What is influence and how do you measure it? It will always be hard to agree on a common understanding and meaning of influence. Understandably, this always generates wide debate. How do we determine these people's influence? And why does it matter that we assemble this list, you may ask, One yardstick we used was to emphasise that influence is not about popularity and popularity is not always influential. The influencer's impact on public, social and political discourse, however, is what largely helps us determine their influence. Over the next few pages, you will find a breadth and wealth of Africans of all nationalities and ages, both women and men, whose actions and reach, we have determined, significantly impacted and realigned the continent's landscape in their fields of endeavour, They contributed in redefining the African narrative in 2013 and we feel they will play a big role in 2014 - hopefully, for Africa's good.
PRESIDENT - KENYA
It has been an eventful year to say the least for Kenya's new president. He has been lauded for strong leadership as he stood with fellow leaders and the people of his country to fight the terror attack at the Westgate Mall in September. He stood courageous in the face of personal and national loss and urged the country to stay strong as the security forces executed the rescue operation. He was also lauded for bringing in a young and dynamic team, although some say this has so far yielded little change and has somewhat backfired. As the leader of East Africa's biggest economy, and with the ICC albatross around his neck, Kenyatta will undoubtedly have a say in Africa's standing in the coming year. Ironically, the terrorist threat in East Africa will make him an important ally for the West. The world's eyes are on Kenya and on him.
"Peace is not simply about the absence of violence, it is defined by the presence of fundamental liberties and the prevalence of economic opportunities. We will not settle for a perfunctory peace... but one that fosters unity."
PRESIDENT - GABON
Arguably. Ali Bongo remains the strongest reformer in French-speaking Africa and the most progressive leader in Central Africa. Admittedly, his country has considerable oil wealth and with a relatively small population of 1.6m, it should be easier to manage than most. Yet Bongo has been relentless about radically transforming the economy and has not been afraid to take on the well-entrenched vested interest groups in his country. This year, he has taken a strong stand against corruption in his administration, which has brought him few favours. He is known for his single- minded approach to business and for getting things done. And his openness to the international community, as well as his strong position on climate change, has strengthened his position as a regional and global leader.
"We are progressing well on all the major topics: improving the business environment and good governance, restructuring the education and health sectors, building quality infrastructure, and diversifying our sources of growth. But we can do better."
ICC CHIEF PROSECUTOR - GAMBIA
Having inherited a very difficult, high profile position as Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague from the brash and self-centred Luis Moreno Ocampo, it is the task of softly spoken Bensouda to bring respect and credibility to this highly criticised institution. This year she wants in dock the President and Vice President of Kenya, for their alleged role in the 2007 post-election violence. The case could make or break the institution. Bensouda is a Gambian whose extensive portfolio as a lawmaker has equipped her to take on the role with confidence, though that is not to say she has any of the arrogance of her predecessor. Come 2014, her tenacity will be closely watched.
"There cannot be true reconciliation unless the people who have suffered atrocities are made to see that true justice has been done."
EXEC. SEC. UNECA - GUINEA BISSAU
This Guinea-Bissauan is emerging as one of Africa's thought leaders. Taking an intellectual and pragmatic approach to problem solving as the head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Lopes is responsible for ensuring the institution becomes a key pillar in Africa's development policies. His views on African policy are solicited by many leaders, inside and outside of Africa. As a respected development and strategic specialist who has spent a number of years working closely with, and contributing to research on issues of governance and development, his tenure at Uneca is always going to attract watchful eyes.
"We must be the first to admit that there is still a lot more to be done... development challenges still abound... our narrative is still very much generated from outside."
PRESIDENT - MALAWI
Joyce Banda has possibly received the most column inches of any president in the past year. She has positioned herself as a leader with zero tolerance on corruption, bad governance and government profligacy. To prove a point, she slashed her salary by 30 per cent and sold the presidential jet soon after taking office. The headline-grabbing measures won her many plaudits. But current allegations of mounting corruption in her government and inner circle, threaten her chances at the next elections. How will Africa's second-only female president, who has hitherto been seen as a doyen of good governance, stave off mounting discontent and win a second term?
"I strongly believe that to achieve long-lasting peace and stability, we must fight the war to end contemporary, deliberate and savage violence of poverty."
FOREIGN MINISTER - GHANA
A barrister by profession, she has become known as one of the most astute and efficient politicians of her time. She has been active in politics since 2000, and in 2013 she took up her post as Minister of Foreign Affairs after President Mahama appointed her with parliamentary approval. Humble yet forthright and persuasive, she is known as a great communicator who engages with her public at all levels. She joins the ranks of a growing number of women who, given the opportunity, are showing how it should be done.
"What I bring to the job is what I always bring to any job to which I'm assigned: complete dedication and commitment."
FINANCE MINISTER - NIGERIA
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-lweala is Nigeria's Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, and a global superstar. Like the title of her book, she is known for "Reforming the Unreformable", despite the many threats and other obstacles she faces on a daily basis. She is an authority on all issues African, and will increasingly be in the limelight in 2014, as Nigeria hosts a number of international forums. She is considered to be one of the most powerful women in the world, a spokesperson for Africa and a leader who many Nigerians rest their hopes on. Presidential material? Some political commentators believe so.
"Africa is a different place... For the first time, we are able to contribute to global growth."
CHAIR, AU - SOUTH AFRICA
Dlamini-Zuma has come to the African Union with a big reputation and an even bigger task. Hence being put on the spot to transform the institution into what many believe it ought to be: bold, effective and influential. Just over a year into office, she is receiving mixed reactions, although slowly stepping up to the task. But she needs to use more of her drive and energy to ensure the AU earns the respect its founding fathers dreamed of. Her soft-spoken nature must not be mistaken for her being a pushover. During the 50th anniversary conference of the AU, she outraged the organisation's Western partners (and majority funders) by refusing them entry to an enforced closed session. Yes, she does have a firm hand.
"Closed sessions are closed sessions. We decide which ones are closed... we decide which sessions are open. And if you are not going to be participating in the discussion, why do you want to be here?"
SPECIAL ENVOY, UN - ALGERIA
Lakhdar Brahimi is known as one of the foremost experts in peacekeeping and post-conflict resolution. Since 2012, this Algerian diplomat has been brought out of retirement to be the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria. Brahimi has had the challenging task this year of bringing all the stakeholders to the table on the Syrian conflict and finding a resolution to the deteriorating situation. His relentless pursuit of solutions has seen him gain significant success in conflict management, for instance in Lebanon and Haiti. He is determined to find a solution to the conflict in Syria and ignores comments that the task is becoming increasingly difficult to manage.
"We're extremely careful not to claim that we're going to take a problem and solve it...but from time to time a problem needs a little push."
EX-PRESIDENT - SOUTH AFRICA
The supreme intellectual and champion of African Renaissance, Thabo Mbeki's ambition for Africa's rebirth did not end with his removal from office in zoo8. He continues to champion the cause for the transformation of Africa, and is hailed as one of Africa's foremost thinkers. His skills are being used widely, and today he is one of the most outspoken leaders on the direction Africa should be taking, especially on international matters. His influence and status, if anything, continue to grow.
"More than a decade ago, the view took hold throughout Africa, beyond the narrow echelon of our continental leadership, that as Africans we should indeed strive to ensure that the 21st becomes an African century!"
PUBLIC PROTECTOR - SA
One word has increasingly been used to describe Thuli Madonsela - tearless. The respected online news media platform, Daily Maverick had this to say about her in 2012 - "It should really be no surprise that [she] has made...