her profile rose further towards the end of the year when she became one of only four female ministers appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari. In a widely praised appointment, Mohammed is now Nigeria's environment minister.
It is not often that quiet academics become national heroes and pop culture icons. Attahiru Jega completed this feat and played a role of enormous historical importance for his country during his five years as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Jega oversaw two presidential elections. His first, which saw incumbent Goodluck Jonathan defeat long-time challenger and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, was a dramatic improvement on the 2007 election.
This year's re-run was Jega's crowning glory. Under enormous pressure from the state, security services, the media, and the military, Jega was able to deliver a system of biometric voter registration that secured a much freer and fairer election. The opposition won for the first time.
With his job done, Jega retired in June this year. His unflappability in the face of endless challenges and complications spawned the slogan "Keep Jega and carry on" (a play on "Keep calm and carry on", a British World War II poster).
What other electoral commission heads can claim such a record--and their own poster?
The new rabble-rouser
"A black leader of South Africa's 'white' opposition" is how one popular British newspaper announced his appointment as leader of the official white-dominated opposition party--the Democratic Alliance (DA)--in May this year. Another newspaper described Maimane (pictured below)--a theology graduate--as "The Obama of Soweto", referring to his hugely popular oratory skills, both in parliament and public speaking. His ascendance to the helm of the DA was a moment that was described as a game-changer in South African politics and as predicted the 35-year-old has definitely realigned South Africa's political discourse in 2015. The youthful leader has not been afraid to bare his teeth--who can forget that "you are a broken man residing over a broken society" jab at President Jacob Zuma during this year's State of the Nation address. Maimane has also increasingly amassed the support of black youths to a party once viewed as untouchable by the majority black population. The world watches what will become of this "young Turk"--come the next elections.
The intrepid agitator
When the head of the Rwandan secret service was arrested in London on the back of a Spanish arrest warrant, the president of the country, Paul Kagame, made a vitriolic attack against the West, likening the act to slavery and colonialism. Needless to say, and with the support of Cherie Blair--a personal friend of the President--in her role as QC, the detainee was soon released. Kagame is considered by some as a strong man who delivers results, a 'benign autocrat' who has transformed his country. The question now is, will he run for a third term? Irrespective, Kagame remains one of the most articulate and listened-to leaders, who is influencing the global discourse on Africa and has changed the fortunes of his country.
The non-conforming radicals
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, led by its maverick sharp-tongued leader Julius Malema, is unarguably an entity whose influence in 2015, love or loathe it, cannot be brushed aside. Its mantras, especially those that tear apart the ruling ANC's failures in providing for the basic needs of its majority black population, more than two decades after the fall of apartheid, has been the strength and making of the EFF. The party, popular with the disgruntled youth, has gained further traction this year by championing the highly publicised youth-led campaigns #rhodesmustfall and recently, #feesmustfall, which achieved policy change. This is not to forget how Malema constantly reminds the Zuma government of its failures in the 2012 Marikana mining massacres, in which police shot and killed 34 innocent striking miners. So popular is the EFF that its membership has grown considerably since its establishment in 2014--some official audits show its membership stands at 500,000-strong. Its influence extends well beyond South African borders.
The insider rocking the boat
Pre-2015, Mbabazi had been defined mostly by his 20-year affiliation with current Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, under whom he served as Prime Minister, but more importantly by being a founding member of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRC). Recently however, he has found himself separated from, and even at odds with, his long-time political ally. Now both intend to run for the presidency in the 2016 elections, and are running for their NRC party's nomination. However, if a minute is a lifetime in politics, then spare a thought for what 20 years in Mbabazi's lifetime feels like. But he has clearly accrued enough influence during that time to rock the boat he once rowed with his onetime buddy Museveni--who has been at the helm for 19 years. Will the opposition from within be the answer to Ugandans yearning for a new leader?
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
A medical practitioner, Dr Ghebreyesus made his name when he was Minister of Health and his deployment of health extension workers across the country contributed to massive gains in the healthcare sector. Since 2012, he has been Minister of Foreign Affairs and once again he has put people at the centre of his policies. Last year, following mistreatment of Ethiopians by Saudi police, he took a hard stance against the actions of the authorities. He has a mass social media following in his country, being a regular user of social networks. His Facebook page is a national phenomenon, where he celebrates his staff and Ethiopian achievements around the world. With Ethiopia a central voice at international meetings, he uses his position to put forward Africa's case to the world and to defend African interests globally. He is also a key player in Ethiopia's strategic intervention and mediation in regional conflicts, be it in Somalia or South Sudan. Interestingly, Ethiopia is the second largest troop-contributing country to UN peacekeeping missions.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
The public protector
The celebrated and influential former governor of DRCongo's Katanga province made headlines this year by resigning from the country's People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD). He is possibly the second-most powerful man in the country after the president. He has become increasingly vocal, condemning the government's human rights record and the not-so-popular attempts to prolong Kabila's hold to power. Katumbi draws massive respect in most parts of the country and more so in the mineral-rich Katanga, where many swear by his name. He made his fortune as a businessman, and his name as the governor of Katanga, where he transformed the province. The Roman Abramovich of African football, he is the rich benefactor behind TP Mazembe, the winners of the 2015 African Champions League. There is no doubt Katumbi pulls many influential strings and it is of small wonder his resignation from the ruling party fuelled talk he is gearing up for the presidential race next year. He has not commented.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Rebuilding "a failed state"
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud probably has one of the most challenging presidencies in Africa, with the burden of taking over what was once painfully and routinely described as "the world's most failed state". It has not been ease since he took office in 2012 and the challenges of Somalia have been well and widely documented. But for a start, Mohamud is widely credited for dismantling and abandoning Somalia's previous clan-based politics and building national reconciliation, despite some severe economic and social challenges that have exacerbated conflict. Still, he has acted decisively on many fronts including, in the opinion of many analysts, his enforcement of a 25% wage cut and higher taxes on government officials, which has gone down well with the populace. Just last month, the UN's top diplomat in Somalia, Nicholas Kay, told a special session of the Security Council on Somali, that under this leader the country is steadily transforming from a "failed state to a recovering one." Challenges remain, but it is good to hear good news from Somalia.
The must-go-to sage
It has been 7 years since Thabo Mbeki left office, but the former South African second president remains as relevant as ever in the shaping of Africa's political and economic future, and he is still one of the most sought-after and celebrated minds. But in 2015, as chair of the AU/Uneca-initiated High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows out of Africa, it was Mbeki's rallying call to "track, stop and get" an estimated $50 billion which illicitly disappears from Africa annually, that got everyone who cares about the continent's developmental needs, talking and seeking answers. The Mbeki-led panel revealed in January that between 1970 and 2008, Africa lost an estimated and mind-numbing $854 billion and $1.8 trillion in illicit financial flows. Imagine what would happen if this money, which totally outstrips overseas development aid, was injected into improving African economies. It is no wonder Mbeki is pulling no punches and has spent the past year advising, campaigning and incisively criticising global politicians to unanimously commit to stop the scourge that has for so long now, bled Africa dry.
King Mohammed VI
It is the King who calls the shots in the Moroccan Kingdom, although he does so in an understated manner. He understood the threat of Islamism early on and has managed to oversee what is being considered as a smooth devolution of power, whilst remaining the chief orchestrator of the country's political and business direction. Morocco's pivot towards West and Central Africa is largely his making. On his month-long caravans across Africa, he has strengthened ties with many peers, predominantly in francophone Africa, taking alongside him a strong business delegation, who have signed a number of important deals and joint investments.
