Time Magazine has released its annual list of the most influential people of 2019.
This year’s list features pioneers, artists, leaders, icons and titans from various parts of the world including Africa.
Each person is accompanied by a write-up by another famous person explaining exactly why they were chosen.
“It is a community of hundreds of global leaders, many of whom support and challenge one another,” the magazine said.
The 2019 list pays homage to five people from Africa. They are Fred Swaniker, Abiy Ahmed, Cyril Ramaphosa, Caster Semenya and Mo Salah.
The Ghanaian entrepreneur and leadership development expert is featured in the pioneer category.
He is profiled by telecoms entrepreneur and chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Mo Ibrahim.
In his words, “Africa’s greatest asset is also its defining challenge—its growing population of young people. With 60% of its population under 25, Africa is the world’s youngest continent. By 2100, almost half of the world’s youth are expected to be from Africa. Harnessing that is no small undertaking. But it is one that my friend Fred Swaniker committed to early, to become one of Africa’s foremost leaders.”
He continues, “Fred understood that the key to success was not about leading the youth along a preordained path, but about allowing them to become authors of their own stories. That is what has inspired his educational initiatives: the African Leadership Academy, African Leadership Network and African Leadership University. Together, they hope to educate 3 million leaders of tomorrow.
“Fred has the passion, understanding and ability to take this great continent forward, through its young people. I am filled with hope knowing that he is there to help the next generation of African leaders to blossom,” Ibrahim concludes.
Ethiopia‘s Prime Minister is named in the leaders’ section. Writing his TIME 100 profile, an Olympic-silver-medalist marathoner named Feyisa Lilesa said she nominated him because of his efforts to change the country.
Explaining her choice, she writes, “…While I was training in Kenya, I heard that Dr Abiy Ahmed would be the next Prime Minister. In Ethiopian history, we have never seen a leader like him. He’s an educated person who talks about unity.
“He has released thousands of people from jail. He brought peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea after 20 years of war. And he made it possible for me to come home. Yes, people are still protesting. But now, when they protest, they aren’t going to jail. To me, that is democracy. That is hope.”
South Africa‘s president is featured in the leaders’ category. His nomination comes from Vivienne Walt, a TIME correspondent.
His writeup reads, “…Now finally, at 66, Ramaphosa, or Cyril, as he’s known to South Africans, has the chance to end corruption and grow the stalled economy. That could be his toughest battle yet. Blackouts, grinding poverty and massive unemployment have left millions desperate for quick results.
“Vicious infighting in his African National Congress party leaves him vulnerable to a coup, or perhaps an ouster in elections on May 8. For all that, Ramaphosa has kept his characteristic chuckle and his knack for focusing on the bigger picture. ‘Unity,’ he said recently, ‘was never going to happen overnight.’ After a lifetime fighting his enemies, he should know.”
He is an Egyptian professional footballer who plays as a forward for Liverpool and the Egypt national team. He is the only male footballer on this year’s list.
Salah was named in the “Titans” category alongside Lebron James, Mark Zuckerberg, Tiger Woods, and Alex Morgan.
His TIME profile is written by John Oliver, the host of HBO‘s Last Week Tonight.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a professional athlete in any sport less affected by their success or status than Mo, which is incredible because I can’t imagine the kind of pressure that comes with the intensity of adoration he receives,” he writes.
“Mo is an iconic figure for Egyptians, Scousers and Muslims the world over, and yet he always comes across as a humble, thoughtful, funny man who isn’t taking any of this too seriously. As a footballer, he plays with an infectious joy. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be able to play as well as him and watching his face light up after he does something incredible, you get the reassuring sense that it’s exactly as fun as you’d want it to be. I absolutely love him,” he concludes.
This South African Olympic track-and-field champion is featured in the icons section not just for her athletic abilities but also for fighting to change the politics in sports.
Edwin Moses, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in track and field, writes, “A world and Olympic track-and-field champion several times over, Caster Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary and caused us to question the justness of distributing societal benefits according to “male” and “female” classifications.
“Semenya identifies as a woman but has testosterone levels higher than the typical female. Her success has brought controversy in elite sport, with many arguing that her biological traits give her an unfair advantage in women’s competition. But Semenya is fighting that. Sport eligibility, she and others say, should not be based on hormone levels or other differences of sex development.
“If successful, Semenya’s effort could open the door for all who identify as women to compete in track events without having to first medically lower their testosterone levels below a proposed limit. Ultimately, this incredibly difficult issue is a political one for sport to resolve. But however it is addressed, Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.”