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Young African Leaders Making a Difference

Young African Leaders Making a Difference

Some of the highlighted individuals. Photo credit: International Policy Digest

The news coming out of Africa is almost always negative. Moreover, it almost never touches on the African youth. So for a change of tune, I want to let you know about some phenomenal young people from the continent who are doing extraordinary things.

In January 2012, Young People in International Affairs or YPIA, an NGO I started in June 2011 put out a worldwide call for nominations to find Africans under 35 years of age making an impact “in their respective countries, on the continent and in the wider world.” To qualify, you must have met the following conditions:

1. Under the age of 35;
2. A citizen of an African country;
3. Excelling in their respective field and area of expertise;
4. Making a substantial impact on critical African issues and international affairs;
5. Recognized among colleagues and the broader community as a leader/future leader;
6. Values ethics and human rights.

The 2012 Top 35 are young Africans who are accomplishing amazing feats in the fields of politics, business, media, education/academia, community development and science and technology. And the winners are…


Nelson Chamisa, 34, Zimbabwe: 34 year-old Nelson Chamisa was born in Gutu in Zimbabwe. He graduated from Harare Polytechnic and University of Zimbabwe and rose to prominence in 2003 as the youngest legislator when he was elected to parliament. He has served as the Secretary of the Zimbabwe National Student’s union (1997), Member of Parliament for Kuwadzana (2003 and 2005), and as Secretary for Information and Publicity, MDC-T (2006). In 2011, he was elected as the Party’s Organizing Secretary. In Parliament, he is a member of the portfolio committees of Defense and Home Affairs, Public Accounts, Gender and Youth and Transport and Communications. He is also a member of the Local Government, Public Works & Urban Development and the African Caribbean and Pacific Parliament.

Over the years, Nelson has risen from student activism to become one of the key figures in Zimbabwean politics. He currently serves as the Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (2009-present).

Serah Zainab Makka, 33, Nigeria: Serah Zainab Makka is the Policy Manager at The Tony Elumelu Foundation, partner organization to the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI). She has been described by her colleagues as an inspirational and talented woman who is instrumental in Nigeria – and Africa’s – future. Mr. Tony Blair also shares this high esteem for Serah.

Serah holds a Master in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School and graduated summa cum laude from her first degree in Economics and International Studies from the University of North Florida. She was inducted in the 2007 Academy of Achievement as nominated by the Former Associate Dean for Degree Programs of the Kennedy School, Dean Joe McCarthy. Serah has been instrumental in driving and developing the strategy and policy initiatives for one of the first Africa-based, pan African focused, African funded philanthropic foundation, the Tony Elumelu Foundation.Serah has worked tirelessly helping the Government of Nigeria achieve their ambitious reform program, working behind the scenes on crucial issues such as the effectiveness and policy delivery at the highest level of government in Nigeria.

Serah was raised by a Pastor for a mom and a General for a father; and this upbringing has led her to understand that the purpose of life is to impart your gifts into the life of others.

Lindiwe Mazibuko, 31, South Africa: Lindiwe Mazibuko was elected the Democratic Alliance (DA) Parliamentary Leader and National Spokesperson in 2009 and Shadow Minister for Rural Development and Land Reform in 2010. In October 2011, Lindiwe was elected by the DA’s Parliamentary Assembly as Parliamentary Leader and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly.

Born in Swaziland and raised in Durban, Lindiwe went to school at St Mary’s DSG in Kloof, where she matriculated in 1997. From there she went on to the University of KwaZulu-Natal to pursue a Bachelor of Music degree then to the University of Cape Town, where she obtained a BA (French, Classics, Media & Writing) in 2006 and a BA Honors (Political Communication) degree in 2007. Her constituency is North Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, and articulates that she is utterly committed to politics and is grateful to have the privilege of being able to live her passion.

Thembi Thadzi, 29, Malawi: Thembi Grace Thadzi is a 29 year-old young woman from Ntcheu in Malawi. She has been involved in youth activities since she was 13 years-old. Thembi is a fourth year student in Developmental Studies at Share World Open University. She is also the only young woman in Malawi to be appointed to the National Advisory Council on Strategic Planning.

Thembi is a representative of the regional youth caucus for the Common Wealth Youth Program and is Vice-Chairperson of the Ten-Plus Link, and initiative that identifies and promotes the different talents of the youth. In 2010, she was awarded the Common Wealth Youth Initiative Award and the Youth Development Award by the National Youth Council of Malawi for her outstanding work in youth development. She hopes to open a girls’ initiative academy soon after completing her Master’s degree that will support and keep young girls at school.