GUINEA, LIBERIA & SIERRA LEONE
President Alpha Conde
President Ellen Johnson
President Ernest Bai Koroma
Winning the war on Ebola, against all odds
This year, these three presidents were thrust into the international spotlight for a reason none of them would have ever dreamt of nor wished, as leaders of the three countries devastated by one of the worst Ebola outbreaks on the continent. Doomsayers predicted worse, but with combined leadership, they resolutely stepped up to the task of fighting and beating the deadly virus against all odds.
As the year draws to a close, Sirleaf's Liberia was the first to be declared Ebola-free on 3 September by the World Health Organisation, followed by Koroma's Sierra Leone on 7 November. Guinea, where the outbreak began, is not yet completely out of the woods, with pockets of sufferers in some rural areas, but as we went to press in mid-November, there had been no new cases of the disease reported in Guinea according to the WHO. Now that the fight against Ebola has been won, the presidents are determined to keep that tenacity in place so that the battle remains won.
The civil and women's rights servant
Hugely respected and with over 20 years of experience in policy, diplomatic and conflict-resolution in Africa, Zainab Bangura's influence is undeniable.
As the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Bangura's role sees her active on and off the African continent. This year has seen her at platforms highlighting the plight of women in conflict zones such as Syria, Afghanistan, Darfur and Nigeria.
She has also taken decisive steps against equally harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, by commissioning preventative reports on the practice in various African countries.
The little big voice
Former investment banker and economist Lionel Zinsou has been given the biggest voice within one of Africa's smallest countries, as prime minister of Benin. In his previous life, Zinsou was "Monsieur Afrique" in France, the one everyone turned to, including Frangois Hollande, for insights on Africa. He is one of the continent's most respected spokespeople and its biggest cheerleader. Zinsou has been defined by his belief that access to energy should be a social right. He has been using his newly found voice to share his country's ambitious "energy for all" programme.
Top man at the top
This bow-tied Nigerian won a thrilling contest in May to take the helm at the African Development Bank. Having officially taken the reins on 1 September, Adesina has hit the ground running and his early pronouncements have made energy a priority for the bank. Adesina made his name as the man who transformed agriculture in Nigeria. He was one of the stars of the Jonathan administration and after Buhari's election victory, Adesina received the full backing of the new president to run as Nigeria's candidate at the Bank. Adesina has started to, and will continue to, influence the direction of the African discourse both on the continent and internationally.
Abdel Fattah El-Sisi
To love and loathe
El-Sisi splits opinions internationally. For many, the army general represents the old guard and has been criticised for what is perceived as a severe clampdown on journalists and government oppositions Supporters of El-Sisi cite stability in the country, renewed optimism and stronger economic performance. They also point to some historical achievements, such as the opening of the new channel on the Suez Canal in August, and the building of a new city on the outskirts of Cairo. El-Sisi hosted an international investment conference earlier this year, bringing in global players and massive financial commitments from companies in the Arab world. His closeness with certain Gulf state! has meant he has mediated issues on behalf of other African statesmen, and he has made overtures ; to his neighbours in the South, namely Ethiopia. Egypt is considered a key international partner in the fight against extremism and in abating the threat in neighbouring Libya. El-Sisi, a practising Muslim, has been outspoken on issues of extremism, promoting a modern and tolerant Islam.
The compelling negotiator
Kenya's cabinet secretary for foreign affairs and international trade has done such an admirable job in her current role, that she is now being proposed for the candidacy of the next UN secretary general. In July she took a no-ifs, no-buts stand against American broadcasting giant CNN after it recklessly depicted Kenya as "the hotbed of terror", prior to Barack Obama's visit, going as far as suggesting the network should leave Kenya. This is one woman who knows what is good for Africa.
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
The continental heroine
As chairperson of the AU Commission--the policymaking and driving arm of the AU--she basically runs the day-to-day cycle of what is considered Africa's most influential body, the African Union. In the face of the worst Ebola outbreak, conflicts in South Sudan and political upheavals in Burundi and Burkina Faso, without a doubt 2015 has been one of the most challenging and busy for the AU chief. The AU's role and influence in all of this has been fundamental. One of her passions is to steer the AU away from foreign dependence for funding African projects. This year, she has been unrelenting in her call on "African captains of industry" to pledge larger amounts to accelerate self-sufficiency in the African Union. In 2015, the AU chief has also been very active against human trafficking and the struggles of women. The AU declared 2015 "The Year Of Women's Empowerment", and back home, there is plenty of talk that she is being positioned to take over the reins from her former husband.
The executive secretary for the UN Economic Commission for Africa is a supreme strategist and thinker. The man from Guinea-Bissau is known for his intellectual and long-term tactical approach to problem solving. Lopes continues to play a key role in influencing policy. He is a staunch advocate of homegrown solutions and is a proponent of new ways of thinking, so that things are not simply business as usual. Dogged and determined, Lopes is a data fanatic who eschews anecdotal evidence for hard concrete facts. Behind the scenes, he is working closely with a number of governments to advise policy makers in an increasingly complex world. When asked if he was invariably tied to a UN agenda, he replied: "I have two choices: I can take the UN's agenda to Africa, or rather, I can take Africa's agenda to the UN".
Our lady at the UN
An anti-apartheid heroine, and former vice president in South Africa, the UN's executive director of UN Women is no stranger to taking on difficult challenges, in her current role, she is entrusted with driving the UN's global gender policy--an area where progress is known to be chronically slow, although some strides have been noted in recent years. But under her helm, she is trying to hasten gender parity. This year she was one of the lead voices calling for an end to child marriages in some parts of Africa--an issue that was widely championed globally.
Changing Polish attitude about Africa
The Nigerian has managed to accomplish one of the most interesting feats in the Diaspora--he became the first black member of the Polish Parliament as part of the Polish People's Party. He managed to accomplish this at the height of racial tensions in the country. Since he won his seat, he has devoted a large part of his time to trying to change Polish attitudes to Africa and black people. "I've always said and still underline, that in my opinion there is no racism in Poland. There is, however, something that I call low inter-cultural competences. And this can be changed by more contact between different cultures and societal groups. No law can change the mentality of people."
The aspirational Diasporan
Africa does have sons and daughters of its soil influencing discourse, even policy, in its Diaspora too--the 6th region of the continent as the Diaspora is referred to. One such is Chuka Umunna, a former Labour party shadow business secretary, who caused a sensation when he announced he would be running for the Labour leadership this year, later withdrawing. Umunna has always been tipped as a future Labour leader in the UK, which he often coyly dismisses. He may not be the only Member of Parliament of African descent in the UK at the moment, but he is viewed as the most aspirational among Africans and youths growing up in Great Britain, in fearlessly aspiring for high office in Her Majesty's land.
Ibrahim Assane Mayaki CEO New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)
Not a month goes by without a new African development initiative. National governments, development aid agencies and other NGOs continue to allocate countless funds to support projects in areas as far ranging as education, healthcare, infrastructure and agriculture. It clearly is going to take money--a lot of money--to fund the economic take-off of an entire continent.
Yet I firmly believe that the main hurdle to African development is not a lack of funding. The money is there, waiting to be invested in a continent offering profitability levels hard seen elsewhere in the world. It is no secret that Africa is the last major emerging region. In 2014, the flow of funds into our continent exceeded $200 billion for the first time ever.
No, what Africa really needs is a driving force, an authority responsible for identifying projects and ensuring they are viable, for defining clear rules that provide visibility for investors, for coordinating and serving as a catalyst for various initiatives at a national level while partnering with the private sector. Established under the aegis of the African Union and its 54 Member States, NEPAD serves this exact purpose, acting as a lead stakeholder and a one-stop shop for development issues.
