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FORBES’ List Of “The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities In Africa”



Filed under : Africa

Hey there!

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I simply love the work Mfonobong Nsehe is doing over at Forbes online. So a while back he asked via Twitter for folks to submit names for who thought was a powerful celebrity in Africa. Of course, I emailed him my list & reasons why.

So I was delighted when he tagged me on a tweet with the finalized list of The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa!

Here they are!

1. Chinua Achebe: Nigerian, (Novelist) – The father of African literature authored the 1958 classic, “Things Fall Apart” which has been translated into over 50 languages and has sold over 10 million copies internationally.

2. Youssou N’dour: Senegalese, (Musician) – In 2004, the Rolling Stone Magazine referred to the Senegal’s most coveted musician as “perhaps the most famous singer alive.”

3. Didier Drogba: Ivorian, (Soccer Player) – A striker for England’s Chelsea football club and captain of the Cote D’Ivoire national team,

4. Angelique Kidjo: Beninoise, (Musician) – At 51, the Beninoise Grammy-award winning musician is still one of Africa’s greatest divas.

5. Akon: Senegalese, (Musician) – The Senegalese-American hip-hop act stepped into the limelight in 2004 with the release of ‘Locked Up’.

6. Wole Soyinka: (Nigerian) – Playwright In 1986 the Nigerian Playwright and author became the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

7. Salif Keita: Malian, (Musician) – A direct descendant of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali Empire, Salif is one of the pioneers of Afro-pop.

With the Princess of Africa in NYC

8. Yvonne Chaka Chaka: South African, (Musician) – The ‘Princess of Africa’ is one of Africa’s most illustrious musicians.

9. Oumou Sangare: Malian, (Musician) – One of Mali’s most idolized musical legends, Sangare popularized Wassoulou, a popular genre of traditional music peculiar to Mali.

10. Femi Kuti: Nigerian, (Musician) – The eldest son of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti has his father’s fiery blood flowing through his veins.

11. Toumani Diabaté: Malian, (Musician) – One of the world’s most famous Kora players and an extremely popular Malian musician,

12. Oliver Mtukudzi: Zimbabwean, (Musician) – The Zimbabwean legend will collaborate with Alicia Keys on an album that’ll sensitize African mothers on the importance of HIV programmes.

13. Haile Gebrselassie: Ethiopian, (Athlete) – The world’s number 1 long distance runner has won the Berlin Marathon four times consecutively

14. Khaled Hadj Ibrahim: Algerian, (Musician) – Popularly referred to as ‘Khaled’, the Algerian singer and songwriter is the most famous rai singer in the world.

15. Samuel Eto’o: Cameroonian, (Soccer Player) – In August, the Cameroonian striker left Inter Milan to pitch tent with Russian club, Anzhi Makhachkala in a deal that has earned him the title of not just the highest earning footballer in the world, but the highest-paid athlete in professional sports.

Alek Wek, I & Tyson Beckford at NYC Fashion Week

16. Alek Wek: Sudanese, (Supermodel) – The Sudanese-born supermodel fled her conflict-ridden country to find fame and fortune on the catwalk.

17. Liya Kebede: Ethiopian, (Supermodel) – Born and raised in Ethiopia, Kebede stepped into the global limelight in 2000 when Gucci offered her an exclusive contract for its Fall/Winter 2000 fashion show.

18. Dobet Gnahor̩: Ivorian, (Musician) РThe Ivorian Grammy-award winning dropped out of school at the age of 12 to start singing alongside her father, the famed master percussionist, Boni Gnahore.

On movie set with Genevieve Nnaji

19. Genevieve Nnaji: Nigerian, (Actress) Nnaji has frequently been hailed as Africa’s own answer to the likes of Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon and the rest of the feminine Hollywood stars.

20. Koffi Olomid̩: Congolese, (Musician) РOlomid̩ possesses a first degree in Business Economics and reportedly has a Masters Degree in mathematics from the University of Paris, but he found mainstream fame and considerable fortune playing music.

21. Neill Blomkamp: South African, (Movie Director) – The South African movie director and scriptwriter shook the world with District 9, Africa’s first Sci-fi which tells the story of a bunch of extraterrestrial refugees who find themselves in a South African slum.

22. Souad Massi: Algerian, (Musician) – The Algerian-born, Paris-based Guitarist and songwriter is one of North Africa’s most coveted musicians.

