Up until recently, the general perception of Africa by the outside world was very negative. Many people in developed countries thought (and still do think) that Africa is all about poverty, hunger, wars, terrorism, diseases and other things negative. But this stereotypical way of perceiving Africa is not only wrong, it also denies the world an opportunity to learn about the continent’s immense potentials.
Indeed, Africa has so much goodness to offer the world other than just its negative shortcomings. And Africans, both home and abroad, are doing amazing things to make the world a better place. It’s high time we focus more on these positive things.
1. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO)
When the Coronavirus pandemic shut down the whole world back in 2020, everyone looked to the World Health Organisation for directions on ways to navigate the global health scare. And then one man rose to the occasion and led the fight against the virus with expertise. His name is Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and he is the Director-General of the WHO.
Many people may not know this, but Dr Adhanom is actually an Ethiopian national. Although he was born in Asmara the Eritrean capital city, Dr Adhanom is of Ethiopian descent as his parents originated from Ethiopia’s Tigray Province.
In 1986, young Adhanom graduated from the University of Asmara with a degree in biology. He then proceeded to the UK where he obtained further degrees from both the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, University of London and University of Nottingham.
He has since been working in public health, particularly in his home country Ethiopia where he served as Minister of Health between 2005 and 2012. It was during this time that he really positioned himself as a major player in public health, and even formed strong alliances with the international community.
At the end of his tenure as Ethiopia’s Health Minister in 2012, he was named Minister of Foreign Affairs. He served on this role between 2012 and 2016 and further leveraged the position to boost his profile.
He assumed his current position in 2017 and has been very instrumental in the fight against both Ebola and COVID-19.
2. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
This prominent Nigerian national made headlines in March 2021 when she emerged as the first woman and the first African to lead the World Trade Organisation.
Dr Iweala was born in Delta State Nigeria and studied at various secondary schools across Nigeria before finishing up at the International School Ibadan. Afterwards, she proceeded to the United States of America where he studied Economics at Harvard and graduated with flying colours. She later earned a Ph.D. in Economics & Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She worked at the World Bank for over 20 years and rose to the position of Managing Director. She also worked in public service back in her home country Nigeria, serving first as Finance Minister and later as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Besides her current position as the Director-General of the WTO, Dr Iweala also sits on the boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Danone, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Twitter, etc.
3. Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo: Secretary General of OPEC
62-year old Nigerian national, Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, has been serving as the Secretary General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) since 2016. Publicly available records show that Mr Barkindo grew up in Northern Nigeria and studied at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria where he obtained a degree in Political Science. He later obtained a Masters in Business Administration and a diploma in Petroleum Economics from Washington University in the US and Oxford University in the UK.
Prior to becoming the 28th Secretary General of OPEC, Mr Barkindo worked with the Nigerian Mining Corporation. He later moved to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) where he served in various capacities for 24 years, including the position of CEO.
4. Winnie Byanyima: UNAIDS Executive Director
Mrs Byanyima is a Ugandan aeronautical engineer and the current Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS). She assumed the position in November 2019. And prior to that, she served as the Executive Director of Oxfam International between 2013 and 2019.
She was born in Western Uganda and went to secondary school there before proceeding to the University of Manchester where she became the first woman from Uganda to study aeronautical engineering. She later obtained a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cranefield University.
Upon return to Uganda after her studies, she worked in Uganda Airlines and later flew combatant planes for the National Resistance Army.
5. Antoinette Sayeh: Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Dr Sayeh is a Liberian economist and the current Deputy Managing Director of the IMF. Publicly available records show that she has been working with the IMF since 2006 and had previously served as the Director of the IMF’s African Department. She earlier served as Liberia’s Finance Minister under President Ellen Sirleaf.
Antoinette Sayeh holds a Ph.D. in International Economic Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.