A single overarching vision is required to unlock the full potential of available funding and effectively channel its use. How can we connect our countries to the power grid and lay asphalt on our roads without coordinating each country's efforts? Integration isn't an end in itself; it's a prerequisite for the development of our continent. NEPAD is active in every area of development, taking a long-term approach to developing key infrastructure, defining framework agricultural policies and bolstering capacity-building at a national level, while also pursuing short-term initiatives to combat crises requiring emergency measures, such as piracy and the Ebola epidemic. We have to continually anticipate future development challenges in Africa to stay ahead of the curve.
Backed by the unique expertise of high-level professionals and unparalleled field knowledge informed by its African identity, NEPAD meets the most stringent requirements of financial backers while adapting to specific situations in each African country.
NEPAD is a key partner to project initiators, providing in-depth knowledge and a channel for reaching government leaders.
When I was appointed Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD in 2009, I set out to transform what was then a secretariat into a planning and coordination agency capable of leading projects on the ground. We laid the foundation for this shift and the results are now apparent. NEPAD has led vital agricultural reforms in some forty countries and identified 16 priority infrastructure projects with the potential to transform our continent.
From coast to coast, we are beginning to break ground on the first major projects led by NEPAD. I would like to single out five of these initiatives that will be completed in a matter of years: the Abidjan-Lagos corridor; the Dakar-Bamako rail link; two hydroelectric dams, Sambangalou in Guinea and Ruzizi III in Rwanda; and the road from Serenje to Nakonde in Zambia. These projects are only the first chapter in a story that we shall write together.
Together we will realise our dream of an African continent whose countries are open both to each other and to the world.
Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki of the Republic of Niger is the Chief Executive Officer of the Secretariat of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
A former Prime Minister of Niger, from 1997 to 2000, Dr. Mayaki has a Master's Degree from the National School of Public Administration (Enap), Quebec, Canada and a PhD in Administrative Sciences from University of Paris I, France.
He worked as a Professor of Public Administration in Niger and Venezuela. Between 1996 and 1997 he was successively appointed Minister in charge of the African Integration and Cooperation and Minister of Foreign Affairs. In August 2000, he set up the Analysis Centre for Public Policy.
From 2000 to 2004, Dr Mayaki was a guest Professor at the University of Paris XI, where he lectured on international relations and organizations; he also led research at the Research Centre on Europe and the Contemporary World within that University.
In 2004, he served as Executive Director of the Platform in support of Rural Development in West and Central Africa, the Rural Hub, based in Dakar, Senegal, from where he was appointed NEPAD Chief Executive Officer in January 2009.
Business & Economy
The undisputed industrialist
Nigerian business leader, Aliko Dangote, simply cannot be excluded from the list. Every year, he seems to get bigger and better and he is probably the most important businessman in Africa today. And expect more: in a recent interview in our sister magazine--African Business--he said he had only achieved 5% of his dreams. This year has seen his group open plants in four African countries, with plans for further expansion. During a recent visit to Zimbabwe, Dangote announced plans to invest $400 million in constructing a cement plant which, when completed, will produce 1.5 million tonnes of cement a year. In June, Dangote Cement launched a 2.5 million metric tonnes per annum cement plant in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, and commissioned a $250 million factory in Cameroon. It's no wonder that the expansive cement giant was recently awarded the 2015 African Business of the Year Award. And this is just one part of the conglomerate's business. The Dangote Group's diversified activities encompass manufacturing, mining, FMCGs, poly products, logistics and real estate, to name a few. He is also Africa's most vocal promoter and is determined to do for Africa what Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Carnegie did for America.
The DJ businessman
Chris Kirubi, the DJ businessman, is a celebrated household name in East Africa, with a massive youth following. He is known for a perceptive mind that has weathered the storms of East Africa's stock markets and mastered the intricate art of corporate boardroom negotiations, and its dizzying multi-billion dollar deals. Kirubi has been among the key faces of Kenyan business over the years, and has vast interests in energy generation, fast-moving consumer goods, media, health care, hospitality, financial services, processing, retailing, real estate and manufacturing. Kirubi is always seeking new investment ventures but today it is his Google and Facebook hangouts and his engagement with the youth, that get him tingling with excitement.
Africa's influential administrator
Arunma Oteh, former director general of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria, was recently named vice president and treasurer at the World Bank. There can be little doubt that Oteh will be using her new role to not only ensure that Africa is top of the World Bank's agenda, but that the bank's objectives are more aligned to the continent's needs than they have been in the past. Her clout was felt with the election other fellow Nigerian, Akin Adesina, as President of the African Development Bank in May, when her campaigning helped his cause, according to insiders.
The man with a "Midas touch"
Tidjane Thiam is arguably the most important and influential African in global finance. Following his successful career as the first black CEO of a FTSE 100 company, and at one of the world's biggest insurance companies, Prudential, he is now the CEO of Swiss giant Credit Suisse. Thiam appears to have the Midas touch. He has a brilliant mind as well as being a supreme strategist. In the current state of global finance, the direction Thiam takes the bank in will be microscopically watched, as global banks grapple with the new post-2008 world. But if his past feats and words of tenacity are anything to go by, this son of Africa is always ready to take the world head on. In an interview with the UK's Guardian back in 2007 he recounted a conversation he had when a headhunter phoned him in Paris. To discuss a job with one of Britain's biggest insurers, Aviva, he laid down a condition: 'I said, well, I am very happy to interview. But frankly, you need to tell them that you found someone who is black, African, francophone and 6ft 4' ... I said to him, frankly, I will not go to London unless they tell me I have a fair chance to get the role. I was tired of the usual answer, which is we like you, you are a great guy but this is a division with 10,000 employees and we just don't think they would understand having someone like you at the helm.'
But as they say, the rest is history. The world of business today has plenty of time for this African giant of finance.
He may have sold his phone empire Celtel 10 years ago now, but Mo Ibrahim continues to dominate the African agenda. The Sudanese businessman and activist surprised us this year when his lesser-known private equity group, Satya Capital, signed an agreement with US Private Equity firm TPG to oversee their $1bn investments in Africa. Satya has $500m under management, of which it has invested $300m, with no significant deals in the past two years. The new alliance will undoubtedly spur a flurry of activity.
The commodities man
He is considered the giant of Africa in the commodities business. His company, Glencore, has come under fire this year following a merger that saddled the company with debts as the commodity cycle hit a slump. But Glasenberg managed to react rapidly and steadied the ship. He is also in talks with numerous African governments regarding mining interests in their countries, and masterminding a strategy that will be enable them to weather the storm.
The PR maven
She is the go-to woman in Kenya and East Africa when it comes to PR and access to the who's who. Gina Din-Kariuki has the ears and trust of numerous leaders not only in East Africa, but also in West and Central Africa. This PR guru came out of semi-retirement to take control once again of her strategic communications group. More recently, Din-Kariuki has been working closely with political leaders to handle their communications and political campaigns. She has also been overseeing the preparations for the WTO Ministerial Conference taking place this December in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Elon Musk has made our list in the past two years and his crusade to change the world more than justifies his inclusion. He is the foremost entrepreneur that South Africa has produced. He has been described as a combination of Steve Jobs and Henry Ford, someone who is at the forefront of changing the way we live. Never one to allow any setback to dent his ambitions, he is relentless in his quest to leave a positive mark in this world, pushing the boundaries of science and innovation. The prolific entrepreneur, inventor and innovator is today behind Tesla cars, SpaceX and chairman of Solar City. He will be changing the way we live our lives, whatever the personal cost to him.
