Recently Forbes Magazine launched their Africa edition. In conjunction with this they decided to release a list of the 40 most powerful celebrities on the continent. The criteria below were used to make the final selection. The list is a great mix of old and young, artists, musicians writers and actors. We have profiled a few of the people on the list. The complete list is available after the jump.
Determining the celebrities who exert the highest degree of influence in contemporary African pop culture involved sifting through the nominations for the individuals with the highest numbers of votes, and then measuring their media visibility (exposure in print, television, radio and online), number of web references on Google, TV/radio mentions and their general clout across the continent.
Aliaune Damala Badara Thiam, better known as simply Akon is a Senegalese American R&B recording artist and songwriter.According to Forbes, Akon grossed $21 million in 2010, $20 million in 2009 and $12 million in 2008. He rose to prominence in 2004 following the release of “Locked Up”, the first single from his debut album Trouble. His second album, Konvicted, earned him a Grammy Award nomination of the single “Smack That”. He has since founded two record labels, Konvict Muzik and Kon Live Distribution.Akon often sings hooks for other artists and is currently credited with over 300 guest appearances and 45 Billboard Hot 100 songs. He has worked with numerous performers such as Dr. Dre, Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Quincy Jones, Eminem and Whitney Houston. He is the first solo artist to hold both the number one and two spots simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 charts twice.He has had six Grammy Awards nominations and has produced many hits for artists such as Lady Gaga, Colby O’Donis and Leona Lewis. Lady Gaga and T-Pain are two artists who were given their chance at fame by Akon.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on 15 September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria, the fifth of six children to Igbo parents, Grace Ifeoma and James Nwoye Adichie.She went on to study medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. During this period, she edited The Compass, a magazine run by the University’s Catholic medical students.At the age of nineteen, Chimamanda left for the United States. She gained a scholarship to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for two years, and she went on to pursue a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University. While in Connecticut, she stayed with her sister Ijeoma, who runs a medical practice close to the university.Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus was released in October 2003. The book has received wide critical acclaim: it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (2005).Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (also the title of one of her short stories), is set before and during the Biafran War. It was published in August 2006 in the United Kingdom and in September 2006 in the United States. Like Purple Hibiscus, it has also been released in Nigeria.Chimamanda was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005-2006 academic year.Her collection of short stories, The Thing around Your Neck, was published in 2009. Chimamanda says her next major literary project will focus on the Nigerian immigrant experience in the United States.
Nneka (born 24 December 1980) is a Nigerian-German hip hop/soul singer and songwriter. She sings in both English and Igbo.Nneka relished the experience of singing from an early age in her school and in the church choir. After relocating to Hamburg, Germany, at the age of 18, she pursued a career in singing alongside a degree in Anthropology.She now divides her time between Nigeria and Hamburg.Even though Nneka sings more than raps, she names hip hop as her primary musical root and most important source of inspiration, while citing artists such as Fela Kuti and Bob Marley as well as contemporary rappers Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Lauryn Hill as key influences in her own pursuit of musical recognition.Her lyrics reflect much of her history and life in Nigeria as well as her time spent in Western Europe. Her songs stress the issues of capitalism, poverty and war and are often loaded with moral and biblical messages and references, with some music commentators comparing her to Erykah Badu, Neneh Cherry and Floetry.
Liya Kebede is an Ethiopian model, maternal health advocate, clothing designer and actress who has appeared three times on the cover of US Vogue . According to Forbes, Kebede was eleventh-highest-paid top model in the world in 2007. Since 2005, Kebede has served as the WHO’s Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.Kebede was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.A film director spotted her while she was attending Lycee Guebre Mariam and introduced her to a French modeling agent. After completing her studies, she moved to France to pursue work through a Parisian agency. Kebede later relocated to New York City. Kebede’s big break came when Tom Ford asked her for an exclusive contract for his Gucci Fall/Winter 2000 fashion show Her popularity in the fashion industry sky-rocketed when she appeared on the cover of the May 2002 edition of Paris Vogue, which dedicated the entire issue to her.In 2003, Kebede was named the newest face of Estée Lauder cosmetics, the first Ethiopian to serve as their representative in the company’s 57-year history. Her contract was rumored to be for $3 million dollars.In 2009, Kebede starred in the film-adaption of the bestselling autobiography Desert Flower by former supermodel Waris Dirie. The film recounts Dirie’s childhood in Somalia, her rise to stardom and subsequent awareness campaign against female circumcision. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival and received a standing ovation. Kebede has also had minor roles in two films: The Good Shepherd and Lord of War.
