On 12 October 2011, Forbes, famous for its powerful rankings of influential and famous people in different categories released a new ranking: The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. This is a debut ranking in its category and I hope it will serve as a source of motivation for all Africans. More than 7,500 names were submitted and the top 40 was selected by voters. It is no surprise that the list is dominated by musicians.This only goes to strengthen my belief that music is one of the strongest mediums of communicating feelings and emotions, it is also a powerful tool that connects the singer to the listener and should never misused. Notables on the list also include authors, models, athletes, movie directors and actors.
The article went on to explain the criteria as ‘determining the celebrities who exert the highest degree of influence in contemporary African pop culture involved sifting through the nominations for the individuals with the highest numbers of votes, and then measuring their media visibility (exposure in print, television, radio and online), number of web references on Google, TV/radio mentions and their general clout across the continent. Ideally, a robust social media presence would have been an invaluable yardstick in determining the intensity of influence these individuals exert over their enthusiasts.’
In intended order , here are the top 40 most powerful African celebs.
1. Chinua Achebe, 80, Nigerian, Novelist. Author of the famous novel ‘Things Fall Apart’ which is the most widely read book in modern African Literature.
2. Youssou N’dour, Age: 51, Senegalese, Musician. Popular for developing a new music genre known as ‘mbalax‘.
3. Didier Drogba, 33, Ivorian, Soccer Player. He has scored more goals for Chelsea than any other foreign player.
4. Angelique Kidjo, 51, Beninoise, Musician. Her full name is Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo. She is one of the most iconic African ladies as recognised by the BBC and the Guardian.
5. Akon, 38, Senegalese, Musician. Real name Aliaune Damala Badara Thiam. One of the wealthiest African artists.
6. Wole Soyinka, 77, Nigerian, Playwright. Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature.
7. Salif Keita, 62, Malian, Musician. Known as ‘The Great Voice of Africa.‘ He is a a direct descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire, Sundiata Keita.
8. Yvonne Chaka Chaka, 46, South African, Musician. She was the first Black child to appear on South African television. Famous for her song ‘Thank You Mr DJ.’
9. Oumou Sangare, 43, Malian, Musician. Ardent women’s rights advocate opposing child marriage and polygamy.
10. Femi Kuti, 49, Nigerian, Musician. Eldest son of music legend Fela Kuti. Femi’s voice is featured in the video game ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’.
11. Toumani Diabaté, Malian, Musician. Excellent Kora (a kind of African harp) player.
12. Oliver Mtukudzi, 59, Zimbabwean, Musician. Most recognize artist to emerge from Zimbabwe.
13. Haile Gebrselassie, 38, Ethiopian, Athlete. Record breaking athlete with two Olympic gold medals.
14. Khaled Hadj Ibrahim, 51, Algerian, Musician. Known as the ‘King of Rai’. His most famous songs are ‘Aicha’ and ‘Didi’.
15. Samuel Eto’o, 30, Cameroonian, Soccer Player. He has won African Player of the Year a record-breaking four times. He is currently the highest paid soccer player worldwide.
16. Alek Wek, 34, Sudanese, Supermodel. She epitomizes the very definition of an ethnic model.
17. Liya Kebede, 33, Ethiopian, Supermodel. One of the world’s highest paid models and a maternal health advocate.
18. Dobet Gnahoré, 29, Ivorian, Musician. World Music Award nominee.
19. Genevieve Nnaji, 32, Nigerian, Actress. CNN states she is referred to as the ‘Julia Roberts of Africa’.
20. Koffi Olomidé, 55, Congolese, Musician. Real names Antoine Christophe Agbepa Mumba. He was quite a brainy student. Having graduated with a BA in Business Economics and an MA in Mathematics.
21. Neill Blomkamp, 32, South African, Movie Director. Co-writer and director of the critically acclaimed movie District 9.
22. Souad Massi, 39, Algerian, Musician. when her band. Atakor, became a political target she disguised herself by cutting her hair and wearing male clothing.
23. Baaba Maal, 58, Senegalese, Musician. One of the most internationally recognized musicians from Senegal.
24. Hugh Masekela, 72, South African, Musician. He plays the flugelhorn, the trumpet and the cornet.
25. . K’Naan, 33, Somali, Rapper. His single ‘Waving Flag’ was chosen as Coca Cola’s anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
26. Amadou et Mariam, Malian, Musicians. Known as ‘The blind couple from Mali,’ they met at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, and found they shared an interest in music.
27. Awilo Longomba, Congolese, Musician. His CD Coupe Bibamba (1998) made him known throughout Africa, Europe and America.
28. Eric Wainaina, 38, Kenyan, Musician. He composed the music for the film, ‘From A Whisper’, which won the Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Original Soundtrack and AMAA Achievement in Editing awards, in the African movie 2009 awards.
29. Binyavanga Wainaina, 40, Kenyan, Author. In July 2002 he won the Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “Discovering Home.”
30. Ngugi Wa Thiongo, 73, Kenyan, Author. He taught at Yale University and is regarded as a likely candidate for a Nobel Prize. He was exiled for 22 years due to his highly political work.
31. Freshlyground, South African, Musicians. Freshlyground and Shakira sang ‘Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)‘ official anthem of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
32. Chimamanda Adichie, 34, Nigerian, Writer. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus has received wide critical acclaim: it was shortlisted for the Orange Fiction Prize (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (2005).
33. Rokia Traoré, 37, Malian, Musician. Award winning and highly acclaimed artist.
34. Tuface Idibia, 36, Nigerian, Musician. Famous for his hit ‘African Queen‘ 2Face is currently one of the most popular artists on the African music scene.
35. P-Square, 29, Nigerian, Musicians. Award winning duo composed of identical twin brothers Peter and Paul Okoye.
36. Don Jazzy, 30, Nigerian, Music Producer. Multi award-winning record producer, singer-songwriter,musician and CEO of record label Mo’ Hits Records.
37. D’Banj, 31, Nigerian, Musician. Real name Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo. Multi award winning artist. Famous for his high energy and charisma as a performer and entertainer. He refers to himself as the ‘Koko master.’
38. Nneka, 31, Nigerian, Musician. Famous for her soul style songs with a political undertone. She won the award for best indigenous artist in Nigeria at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards 2010.
39. Asa, 29, Nigerian, Musician. Her single, ‘Jailer’ became infectious and got her a lot of attention in the music industry.
40. Patricia Amira, 33, Kenyan, TV Personality. Influential TV personality and host of M-NET’s ‘The Patricia Show.’
Inspirational eh? You can say that again. This is a WAKE UP CALL to everyone who has been sitting on their talent. Are you an aspiring sporting hero, author, songwriter, musician or singer? It doesn’t matter what you are now, all that matters is who you will be. And that depends on what you do with yourself and your talent NOW! You can be whatever you strive to be. Physical barriers should not be a hindrance. Look at Amadou et Mariam taking the world by storm with their amazing music and making history despite the fact that they are both blind.
Never give up on your goals as long as you still alive. There is no age limit.
Who has been the most inspiration to you? Which artist is not here that you feel should have made the list? Hit the comments bar with your feedback.
And if you feel your country is under-represented instead of whining and complaining why not do something about it? Be an achiever. Be proactive. And in years to come maybe it’ll be you on the Forbes list!
Good luck & Godspeed.