The security and defence chief
South African Ivor Ichikowitz has built his Paramount Group into an African giant in defence and security. It would be wrong to call Ichikowitz a simple "arms trader". He is more an industrialist with grand ambitions, a vocal promoter of engineering and pioneering technology. His defence group competes with global players, and most of his clients are outside of Africa. Nonetheless he has strong networks across the continent and is spreading his wings in other areas of business. For example, Libreville (the capital of Gabon) is set to become the African hub for his low-cost airline, FlyAfrica.com. In another area, Ichikowitz, who studied dramatic arts, has also commissioned a film series about the history of the global fight against apartheid in South Africa.
The private sector emperor
Issad Rebrab is Algeria's biggest industrialist and one of Africa's most successful business leaders. Over the past few years he has expanded his interests and activities globally, recently taking his operations as far afield as Brazil, where he has set up a logistical platform. But it is at home that he has been making headlines. He has been involved in a war of words with his government in Algeria, after criticising them for not doing enough to support private enterprise. The government, on the other hand, is accusing him of underhanded accounting practices. For this billionaire, his fight is not about money, but about principle and championing the private sector cause.
Mr Brand Africa
The branding guru, and increasingly Mr Brand Africa, Ikalafeng has established himself as the foremost commentator on African brands, believing that it is imperative for Africa to vie for a larger share of its consumer base. He continues to advise and work with some of the continent's leading institutions, both private and public. Increasingly, he is putting 'branding' into the African agenda through a number of initiatives. Ikalafeng sits on the board of South African Tourism and Brand South Africa.
Poster boy of African enterprise
Ashish Thakkar's meteoric rise has been nothing but spectacular and he is today Africa's super-entrepreneur and a poster boy of African enterprise. He now counts as one of the best-known African businessmen on the African continent, as well as one of the best-connected young business leaders. He rubs shoulders with people in the highest of places and is using his business acumen and powerful network to create a business conglomerate spanning finance, technology and real estate.
The billionaire to keep watching
A key member of one of Egypt's wealthiest families, alongside his father and brothers, Naguib has recently made headlines for his lucrative investment in the influential Euronews TV channel. He will have a considerable stake in Euronews' African News--a new pan-African channel, which is due to launch in January 2016. He also grabbed world attention last September when he tweeted his desire to buy a Mediterranean island to accommodate and offer a better livelihood to fleeing migrants dying at sea. The tweet went viral.
Together with his brothers, important players in the Egyptian business landscape, Sawiris has also recently ventured into mining--investing into gold mining in Cote d'Ivoire with more to come. Watch this space.
The power broker
Widad Bouchamoui is one of the quartet who received the Nobel Peace Prize for their role in the negotiations that drove unity and led to a smooth democratic transition in Tunisia last year. Bouchamoui, who represents leaders of industry and the private sector, has been at loggerheads with the unions for nearly a year. A successful businesswoman in her own right, she has been relentless in her drive to get the private sector and investors to play an active role in turning the Tunisian economy around. A true force at home, increasingly, she is becoming one internationally too.
The behind-the-scenes strategist
He is one of the instrumental figureheads at the influential consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. His close association with African leaders across the public, social and private sectors makes him one of the most sought-after business and economic advisors on the continent. Alongside his friend Fred Swaniker he is the cofounder of the Africa Leadership Network--a respected force that is now very much part of Africa's new generation of thinkers. And when bigwigs talk of domestic resource mobilisation and better tax collection in Africa--this is the guy behind much of the strategy.
The voice of influence
Razia Khan's opinions and research papers have the ability to move markets. Currently Standard Chartered's Chief Economist for Africa, Khan is regularly the go-to source for most western journalists looking for commentary on African economic issues. Highly respected by her peers, her name gives her access to Africa's high and mighty. Having followed African economic affairs assiduously for over a decade, she has rightly become one of its most knowledgeable economic analysts.
Flying the Africapitalism flag higher
Nigerian businessman Tony Elumelu continues to fly the African flag by promoting his philosophy of Africapitalism, which aims to drive growth and development through entrepreneurship and private sector growth. Using $100m of his own capital, he successfully launched an entrepreneurial programme that provides seed capital, mentorship, and guidance to promote entrepreneurship throughout Africa. Some investments via Heirs Holding, his investment vehicle, have been timid by his standards but one area where he has taken a lead and been more aggressive has been in the power sector--and his investments are yielding results. In addition to all this, the United Bank of Africa (UBA), the bank he founded and now chairs, continues to perform strongly and is one of the most active Nigerian banks outside of Nigeria.
The king's "favourite technocrat"
Terrab has been at the helm of Morocco's largest mining and fertiliser giant, OCP. This year, the OCP group has signed a number of significant agreements, including a joint venture with the government of Gabon to build Africa's largest fertiliser plant. This is on top of a number of investments in Cote d'Ivoire and back home. OCP is positioning itself to become a key player to increase agricultural production across the continent. Reportedly a close confidant of the King of Morocco, and supposedly the King's "favourite technocrat", there is talk that Terrab is to be offered a strategic post with an international scope some time very soon.
Moulay Hafid Elalamy
The sagacious one
Morocco's Moulay Hafid Elalamy is undoubtedly one of Africa's most influential people right now. As his country's Minister of Industry, Trade Investment and Digital Economy, and being the owner of Morocco's Saham Group, 2015 has been a busy year for the savvy businessman. His group is one of Africa's biggest financial players and as Minister, he has been at the forefront of economic reform and a big driver of the Moroccan Kingdom's private sector expansion into the rest of Africa.
The doyen of investment
As of January 2015, South Africa's Dan Matjila became one of the most powerful investors into Africa. Matjila heads the Public Investment Corporation, a fund with a sizeable $139bn under management. The fund was authorised a few years back to invest into companies outside of its home country. Matjila can be credited with keeping the PIC's investment in Ecobank and driving the African agenda back home. The PIC is also MTN's largest investor. When Matjila speaks, others are forced to listen.
The agric guru
Menker's passions are numbers and Africa, so she has combined the two to launch a groundbreaking business. The former Wall Street commodities trader is the founder and CEO of Gro Intelligence, an agricultural data platform providing data on all types of agriculturally useful information such as weather patterns, market prices and crop production. Gro Intelligence also sorts and contextualises the data, to give players in agriculture reliable bases on which to strategise and act. The main objective is to use data to improve agriculture and food security. She is now extending her solution into a global platform. Menker sits at the apex of major African discussions around agriculture.
Civil Society & Activism
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO / US
A world-class athlete, Dikembe Mutombo has made a name for himself as one of the greatest defensive players in the NBA, and he has used that status to bring attention to the plight of many in his home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There are almost too many things to list, but Mutombo (a former aspiring doctor) has primarily been involved with programs that aim to bring better health and education in DRC. In 2007, for example he opened up the Biamba Marie Mutombo hospital (named after his mother), which has treated over 120,000 patients --one of the largest and most advanced health facilities in the vast and mineral rich yet troubled DRCongo. Mutombo is also involved with projects with the Special Olympics and UNICEF.