Otto Saki, 32, Zimbabwe: Otto Saki is a Zimbabwean lawyer and former Acting Director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. An experienced defender of civil society activists in the Zimbabwean courts, he is currently a Human Rights Fellow at Columbia University.

He holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from the University of Zimbabwe. He graduated with his Masters of laws (LLM) from Colombia Law School (2007-2008). Otto Saki is also the Senior Democracy and Governance Advisor at USAID. Otto is responsible for Human Rights defenders and International litigation projects with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. He has been a fellow with the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (Gambia) He has also won the international Reebok Human Rights Award on the 6th of June 2006.

Andy Roland Nziengui, 28, Gabon: Andy Roland Nziengui is the vice president of the Pan African Youth Union. He has a degree in International Relations and is currently participating in management training at the French American Academy of Management in Libreville, Gabon. He was selected in 2004 to participate in the Future Leaders Sydney Forum as a member of the Oxfam parliament. He has been an activist in different organizations since Junior High School. He was the president of the Francophone Club of Nyanga, one of the nine Gabonese provinces. During the past three years, Andy has participated in summits of the Francophone Organization on environmental sustainability held in Burkina Faso and in a symposium on the reinforcement of capacities on the gender approach.


Vusi Thembakwayo, 27, South Africa: At the age of 17, Vusi was already ranked 1st in Africa for motivational speaking. As one of the best motivational speakers and keynote speakers alive today he has spoken in 4 of the 7 continents to over 250 000 people each year and still counting! Motivational speakers and Keynote speakers globally have come to revere his talent and delivery style. At 24 years-old he was the youngest director ever in South Africa through a multi-national turning over R17bn a year, where he served on the operations board.

His humor is the glue that binds some of his most diverse audiences in the world. His motivational speaking style is rich with jokes. A funny keynote speaker and hilarious motivational speaker, John Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia called Vusi the “Rock Star of Public Speaking” and global strategist Clem Sunter said he was “simply reverting”.

Gachao Kiuna, 34, Kenya: Gachao serves as the Chief Executive Officer, Managing Director and Director of Transcentury Group. He joined the firm from McKinsey & Company in Johannesburg where he was involved in advising corporate clients in emerging markets on corporate finance and strategy. Gachao has over five year’s advisory experience with the firm in corporate finance and strategy, operational excellence, and organizational effectiveness. He was a Member of the Office Leadership Group leading the firm’s Sub-Saharan Africa Practice. Gachao was also the Principal Consultant that led the McKinsey assignment to develop the Vision 2030 project for the Government of Kenya.

Gachao joined the firm in 2003 focusing on economic development for country strategy, electric power particularly generation, global health, and education. He also serviced his clients on issues of corporate finance, strategy, operational excellence, and organizational effectiveness for a wide range of organizations and entrepreneurs across Africa. Gachao earned a Ph.D. in Biotechnology from the Institute of Biotechnology in Cambridge and holds a first class honors B.Sc. degree in Biochemistry from Imperial College in London.

Limbani Kalilani, 27, Malawi: Limbani Kalilani can be described as a triple threat being the Founder of Phone Yanu (Pvt) Ltd, Vice-Chairperson of G-Mobile network, Malawi, and the President and Founder of Malawi’s biggest events and management company Black Rhyno Entertainment. Limbani’s G-Mobile company has promised first class telecommunication services for the people of Malawi along with the creation of over 900 jobs and the provision of facilities to facilitate easy access to telecommunication services for the rural masses.

“We will be introducing the first ever hybrid network in Malawi. We want [mobile] services in the country to match the best in Africa,” said Limbani. His remarkable achievements are not limited to the telecommunication sector, as he was selected as the Coca-Cola brand ambassador for a promotion campaign in 2008 alongside being an International award winning hip hop artist.

Antoinette Furaha, 19, DRC: A 19 year old refugee, Antoinette hails from DRC but lives in a refugee camp at Kyangwali Uganda. An inspiration to many young women, Antoinette is a manger at 19 with very little educational qualification. However, she was awarded 2nd place for the Anzisha prize for young entrepreneurs.

