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The top 50 African disruptors (6-10)

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: The top 50 African disruptors

By 'Tofe Ayeni, Erin Conroy, Alison Culliford, Nicholas Norbrook, Honoré Banda
Posted on Wednesday, 2 September 2020 15:55, updated on Friday, 4 September 2020 16:11

The Africa Report’s inaugural ranking of the top Africans who are disrupting the status quo in politics, business and the arts: from investigative journalists to world-class athletes and Nobel Peace Prize winners.

6 – Koos Bekker
Tech king
South Africa

When Bekker first joined it in 1985, Naspers was effectively the propaganda arm of the National Party that constructed apartheid. He transformed it into a media giant, founding M-net, one of the first pay television services outside the US. His big bet: a Naspers investment in China’s Tencent. The pay-off has transformed Naspers into a truly global company. Bekker is also a founding director of mobile communication company MTN, and was instrumental in launching MultiChoice and DStv. Having grown the company’s market cap from $1.2bn to $45bn, Bekker retired as CEO in 2014, then returned as chairman the following year. Bekker’s decision to appointed Bob van Dijk as CEO has been called into question, however, since the latter has made controversial management changes, appointing numerous foreigners to head a company that many South Africans believe is supposed to be for South Africa by South Africans.

7 – The unsung Algerian protester
People power
Algeria

Masses of Algerians – without a visible leader – shook the regime to its foundations in 2019. Hundreds of thousands of people regularly protested at the prospect of a fifth presidential term for the incapacitated strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Despite the pressure of the street, the people were not able to stop the elite from pushing through an unpopular election in December 2019. The protests remain an important check on the new government, which is seeking a dialogue to address popular demands. Many have rejected this and want to maintain the tactics that have been put to good use since early 2019.

8 – Khalifa Haftar
Military offender
Libya

After the late General Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011, two opposing forces of power appeared in Libya: one in Tripoli, the UN- and Turkey-backed Government of National Accord (GNA); and one in the east, led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar and supported by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Russia. French involvement is also in question: Paris denied breaching an arms embargo after French-made missiles were found on a captured base of Haftar’s. With his Libyan National Army (LNA), strongman Haftar made a brutal assault on Tripoli in April 2019, which led Amnesty International to accuse him of war crimes. In early 2020 Russia and Turkey tried to broker a ceasefire agreement with Haftar in Moscow, but the warlord left without getting out his pen. He claims the LNA wants to restore order; his critics say he is preventing the growth of democracy in Libya.

9 – John Magufuli
Authoritarian reformer
Tanzania

From day one – when he arrived unannounced in various civil-servant offices, and started slapping tax writs on bill dodgers – Magufuli has shaken things up in Tanzania. Now, he faces criticism from international human rights’ groups for his increasingly authoritarian attitude, particularly his repression of the press, freedom of speech, and his anti-LGBTQ+ stance. Despite this, he is celebrated for economic reform – the country of 58 million people now boasts one of the highest economic growth rates in Africa. Magufuli set an example by cutting his own salary from $15,000 to $4,000 per month, has ensured that civil servants turn up for work and has made it easier to do business. He has taken full advantage of Chinese financial help, and has embarked on a vast programme of infrastructure development, particularly in the rail industry

10 – Julius Malema
Black power
South Africa

As the leader of what is now the third-largest party in both houses of the South African Parliament, with 44 seats in the National Assembly, Julius Malema is aiming for at least 10 million votes in 2024. The country’s demographics put him and his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in a strong position.

Disruptive in every sense of the word – the EFF’s red boilersuits are often seen storming or walking out of parliamentary sessions – Malema says his party was responsible for the resignation of corrupt former president Jacob Zuma: “The EFF motion of no confidence in the former president formed the basis of all deliberations and discussions that resulted in him resigning as president of the republic of South Africa – bringing to an end the rule by criminal syndicates.” To his young, overwhelmingly black support base he says South Africa should not be dependent on loans from
the West, but should reclaim its sovereignty.

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