SENEGAL AND MALI
Akon, Thione Niang and Samba Bathily
As co-founders of Akon Lighting Africa, Senegalese superstar Akon (below centre), Malian businessman Samba Bathily (right) and Senegalese politician Thione Niang (left) have taken the issue of using one of Africa's most abundant, widely available natural resources--the sun--to a whole new level. It is a multifaceted project that seeks to provide electricity to at least 600 million Africans who have none at home. Using solar power technology, the project is officially in 14 African countries with plans to extend to 30 in total. This year, a solar academy aimed at educating African entrepreneurs and engineers on solar energy, was launched in Mali. This initiative is sure to impact many young Africans and the populace at large.
Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe
The benevolent warrior
Sister Nyirumbe was taking care of survivors of the atrocities of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) long before and long after the world saw (and then forgot) the viral 2012 Kony campaign. Through St Monica's Girls Vocational School in Gulu, Uganda, Nyirumbe encourages and supports women who have had to to endure unimaginable tragedy such as rape and murder to make a living for themselves. This benevolent warrior has helped educate over 2,000 girls, all the while stressing the importance of education for girls globally. In 2015, she received an honorary degree for her influential work.
South African students
Rhodes and Fees Must Fall uprisings
Few student protests grabbed headlines this year as much as the #RhodesMustFall / #FeesMustFall campaigns, which began at the University of Cape Town (UCT), but spread all over South Africa, and garnered international support. The protests called for the decolonisation of education and highlighted South Africa's underlying problems with race, privilege and a legacy of systemic racial oppression. Through digital activism and public protest, students rallied for the removal of colonialist Cecil Rhodes' statue at UCT, which finally fell in April. Months later the #FeesMustFall campaign began, which called for a 0% increase in fees for 2016, amongst other measures to ensure wider access to education for South African students. Within a week President Zuma had agreed to the 0% fee increase, in time for end of year exams to resume. There may be more work to be done next year however, as the increase is only applicable for the 2016 academic year.
The anti-human trafficking powerhouse
As a Senior Immigration Officer and Uganda's National Anti-Trafficking Task Force Deputy Coordinator, Agnes Igoye has used the trauma of her childhood, where she witnessed soldiers from the Lord's Resistance Army kidnap young women in her community, to ensure that girls in Uganda are protected from the horrors of human trafficking. Igoye also works hard to support the victims of the war, starting the Huts for Peace initiative, which encouraged women to build homes after they were destroyed and a rehab centre for orphaned children. She is an advocate for women in every sense of the word.
Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
Imprisoned political rabble-rouser
The steel bars of Kigali prison have not tempered the spirit of political activist Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who continues to make headlines for challenging the status quo. Her call for democracy and justice in Rwanda has resonated with Rwandese in the diaspora and rallied supporters around the world to draw up petitions and protest at embassies, demanding her immediate release. While she has been held under terrorist and conspiracy charges, she has become an international icon of peace and has had a peace prize named after her while imprisoned--the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize.
The people's champ on and off the field
Didier Drogba may be one of Africa's most celebrated football icons but his impact extends beyond his ability to outclass the opposition. Through his Foundation, Drogba has helped educate young children in his home country. In October, Drogba opened the first of five hospitals he plans on building around Cote d'Ivoire, which is set to cater to approximately 50,00 patients every year and predominantly to women and children. He is known to have donated all his earnings from sponsorship deals to his foundation, and in 2015 he was awarded the Barclays Spirit of the Game Award for giving hope to young children.
The Angola 15
Not so many news column inches come out of Angola. But in 2015, courtesy of a group of dissident youths dubbed Angola 15, a spotlight was thrown on the largely unreported issue of political dissent in the former Portuguese colony, which has been under the rule of one president for the past 36 years. It was the words of Gene Sharp's 'From Dictatorship to Democracy' essay that landed them in hot water, and as we went to press, they were still being held in jail without trial. The Angola 15 are members of a youth movement who feel President Eduardo Dos Santos must step down after over three decades as leader of the post-civil war independent country. One of the jailed activists--popular Angolan rapper Luaty Beirao (pictured right)--almost lost his life to a hunger strike over his incarceration. The outrage from the arrest sparked protests even in places like Brussels and Berlin, while in the Angolan capital of Luanda, attempted protests about the dissident youths were thwarted by armed government police. Could the youthful dissent of the Angola 15 be a harbinger of a new political landscape in the country?
The anti-poverty activist
Social entrepreneur and community organiser Kennedy Odede began his Shining Hope For Communities (SHOFCO) programme in 2004, tackling poverty and gender inequality by providing essential social services to the youth in Nairobi slums. The organisation has gone on to open up Kibera School for Girls, which offers tuition-free education to impoverished youths. Odede's passion is fuelled by the personal connection he has to the students, having grown up in the same community in Nairobi. This work has not gone unnoticed and in the last few years Odede has been awarded a multitude of awards and been recognised by the likes of the United Nations.
Science, Tech & Innovation
The software genius!
If ever there was a cry for an extraordinary young African entrepreneur and software prodigy, look no further than Raindolf Owusu. The momentum of the man dubbed the "Mark Zuckerberg" of Ghana has not slowed since he created what is hailed as Africa's first web browser--Anansi--and founded Oasis Websoft, which has been dubbed "Africa's leading software house". But the computing genius is unstoppable! In 2015 he has been even more active, using his creativity to produce more never-before-seen projects in Africa. Check out Anansipedia, an educational platform, which enables less privileged African students to share educational resources. Then there is Bisa (which means "ask" in Ghana's Twi language), a mobile app which gives the public direct access to medical practitioners without having physical contact. "Based on our research, we came to the understanding that most people do not like to visit hospital for a check-up for various reasons. Some of these reasons include the long queuing system at the hospitals. Also there is the fear of stigmatisation, most people, especially those who suffer symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) scarcely visit the hospital. Individuals are compelled to self-medicate. As per our research findings, we reckoned on the need to rectify the problem using modern technology like mobile applications, SMS and USSD. Hence the development of Bisa," explains a blurb on the the OasisWebsoft website. Another of Owusu's gems is Dr Diabetes--a web application that educates Africans about diabetes. Genius!
Tech-savvy and much more
Technological entrepreneur Chinedu Echeruo is notable for his creations HopStop. com and Tripology. com. HopStop was a comprehensive online city transit guide helping many countries worldwide with door-to-door subway and bus directions, and maps. In comparison, Tripology was a service dedicated to connecting reliable travel service providers to travellers. Although both companies have since been acquired by tech giants, including Apple, Chinedu is not resting on his laurels. 2015 looks promising, as he has already turned his attention to another innovation, this time focused on small businesses in Africa. Watch this space.
Enviable green housing provider
Nigeria's Chinwe Ohajuruka thrives in the face of challenge. That is one reason she founded Comprehensive Design Services, a company designed to provide solutions to one of the most typical problems in Africa--housing and especially, energy- efficient, affordable and sufficient housing. Through her solar-powered, self-cooling, easily constructed and water-sourcing house creations, Chinwe has made tremendous breakthroughs in helping to tackle Nigeria's 17-million-unit housing deficit and regular power outages. The unique housing scheme, "sources water from right beneath the feet of the occupants." Last October, her innovation won her the coveted 2015 Cartier Women's Initiative Award for Sub-Saharan Africa.
Young, girted mould-breaker
Although Thato only got our attention this year at the age of 22, she has been an innovator in her country--South Africa--since she was 18, when she started Rethaka, the mould-breaking initiative that creatively develops solar-powered schoolbags that charge during the day when children from non-electrified areas head for and are in school, then provide light when they return home, giving them a chance to do their school work under light in the evening. Thato was a nominee at the 2015 Cartier Women's Initiative Awards.