Her story is one that transcends beyond hardships and any unfavorable circumstances. Faced with hardships as a result of the conflict in Congo, Antoinette figured a way to cater for herself, her family and her community. Antoinette started out investing a capital as little as $200 into a sugar cane vending business to gain profits originally to send her siblings to school and provide them with the basic educational materials. However, Antoinette’s initiative amounted into profitable ideas; the Women’s Microcredit Company Kyangwali. This Microfinance operating in Uganda enlightens and empowers women by educating and giving loans to orphans and widows, alongside putting over 40 orphans in school with basic needs such as uniforms and textbooks.

Bright Simons, 31, Ghana: Bright Simons is the Director of Development Research at IMANI. However, is known for inventing the SMS shortcode system for authenticating pharmaceuticals, and currently leads the effort by the company he founded, mPedigree Network, to deploy the system across Africa and South Asia.

In 2009, he joined the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneer Community at Davos. Bright, a TED and Ashoka Fellow, is a member of the Evian Group, and an active member of other African and global development-focused societies in including the World Economic Forum and Global Agenda Council on the Future of Mobile Communications. He is a recipient of numerous awards, ranging from Marie Curie and Commonwealth Vision Grants to a PPARC Scholarship in Gamma Ray Astronomy.

Bright is passionate about Africa and entrepreneurship. He told the Harvard Business Review in March 2012: “I have a fresher and deeper appreciation for African entrepreneurship. I believe that not only can it propel Africa forward in its quest for holistic development, but that the time is nearly here when groundbreaking management thinking from Africa will take the world by storm.”

James Mworia, 34, Kenya: In June 2008, James became the youngest CEO of a listed Nairobi Stock Exchange firm. He is now the CEO and Managing Director of Centum Investment Company, which is was re-branded from Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC). He is also a Director at several companies including UAP Insurance Company Limited and General Motors East Africa Limited.

He holds a Chartered Financial Analyst charter which he earned at Strathmore University. James also holds Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Nairobi and a Diploma from the Kenya School of Law.

He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya, CFA Institute, and the Law Society of Kenya. This is an interesting mix that has produced an investment manager. He says he has succeeded by carefully managing the three disciplines which have helped him in managing Centum.

Married with two children, his name was the first in Business Daily’s Top 40, under 40 leaders in corporate Kenya in 2011.

June Arunga, 30, Kenya: She has a law degree from the University of Buckingham and founder and president of Open Quest Media LLC. June speaks regularly on globalization and development issues. She has been named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. June is a founding partner, and for a period was Director of Corporate Affairs, of Black Star Line SA: a technology solution provider in the fields of cell-phone based payments and money transfer with a strong focus on the African market.

Law school graduate from the University of Buckingham (England). Ms. Arunga has featured in four documentaries exploring trade, migration, property and wealth in Africa, as well as participating in numerous television and radio programs on a variety of related public policy issues.

Ada Umeofia, 19, Nigeria: A 19-year old Nigerian, alongside four other African young innovators have emerged winners in the 2012 Zeitgeist Young Minds, an opportunity for young people to showcase how they are making a positive impact in our world. One of them is Ada, who through WeBuilt offers Africa a design-centered social enterprise that redesigns and constructs market stalls for poverty-stricken Africans by recycling found building materials in slums.

Ada feels we talk endlessly about change, constantly voicing our dissatisfaction with the current state of the African populace but ironically, limit ourselves, opting to political changes as the only solution. WeBuilt: Africa is a social enterprise that hopes to implement change with contemporary architecture and design by redesigning and rebuilding the worn out market stalls and eventually homes with recycled building materials across the slums of its many countries.


Rose Ramsey, 32, South Africa: She is a 32 year old group executive producer for eNews and eSat TV. Rose’s greatest thrill is controlling the chaos of what’s happening in news around the country, continent and world. Being at the heart of planning is what keeps her hooked, whether it’s rushing out to the smoke-filled skies as a field-producer during the Mumbai terror attacks, running eNews’ entire live broadcast of the FIFA Soccer World Cup, or opening eNews’ first international bureau in China.

She has revolutionized the way eNews delivers stories from far-flung areas, and is at the forefront of how the channel uses mobile gadgets such as iPads and laptops for news gathering.

Joe Njagu, 28, Zimbabwe: Joe Njagu is a award winning Writer/Director come on board exercising vast experience in independent film making, cutting across all production levels. Highly equipped with a burning passion and appreciation for art, Joe brings to life the self written screenplay for The Gentleman.

