Author:Versi, Anver
Position:Cover story

This year's listing consists of some household names who have nevertheless continued to influence events and people outside their main activities, and a whole batch of other names that may have gone under the radar but whose achievements and influence are immense.

Putting together a listing like this is an inspiring exercise--but also maddeningly difficult. This is because the sheer number of people who deserve to be included is so vast that selecting who makes the list and who does not can hinge on small margins of subjective judgement.

Nevertheless, we hope you will agree with the 100 Most Influential Africans of 2018 list, although you will no doubt have your own favourites.

Suffice it to say that even if we had extended the list to 200 individuals, we could not have accommodated everyone who deserves recognition for their contributions to the glory of Africa.

One of the outstanding features of this year's list is the number of people of African descent who are making their mark at a global level. This is a clear indication of the wealth of talent that our continent possesses and shows that given the slightest opportunity, our men and women can eclipse their peers worldwide in their chosen fields of endeavour.

We are also pleased to be able to include individuals who toil away, often against impossible odds, to bring change and hope in often unglamorous environments. Their achievements, which touch thousands, if not millions of lives, are often overlooked by the media but the examples they set are invaluable in the unfolding emancipation of Africa.

As the list shows, in virtually every field of human endeavour, from governance, to business, to science, to healthcare, to education, to the arts, to sports, to activism, to journalism, to innovation, to agriculture and to conservation, you will find an outstanding African pushing back the limits of what is possible.

Most Influential African > Politics & Public Service


Michelle Naiaye Ntab

Building peace and security

With a political science background and extensive experience in post-conflict communities recovery, transitional justice, and managing clashes arising from environmental degradation and migration, it is not surprising that Michelle Ndiaye Ntab heads the Tana High Level Forum on Security in Africa.

The AU-led Tana Forum, based at Addis Ababa University's Institute for Peace and Security Studies, promotes African-led solutions on the continent's peace and security concerns by combining immersive academia, research and fast-paced real-world experiences. Michelle previously headed the Mandela Institute for Development Studies and has also been Executive Director for Greenpeace Africa.


Cyril Ramaphosa

Right man for troubled times

During the Jacob Zuma Presidency, South Africa was plunged into one crisis after the other, with one scandal following another. The reputation of the country, as well as that of the ANC, was in tatters. Something had to give.

Zuma was effectively forced out of office and Cyril Ramaphosa, an ANC liberation-era stalwart and union leader, as well as one of the most successful black businessmen in the country, stepped into the breach.

He inherited a shattered economy, a lack of confidence in government and a split ruling party. Over the 10 months he has been in office, Ramaphosa has calmed the restive ANC, soothed South Africa and is reclaiming the enviable position that South Africa once occupied among the emerging BRICS coalition, and also within Africa.


Abdel Fatah el-Sisi

Bold reformer

President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, who initially stepped into the leadership following social and political convulsions in the aftermath of Egypt's Arab Spring, has enacted wide-ranging political reforms, outlawed torture, enhanced freedom of expression and given the Egyptian House of Representatives power to impeach the President.

On the economic front, President Sisi has overseen fiscal reforms to boost small and medium enterprises and encourage the private sector's participation in the Egyptian economy.

He has initiated several infrastructure projects, including the creation of New Cairo city some 35km away from Cairo and the drilling of a new 35km channel at the Suez Canal, which is expected to facilitate the transit of 97 ships per day and lift annual revenues from the current $5.3bn to $13.2bn by 2023.

The sixth President of Egypt has sought to create his own niche to avoid Cairo's urban legend that depicts his predecessors Gamal Nasser as leftist, Anwar Sadat as right-wing and Hosni Mubarak as middle ground.


Akinwumi Adesina

Unwavering agricultural focus

'Blooming in agriculture and now booming in banking' aptly describes the career curve that defines the bow-tie-loving Akinwumi Adesina, the former Nigerian agriculture minister who is now president of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Adesina, who was the laureate of the prestigious 2017 World Food Prize, has not deviated much from what he had rolled out as the agriculture minister.

At the AfDB, Adesina has continued to emphasise policies that increase access to credit for smallholder farmers across Africa, and bolster expansion of agricultural production. He also constantly seeks to disrupt cartels colluding to suppress farmers in the agriculture value chain.


Nana Akufo-Addo

Nearly man finally makes it

President Akufo-Addo knows what power can do. Eight months after his election, he brought in free secondary school education as part of a long-held desire to boost literacy in Ghana.

He is described as patient, determined, organised and focused. He has been involved in active politics since the 1970s and even though he lost myriad elections in his political rise, he remained resolute in his political career.

He lost the Presidential elections twice but did not give up. This year, as Co-Chair of the UN's Eminent Advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals, saw him lead awareness of the SDGs, especially in the area of innovation in Africa.

His declarations for Africans to rely less on others and to start taking ownership of their destiny have gone viral on social media.


Abiy Ahmed

New broom in The Horn

Just when everyone was writing off Ethiopia as an authoritarian state sliding into anarchy, with growing anti-government protests, 42-year-old Abiy Ahmed came along.

In just eight months since taking over, Abiy has completely altered the dictatorial narrative used to define Ethiopia. The charismatic former military officer has helped to reengineer the EPRDF administration to be more inclusive and embrace diversity, lifted the state of emergency and freed thousands of political dissidents. He has ended the state of war and normalised relations with Eritrea by giving up disputed border territories, increased the democratic space in Ethiopia, included more women in cabinet and embraced Pan-Africanism by easing travel into Ethiopia.


Bogolo Joy Kenewendo

Africa's youngest minister

Botswana's young Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry is justifiably proud of her abilities to translate policy into action and lift livelihoods in her landlocked nation.

In an interview with our sister publication, New African Woman, she says: "I think we have to change the narrative around young and women leaders; we need to start driving it more actively. I've often been asked, 'What are the disadvantages of being a young woman leader?' Why should I give a disadvantage of being me? It is ridiculous.

"Nobody has asked what the disadvantages of being an old white male are. And this is asked as if to imply I do not belong in this space, I strongly beg to differ."

With expertise in trade and industrial policy, macroeconomic and public debt management, Kenewendo entered politics in 2016 when she was nominated to Parliament and was made a minister this year.

Celebrated as "Africa's youngest minister", she once served as a trade economist in the Ghanaian government. She has also been appointed to serve as a member of the UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.


Pravin Gordhan

Solid pillar of the state

Pravin Gordhan, now the Minister for Public Enterprises under President Cyril Ramaphosa, has the enormous task of cleaning out the Augean stables of the country's state-owned utilities. A major figure in the South African political firmament for several decades, he has also previously been the commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the chairman of the Brussels-based World Customs Organisation.

Gordhan's political credentials go back to his role in the ANC during the liberation era and later, his prominent position in the communist party. He was co-chair for the Transitional Executive Council that prepared South Africa for its first multi-racial election in 1994. As a key figure within ANC power pillars, Gordhan is the ultimate survivor, having fought and come through many political battles.


Paul Kagame

Africa's miracle man?

Rwanda's revolutionary shift from a past of shame has been astounding. In the last two decades Rwanda has leapt from least developed status into a middle income nation, thanks to President Paul Kagame's fixation with what he terms the 'developmental state' model.

"Every developed economy, without exception is the fruit of a free market and a strong developmental state working in tandem. The orthodoxy of shrinking the state to the bare minimum and replacing it with externally funded non-state actors, left Africa with no viable path out of poverty," Kagame says.

"Democracy and development both depend on good politics, in which there is no room for the powerful interests who benefited most from the predatory states created by colonialism and propped up by Cold War cynicism. Our democratic advances are constantly negated...

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