Africa's cardio tech pioneer
Incidences of heart disease are rising in many low- and middle-income countries worldwide. Cameroon is no exception. According to Cameroon's Society of Cardiologists, approximately 30% of the country's 22 million people suffer from high blood pressure, a key contributing factor to heart disease. Yet there are fewer than 50 heart specialists, most of whom are based in cities, leaving rural areas with virtually no cardiac care. Zang's patented touchscreen Cardio Pad is set to provide an answer. He has invented what is believed to be Africa's first medical tablet, which will allow health-care workers in rural areas to send the results of cardiac tests to heart specialists via a mobile-phone connection. It also has the potential to become a holistic telemedicine tool, allowing measurement and transmission of integrated information on a patient's health, which could help diagnose many other diseases.
The empowering techpreneur
Kenyan Jamila Abass is giving farmers in her country something they crucially need to compete in this tech-mad world--it's called M-Farm, a piece of software that links rural farmers, not only to markets for their produce, but also creates an ecosystem for knowledge-sharing, which they can use to pass on ideas. This ingenious innovation even won the praises of Barack Obama when he visited Kenya in July. Indeed, Jamila is resourcefully helping M-Farm farmers to meet the growing demand for produce in Kenya and across the East African region.
The sole provider
Mutua's "shoe charger for mobile phones" demonstrates how African ingenuity can use seemingly everyday accessories to provide a practical solution to an everyday problem. Addressing the battery problem that mobile users face, Mutua--founder of Hatua Technologies--thought it best to capitalise on energy created by movements of the human body to generate electricity that can recharge the batteries of electronic devices. Estimated at a cost-effective 35 [euro], the concept has been championed by the All as a quintessential model for renewable energies and sustainable development it wishes to bring about on the continent.
Telling the African story
Like many Africans, Tonje Bakang is upset with the lack of accurate African identity in entertainment. But he is doing something about it with Afrostream, the Netflix-style creation he co-founded to promote African and African-American content. Afrostream is already getting big and has been received with enthusiasm in both African and European markets. His goal is to place the presentation and distribution of African identity back in the hands of Africans. He hopes that Afrostream will create a positive shift in how Africans are depicted in film and TV, as well as how Africans view themselves. As of 2015, it targeted 936 million Africans in sub-Saharan Africa and 15 million people of African descent in Europe. We say, it is always a good thing when Africans tell their own stories-this is a great influence.
Dr Misaki Wayengera
Ebola and Marbug tests in 5 minutes
A talented young scientist from Uganda, Misaki Wayengera's rapid diagnostic test can revolutionise a community's response time to strains of the Ebola and Marbug viruses. It takes five minutes to diagnose the deadly viruses!
In the words of the online publication Rising Africa, this is "a giant step in African medical innovation and in the fight against Ebola". However, with funding challenges and a delayed patent award, this could be a missed opportunity for yet another of Africa's gifted scientists.
But in light of West Africa's most recent battle with Ebola, Wayengera is determined to ensure that his project is a success, and we believe he is one influencer who needs continental support.
Bibi Yusuf Bakare
In 2006, Bibi Yusuf-Bakare was spurred on by the fact that "the conversation about African writing was taking place elsewhere". Something had to be done and Cassava Republic was born. Today, it is one of Africa's leading independent publishers, pushing creative boundaries. Cassava Republic wants to change the way we think about African writing and build a body of work that links writers across different times and spaces. Its new imprint, Ankara Press, is one of its most innovative approaches to publishing on the continent because it taps into the immediacy of the digital age. Anakara Press is described as "a new voice publishing romantic fiction for the African market." Its first six e-books were published to rave reviews in 2014, and sparked an online conversation about the way Africans love.
Anas Aremeyaw Anas
Ghana's most revered investigative journalist has maintained influence not only by the mystery he cultivates around his identity, but the fact that he is just extremely good at his job. He is believed to be in his late 30s, and while the world itches to know the face behind the mask, Anas has remained resolute in keeping his identity to himself, while dishing up some of the most fearless investigative stories in Africa--from timber smuggling in Sierra Leone, to penetrating the horrendous world of witchcraft deployed against and killing Albinos in Tanzania, and much more. And yes, his protracted public silences (time presumably used undertaking investigations) are as enigmatic as the man himself. But last September the "African master of mystery" may have just outdone himself, with his release of "Ghana In The Eyes Of God", a documentary which exposes high profile names in the Ghanaian judiciary taking bribes from criminals (some accused of murder), money that is used to influence their judgement. Anas' secretly recorded investigations premiered to record-breaking audiences at the Accra International Conference Centre on 23 September. A can of worms has been opened and this story has just begun.
One for the daily laughs
He is just 31 and already a global sensation after bagging perhaps one of the most coveted and top TV jobs in the world. This March, the hitherto unknown Trevor Noah and the world, especially Americans, woke up to the news confirming him as the new host of the massively and globally popular The Daily Show--the hit US news satire programme which commands 1.5 million viewers worldwide--daily! The South African comedian, born of what he calls a "crime", as the son of a black mother and a white father in apartheid South Africa, took over the hot seat from its iconic and much loved presenter of 16 years, Jon Stewart, who retired last September. Unsurprisingly, some quarters of America and Western Europe were not happy with Comedy Central's choice of a little-known African to front such an iconic show. Many predicted Noah would be a flop. Admittedly, the young South African is yet to amass the ratings of Jon Stewart, but he is rapidly exerting his influence on a much wider level than his predecessor. According to Comedy Central, since Noah took over, 40% of The Daily Show content is now viewed through digital platforms, a 10% increase from that of Noah's predecessor's final days on the show. With Noah in place, The Daily Show has also seen a surge in younger viewer audiences via social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter, on the latter of which he boasts more than 2.77 million followers. And this is all in addition to the exposure his influence has created in numerous African countries where the show did not have a strong presence, if it was known at all. Africa is rejoicing with pride and so are Comedy Central bosses, who are not complaining.
The force driving African media
Constant Nemale, the founder of international telecoms chain Africa24, has been vocal in the past about the miniscule contributions multinational corporations give to Africa, in relation to the large amount they actually take out of the continent. However, in April 2015, his voice became even louder when Africa24 signed an agreement with African media powerhouse and South African group Sekunjalo Investments Holdings, which ensured his Francophone influence extends to an Anglophone audience too. The move has cemented Africa24's expansion ideas into Malabo, Lagos, Abidjan, Yaounde, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Addis Ababa, to name a few. He received the Rebranding Africa Media Leadership Award in October.
The iconic presenter
The Sudanese television and radio journalist Zeinab Badawi's influence in television is undeniable. For over thirty years now, she has been renowned for holding the powerful to account and challenging some prevalent views. Badawi has indeed become one of the most recognised faces in television news and is a much respected and loved household name across the African continent. Her regular appearances on World News Today, HARDtalk, GMT and BBC News at Five amass big African audiences. She also puts her famous name to poignant causes such as the Africa Medical Partnership Fund, of which she is the founder and chair. The charity helps local medical professionals in Africa and it played an important and integral part in West Africa's most recent battle with Ebola.
Dr Bassem Youssef
The fearless satirist
Dr Bassem Youssef may have wound up his insanely popular TV show Al-bernameg due to security threats and fears for his life. But the political satire he created during the so-called "Arab Spring" still remains massively popular on YouTube, with millions of hits from insatiable fans who clearly still cannot get enough of Youssef, a cardiac doctor, who became popularly dubbed the "Jon Stewart of the Middle East". Before it was forced off the air, a little over a year ago, Al-bernameg reached no less than 30 million people every week--now that is influence. With over 5 million Twitter, and over 8 million Facebook followers, Youssef now uses his time to appear on multiple platforms to speak about the state of press freedom and censorship in Egypt and Africa in general.
