Africans Making History: 10 Notable Names from 2021

By Prince Kurupati

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala made history during the year as she became the first African to be Director-General of the World Trade Organisation

Every single year, many Africans – old and young, male and female – achieve incredible feats both on the continent and beyond the African borders. These individuals as Times point out are “people whose ideas, example, talent or discoveries transform the world we live in”.

In 2021, there are many Africans who achieved incredible feats. Some conquered the political realm, some championed for great causes such as human rights and climate change, others led the way in science discoveries while others were simply instrumental in their fields of operation from economics, labour, law, engineering, music and sport among many other sectors.

Owing to the huge numbers of African individuals who achieved great feats during the year, it simply is a daunting, overwhelming if not impossible task to expose all those Africans who made and who keep making history. Though this is the case, there are 10 Africans whose work and achievements during 2021 simply deserve due recognition. In this article, we highlight all 10 of them.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria)

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala made history during the year as she became the first African to be Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The feat showed Africa and the entire world that the continent has able leaders who when given the platform, can go on to achieve incredible things. After her victory, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala received rave reviews. Prince Harry and Megan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex praised the former Nigerian minister of finance as someone who “knows how to get things done”.

Dr John Nkengasong got great plaudits for leading the African response to COVID-19.Photo Credit Reuters,Tiksa Negeri

John N. Nkengasong (Cameroon)

At the present moment, the world is fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic. During such times, heroes are needed. Not only can they come up with solutions to prevailing problems, they also do provide inspiration and instil hope in millions of people thereby making it easy for people to survive in the trying times. One hero who has stood up during these trying times is John N. Nkengasong, a Cameroonian virologist and the Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Through the Africa CDC, John N. Nkengasong has managed to source the all-important vaccine doses to be used on the African continent. Led research on the Covid-19 pandemic, and all other salient issues around it while also sensitizing the entire continent about the pandemic and what every single person has to do in order to win the fight against Covid-19 as a collective. To many, Dr Nkengasong  was pivotal link in the success of the African response. It came without doubt to many when the Biden Administration appointed him to lead the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)

Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode created the iconic global hit ‘Jerusalema’.

Nomcebo Zikode and Master KG (South Africa)

At a time when the world was struggling to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic with most people falling into depression amongst many other mental health challenges, two South African artists combined to give the world one brilliant piece of art. Nomcebo Zikode and Master KG released the song ‘Jerusalema’ which went on to become an instant hit across the globe. The song whose lyrics are cut from the same cloth as Jim Reeves’ ‘This World is Not My Home’ song became an anthem the world over uniting everyone during the trying times. The song’s success saw it become the most ‘Shazamed’ song in the world at one point and its elevated Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode to become the first African artists to top the Shazam music charts.

Jihan Abass (Kenya)

The insurance sector is one of the many areas that Africa lags behind when compared to other continents. In 2019, Africa’s insurance penetration was about 2.7% – a figure significantly lower than the global average of 7.23% as according to Quartz Africa. To help change this, Jihan Abass through her Lami Insurance Technology start-up aims at insulating African businesses from losing their most prizes assets and products. Abass said she started Lami Insurance Technology “as a lot of the time, people are relying on single sources of income, but they’re not insuring those sources of income so, if one thing goes wrong, they lose everything”.

Angelique Kidjo (Benin)

The name ‘Angelique Kidjo’ is a household name in the arts and music industry in Africa. Though the person behind the name is widely known for her incredible feats over the years, she just doesn’t want to be known for her past deeds, no. Rather, she keeps going strong and keeps on championing for what she believes in. juggling various things from producing musical hits, championing for women rights and empowerment to championing for children’s rights, Kidjo certainly is engraving her name in the hearts of all Africans. In 2021, Kidjo continued on the same path championing for what she believes is right.

NJ Ayuk (Cameroon)

Cameroonian lawyer NJ Ayuk has dedicated his life and career to helping entrepreneurs find success and to build the careers of young African lawyers. On the business side, NJ Ayuk’s interests largely lie in the oil and gas sector. Ayuk believes that the oil and gas business possess the power to wholly transform the African continent changing its pathway from its current status to a more robust, fast growing and stable (economically) status. To achieve his dreams and goals, Ayuk set up the Pan-African corporate law conglomerate, Centurion Law Group. He also serves as the founder and executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber. NJ Ayuk also shares his views with the entire African continent in his book Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals. Irked by the unceremonious relocation of the African Oil Week from Cape Town South Africa to Dubai, NJ Ayuk and the African Energy Chamber said enough to Africa been taken for granted. The erudite Lawyer rallied partners, crisscrossed the continent and achieved the feat of hosting a ground shaking event in the African Energy Week, in…..Cape Town . Building on the tremendous success of the event, NJ Ayuk and the African Energy Chamber have announced AEW 2022 from  October 31 – November 4.