South African trained, he established himself as the future writer and director of Zimbabwean film through his first comedy debut: “LOBOLA, 2010,” by far one of the best-selling Zimbabwean films, grossing over R500 000 in the first three months of release. Joe won the award Best Director for the movie, The Gentleman, Njagu excelled in producing a fantastic HD picture but found sound challenging, as few scenes are not synced to the dialogue. He was nominated as the best director of the documentary Jabula in 2009. He was Jury President of Zimbabwe International Film Festival in 2009. He was also credited as the best writer and producer of “Bitter Pill”, “Lobola” and “The Gentleman” and assistant director of “Sores of Emmanuel”.

Highly inspired by Hollywood director, Chris Nolan, Joe believes The Gentleman is a new chapter of African cinema as the storyline, the acting, the pace and the overall ‘feel’ of the film surpasses the usual ‘folktales’ synonymous with African films. The Gentleman is a commercial film. It’s a brand. A brand that is tied with other brands: Munyaradzi Chidzonga (BBA, 2010), Presley Chweneyegau (Tsotsi, 2009) and the Kenyan shell-bomb Sheila Kwamboka (BBA, 2010).

Mazuba Kapambwe, 23, Zambia: Zambian Mazuba Kapambwe has been working her way through the afro-entertainment scene in New York for a few years and her resume is impressive! People love her passion for African creatives and her commitment to sharing and learning about the different countries and cultures across the continent. Africa is still largely portrayed as one country where people are hungry and have AIDS, but she strongly opposes such images and says that there is good news coming out of the continent in recent years, due to blogs and sites where Africans are telling their own stories. She is doing her part through “The Africa They Never Show You” posts on her Facebook page and through a workshop series she is working on focusing on Creative Africa. She would like to take advantage of more opportunities and do more print magazine writing.

As the daughter of a diplomat, Mazuba has seen a lot of the world. Born in Washington, D.C., she has lived in Zambia, Ethiopia, and Germany.

Gasant Abarder, 34, South Africa: Gasant, like Rose Ramsey, started his career as an intern. Today, he is the executive editor of the Cape Argus, Cape Town’s biggest newspaper. He began his current position at the age of 31, making him the newspaper’s youngest editor since its inception in 1857.

Gasant also had stints as a television reporter on SABC and, and as deputy editor of the Daily Voice, becoming its deputy editor. He is the current Western Cape regional convenor for the South African National Editors’ Forum.

Gareth Cliff, 34, South Africa: Gareth is a South African radio DJ currently hosting the weekday breakfast show on 5FM. Cliff started his radio career at Radio TUKS after which he moved on to Radio 702 as a producer for a year before taking a DJ spot. Cliff has been a judge on the television show Idols since 2003.

Gareth, who has a BA in International Studies and Political Science, grabbed quite a bit of attention in 2010 when he wrote a letter to the South African government mentioning corruption, the media tribunal, education, black economic empowerment, inter-departmental power struggles and the renaming of streets. He also frequently discusses international stories on his morning show, and appears to have a specific liking for American politics.

Gareth is opinionated, and that often gets him into ‘trouble’ but the fact of the matter is he shows the power the media has in the 21st century. He is the ‘king of social media,’ by far SA’s most followed individual on Twitter, and we hope he will continue to raise and discuss important issues such as democracy and development in South Africa and beyond.

Nyasha Matonhodze, 18, Zimbabwe: Nyasha Matonhodze, the Zimbabwean-born was chosen as the new face of Louis Vuitton, starring in the Maison’s Fall/Winter 2011 advertising campaign. She has already starred in Teen Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and has walked down dozens of runway shows.

At 14, her mother and father went into Elite Models to see if she could actually model. Since she was 12, she was tall and thin so she would always get the whole ‘you should be a model’, but she never really developed a serious interest about it until ‘America’s Next Top Model’. Nyasha’s grateful to her father for teaching her “the Christian way of life” and to her mother for being such an inspiration.

“She was a single mother at 18 who moved to London without knowing anyone. She’s always worked hard and seeing her overcome so much in life has been an inspiration for me.”

She has the beauty and brains of a Norma Jean Darden wise to the modelling business and knows how it can rock with confidence. More importantly, she has become the new face of Zimbabwe, which helps focuses peoples attention on the current issues in her birth country.


Fred Swaniker, 34, Ghana: Fred is an entrepreneur with deep experience in education and leadership on the African continent. He is currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is the Founder & CEO of African Leadership Academy, a world-class, pan-African secondary school that aims to develop future generations of African leaders. He has extensive experience launching and managing private educational institutions of excellence in Africa.

