When looking back on the year and its many highlights, we also remember some of the inspiration people who have made a difference in society. We’ve compiled a list of top Africans who inspired us in 2015 in their respective fields, or through their good works.
Following all his inspired charity work, Didier Drogba has been awarded with a Barclays Spirit of the Game trophy this year.
Chelsea player Didier Drogba set up the ‘Didier Drogba Foundation in Africa,’ as he hopes to inspire the next generation of footballers in Africa to fall in love with the game. His charity work contributes financial and material support in education and health. He has also built a medical clinic in his home-town of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
As well as donating all his commercial and sponsorship earnings, Didier helped to raise £400,000 for the Foundation at a charity ball in April attended by team-mates including Petr Cech, Eden Hazard, Bransilav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, Juan Cuadrado, Nemanja Matic and John Terry. The money raised was used to complete the medical clinic in Abidjan and help finance mobile clinics that will travel outside of the capital to those who are either too sick or too poor to make the journey to the centre.
In May 2015 Ameenah Gurib-Fakim stepped into her role as the new President of Mauritius. Her designation sees her become Mauritius’ first female president, the third on the African continent, and it’s not the only barrier that she looks set to break. When asked what her priorities for the country are, she said that “My country ambitions [are] to become a high income economy and create opportunities for [my] people.” “I strongly believe that Science, Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship are the ingredients that will help advance this vision.
Gurib-Fakim will become the only current African president who did not dabble in politics beforehand. She is an internationally-renowned scientist and biologist. Mail & Guardian Africa asked her for an interview – via LinkedIn. She obliged, becoming the first African president to do so.
Watch her TED Talk below:
Tanzania’s new leader John Pombe Magufuli rose from humble beginnings to win the presidency this year of east Africa’s most populous nation in the country’s hardest ever fought elections.
The win, on his birthday, by the 56-year old former chemistry teacher cements the long-running Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party’s firm grip on power, ruling Tanzania since 1977 when two independence-era parties merged.
The elections were the hardest fought electoral race in the east African nation’s history, with the opposition providing the first credible challenge to the CCM since the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1995.
In a bid to show his strength and refute allegations he was not physically fit for the top job, during his campaign trail he performed push-ups to cheering crowds.
Running on an anti-corruption platform, Magufuli tried hard to cultivate an image of humility, and in rallies repeatedly asked supporters to let him work for them.
From banking to hospitality and real estate to e-commerce, Ashish Thakkar built his vast business empire from scratch. The Ugandan tycoon started small with a little computer shop that kept him busy after leaving school at 15. These days, his Mara Group spans over 20 countries and he’s been called “Africa’s youngest billionaire.”
But his vision spans beyond Africa, and Earth — Thakkar was the first African this year to sign up for the opportunity to travel to space with Richard Branson’s company, Virgin Galactic. This is a notable step forward for African youth, who can look to up to Thakkar as a role model.
Director JJ Abrams wanted to cast relative unknowns for the new Star Wars film, and 23-year-old Nigerian-born english actor John Boyega was one of the few thespians who quite fit the bill. He is the lead role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
John Boyega was born to Nigerian parents, Abigail and Samson. However he remains true to his roots despite living in England for many years now. The actor is currently on a success streak at such a young age of 23. He is living proof that hard work and perseverance can take you to new heights, no matter where you come from.
Swaady Martin has proven continual dedication to her brand YSWARA, a rapidly growing African luxury brand. YSWARA creates elegant, high-end products using the continent’s natural resources, all produced by African artisans. The product range centres around exquisite teas sourced from across Africa, Swaady aims to capture a true spirit of African luxury by reviving Africa’s endangered cultural heritage and unique ancestral craftsmanship.
She is not only an example to all entrepreneurs but also an empowering image for all women across the continent and abroad.
YSWARA is currently present in 4 countries — South Africa, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and France — with 15 different direct and indirect retail points.
Fred Swaniker is the founder of the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, a two year pre-university programme for the brightest young leaders across the continent. This year, has plans to launch 25 world-class, African-focused universities in the next 25 to 30 years, which he estimates will be educating around 250,000 people at any given time.
This leader in education is changing the way Africa looks at the learning system and gives greater access to educational tools. Watch his TED Talk below:
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has implemented incredible strategies and plans to help his nation rise and succeed post genocide. Under his government, the capital city of Kigali has seen tremendous improvements and developments including public and private businesses, a movie theatre, shopping malls, banks, and a clean environment.
This year Rwanda voted to give President Kagame yet another term. The controversial vote on the country’s constitution means that Kagame, 58, can stand again in 2017 after his second mandate ends. In effect it authorises him to stand for another term of seven years and two more after that of five each, meaning that Kagame could be in power until 2034. Despite the controversy, through his many efforts the people of Rwanda are keen to see what he brings to the country next.
Everyone gets inspired by Lupita. In addition to her great sense of style on the red carpet, wide range of roles in her acting career, and charity work back in the continent, she is also in the new Star Wars film.
She is the example of the great combination that is talent, hard work, and determination.
Schoolgirl Mariam Malak has become an unlikely symbol of the fight against corruption in Egypt after scoring the sum total of zero in her final exams. In previous years she aced her exams, scoring 97%, and had expected a similar result in her final year.
In a highly bureaucratic Egypt with its confusing legal system, challenging rampant corruption or wrongs suffered by the average citizen can be a formidable task but she pushed on, claiming corruption and that her papers were exchanged in favour of “another official’s daughter/son”. She won the heart of the nation – and ours – with people taking to Twitter with the hashtag “I believe Mariam Malak”.
However, the administrative prosecution authority officially closed her publicly debated case due to the “incorrectness of Malak’s corruption claims”.
Shaeera Kalla and Nompendulo Mkhatshwa
An unprecedented movement of student activism swept through South African university campuses and cities as students protested an exclusionary fee hike of 10,000 rand, or $752, from each student at the beginning of the year, which would hurt poor black students and force them further out of the education system.
The “Fees Must Fall” protests saw many student leaders raise their hands and leading the student movements towards free university education across the country – the main leaders that deserve a mention are Wits University’s former and newly elected Student Representative Council Presidents, Shaeera Kalla and Nompendulo Mkhatshwa.
South African comedian, TV and radio host, and actor Trevor Noah walked into the hearts of many Africans this year as the host of American news satire television programme “The Daily Show”, succeeding Jon Stewart, and arguably becoming Africa’s foremost comedic voice in American pop culture today.
His mixed-race heritage, experiences growing up in a Soweto township, and his observations about race and ethnicity are leading themes in his comedy. What he’s done this year has helped destroy many African stereotypes.
Let us know who your inspiration is for 2015 in the comments section below.