Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Ushahidi’s ED, Ory Okolloh and others listed in Foreign Policy’s second annual list of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers!
Beginning with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates (1), who teamed up to prove that even in tough times great new ideas can emerge, to forecasting economist Nouriel Roubini (12) to political leaders Barack Obama (3) and Angela Merkel (10), FP presents more than just their big ideas. Once again we took a unique survey of this very smart crowd. Nearly two-thirds participated to give you insight into their thinking on everything from how Obama’s doing to their preference in new-age reading device (iPad, by a lot). But don’t take our word for it — take the same questionnaire we sent to our FP 100 and see how your answers match up against theirs. Check out the full list here!
Some of the Africans on the list (as seen on FP…)
20. Mohamed ElBaradei, (DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST | EGYPT)
for proving that there are second acts in public life.
DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST | EGYPT
No one could accuse this Nobel Peace Prize laureate of taking the easy jobs. During his 12-year stint as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei took on some of the world’s worst nuclear proliferators — not to mention U.S. President George W. Bush, who resented the Egyptian lawyer’s unwillingness to ratchet up pressure on Iran.
But after leaving the IAEA in 2009, ElBaradei gave himself an even more challenging task: bringing democracy to Egypt. In doing so, he has put himself on a collision course with gerontocratic President Hosni Mubarak, the 82-year-old ruler of Egypt for the past three decades.
Mubarak has found his leading critic a hard man to discredit. ElBaradei has organized a political front meant to unite Egypt’s opposition and launched an eloquent attack on an Egyptian political system rigged to ensure the Mubarak family’s continued hold on power. He recently called for a boycott of November’s parliamentary elections, arguing that participating would only lend credibility to a regime on its last legs.
“I see a decaying temple, almost collapsing,” ElBaradei says of Mubarak’s rule. “It will fall sooner rather than later.”
59. Ory Okolloh, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, (USHAHIDI | KENYA)
for teaching us how to crowdsource emergency relief.
When Kenya exploded in a frenzy of reprisal killings after its disputed 2007 elections, Ory Okolloh realized that no one knew where the violence was taking place, how often, and against whom. So together with a few tech-savvy friends she launched Ushahidi (a Swahili word meaning “testimony”), a site that allowed users to report violent incidents using their mobile phones, creating a real-time map of the conflict.
By 2010, Ushahidi was being deployed for everything from the earthquake in Haiti to the floods in Pakistan to immigration reform in Arizona, transforming emergency response. “What we’re trying is [to] break down the … top-down approach” to conflict monitoring, she told FP.
Okolloh is much more than a tech guru. Mzalendo, a website that she co-founded in 2003, lets citizens monitor the performance of Kenya’s notoriously corrupt politicians. And on her popular blog, Kenyan Pundit, Okolloh champions a new African generation, driving the continent to the forefront of the digital age.
52. Mo Ibrahim, FOUNDER, (MO IBRAHIM FOUNDATION | SUDAN)
for holding Africa to high standards.
Mo Ibrahim, a Sudan-born cell-phone mogul, hatched a brilliant plan a few years back: to create a foundation solely targeted at inspiring better governance in Africa.
The heart of his initiative is the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s leadership prize, which grants $5 million over 10 years — plus a $200,000 annual stipend thereafter — to retired African heads of state who were democratic and incorruptible. For the last two years, however, not a single retired African leader has lived up to the selection committee’s standards. Indeed, this year Ibrahim’s continent-wide governance index warned of a possible backslide: Two-thirds of African countries are at risk of experiencing what Ibrahim dubbed a “democratic recession.” “Why are we poor?” Ibrahim asked TV host Charlie Rose in April. “It’s absolute mismanagement of our resources and our governments.”
85. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, (PRESIDENT | LIBERIA)
for moving her country away from a troubled past.
Africa’s first elected female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came into office in 2006 promising to rebuild Liberia after decades of bloody civil wars. The years since have seen impressive success: Liberia boasts one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, former warlord-president Charles Taylor has been captured and put on trial for war crimes, Sirleaf has appointed women to lead a quarter of her ministries, and the country is beginning to rebuild its battered institutions and infrastructure.
Sirleaf’s tenure has not been flawless. Corruption remains endemic, and some of her closest allies have been forced to step down amid ongoing investigations. But as Liberia handles its newfound oil wealth, Sirleaf is gaining the world’s trust: “Today we have a very empowered society in which accountability is demanded by the people,” she says.
97. Unity Dow, (JUDGE | BOTSWANA)
for proving that the rule of law can be a force for change.
When Unity Dow became a lawyer, she took the title of “advocate” rather seriously. Over three decades, she has led a legal and moral crusade for the equality of women, the rights of indigenous tribes, and democracy across Africa. More recently, she has taken up the cause of HIV/AIDS, which has inflicted a horrible toll on southern Africa. “Botswana is at ground zero” for the epidemic, her 2010 co-authored book on the human cost of the disease, Saturday Is for Funerals, explains.
In February, Dow was sworn in as one of three international judges serving on a Kenyan court that will rule on any legal challenges to the newly ratified Kenyan Constitution. Across fields and cases, Dow’s work exemplifies the idea that the law is only as just as those who practice it.