Thursday, 5 July 2012

Africans are naturally talented and brilliant people and if they are in the right environment will always excel. This is why it is so important for governments to provide basic amenities like education, health care and security amongst others. Government cannot be expected to do everything, individuals have to play a role in enhancing the environment and that means investing in the people, mentoring and imparting acquired knowledge. This is what the Asians have done and is now becoming common place in Africa.

Let us meet some of the most influential icons in contemporary African culture -

Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe is one of Africa's most important and original writers. Born (1930) and raised in Eastern Nigeria, he is best known for his first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958) which has sold more than eight million copies and been translated into more than forty five languages, making him the most translated African writer in history.

He is a Pan-Africanist and has been critical of the traditions of racism in the west. He took on literary giants and rubbished their so called liberal writing, exposing their subtle racism, which caused a storm of controversy.  His books speak mainly to the social and political ills in Nigeria. He is a recipient of over 30 honorary degrees from universities around the world including Harvard and brown university in the U.S.A. He holds the position of Professor of English and Literature at Bard College, New York.

Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba is an Ivorian football star best known for playing for Chelsea Football Club and captain of the Ivorian national team. He recently won the Champions League Cup with Chelsea and is now signed to Shanghai Shenhua football club in China for a reported £200,000 a week.

 He was named as one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine for 2010 after playing a pivotal role in establishing peace in Cote D’Ivoire after five years of civil war and unrest. In 2009, he donated his $5 million Pepsi endorsement fee to the construction of a hospital in Abidjan, his hometown through his Foundation. He is married to his Malian wife with 3 children.

Oumou Sangare

The gorgeous Oumou Sangare known as the “Songbird of Wassoulou” is recognised as one of the greatest ambassadors for Malian music.
She has sung with Oprah and was named an official ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2003. A successful entrepreneur, in 2006 she partnered with a Chinese automobile company to create a car named after her, Oum Sang.

Oliver Mtukudzi

Oliver Mtukudzi is a zimbabwean musician born in 1952 with a husky voice that has become the most recognized voice to emerge from Zimbabwe onto the international scene and has a devoted following across Africa and beyond. He has released over 45 albums and sold millions of copies.

The government of Italy honored Mtukudzi with the prestigious Cavaliere of the Order of Merit award (similar to a knighthood in England) in recognition of his work as an international musician in 2011.  Tuku, who is the UNICEF Goodwill ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa, was named as the 12th most influential celebrity in Africa by Forbes Magazine IN 2011.

Liya Kebede

Liya Kebede is an Ethiopian Supermodel, clothing designer and maternal health advocate. She's appeared 3 times on the cover of  US Vogue and in February of 2003, Liya became the newest face of EsteĆ© Lauder cosmetics – the first woman of colour to serve as a representative of its brand’s 59-year history. She has served as the WHO's Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health since 2005.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Yvonne Chaka Chaka is known as the Princess of Africa. Born in Soweto, South Africa in 1965, she has been in the music industry for over 25 years. She was the first black child to appear on South African television in 1981.

She has shared the stage with megastars like Bono, Angelique Kidjo, Annie Lennox, Youssou N'Dour, the classic rock band Queen, Miriam Makeba, and Hugh Masekela, to name a few.
Yvonne has also performed for Queen Elizabeth, US President Bill Clinton, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and many others. In January 2012 she was the first African woman to be awarded the prestigious World Economic Forum's Crystal Award in Davos, Switzerland, an award given to distinguished artists who have used their respective talents to improve the state of the world.

Binyavanga Wainaina

Binyavanga Wainaina is the founding editor of the groundbreaking Kenyan literary magazine Kwani. Born in Kenya in 1971 he is an author, journalist and winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, and National Geographic.

 He is currently a Bard Fellow and the director of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Literature and Languages at Bard College, New York. His debut novel  'One Day I Will Write About This Place' was published in 2011 and was selected by the Oprah magazine for its summer reading list.

Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and of the short story collection The Thing around Your Neck (2009).
She is arguably the most popular new generation writer to emerge from Africa and has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (2007) and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2008).

This is just a sample of the talent Africa is endowed with, and they are making positive contributions not just to their communities but to Africa as a whole. I salute them and i salute all those who are giving back to their communities no matter how small.