Inside Story

6 Africans who made it to Time’s ‘100 most influential people of 2021’ list

Prominent Africans on the list include Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the WTO; Beninese singer-songwriter, actress, and activist Angélique Kidjo; Cameroonian Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC.

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is also the only Nigerian on 2021 The Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the world.

Time magazine unveiled its annual list of 100 most influential people in the world in recognition of “people whose ideas, example, talent, or discoveries transform the world we live in”.

The list, which features the current director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, places the 100 most influential people in five categories: Titans, Pioneers, Artists, Leaders and Icons.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who became the first African and first woman to lead the WTO, was featured in the “leaders” category, alongside other notable honourees including Naomi Osaka, Britney Spears, Angelique Kidjo, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Kamala Harris, Xi Jinping (President of China), and Narendra Modi (Prime Minister of India)

Praising Okonjo-Iweala’s efforts, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, described the former Nigerian minister of finance as someone who “knows how to get things done.”

The couple said in the magazine, “What will it take to vaccinate the world? Unity, cooperation and leaders like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

“As the first African and first woman to lead the World Trade Organization, a 164-member group of nations that oversees trade across the world, Okonjo-Iweala took on the role of director-general this March at a watershed moment for our global health and well-being. Make no mistake; her job affects every person, family and community.

“As we face a constant barrage of vaccine misinformation, bureaucratic slowdowns across both government and industry, and the rise of variants that underscore the urgency of the situation, Okonjo-Iweala has shown us that to end the pandemic; we must work together to equip every nation with equitable vaccine access.

“Our conversations with her have been as informative as they are energising. This is partly because, despite the challenges, she knows how to get things done—even between those who don’t always agree—and does so with grace and a smile that warms the coldest of rooms.

“The fragility of our world right now cannot be overstated. Just over a quarter of the nearly 8 billion global population is fully vaccinated. Achieving vaccine equity is a global duty of compassion for one another. Our hope is that guided by strong leaders like Ngozi, and we can get there soon.”

John N. Nkengasong, a Cameroonian virologist and the Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, was also honoured for his work in saving lives during the #COVID19 pandemic.

Nominated by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the WTO director-general, said of him, “Although his work is now public health than ever, John is far from done. Expect to see him charting the course both in Africa and globally as the world responds to emerging public-health threats.”

Other Africans in this year’s list include Felwine Sarr, Philosopher, economist, musician & author; Sara Menker, Founder & CEO of Gro Intelligence, the world’s leading agtech, food security and climate risk platform; and Phyllis Omondi, Kenyan environmental activist.



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