Forbes has compiled a list of Africa’s top heavy hitters who have remained resolute and relentless in their mission to leave an indelible mark while making a difference in the daily lives of people on the continent and in the diaspora.
Strive Masiyiwa, Zimbabwe
Nominated in 2013 as “Person of the Year” by Forbes Africa, Strive Masiyiwa,Zimbabwe’s wealthiest man and telecommunications tycoon is one of the continent’s most influential and revered entrepreneurs. In 2014, Masiyiwa ledthe African business community and private sector in the fight against Ebola, raising $28.5Million as part of the first wave of pledges to support an African-led medical corps to support efforts in the epicenters of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Additionally, Masiyiwa was very instrumental in the African conceived and African-led initiative #UnitedAgainstEbola, helping to secure pledges over $32.6Million USD for the fund. Masiyiwa spends significant time advising and mentoring Africa’s youth as well as the continent’s growing number of entrepreneurs through his popular Facebook page.
Tidjane Thiam, Ivory Coast
When the Prime Minister of your country publicly acknowledges that she hopes that one day you will return back to your country of birth to be of service, then you know that your influence and impact transcends borders. Speaking at the Africa CEO Forum in Geneva, Switzerland Daniel Kablan Duncan, the Prime Minister of Ivory Coast said about corporate powerhouse, Tidjane Thiam, “He is still young, he can gain experience and then come back to the Ivory Coast.” Thiam, a high ranking executive recently resigned from his role as Group Chief Executive Officer of U.K.-insurer, Prudential to run one of the world’s largest and oldest banks in the world, Credit Suisse in Europe. Thiam, once the Minister of Planning and Development in a previous Duncan government is said to offer advice to Prime Minister Duncan as the country of Ivory Coast recovers from a decade of strife and political unrest.
Simpiwe ‘Sim’ Tshabala, South Africa
One of South Africa’s leading new-generation corporate leaders, Simpiwe “Sim” Tshabalala is joint Chief Executive of the Standard Bank Group and Chief Executive of Standard Bank, South Africa. Co-chair of what is now Africa’s largest bank by market capitalization (R209.4 billion [$20 billion USD]), Tshabalala believes the banking sector can build a more equal and stronger Africa in the next decade. Standard Bank operates in 20 African countries and 8 countries on other continents. A socially conscious business leader, the Notre Dame and Harvard-educated corporate executive firmly believes that low-income individuals should be given credit; whether to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams or purchase their home.
George Weah, Liberia
Against the backdrop of an Ebola outbreak ravishing the country, former football star George Weah won a landslide victory in one of Liberia‘s most high-profile senate race elections. Weah obtained 78% of the vote for the highly contested Montserrado county seat, which included the capital city of the country, Monrovia. The former footballer-turned politician beat Robert Sirleaf, the son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who took nearly 11% of the vote. Weah’s senate win is widely viewed as foundational for a second presidential run in 2017; he won the first round of the 2005 presidential election, losing the runoff to President Johnson-Sirleaf. Extremely popular with the Liberian youth, Weah is regarded as one of the greatest African players of all time; he is the only African to be named Fifa’s world player of the year.
Oscar Onyema, Nigeria
As a testament to his contributions to the capital markets in Nigeria, in 2014, Oscar Onyema, Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, was made an Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in “recognition of his contribution to economic development, the transformation of The Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Nigerian capital markets”. With the Nigerian bourse taking a beating in recent months; the total market capitalization of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, valued at 19.08 trillion Naira ($119.41 billion USD) in 2013, dropped to 16.88 trillion Naira ($90.68 billion USD) at the end of 2014, a decrease of 11.53% in Naira terms, Onyema has had to work in overdrive to restore investor confidence in one of Africa’s largest capital markets.
Victor Ochen, Uganda
Victor Ochen, 33-year old former child victim of war-turned-crusader for youth leadership and advocate for the rights of war victims, was nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). As founder of African Youth Initiative Network(Ayinet), Ochen joins Mussie Zerai, an Italian priest of Eritrean descent, Pope France and Edward Snowden as nominees for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. In his thanks to the AFSC for the nomination, Ochen said he hoped, “that this nomination will contribute to a change of the perception of Africa’s youth. We are not a tool of injustice, but agents of prosperity and peace.”
Edwin Macharia, Kenya
Recently named a Young Global Leader, class of 2015 by the World Economic Forum, Edwin Macharia came to prominence in his role as Director of Agriculture with the Clinton Foundation where he led partnership-building and operations in agriculture for a $100Million USD initiative focused on effecting holistic development at the grassroot-levels. Currently a partner at Dalberg, based in Nairobi, Kenya, Macharia advises developing countries’ governments, international organizations, and corporations among others on a range of issues including strategy, operational optimization, and program execution.
NJ Ayuk, Equatorial Guinea
NJ Ayuk, managing partner at Centurion LLP, a law firm which advises the government of Equatorial Guinea on oil and gas deals and contracts, launched his firm back in 2009 with two other lawyers. The U.S-educated attorney (J.D and M.B.A) was motivated by the tremendous market potential of international businesses and investors interested in doing business on the continent, especially in the energy sector. Under Ayuk’s exceptional leadership, Centurion grew from just two employees to 35 employees and became the largest law firm in Equatorial Guinea. Centurion is said to have signed the highest number of oil and gas deals in Africa. From working as a housekeeper at a hotel and as a server at a fast food restaurant in Germany at the age of 16-years, today Ayuk is one of the continent’s leading African oil and gas lawyers.
Mbwana Alliy, Tanzania
Mention venture capital, technology in Africa and invariably the name Mbwana Alliy comes up. Alliy is the founder and managing partner of Savannah Fund, an Africa-focused technology venture capital that runs both an accelerator and a venture fund that ranges from $25,000 to $500,000 USD in seed capital for early stage high growth technology (mobile and web) startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Alliy is a well-respected in the tech community in Africa; “Through Savannah Fund Alliy has given African startups a real chance. Not only did Savannah Fund invest in us, they also enable us to get to Silicon Valley,” wrote Rodgers Muhadi of Card Planet.
Moustapha Ben Barka, Mali
One of Mali’s emerging political leaders, Moustapha Ben Barka was recently named Deputy Secretary General in the Office of the President of the Republic of Mali. Recently named a Young Global Leader, class of 2015 by the World Economic Forum, Barka mostly recently served in the Government of Mali as Deputy Minister of Economy and Finance where he was in charge of investment and promotion of the private sector. Prior, he served as Minister of Industry and Investment Promotion.