Khadija Mohammed Elbedweihy (Egypt)

The Covid-19 pandemic has made many things complicated and, in some instances, inaccessible. One such instance relates to schools – owing to restrictions put in place by governments, some children are now forced to learn from home. For some subjects, learning from home is possible but when it comes to STEM subjects that really on numerous experiments, learning from home is a difficult thing to do for many children. Recognising this problem, Khadija Mohammed Elbedweihy from Egypt came up with the innovative PraxiLab. PraxiLab makes virtual science labs accessible for educational institutions and schools. Khadija’s creative innovation enabled her to scoop the prestigious Jack Ma Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) award. She walked home with a massive 300,000 US prize money.

Elon Musk

(South Africa)

Spaceflight missions are associated with the wealthy and affluent. This necessitated by the fact that only the wealthy and affluent possess the resources to undertake such adventures. Well, to South African born engineer and investor Elon Musk, things need to change when it comes to spaceflight missions. Spaceflight missions shouldn’t be a thing restricted for the wealthy and affluent only, even ordinary people deserve to undertake such adventures. Musk’s determination to see this come to fruition has led him through SpaceX to start designing cost-friendly spaceflight missions. Though the plan is still in its infancy, SpaceX’ first civilian crew made history recently with their successful launch and more are expected to come in the near future.

In Burna Boy, Africa has a worthy Ambassador on the Global music scene

Burna Boy (Nigeria)

Raising the flag high for Africa at the prestigious Grammy Awards 2021 was the Nigerian music sensation Burna Boy. Real name Damini Ogulu, Burna Boy scooped the Best Global Music Album award for his album “Twice as Tall”. The win made him the first Nigerian as a solo artist to scoop the award. Burna Boy was elated with the award as he stated that the win was not just for him as an individual but for Africa as a whole. In his acceptance speech, Burna Boy said, “Yes oh! Yes oh! Yes oh! Africa is in the house man, Africa, we’re in the house, you get me? This is a big win for my generation of Africans all over the world, and this should be a lesson to every African out there; no matter where you are, no matter what you plan to do, you can achieve it, no matter where you’re from, because you are a king.”

Edouard Mendy (Senegal)

From grass to grace is the perfect description of Chelsea star Edouard Mendy’s life thus far. Mendy started his footballing career at Cherbourg in the Championnat National – the third tier of French football. Things however were tough in the early days as at one point he had to register for unemployment benefits. The challenges however failed to derail Mendy from his plans as he kept pushing and pushing. For a brief period, Mendy joined Marseille B side but failed to make a single appearance. Things began to take a positive route in 2016, when he joined Reims and a few years later at the start of the 2019/20 season, he joined Rennes. His impressive performances for Rennes which saw the team qualify for the Champions League for the first time earned him a move to the mighty Chelsea. At Chelsea, Mendy quickly hit the ground running keeping loads of clean sheets in the league and also the Champions League – a move which ultimately helped his team win the Champions League last season.

Honourable Mentions

 Farah Emara (Egypt)

Farah Emara grew up with her family, her family owns one of Egypt’s largest cold-storage companies. Growing up with her family, Farah observed that about 45% of fresh produce was lost (rotting among other means) during the tedious supply chain process. As such, she designed an innovative solution to the problem through her FreshSource app. The FreshSource app significantly shortens the fresh produce supply chain process as it eliminates several middlemen. Owing to this, the percentage of food waste significantly drops while at the same time increasing the profit margin of farmers.

Samantha Shingirai Murozoki (Zimbabwe)

The hard lockdown instituted by the Zimbabwean government to try and combat the spread of Covid-19 did lead to loss of livelihoods among millions of citizens. This necessitated by the fact that the Zimbabwean economy is largely informal hence the hard restrictions made it impossible for citizens to engage in their daily hustles. With most families on the brink of hunger and starvation, one generous lady by the name Samantha Shingirai Murozoki started a kitchen to distribute free food to the needy in her community (Chitungwiza, Harare) particularly children. The kitchen which started in April 2020 is still going strong till today feeding on average 2100 people daily. The kitchen relies 100% on well-wishers be it companies or individuals.

Phyllis Omido (Kenya)

The climate crisis is certainly causing havoc on the global stage Africa included. Though this is the case, scepticism is still prevalent when it comes to the question of climate change. Some including society leaders and top politicians believe that climate change is a hoax meant at derailing developmental projects that they may want to engage in whenever they deem fit. In Kenya, Phyllis Omido an environmental activist is determined to change this by educating the public on the climate crisis while in some instances ‘punishing’ those who refuse to acknowledge the dangers posed by disregarding environmental concerns. One such instance is a court case she won which saw the court pass a ruling that awarded $12 million to a community poisoned by lead pollution from a nearby factory located in the middle of Owino Uhuru, a slum near Mombasa.

**Culled from December Issue of PAV Magazine


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