Genevieve Nnaji is a Nigerian actress. In 2005 she won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.CNN states that she is referred to as the “Julia Roberts of Africa”. She attended the Methodist Girls College Yaba before heading onto the University of Lagos. While at the university Genevieve began auditioning for acting jobs amongst the many Nollywood projects. In 1998 at the age of 19 she was introduced into the growing Nigerian film industry with the movie “Most Wanted”. Her subsequent movies include Last Party, Mark of the Beast and Ijele. In 2010 she starred in the award winning film Ijé: The Journey. Nnaji has starred in over 80 Nollywood moviesand is considered to be one of the best paid actresses in Nollywood.In 2004 she signed a recording contract with EKB Records, a Ghanaian record label, and released her debut album One Logologo Line, a mix of R&B, Hip-Hop and Urban music.Nnaji has featured in several commercials some of which include Pronto beverage and Omo detergent. In 2004 she became the “Face of Lux” in Nigeria in a highly lucrative sponsorship deal. 2008 saw Nnaji launching a clothing line, “St. Genevieve”, which donates its proceeds to charity.In May 2010 Nnaji was appointed to be the official “Face of MUD” in Nigeria
The Full List follows:
1. Chinua Achebe, 80, Novelist (Nigeria)
2 Youssou N’dour, 51, Musician (Senegal)
3. Didier Drogba, 33, Footballer (Cote D’Voire)
4. Angelique Kidjoe, 51, Musician (Benin Republic)
5. Akon, 38, Musician (Senegal)
6. Wole Soyinka, 77, Playwright (Nigeria)
7. Salif Keita, 62, Musician (Mali)
8. Yvonne Chaka Chaka, 46, (South African)
9. Oumou Sang, 43, Musician (Mali)
10. Femi Kuti, 49, Musician (Nigerian)
11. Toumani Diabaté, Musician (Malian)
12. Oliver Mtukudzi, 59, Musician (Zimbabwean)
13. Haile Gebrselassie, 38, Athlete (Ethiopian)
14. Khaled Hadj Ibrahim, 51, Musician (Algerian)
15. Samuel Eto’o, 30, Soccer Player (Cameroonian)
16. Alek Wek, 34, Supermodel (Sudanese)
17. Liya Kebede
18. Dobet Gnahoré, 29, Musician (Ivorian)
19. Genevieve Nnaji, 32, Actress (Nigerian)
20. Koffi Olomidé, 55, Musician (Congolese)
21. Neill Blomkamp, 32, Movie Director (South African)
22. Souad Massi, 39, Musician (Algerian)
23. Baaba Maal, 58, Musician (Senegalese)
24. Hugh Masekela, 72, Musician (South African)
25. K’Naan, 33, Rapper (Somali)
26. Amadou and Mariam, Musicians (Malian)
27. Awilo Longomba, Musician (Congolese)
28. Eric Wainaina, 38, Musician (Kenyan)
29. Binyavanga Wainaina, 40, Author (Kenya)
30. Ngugi Wa Thiongo, 73, Author (Kenya)
31. Freshlyground, Musicians (South Africa)
32. Chimamanda Adichie, 34, Writer (Nigeria)
33. Rokia Traoré, 37, Musician (Mali)
34. Tuface Idibia, 36, Musician (Nigeria)
35. P-Square, 29, Musicians (Nigeria)
36. Don Jazzy, 30, Music Producer (Nigeria)
37. D’Banj, 31, Musician (Nigeria)
38. Nneka, 31, Musician (Nigeria)
39. Asa, 29, Musician (Nigeria)
40. Patricia Amira, 33, TV Personality (Kenya)