Fred Swaniker is passionate about Africa and believes that Africa’s future will be determined by the quality of its future leaders. He has thus devoted the last several years to building an institution that aims to transform Africa by developing its next generation of leaders: African Leadership Academy.

Before founding African Leadership Academy, Fred founded Global Leadership Adventures, a leadership development program for youth throughout the world, and also helped launch Mount Pleasant English Medium School, one of the top-performing private elementary schools in Botswana.

Fred began his career after college in the Johannesburg office of McKinsey & Company, where he advised management teams of large companies across Africa.

Fred has an MBA from Stanford University, where he was named an Arjay Miller Scholar, a distinction awarded to the top ten percent of each graduating class. He also holds a BA degree magna cum laude from Macalester College.

Lilian Chenwi, 34, South Africa: Dr. Lilian Chenwi is an Associate Professor at Wits University. She holds an LLB degree from the University of Buea, Cameroon, a Maîtrise in Law from the University of Yaoundé, Cameroon, an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation and an LLD, both from the University of Pretoria. She served as acting coordinator of the Gender Unit from June 2004 to April 2005, and was an LLM tutor and researcher from February 2003 to June 2005, both at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria.

Lilian was a Senior Researcher at the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape and Head of the Centre’s Socio-Economic Rights Project. She has presented guest lectures on socio-economic rights and co-convened a module on criminal justice and the constitution for LLM students at various universities in South Africa. She has a record of publications on socio-economic rights, housing rights, as well as fair trial rights, the death penalty and human rights in Africa. She has assisted in various capacities in the editing of scholarly journals on human rights law and is the Editor of the ESR Review and is on the editorial board of Housing and ESC Rights Law Quarterly. Lilian has been involved in policy and law reform processes in the area of human rights and litigation in the area of socio-economic rights, and housing rights in particular.

She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the International NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Through this membership she participated in the negotiations and drafting of the Protocol at both the African regional and United Nations levels.

Regina Kgatle, 21, South Africa: Regina Kgatle recently received her Bsc in electrical & computer engineering from the University of Cape Town. She has passion for education and a green environment, which drives her to go beyond the normality of being green. Her most recent innovation is educational arcade machines assembled using e-waste equipment and almost everything old or worn out that could be used to enclose and decorate the casing. The arcade machine will is pre-programmed, so as to suit each learner’s school curriculum. It is comprised of multiple choice and one word answer questions, short lessons and many more fun filled, yet educationally effective lessons.

She envisions these machines having numerous benefits by recycling e-waste (which would otherwise become waste material and release harmful gases, e.g: lead poisoning into te atmosphere), the ‘Educational Arcade Machines’ promote a green and eco-friendly environment. Moreover, they expand learners knowledge and promoting effective learning methods, thereby deepening and strengthening the foundational stages of learning.

Regina has been very much involved with the Eskom science expo competitions, boosting and casting my innovative ideas. You can call me “innovative girl” because my personality encompasses its definition.

Science And Technology

William Kamkwamba, 24, Malawi: Born on August 5, 1987, William Kamkwamba is a Malawian inventor and author. He gained fame in his country when, in 2002, he built a windmill to power a few electrical appliances in his family’s house in Masitala using blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard. Since then, he has built a solar-powered water pump that supplies the first drinking water in his village and two other windmills (the tallest standing at 39 feet) and is planning two more, including one in Lilongwe, the political capital of Malawi.

His story is told in the book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope”, written with journalist Bryan Mealer and published in 2009. William took part in the first event celebrating his particular type of ingenuity called Maker Faire Africa, in Ghana during August, 2009.

He is currently studying at Dartmouth College, Class of 2014.

Ludwick Phofane Marishane, 21, South Africa: Ludwick Marishane is currently rated as the best student entrepreneur in the world (Global Champion of the Global Student Entrepreneurs Awards 2011). He is the founder & Chief of Headboy Industries Inc, and is his country’s youngest patent-holder after having invented DryBath™. Google has named him as one of the 12 brightest young minds in the world, and he is studying a BBusSc-Finance & Accounting degree at the prestigious University of Cape Town.

Ludwick sees himself as a visionary, pursuing a degree which will help him understand the world of business, with Africa being the first to benefit from his skills. He is a big fan of the world of commerce, and thinks that you will not encounter many teenagers who are as passionate about business as he is. He has good leadership capabilities, and an innate understanding of people and business processes. Ludwick’s passion is his addiction to learning and mentoring others to unleash their true potential. He loves business and decided to study an accounting degree as he thinks that it will provide him with the broadest understanding of business.