The queen of bloggers
Arguably, she is perhaps one of Nigeria's, if not Africa's blogger of the year 2015. Yes, we are talking about the face behind one of Africa's most visited blogs, the no-fuss lindaikejisblog.com, which has made the 35-year-old one of the richest people in the country. She became news herself last month, after she announced the purchase of an expensive mansion in one of Lagos' most exclusive neighbourhoods. You know you have made a name for yourself as person who reports on or in this case blogs about others, when you find yourself the subject of intensely interesting news and you are even given a hashtag--all because everyone wanted to know how Ikeji made her millions, which is through her blog. As the year drew to a close, the African blogsphere as well as its social media populace went agog at Ikeji's meteoric rise to celebrity status. On her blog, Ikeji deals with all manner of controversial posts about celebrities and Nigerian lifestyle. With blogging not going anywhere anytime soon, Ms Ikeji is set to keep going in the years to come. Just what will she blog about when she sees our list?
Arts & Culture
Africa's chess prodigy
It may be unclear when exactly this young chess player was born, but what is, is the fact that she is influential in the global chess. Mutesi is the Ugandan chess prodigy who has been Women's Junior Champion three years in a row. No doubt making her a household name in this exclusive field. Beyond her chess-playing abilities, Mutesi is encouraging young women to defy stereotypes. Her extraordinary life will be the focus of a Disney film which comes out next year, starring Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo.
A king in the making
Sceptics weren't sure if this Nigerian actor could convincingly take on the role of one of the most influential leaders ever to live, Martin Luther King Jr., but he did. Oyelowo's portrayal of the late activist in the 2015 film Selma was both powerful and poignant. Nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Lead Role this year, and winner of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture, Oyelowo more than proved to the doubters that he was up to the challenge. Next up for the actor is a role in The Queen of Katwe, starring Lupita Nyong'o.
The crazily talented Emmy winner
With an uncanny knack for both drama and comedy, Uzo Aduba is the kind of actress that audiences can't seem to get enough of. After a rocky start in the industry, Aduba burst on to our televisions (or laptops) as Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren in the hit Netflix comedy drama, Orange is the New Black. This year, Aduba picked up her second Emmy award for her role as Crazy Eyes and endeared the world with a heartfelt acceptance speech. And she is only gaining momentum--Aduba is set to show off her operatic vocal training in her latest role as Glinda in The Wiz.
But she has not only consolidated her name big-time in Hollywood; who can forget how she inspired many by refusing to change her name in order to fit in and become successful in Hollywood, where she was being encouraged to "do something" about her full name Uzoamaka, Igbo for "The road is good." She was unapologetic in her response. "My family is from Nigeria ... my tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll-call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, 'Why?' I said, 'Nobody can pronounce it.' Without missing a beat, she said, 'If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.'"
The golden girl who Keeps rising
Lupita continues to remain relevant two years after 12 Years A Slave and that prestigious Oscar win. But 2015 proved her fame is set not only to stay, but skyrocket--be it as a super-talented actress, beauty and fashion icon or as we now know, an animal-rights activist, there is no stopping her. This year she took on a new role as a Wild Aid elephants ambassador, and completed a successful 2-month stint off Broadway, playing The Girl in Danai Gurira's Eclipsed--about the Liberian civil war. Viewers are anxiously anticipating her return to the big screen very soon, in Star Wars and The Queen of Katwe.
Not one to suffer in silence, Nykhor Paul is using her status as an international fashion model to shed light on the issues that are most dear to her heart. This year the South Sudanese beauty graced catwalks for the likes of John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood. But she also lambasted the fashion industry for its lazy attitude towards black models. "I am tired of apologising for my blackness," the model wrote on her Instagram in July. Nykhor is also using her powerful voice to bring attention to the refugee crisis in her homeland, through her "We are Nilotic" peace campaign.
The voice of a generation
With the stroke of her pen (or keyboard) this 26-year-old poet charms readers with her hauntingly beautiful poetry and 140-character tweets in equal measure. Shire's description of the immigrant experience, combined with her musings on the pressures of being a young modern woman today, makes her the kind of writer that can speak for and to her generation, in an authentic and intelligent way. Shire is currently working on a collection of her poetry.
Okwui Enwezor sure knows how to make history. A renowned artist, poet and curator, Enwezor has consistently broken down barriers in the art world in his work and activities. From Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art, the magazine he founded, to the collections showcased at Documenta 11 under his supervision, Enwezor has been steadfast in his attempt to open the world up to African art. This year Enwezor continued his trailblazing ways when he became the first African curator of the Venice Biennale, which began some 120 years ago.
A kind-hearted winner
Described as "truly luminous", by the judges, Zambia's Namwali Serpell bagged the prestigious 2015 Caine Prize for African short story writing. She is the first Zambian to win the 10,000 [pounds sterling] prize, described as Africa's leading literary award.
Her prize winning story, "The Sack", is published in two collections--African 39 and Lusaka Punk. Intriguing and enigmatic, it sticks in the mind. An academic as well as a writer, Serpell made headlines for another first too--the generous, and rather mutinous gesture she made by announcing that she was sharing it with the other finalists--FT Kola and Masande Ntshanga from South Africa, and Segun Afolabi and Elnathan John from Nigeria.
Jean Noel Ntone Edjabe
The literary Pan-Africanist
If you were to pick up a copy of Chimurenga, the literary magazine founded by Cameroonian journalist/DJ, Ntone Edjabe, you'd understand why he has become such an important figure in African literary circles. Edjabe's Pan-Africanist publication has featured the writings of Boubacar Boris Diop and Binyavanga Wainaina and is celebrated all over the continent for its bold and unapologetic language and candid discourse. You will not be the same after reading it.
Touria El Glaoui
Wherever her art is
The force behind Art 1:54, an annual fair hosted in London and New York showcasing diverse African art, El Glaoui's love for art flows through her veins (literally--her father is the renowned Moroccan artist Hassan El Glaoui). The fair is a unique platform, allowing viewers to experience contemporary African art in a way not many audiences get the chance to. This year's show included a combination of galleries, discussions and performances with works by Ibrahim El-Salahi and Naomi Wanjiru Gakunga.
The new literary sensation
Chigozie Obioma is the latest literary sensation to emerge from Nigeria. His first novel The Fisherman ms shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for fiction, and has been hailed by critics the world over. Comparisons to the late great Chinua Achebe have been readily made, but Obioma is set to carve out his own path as a writer whose concern and love for his homeland is vividly realised in his works.
The legend bows out
Congolese musician Koffi Olomide has been in the music industry since the 1970s, and is still as popular as ever. In October of this year, Olomide released 13th Apostle, his final album as a recording artist. With 39 songs spread over 4 CDs, Olomide is surely leaving his fans with enough music to savour as they grapple with his retirement. Vibrant but also controversial, this African legend is taking his final bow, having been one of the most influential music maestros of his generation.
Modern-day Andy Warhol
Born in Morocco but bred in London, this self-taught artist expresses himself through various mediums; from art installations to design. However he is best known for his fashion photography portraits, which capture his subjects in brightly coloured frames. In May 2015, Hajjaj released a documentary entitled A Day in the Life of Karima: A Henna Girl at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, bringing back the characters from his prolific Kesh Angels photography. Described as "a feast for the eye and soul", Hajajj continues to cement his status as a discerning contemporary African artist.
