The Africa Report’s inaugural ranking of the top Africans who control the levers of power across politics, business and the arts: from billionaire barons to unpredictable peacemakers and soft-power superstars.
41 – Sim Tshabalala
Tshabalala became Standard Bank’s first black CEO when his job-share ended in September 2017 and his “quiet but very influential leadership” earned him $3.5m that year. The South African lender faces challenges though, from disruptors Discovery Bank and Patrice Motsepe’s TymeBank. He’s one of a group of CEOs supportive of President Cyril Ramaphosa who banded together as the CEO Initiative and took a pledge to restore investor confidence.
42 – Lupita Nyong’o
It’s going to be a great year for Lupita. The Kenyan-Mexican actress takes her place on the Walk of Fame in 2019, and – after her voyage to Wakanda last year – will once again time-travel in a new Star Wars film, as well as starring in a social drama, Us, with Black Panther co-star Winston Duke. She already has an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, so what is there left to do? Well, collaborate with Chimamanda (#4) for one thing – she will act in and co-produce (with Brad Pitt) the adaptation of Americanah, whose author she first contacted when she was a complete unknown!
43 – Onyeka Akumah
Akumah started Farmcrowdy in 2016 and has empowered small farmers all over Nigeria via the feel-good crowdfunding platform. He’s now a mentor and investor, sitting on the boards of start-ups from New York to Lagos, and is one of the youngest members of the Honorary Council of Abuja’s Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
44 – Ory Okolloh
Tech activist Okolloh founded Mzalendo (for tracking representatives in the Kenyan parliament) and Ushahidi (for crowdsourcing crisis information) before working for Google and then joining impact investor Omidyar Network. Luminate, the new philanthropic entity formed out of Omidyar’s Governance & Citizen Engagement initiative, is the ideal place to pool her exceptional skills.
45 – Tayo Oviosu
In the headlong sprint to become the African fintech giant that goes global, Paga is some way behind Kenya’s M-Pesa – partly because of the latter’s head start and its telecoms company owner. The terrain is different, too, with traditional banks in Nigeria putting up a bigger fight by investing in their own mobile-payment platforms, which already makes Paga’s growth there impressive. Licensed in 2011, it quickly went from a mobile-money operator to a full-blown payments system including e-commerce solutions. The gap between them may close if Paga co-founder Oviosu gets his way; another $10m in the bank in 2018 is being used to fund expansion to Ethiopia, Mexico and the Philippines. Nearly $4bn in payments have already been crunched in Nigeria. He will have to be quick in Ethiopia, however, as he will come face to face with… M-Pesa.
46 – Mohamed Aly El-Erian
Word to the wise
Son of an Egyptian diplomat, US-based El-Erian has carved out a niche as one of the most influential economists of the post-global-financial-crisis era. While at PIMCO, the world’s largest bond-trading specialist, he came up with the concept of the ‘New Normal’ which went viral. His investment guide to the ‘age of global economic change’, When Markets Collide, was a New York Times bestseller, as was The Only Game in Town. He now serves as chief economic adviser to the board at Allianz, PIMCO’s parent company, among a plethora of other engagements.
47 – Kamel Daoud
By writing Meursault as a counterpoint to French literary icon Albert Camus’s L’Étranger, Daoud struck deep at the rotten ties that join France and Algeria. A writer, editor and journalist, he has helped bridge the generations, from the old guard to the angry youth, and has made many enemies by his unsparing positions on Islamists and politicians. An imam who passed a fatwa on him in December 2014 was perhaps surprised to see the pushback; Daoud got him jailed for six months.
48 – Kola Masha
King of yield
Having worked as chief of staff to the minister of agriculture, Kola Masha is acutely aware of the broad challenges faced by Nigeria’s smallholder farmers, the backbone of the country that is often languishing in feudal levels of productivity. His company, Babban Gona, aggregates farmers into groups, gives them cheap seeds and fertiliser, and plugs them into markets. It is a bottom-up approach to national wealth with results that are bearing fruit. Babban Gona had worked with some 20,000 farmers by the middle of 2018, with its long-term goal of improving the performance of 1 million people. And Masha is no stranger to the sector. His other company Doreo Partners is an impact investment firm in agriculture. And his work has now been recognised by the Skoll Foundation award for social entrepreneurship. He is encouraging the government to look to examples like Brazil to see how to get more capital and better technology to smallholder farmers.
49 – Akinwumi Adesina
As president of the AfDB, Adesina has thrown his passion and weight into agriculture. His vision is that, as the continent’s number one employer, the sector can solve the jobs and migration crisis. Fixing the bottom of the pyramid requires the financing to match: Adesina is in a race to get the soft-loan wing of the Bank replenished this year.
50 – Danai Gurira
When Gurira isn’t destroying the enemies of the Kingdom of Wakanda as Okoye in the film Black Panther, Marvel-adapted hit or chopping people up with her katana blades as Michonne in The Walking Dead, she is crushing the red carpet at the Oscars ceremony. Her playwriting is acclaimed too: Eclipsed won prizes in 2016, while Letitia Wright starred in The Convert. In December 2018, Gurira became a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Her project Almasi Collaborative Arts builds ties between artists in the US and Africa.