Arthur Zang, 24, Cameroon: Arthur created a digital tablet in 2010 known as Cardiopad: “It’s the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It’s an invention that could save numerous human lives,” explains Arthur.

There are only 30 heart specialists in Cameroon, all based in either Douala or Yaoundé. This means heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation. Appointments sometimes must be made months in advance, leading to death of some patients. The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

Eunice Cofie, 32, Ghana: Today, Eunice is the President and Chief Cosmetic Chemist of Neukie, Inc., an ethnic dermatology company she founded. She was recently presented with the 2012 Young Global Leader Award by The World Economic Forum. She has also been recognized for her work in HIV/AIDS prevention in Ghana, West Africa (where her parents are from) after helping to implement the Save A Million Education and Preventive Program. A graduate of Florida A&M University, Eunice is also a former Miss Black Florida USA.

Paul Potgieter Jnr, 23, South Africa: Paul Jnr, who is described by his colleagues as “not so jnr due to his size,” is Aerosud’s Innovation Programme manager and head of the Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC) project.

Developed in close partnership with the South African Paramount Group, leaders amongst others in Land Systems, the AHRLAC mission definition focuses on “Homeland Security” covering applications such as border security, coastal and maritime/EEZ patrol, the combating of piracy, drug traffic control etc. and crew and mission protection is playing a major role in the design.

Construction of a first prototype is now well advanced, thanks to Paul, and with wind tunnel testing completed and fully instrumented testing of a ¼ scale radio controlled model having been the subject of some 80 flight tests to date, a first flight is planned for 2012.

Joel Mwale, 19, Kenya: After falling ill with dysentery, Joel Mwale decided to do something about the lack of clean drinking water in his village. With a small bit of money he had saved and the knowledge of physics he had acquired at school, Joel built a borehole on some community farmland. The borehole reduced the amount of time required to collect water for daily cooking, drinking and cleaning, and reduced the rate of infection from water-borne illnesses. Over one hundred people visit the farm daily to collect water from the borehole, free of charge. But Joel still needed money to pay his school fees and complete his secondary education. Combining his service project with his own entrepreneurial ambition, Joel launched Skydrop Enterprises, a producer and bottler of low-cost purified drinking water. Joel has sold as many as 10,000 bottles of Skydrop Enterprises water in a single month, and his profits have paid school fees for his siblings and put food on his mother’s table. He employs three people full-time at his rural production facility, and Skydrop Enterprises bottled water can be purchased as far away as Kampala, Uganda.

On September 1st, 2011, at the Protea Fire and Ice Hotel in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg African Leadership Academy and The MasterCard Foundation announced Joel Mwale as the grand prize winner of the inaugural Anzisha Prize ($30 000), the premier award for Africa’s young entrepreneurial leaders.

Joel Mwale was also named one of 10 winners for the ‘Zeitgeist Brightest Young Minds’, in 2012. Google’s online competition aims to find exceptional, motivated and inspiring 18-24 year-olds from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa making a positive impact through science, the arts, education and innovation.

Community And Development

Saran Kaba Jones, 29, Liberia: Saran was born on the 21st of June 1982 in Monrovia, Liberia. She attended Lesley College, Cambridge, Massachusetts and transferred during her sophomore year to Harvard College where she studied government and international relations.

Ms Saran Kaba Jones is the Founder & Executive Director of FACE Africa, a non profit organization dedicated to providing access to clean and safe drinking water to communities in Liberia while also empowering women through education and economic opportunities. She is also a staunch clean water advocate, a social entrepreneur, a change agent and a global citizen.

During her first visit to Liberia in nearly 20 years, Saran was faced with the harsh realities of a post-conflict Liberia and the enormous challenges facing the country.

The long and devastating civil war had left Liberia’s infrastructures in ruins. Saran then believes that the most effective way to bring about positive change in Africa is to invest in the education of its young children. Her hard work, determination and passion for FACE Africa have led her to become an inspiration and set the path for many Africans and young people around the world.

Saran has been featured in top magazines and newspapers such as Forbes and Huffington Post. She is into women’s empowerment issues and has mobilized her over 20,000 followers on social media to not only care but act to help her eradicate these problems.

While she has plans to target other areas like health and education, Saran’s current goal is to ensure that clean water and sanitation is a reality for all Liberians.

