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10 African Heroes You Should Know About

Each shaped African history in their own powerful way with unyielding strong will

There is certainly not a shortage of prolific African heroes to choose from.

But you don’t have all day, so we’ve put together a list of the top ten most famous leaders in Africa who became heroes of the land. Read on to find out about them and their legacies.

Their legacy continues to inspire

Home to 52 sovereign countries, Africa is the second largest continent in the world. Over the years, the story of Africa has been synonymous with that of hunger[1], poverty, and illiteracy.[2]

However, this is fast changing. Africans have now realized that the future of Africa lies in their own hands. Some Africans have worked and are still working to change the African story.

Greatest African heroes of our time

As mentioned above, the list of these heroes is rather long; but ten of them have been carefully selected to get you acquainted to how Africa is experiencing a paradigm shift.

These chosen ten have made an impact in different aspects of human endeavor, from the government to civil society to business, literature, sports, and environment; name it. If you’re ready to know more about the top ten heroes of Africa, let’s proceed!

Nelson Rohilala Mandela

Pictured in the featured image of this post, Mandela is one of the most influential Africans in history. Known for his fight against apartheid rule in South Africa, he served as the President of the country from 1994 to 1999. Mandela is respected all over the world for many things.

It is very rare in this world that someone will serve 27 years in prison just because of his people, Mandela did just that.

Coming out of Prison, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. After spending a term as President of South Africa, he decided not to seek re-election even when there were calls for him to contest again. He is indeed a great and selfless African.

Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan is yet another great African who served ten years as the Secretary-General of the United Nations starting from 1997. As UN Secretary-General, Annan worked hard in tackling many problems, especially in Africa. Together with the organisation he leads, Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

After his tenure as Secretary-General, he founded the Kofi Annan Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that is dedicated to ensuring good governance in the world and helping countries of the world to become more peaceful and prosperous.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

In the Africa of the olden days, it would have been impossible for a female to become the President of an African country. But, Africa has moved passed those days. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf broke the record when she became the first female President of a nation on the continent of Africa.

After losing in her previous bid to serve her country, she later won the presidential election held in Liberia in 2005. Apart from setting a record of being the continent’s first female president, Sirleaf also served as the first female chairperson of the regional organisation for West African countries.

In addition, she was number eighty-five on the Forbes Magazine list of most powerful women on planet earth. Sirleaf also won the Nobel Peace Prize with two other women activists back in 2011.

Aliko Dangote

For the past few years, Aliko Dangote has been consistently maintaining number one spot as Africa’s richest man. The business tycoon has promoted Africa’s private sector tremendously with his conglomerate, Dangote Group.

Aliko started his business journey when he obtained a loan from his Uncle and started trading. Today, he has built a Conglomerate with diversification and manufacturing a range of products. His companies are in several African countries and have created direct employment for more than eleven thousand people.

The multi-billionaire is currently building an Oil Refinery in Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, Nigeria. When completed, the refinery will change Nigeria’s status to that of exporter of Refined Petrol.

George Weah

George Weah is Africa’s first and only Ballon d’Or winner. He won the FIFA footballer of the year award in 1995 and also grabbed the African footballer in 1989, 1994 and 1995. After a sterling career in football, he ventured into politics.

In 2005 and 2011, he vied for the post of Liberian President but lost to Ellen Sirleaf at the two occasions. But in 2017, he won the Liberian presidential election by defeating the then incumbent Vice President. Weah is the current President of Liberia.

Wole Soyinka

A man of letters! Prof. Wole Soyinka is the first African to win the Nobel Prize in literature and that was in 1986. Apart from being a literary icon, he participated in several struggles against dictatorial rule in Africa especially in Nigeria.

He is an ardent critic of political tyrannies across Africa. During the dark days of Nigerian history and under the oppresive military leader, Sani Abacha, Soyinka escaped Nigeria on a Motorcycle.

Desmund Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is one of Africa’s most respected and foremost religious leaders. The archbishop played a pivotal role during the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa. At different times, he served as Archbishop of Cape Town and Johannesburg, both in South Africa. Tutu’s political ideology is much tilted to the socialist side.

Julius Nyerere

Tanzania as an independent country in Africa today owes a debt to Julius Nyerere, he was the first president of Tanzania. Many respected Nyerere for his selflessness and courage. Nyerere never let his people down. He was in the fore-front in the fight for his country’s independence.

Aside from this, this great African hero also believed in the ability of Africans and the greatness of the continent.

Kwame Nkrumah

Ghana has gotten to the level of development it is today because of the effort of Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah is the first prime minister of Ghana. He is also the first president of the Gold Coast Country.

Kwame Nkrumah is very popular in Africa today for his belief that Africa needs to be united. To press home his desire for Africa’s unity, he joined other African leaders to establish the Organisation of African Unity. Nkrumah died in 1972 at sixty-two years.

Wangari Maathai

This is another prolific African woman that has made a wave in Africa and the world at large. Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a civil society organisation that is primarily focused towards a greener world. The movement advocated for environmental conservation and planting of trees all over the world.

For her immense contribution to peace, democracy, and sustainable development, Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2004. She is the first African woman to win the award. Having suffered from ovarian cancer, Wangari Maathai died in 2011.

Moving forward

Indeed, Africa’s story is gradually being changed. Africans in business, politics, environment, education, science, and technology are working hard to right the wrongs.

As at today, six of the world’s fastest-growing economies are from Africa. This is a feat that was never possible in Africa before, but because of the brave African heroes above it has come true! Hopefully in a few generations, we will look back on this period and have new African heroes to write about.

Resources

  1. Worldhunger.org
  2. African Library Project

Written by Oban

Mechanical Engineering student. Born and raised in Africa. Likes to take things apart and put them back together. Runs on music and good African food. Loves to see good people succeed. Hopes to open up his own school one day.

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