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The 100 most influential Africans (81-90)

By Alison Culliford, Olivia Konotey-Ahulu, Nicholas Norbrook, Oheneba Ama Nti Osei and Marshall Van Valen
Posted on Wednesday, 1 May 2019 11:59, updated on Thursday, 2 May 2019 11:28

TAR 100 Most Influential Africans

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

81 – Genevieve Nnaji
Ace actress

The veteran acting star made her directorial debut last year with Lionheart, in which she starred and which was streaming service Netflix’s first original Nigerian film. Nollywood watchers say that she is in talks with Hollywood studios in order to break into the US market.

82 – João Lourenço

In with the new…

Angola’s new broom is still sweeping away the remnants of the corrupt previous regime, but will he be able to give the country a clean slate? The jury is out on that, and the ruling MPLA seems too intent on maintaining its iron grip to allow much transparency or free political competition. There is still a lot of hard work to be done to put the oil-dependent economy on sounder footing, so there are plenty more challenges that will show if JLo is up to the task of ringing in an new era.

83 – Abdulsamad Rabiu
Cementing progress

The merger of Kalambaina Cement and the Cement Company of Nigeria this year makes Rabiu’s BUA Cement the second-largest cement manufacturer in Nigeria. BUA is planning a new production line for its base of operations in Sokoto. Rabiu is also investing big in sectors where he thinks Nigerian firms should outperform imports, like sugar and steel. If his big bets pay off, he will soon be climbing the ranks of Nigeria’s rich list.

84 – Ilhan Omar
Representative of a new generation

When she became the first Somali-American elected to the House of Representatives last year, Omar joined an incoming class with outspoken young women pushing progressive ideas in Congress and on social media. After some initial stumbles talking about the relationship between Washington and Israel, she was one of the first representatives to sign a pledge to impeach President Donald Trump. While she wants to score points against the Republicans in Washington, her Minnesota constituents will be looking for her to score points at home before the next election.

85 – Carlos Lopes

Pushing policy makers

Africa needs more intellectual leaders. Economist Carlos Lopes fits the bill. The former head of the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa is now teaching about governance at the University of Cape Town. After his work pushing the continental free trade area, he has turned to how a ‘New Green Deal’, might be applied in Africa, trying to push policy makers on how to adapt to climate change and drive industrialisation at the same time.

86 – Simon Njami

Critical curator

Njami, a writer and curator, is a forceful voice at the forefront of African art. He argues foremost for its power, telling an interviewer: “The Dakar biennale does ten times more than the pseudo African Union for African integration.” Njami was the chief curator of the Dak’Art Biennale in 2016 and 2018 while editing the Revue Noire, which he founded. He is a sceptic about Western promises to return looted and other ill-gotten African art.

87 – Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu
Star gazer

“Humans always look to the heavens to gain knowledge and use that knowledge to make life a little better,” Trebi-Ollennu told CNN. The Ghanaian robotics expert managed the team that designed an arm for the InSight rover that landed on Mars in late 2018 so that it can bring back samples that will allow scientists to study how planets are formed. Through the Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation, he is sharing his love of science and exploration with a new generation of those with stars in their eyes.

88 – Mamadou Biteye
Digital donor

Backing the creation of digital jobs on the continent and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the Rockefeller Foundation’s Africa head is overseeing the channelling of crucial resources to priority areas. The Coding for Employment Programme, managed by the AfDB and funded by philanthropists and tech companies, is setting up 130 coding training outfits so that more African young people will have the skills needed for the jobs of the future.

89 – Oluseun Onigbinde
Transparent ambition

You might think it would be hard to have transparency gain traction in Nigeria, but the founder of NGO BudgIT does not back down from tough challenges. His drive to hold the government accountable and to get information into the public’s hands has helped put pressure on recalcitrant politicians in Abuja and throughout Nigeria. Now an Obama Foundation Scholar at Columbia University, he is aiming to return to Nigeria this year with new projects in mind and tools at hand.

90 – Issad Rebrab

Business baron

Despite being outside the orbit of Algeria’s heavy backing for state-owned industry, Rebrab has become a billionaire and one of the continent’s richest men. And to boot, his company Cevital mostly steers clear of the rich oil and gas sector, instead focusing on agribusiness and consumer goods. Rebrab is not only looking at his home market, but announced last year that one of Cevital’s companies will invest in a factory to produce water filtration devices in France.

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