Escar Kusema, 26, Zimbabwe: Escar Kusema is the Founder and President of Dumela, a grassroots non-profit organization based in the United States whose focus is on internal displacement and urbanization in post-conflict nations worldwide. Dumela’s four-fold mission is that of Advocacy, Awareness, Research and Direct work with IDP communities. In it’s first year of operation, Dumela’s work has reached four countries, impacted the lives of over 2000 people, helped ensure equity in the resettlement 3 tribes and, educated 65 students about internal displacement. Escar also sits on the Board of USACF (US-Africa Children’s Fellowship), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the education of over 70 000 children in Africa. USACF repairs school furniture in Zimbabwe’s rural schools and it has sent 19 40-foot containers of library books, textbooks, school-supplies and sports equipment to schools in Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe. In addition, Escar is a cofounder of Backpacks for Zimbabwe, an initiative to support orphanages in Zimbabwe with much-needed items like stationery, books, toiletries in backpacks packed specifically for each child.

Escar attended the United World College (UWC) in Singapore with a full UWC Scholarship and received the Davis UWC Scholarship at Colby College where she graduated with Honors in Biology. Escar has an immense passion for science and its applications in solving the world’s greatest problems. She was a recipient of an INBRE Research Fellowship and the Harvard SILEN Award for Undergraduate Research Presentation on her research in Neuroscience from Harvard University and the Biomedical Science Careers Program.

She is an eloquent public speaker who has won many awards since the age of 10. She used her public speaking skills in her first job as a writer, producer and presenter of a prime-time television show on Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). As an entrepreneur at the age of 15, she designed a show that was later bought by ZBC and continued to air long after Escar left Zimbabwe. It is because of this passion, strength and perseverance that Escar is the young woman she is today.

Nirinjaka Ramasinjatovo Naharivelo, 25, Madagascar: Nirinjaka is the Deputy Country Director of PACT Madagascar. Over the last two years, PACT has implemented over 100 projects in more than 60 countries in Africa, Asis, Latin America and South America with field offices in 22 countries. Most project activities target one of five program sectors: democracy and governance, HIV/AIDS, livelihoods, natural resource management and peace building.

Nirinjaka was one of a select few chosen amongst civil society leaders, activists and entrepreneurs from approximately 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa who participated in American President Obama’s Forum with Young African Leaders in August 2010.

Anselm Chukwuemeka Iwundu, 34, Nigeria: Anselm Chukwuemeku Iwundu is a Sustainable Food Advocate and currently the Executive Director of the global Advocacy and Campaign group, Fairfood International. He leads a global team of over 120 employees located in five offices and over 100,000 supporters worldwide; challenging big food and beverage companies to ensure significant improvement in the lives of poor and vulnerable groups in their supply chains. He is the first African to head Fairfood (in comparison to Dr. Kumi Naidoo who is the first African to head Greenpeace).

Anselm believes that African farmers and smallholders experience so much hardship despite their toll and invaluable contribution to the global food production; therefore his advocacy and campaign work focuses on highlighting the challenges that these groups endure in the supply chains for food and beverage companies, as well as to tackle critical issues such as food insecurity and sustainability challenges in Africa.

He holds a Bachelors degree in Geology with the Federal University of Technology, Owerri Nigeria and an MBA in Environment and Energy Management from the University of Twente, the Netherlands. He combines his advocacy work with his doctoral research on innovation and governance for sustainable development at the University of Twente.

David Mwambari, 31, Rwanda: David is the co-founder and visionary behind Sanejo. Originally from Rwanda, Mwambari spent a significant part of his life living and studying in Kenya after surviving the 1994 Rwanda genocide, as well as other conflicts in East Africa. David witnessed a horrible genocide in that country before escaping with his family to Kenya. He went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees at United States International University in Nairobi and another master’s degree at Syracuse University in New York and various other qualifications.

He recently co-founded a non-profit organization that promotes education to help reconstruct Rwanda and other post-conflict societies. David has worked in East, Southern and Central Africa, training leaders of community-based organizations in educational dimensions and small business projects. These projects, academic research as well as other similar endeavors have taken him to various conflict situations in East and Central Africa. David has travelled throughout different continents, informing and educating international audiences. He is a recipient of numerous awards, internationally for his community and academic work. Among David’s responsibilities are to lead Sanejo team and work as Sanejo’s spokesperson.

David has delivered lectures, presented academic papers in various International forums. He has also contributed numerous newspaper articles, co‐published academic paper, and also uses poetry to voice the plight of then African youth. He has conducted research in former conflict zones, including working with former child soldiers in North Uganda, youth in Burundi, post genocide Rwanda, and in internally displaced camps in Kenya.