The clandestine writer
The world was introduced to Mohammed Moulessehoul in 2001, when it emerged that he was the author behind the writings of Yasmina Khadra. The use of the pseudonym enabled Moulessehoul, an officer in the Algerian army, to tell authentic Algerian stories and avoid censorship during the Algerian Civil War. He most recently penned The Dictator's Last Night, a work of fiction that imagines the last hours of Colonel Muammar Gathafi's life. The novel has been well received, with critics praising his detailed descriptions and ruminations. Moulessehoul is also credited with co-writing the 2014 film Two Men in Town, starring Forest Whitaker.
Star Wars break-out star
Controversy brewed (as it tends to in Hollywood when matters of race come up) when the 23-year-old actor, who was born in Peckham (the black-dominated low-end London surburb) was cast as Finn in the upcoming film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. One only needs to look at Boyega's body of work, including his convincing portrayal of Ugu in Chimamanda Adichie's Half a Yellow Sun film adaption--which stars Hollywood royalty Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ihandie Newton--to see that he knows exactly what he is doing. Watch out for this rising star.
Gugu Mbathu-Raw simply keeps upping her game. Her portrayal of Noni Jean, a British pop star who struggles with the pressures of fame in 2015's critically acclaimed film Beyond the Lights shows her fine talent yet again. The South African/Brit actress has also accumulated more than a handful of award nominations for her role as Dido in the 2014 film Belle. A versatile actress with singing chops to match, Gugu is Hollywood's new belle and truly one to watch for years to come. So far she has been rather unsung, but there seem to be no bounds to her talent.
An African gem
Winner of the 2015 MTV Africa Music Award for Best Live Act, as well as Best African Act at the 2015 European Music Awards (EMAs), Diamond Platinumz is undoubtedly one of the continent's biggest musicians, having made a tremendous impact on the industry, both local and global. With hits such as "Number One", which featured the talented Nigerian Davido, and garnered him a huge following on social media, this Tanzanian artist's influence is most palpable amongst the African youth and through the conversations they are having about him online. Tanzania did not just gain a new president in 2015, but an international superstar making his country proud as well.
The force behind the camera
She was the formidable woman behind the British production Belle, starring Gugu Mbathu-Raw, which sparked off a debate about Britain's slave history. Amma Asante is a BAFTA award-winning director and a bold force behind the camera. Her next film will again dissect the complexity of race relations, as she takes on A United Kingdom, depicting the controversial marriage between Botswana's first president Seretse Khama and British clerk Ruth Williams.
The leading man
Omar Sy is no novice. With over 40 films under his belt, including blockbusters such as X-men: Days of Future Past and Jurassic Park, Sy is one of French Africa's biggest exports to the movie industry and in 2015, his star continues to shine, in movies such as the acclaimed Jurassic World. Born in Paris to a Mauritian mother and a Senegalese father, Sy became the first actor of African descent to win a Cesar Award (France's equivalent of an Oscar) for Best Actor, for his role in The Untouchables. Next year audiences can catch him in the thriller Inferno, which also stars Tom Hanks, and the eagerly awaited French film Demain tout commence. We predict more awards for this inimitable force in the acting world.
The world over, it has been nearly impossible to avoid hearing Yemi Alade's infectious hit "Johnny" over the past year. Currently, the hilarious music video has over 30 million views on YouTube. Alade was also nominated for both a 2015 BET award and a 2014 MOBO award, as the song became a global Afrobeat anthem. An African superstar and a household name, Alade surely must be on the receiving end of countless proposals from men claiming to be her Johnny. But for Africa, a star was born. Her next move is eagerly awaited.
With a degree from the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Danai Gurira is well known for her role as Michonne on the highly-rated TV show, Walking Dead. But Gurira's influence extends beyond that; her play Eclipsed will begin another 4-month stint on New York's Broadway in 2016, having completed a short stint off-Broadway this year. The play, a harrowing tale about 3 Liberian sex workers during the civil war, has drawn the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Stevie Wonder and transfixed audiences with its dark and affecting subject matter. Danai is also the co-founder of a Zimbabwe-based theatre organisation--the Almasi Arts Alliance--whose mission is to promote African dramatic artists, through training, mentorship and assisting access, as well as to build the dramatic arts industry in Africa, and take those artistic voices to America.
The new striking sensation
This young footballing wonder has had a fantastic year, with many pundits hyping him to be crowned the new and deserving African Player of the Year--if that happens, he would break the four-year hold of Ivorian Yaya Toure--who at the time of going to press was up for the accolade once more. Aubameyang has had a successful stint with Borussia Dortmund and is currently the premier German club's top goal-scorer with 20 goals in all competitions. One British newspaper recently described him as 2015's "most prolific striker" in Europe. But that's not all! With Aubameyang spearing its attack, the Gabonese national team has also been reaching new heights of success in 2015. Truly, Aubameyang is one-to-more-than-watch!
The one Bolt should watch
What is not to be proud of when as a relatively unknown 23-year-old, you come third in a tense race with two of the world's greatest and fastest runners, at one of the biggest sporting events of the year? Well, South Africa's Anaso Jobodwana--the country's fastest runner--made Africa proud, coming third to Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin, and we say 2015 was not only his year, but gave him the headway to becoming one of the world's elite runners. Bolt may soon have a run for his money as we keenly observe this inspirational young athlete's growth. 2015 was just the beginning of the making of Jobodwana.
Ethiopia's distance runner Almaz Ayana has had a sterling year. In August she won the women's 'S 5000m final at the IAAF World % Championship with a world-leading personal best of 14:14:32. She later followed that effort with a victory over 1500m champion Genzebe Dibaba (dubbed he greatest female middle-distance runner of all time), in the much-publicised Diamond League 3000m race. Probably boosted by the fact she was on her home continent, Ayana accomplished an extraordinary feat; she ran all laps in 67 seconds or less, eventually crossing the line in another world-record 8:22.22. Not only did she break the African allcomers' record, her time was also an outdoor Ethiopian record. No wonder the New Yorker magazine described her as "the most awesome female runner in the world".
The Kenyan athletics team
The Kenyan athletics team proved a force to be reckoned with this year, as they convincingly topped the overall medal table at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, winning seven gold medals. In addition, they won six silver and three bronze medals. The feat was extra-special because it was Kenya's first-ever time topping the overall medal tables. It is a surprise that they had not achieved this feat before as their team of athletes was also the one that competed in the two previous world championships. With stars like Asbel Kiprop and Elijah Manangol dominating the 1500m event podium, the feat may be a regular sight in the coming years.
The FIFA veteran stand-in
It has not been a rosy year for the house of FIFA, and the appointment of Issa Hayatou to become the organisation's most influential member, as acting president, has not happened without misgivings. But Hayatou, the longest-serving FIFA vice-president, despite having his own controversial baggage, is worthy of note for his long-term views in trying to convince FIFA to invest its resources in African football. As president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for two decades, he was also responsible for securing an increase in African places at the FIFA World Cup finals, from two to five. His CAF presidency has also created more club participation in the CAF Confederations Cup, the CAF Cup, the CAF Supercup and the African Champions League. Could something big come out of his short-term stint at the world's highest sporting body?
He has expressed his dedication to the role thus: "Until the Extraordinary Congress, I pledge that I will dedicate my best efforts to the organisation, the member associations, our employees, our valued partners, and football fans everywhere. FIFA remains committed to the reform process, which is critical to reclaiming public trust."
Edited by Regina Jane Jere.
Compiled by Benedicte Kalombo and Belinda Otas.
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|Author:||Idris, Ahmed; Kariuki, Wanjiru|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2015|
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