South Africa and Egypt both got two entries to the most influential persons in the world for the year 2019. The TIME magazine released the list on Wednesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and star athlete Caster Semenya made the list for South Africa whiles Egypt’s football star Mohamed Salah and actor Rami Malek were also named.
Globally acclaimed American magazine also named Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Ghanaian entrepreneur Fred Swaniker completed the African line-up.
Abiy and Ramaphosa were named in the leaders category, while the four others made different categories. Each personality received a tribute from a chosen TIME author.
- LEADER: Abiy Ahmed Ali, Prime Minister (Ethiopia)
- LEADER: Cyril Ramaphosa, President (South Africa)
- ICON: Caster Semenya, Olympic athlete (South Africa)
- TITAN: Mohamed Salah, Egypt and Liverpool forward (Egypt)
- PIONEER: Fred Swaniker, leadership development expert (Ghana)
- ARTIST: Rami Malek, actor (Egypt)
What TIME’s Edwin Moses said about Semenya
A world and Olympic track-and-field champion several times over, Caster Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary, and caused us to question the justness of distributing societal benefits according to “male” and “female” classifications.
Semenya identifies as a woman, but has testosterone levels higher than the typical female. Her success has brought controversy in elite sport, with many arguing that her biological traits give her an unfair advantage in women’s competition. But Semenya is fighting that.
Sport eligibility, she and others say, should not be based on hormone levels or other differences of sex development. If successful, Semenya’s effort could open the door for all who identify as women to compete in track events without having to first medically lower their testosterone levels below a proposed limit.
Ultimately, this incredibly difficult issue is a political one for sport to resolve. But however it is addressed, Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.
What TIME’s John Oliver said about Salah
Mo Salah is a better human being than he is a football player. And he’s one of the best football players in the world.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a professional athlete in any sport less affected by their success or status than Mo, which is incredible because I can’t imagine the kind of pressure that comes with the intensity of adoration he receives. Mo is an iconic figure for Egyptians, Scousers and Muslims the world over, and yet he always comes across as a humble, thoughtful, funny man who isn’t taking any of this too seriously.
As a footballer, he plays with an infectious joy. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be able to play as well as him, and watching his face light up after he does something incredible, you get the reassuring sense that it’s exactly as fun as you’d want it to be.
I absolutely love him.
What Time’s Feyisa Lilesa said about Abiy
In 2016, the situation in Ethiopia was very bad. People were being killed and many were in jail, and I wanted the world to know what the government was doing. That’s why, during the 2016 marathon at the Rio Olympics, I crossed my wrists at the finish line—to symbolize that the Ethiopian people want to stop the killing, stop the jailing. We don’t want a dictatorship.
After that, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back. The government was killing dissidents. I missed my country; I missed my mother. She cried to me on the phone every day for two years.
Then last March, while I was training in Kenya, I heard that Dr. Abiy Ahmed would be the next Prime Minister. In Ethiopian history, we have never seen a leader like him. He’s an educated person who talks about unity. He has released thousands of people from jail. He brought peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea after 20 years of war. And he made it possible for me to come home.
Yes, people are still protesting. But now, when they protest, they aren’t going to jail. To me, that is democracy. That is hope.
What Time’s Vivienne Walt said about Ramaphosa
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has perfected the art of patience. Raised in the township of Soweto, he honed his political skills helping his country navigate its way out of apartheid. Then, when he was sidelined for the presidency in the 1990s, he harnessed his cunning and gregariousness to make a vast fortune in business, while his rivals sank the country into dysfunction and cronyism.
Now finally, at 66, Ramaphosa, or Cyril, as he’s known to South Africans, has the chance to end corruption and grow the stalled economy. That could be his toughest battle yet. Blackouts, grinding poverty and massive unemployment have left millions desperate for quick results. Vicious infighting in his African National Congress party leaves him vulnerable to a coup, or perhaps an ouster in elections on May 8. For all that, Ramaphosa has kept his characteristic chuckle and his knack for focusing on the bigger picture. “Unity,” he said recently, “was never going to happen overnight.” After a lifetime fighting his enemies, he should know.
What Time’s Mo Ibrahim said about Fred Swaniker
Africa’s greatest asset is also its defining challenge—its growing population of young people. With 60% of its population under 25, Africa is the world’s youngest continent. By 2100, almost half of the world’s youth are expected to be from Africa. Harnessing that is no small undertaking. But it is one that my friend Fred Swaniker committed to early, to become one of Africa’s foremost leaders.
Fred understood that the key to success was not about leading the youth along a preordained path, but about allowing them to become authors of their own stories. That is what has inspired his educational initiatives: the African Leadership Academy, African Leadership Network and African Leadership University. Together, they hope to educate 3 million leaders of tomorrow.
Fred has the passion, understanding and ability to take this great continent forward, through its young people. I am filled with hope knowing that he is there to help the next generation of African leaders to blossom.
What Time’s Robert Downey Jr. wrote about Rami Malek
The wild success of Bohemian Rhapsody was a group effort … literally. Queen entrusted Rami Malek with representing their legacy, the story of their lives, and the memory of their friend and bandmate. Somewhere during said crucible, he earned it.
He developed the skill without which his many attributes as an artist might have been squelched — principled leadership. He’s understated and kind, complicated and relatable; he’s downright mercurial. Crucially, he’s a good man evolving alongside his potential. As a fan and friend, that’s what I’m particularly proud of.
Cosmic gratitude for Sam Esmail, whose inherent belief in Rami precipitated their groundbreaking partnership in Mr. Robot. Lastly, I contend that his mother Nelly, his father Said, his sister Yasmine and his brother Sami are the foundational pillars to his rise.
Mighta just been destiny … more likely it’s yet another testament to hardworking immigrants raising their kids right and pushing our culture toward the light.READ MORE: Time 100’s most influential people in 2019