Grace Ihejiamaizu, 21, Nigeria: Grace Ihejiamaizu is a Sociology graduate and emerging social entrepreneur in Nigeria known for her RYPE Initiative, a project that is helping young people gain real skills to become leaders and productive entrepreneurs.

Grace has one numerous awards due to her involvement in various community-based projects including being selected by Google’s Zeitgeist as one of the 12 Brightest Young Minds in 2011. She is also a worthy alumnus of a US Government program, SUSI – “Study of the US Institute for Student Leaders”. Grace was also awarded a Michelle Obama Young African Women Leader’s Forum Grant in 2011 in support of her work in the community.

Continuing To Do Great Work

Ory Okollah, 35, Kenya: Ory is a Kenyan activist, lawyer and blogger. She lives in Johannesburg and was born 35 years ago and graduated with an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Law School (2005). Ory is the Google policy and government relations manager for Africa. She is co-founder of Ushahidi and served as the organization’s executive director from inception until December 2010. Ushahidi is a website that initially collected and recorded eyewitness reports of aggression using text messages and Google Maps after the Kenyan post election violence in 2008. The imaginative technology has since been modified for other purposes (including examining elections and tracking pharmaceutical availability). Ushahidi is now being actively used in a number of other countries in Africa and beyond.

She is also the co-founder of Mzalendo, a website that tracks the performance of Kenyan MP’s. Ory has been recognized as one of the Most Influential Women in Technology by Fast Company (2011), one of the top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine and a Huffington Post 2010 Game Changer. She is also the recipient of the Monaco Media Forum Award, and the World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers award.

Yohannes Mezgebe Abay, 35, Ethiopia: Yohannes Mezgebe Abay is the Vice President of the Pan African Youth Union, which is the continental platform for African youth rights. He is a fellow of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Leadership program. Yohannes founded the African Youth Corps, which works on youth leadership development in Addis Ababa.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, 37, Ethiopia: Bethlehem is the Founder & Managing Director of Sole Rebels, the internationally recognized green footwear company based in Addis Ababa. Bethlehem was born, raised and educated in Ethiopia. Since she launched her company in 2005, allowing for the creation of hundreds of local jobs, she has garnered international recognition. She won ‘Most Outstanding Businesswoman’ at the annual African Business Awards and was named ‘Most Valuable Entrepreneur’ at the 2011 Global Entrepreneurship Week. Last year she was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders. And most recently Forbes Magazine declared her one of Africa’s Most Successful Women. She is currently an NYC Venture Fellow, a program established by Mayor Michael Bloomberg two years ago that is designed to connect promising entrepreneurs from around the world with mentors and investors from leading companies in New York City. World Economic Forum (WEF) Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab has named Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, founder and managing director of trailblazing footwear brand Sole Rebels and a WEF 2011 Young Global Leader, as Founding Curator of the Forum’s newest and most critical venture, the Global Shapers community.

Ambitious People To Look Out For

Simiso Lucinda Velempini, 29, Zimbabwe: Simiso is currently an African Associate Analyst for Control Risks (Johannesburg). She monitors political and security developments in southern Africa. Simiso received her Masters in International Relations from the London School of Economics in 2011. She previously worked the African Leadership Academy, Frontier Advisory and the United Nations.

Siphokazi Magadla, 25, South Africa: Siphokazi is a Junior Lecturer and a PhD student in the department of Political and International Studies at Rhodes University. She was named one of the 2011 Mail and Guardians Top 2oo Young South Africans.

Her research interests are the security-development nexus in post-conflict Africa, the role of the African Diaspora in postconflict reconstruction, women in peace and security, South African politics and South African foreign policy. She previously worked as a research consultant for the Security Sector Governance program of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria focusing on the role of women in peace and security in Africa where she did field work in Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda. She obtained her Masters degree in International Affairs at Ohio University in the US as a Fulbright Scholar in June 2010.




Scott Firsing

Dr. Scott Firsing, an American residing in South Africa, is an expert on US-Africa relations. He is the Director of the North American International School (NAIS) in Pretoria, an Adjunct Research Fellow at Monash University, South Africa, an Executive at the Aerospace Leadership Academy and CEO of LINK Advisory, a consultancy helping American businesses enter Africa. Also a founder of the African NGO Young People in International Affairs, Scott is the former Head of International Studies at Monash, a former employee of the United Nations, Department for Disarmament Affairs, and a former fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).