23. Baaba Maal: Senegalese, (Musician) – The regal Senegalese musician is usually referred to as ‘The Nightingale’ for his resonant and transcendent vocals.

24. Hugh Masekela: South African, (Musician) – The 72 year-old South African Jazz maestro and internationally-acclaimed trumpeter shows no signs of slowing down.

25. K’Naan: Somali, (Rapper) – K’Naan has been a very vocal advocate for aid to Somalia in the wake of the country’s recent famine.

26. Amadou and Mariam: Malian, (Musicians) – The couple is generally considered as pioneers of Afro-blues, a distinct genre of music which fuses traditional Malian sounds and music with foreign instruments like rock guitars, Syrian violins and Cuban trumpets.

27. Awilo Longomba: Congolese, (Musician) – Longomba started out as a drummer, but quit in 1995 to pursue his first love, music. Has released four albums to date.

28. Eric Wainaina: Kenyan, (Musician) – Kenya’s most famous singer-songwriter studied at Berklee College of Music.

29. Binyavanga Wainaina: Kenyan, (Author) – The Kenyan writer authored the essay “How To Write About Africa”- one of the most satirical pieces ever written about the continent.

30. Ngugi Wa Thiongo: Kenyan, Author – Kenya’s most cerebral author and playwright published his first novel, Weep Not, Child in 1964. He was forced out of Kenya and sent on exile in the 70s because of his intense criticisms of the Kenyan government which he usually channeled through his plays and novels.

31. Freshlyground: South African, (Musicians) – The 7-member South African Afro-fusion band started out in Capetown in 2002. Success came almost immediately.

32. Chimamanda Adichie: Nigerian, (Writer) – The Nigerian-born author is arguably the most popular new-generation writer to emerge from Africa and one of the continent’s leading contemporary literary voices

33. Rokia Traor̩: Malian, (Musician) РThe daughter of a Malian Diplomat is one of the more popular new generation artists to emerge from Africa.

With Tuface at Afrotainment studios

34. Tuface Idibia: Nigerian, (Musician) – The Nigerian-born crooner is one of Africa’s most recognizable new-generation singers.

35. P-Square: Nigerian, (Musicians) – The Nigerian R&B duo attained continental superstardom with romance-laced lyrics and Michael Jackson-styled dance moves.

36. Don Jazzy: Nigerian, (Music Producer) – Africa’s Number 1 beat maker heads the phenomenal Nigerian record label, Mo’ Hits which is home to successful Nigerians artists like D’Banj and Wande Coal.

37. D’Banj: Nigerian, (Musician) – Don Jazzy’s protégé is one of Africa’s most recognizable new generation artistes.

38. Neka: Nigerian, (Musician) – The Nigerian-German soul musician has become one of Africa’s more popular international singers.

39. Asa: Nigerian, (Musician) – Real name: Bukola Elemide. The Nigerian singer-songwriter is one of the most popular new-generation artists to emerge from Africa.

40. Patricia Amira: Kenyan, (TV Personality) – Africa’s own answer to Oprah. The Kenyan-born media queen is one of the continent’s most popular talk-show hosts.

Please follow Mfonobong on Twitter @EmperorDIV

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Thoughts on the list?!?!

farai – who has written posts on Farai Today.


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  • Rerhi

    Absolutely love the list!!!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/smallbizatlanta Ashley Neal

    This is great! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Nikeeza

    I do not completely  agree with the list, I feel it is missing Iman from Somalia!

  • K’Odero

    Waaaaaait!!
    Who did this survey and what was the heterogeneity of the sampled respondent population?
    Look, I’m Kenyan and if I were selfish, I would be scampering here defending my own countrymen and women but NO! I follow African socio-cultural arena with a toothcomb and I dont think recency in music stardom should have been a factor to give so much premium at the expence of genuine hard work some people have done in the past. How would this list be missing a powerful figure like Noel Ngiama Makanda ‘Werrason’, whom apart from being second to Koffi Olomide in winning grand African awards (Kora et al), later became awarded the Uiversal Ambassador of Peace by Pope John Paul II, let alone running several charities for destitute children in his own country? What has Eric Wainaina done that you can compare to even the late Lucky Dube? Are Dbanj and Amira here because they are freshest in our mind that we cant even remember there’s Djimon Honsou or Meiwey? By the way, our own Charlize Theron became the first native African Woman to win an Oscar. Nullify this list!

  • malik-Chinemerem

    No FELA, no LUCKY DUBE. Nice try sha.