Young Global Leaders: 
Cream of the crop at the World Economic Forum

By Nicholas Norbrook

Posted on May 7, 2012 15:17

Each year the World Economic Forum selects around 200 ‘Young Global Leaders’, the YGLs.

Each year the World Economic Forum selects around 200 ‘Young Global Leaders’, the YGLs.

All under 40 years old, they are nominated by their peers to form a cohort of opinion-makers who carry the voice of the younger generation into the heart of the discussions at Davos and beyond. Of the 192 YGLs announced in the class of 2012, there are 22 young leaders from Africa from fields ranging from business and civil society to media and politics.

All were invited to the community’s annual summit in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in mid-April, and around 30 YGLs are also expected to be in Addis Ababa for the World Economic Forum on Africa 2012, where they will attend special events alongside the main programme.

Also read: Tewolde Gebermariam (interview)

One outstanding member of the YGL class of 2012 is Olebile Makhupe, a banker with Standard Chartered from Botswana. Based in Beijing, she is currently head of wholesale banking and the China-Africa Trade Corridor. Graduating from the University of Botswana in 1999 and immediately joining Standard Chartered, she has spent several years across different departments including retail banking, wholesale banking and global markets.

Wael Ghonim, Egypt The former Google executive, arrested during the Egyptian revolution, has since become a reluctant spokesman for social media’s role in the Arab Spring.
Bright Simons, Ghana President of the mPedigree Network, working to end the counterfeiting of drugs, Simons is also director of development research at Ghanaian think tank Imani.
Amadou Hott, Senegal The Dubai-based Senegalese banker is chief executive of Dangote Capital, set up to help manage the fortune of Nigerian cement magnate Aliko Dangote.
Biola Alabi, Nigeria The managing director of M-Net Africa has led the growth of the Naspers-owned firm’s Africa Magic channels, which broadcast Big Brother Africa.
Ashish Thakkar, Uganda The founder of the Mara Group, which has investments in IT, real estate and manufacturing, Thakkar has bought a place as an astronaut on ­Virgin Galactic’s first commercial space flight.
Jasandra Nyker, South Africa After a background in private equity, in July 2011 the Tanzanian entrepreneur became chief executive of BioTherm Energy, one of South Africa’s independent wind and solar power producers.
Mohammed Dewji, Tanzania The Tanzanian entrepreneur, owner of Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Ltd, is also a ruling party MP for the region of Singida.

Even before moving to Beijing, Makhupe was already a trailblazer. She was the first ­woman to run a treasury department in Botswana for Standard Chartered – and indeed the first Botswanan. Previously the position had always been attributed to a foreigner.

Also read: Frannie Léautier (interview)

“I have been in China for a year now,” says Makhupe, “and the biggest barrier has been the language.” Intensive Mandarin lessons, together with the large number of the bank’s employees in China who speak English, have made things easier. “It is quite challenging being here, but it is also very stimulating,” she says. “People here are very curious about foreigners, and will often stare, especially if you are an African, but they are also very friendly.”

Alongside her role at the Trade Corridor, which identifies and brings together customers in China and Africa who want to trade, she plays an ambassadorial role for the bank. “Although it is not so hard to persuade Africans to come to work in China, we have difficulty persuading Chinese to come to Africa within the bank – so we often have to offer them large incentives”.

Also read: Arunma Oteh (profile)

As a result, Makhupe often gives presentations within large Chinese state-owned enterprises, and at various ministries, to ­describe Africa’s huge growth story over the last decade. “The thing is to explain to them that Africa really is where China was 20 to 30 years ago.” ●

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