Global Thinkers of 2011 from Africa

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Foreign Policy Magazine has published its list of the most influential Global Thinkers, however it’s worthy to note that this is obviously from an American Perspective as they have clearly left out key players who have global voices but live or work in Africa.

#52 Francis Deng, Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide to the United Nations Secretary General. Mr. Deng is currently Director of the Sudan Peace Support Project based at the United States Institute of Peace. He is also a Wilhelm Fellow at the Center for International Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a research professor of international politics, law and society at Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
Before joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Deng was a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the John Kluge Center of the Library of Congress. Mr. Deng served as Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons from 1992 to 2004, and from 2002 to 2003 was also a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace.
Mr. Deng served as Human Rights Officer in the United Nations Secretariat from 1967 to 1972 and as the Ambassador of the Sudan to Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United States. He also served as the Sudan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. After leaving his country’s service, he was appointed the first Rockefeller Brothers Fund Distinguished Fellow. He was at the Woodrow Wilson International Center first as a guest scholar and then as a senior research associate, after which he joined the Brookings Institution as a senior fellow, where he founded and directed the Africa Project for 12 years. He was then appointed distinguished professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York before joining Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Deng holds a Bachelor of Laws from Khartoum University and a Master of Laws and a Doctor of the Science of Law from Yale University, and has authored and edited over 30 books in the fields of law, conflict resolution, internal displacement, human rights, anthropology, folklore, history and politics and has also written two novels on the theme of the crisis of national identity in the Sudan. He was born in 1938.
In a continuing effort to strengthen the United Nations’ role in this area, the Secretary-General has asked Mr. Deng to devote full time to this position. The Secretary-General will continue to look at additional ways to enhance the capacity of the Office of the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide.
On a related note, the Secretary-General is also exploring ways to strengthen United Nations efforts on the responsibility to protect, which may include the appointment of a separate adviser.

#62 Herman Chinery Hesse
Twenty years ago, when Herman Chinery-Hesse returned home after studying in the United States with plans to start a Ghanaian software company, his friends told him he was crazy. But his company, SOFTtribe, is now West Africa’s leading software company, helping imagine a new Africa for a digital age.
Today, Chinery-Hesse is working to develop a payment system via mobile-phone text messages that will allow African entrepreneurs to sell their products abroad. Ghana can be a world-class center of technological innovation, he insists — a Singapore for the continent — but the technology has to meet local needs by being what he calls “tropically tolerant.” His ambition is nothing less than the reimagining of an entire continent: more tech-savvy, more prosperous, but always African.


#80 Desmond Tutu
In casting off apartheid 17 years ago, South Africa became one of the world’s great human rights success stories — so it is a grim irony that the country now spends much of its time on the international stage defending the likes of Muammar al-Qaddafi and the Burmese junta. In October, when the Dalai Lama –welcomed to South Africa personally by Nelson Mandela in 1996 — tried to travel to Cape Town for an 80th birthday celebration for Desmond Tutu, the South African government, which was negotiating a $2.5 billion investment deal with China, refused to grant him a visa.
No one has more loudly lamented this state of affairs than Tutu. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has called the actions of President Jacob Zuma’s government in the visa flap a national disgrace and, most explosively, “reminiscent of the way authorities dealt with applications by black South Africans for travel documents under apartheid.” Tutu may be an octogenarian now, but he has been fighting Zuma just as aggressively as he once stood up to the white regime in Pretoria. For years he has criticized the “moral failings” of Zuma, whose political career has been dogged by rape and corruption allegations, and chastised the ruling African National Congress for failing to make good on its promises to fight poverty.

 

#88 John Githongo: Hman Right Campaigner in Kenya
Once forced out of his country for blowing the whistle on a massive government graft scandal, John Githongo has become a global symbol of the struggle against government corruption since returning to Kenya in 2008 and beginning a crusade for transparency in one of the world’s more venal countries. Githongo had been the government’s anti-corruption czar but fled in 2005 after accusing top ministers of fraud. Now he has adopted a more grassroots approach, launching a campaign called Ni Sisi! (“It is us!”) to empower local businesses and act as a watchdog on opaque government contracts. If successful, it’s a model that could be exported to other countries where corruption is rampant.
Githongo believes Africa may be ripe for the kind of uprisings recently seen in the Arab world.

 

#92 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has spent her career shuttling between the rarified world of international economic institutions and the rough-and-tumble politics of her native Nigeria. Most recently, she served for four years as managing director of the World Bank, where she pushed initiatives like “diaspora bonds” that would allow immigrants in the West to invest in their home countries.

In July, the Harvard- and MIT-educated Okonjo-Iweala returned to Nigeria as President Goodluck Jonathan’s finance minister, a job she had held once before. Last time under Okonjo-Wahala, or “Trouble Woman,” as she’s nicknamed, the country cut inflation in half and averaged 6 percent growth per year. This time her focus is on reducing Nigeria’s debt burden and creating jobs, despite the slump in the global economy and considerable challenges at home, including entrenched corruption and a string of terrorist attacks.

Courtesy of Foreign Policy Magazine 2011