1. Chinua Achebe, 80, Nigerian, Novelist

The father of African literature authored the 1958 classic, Things Fall Apart which has been translated into over 50 languages and has sold over 10 million copies internationally.

In September, Achebe made headlines when he turned down a $1million offer from American Hip-Hop act, Curtis Jackson (A.K.A 50 Cent) for permission to use the Things Fall Apart title for an upcoming movie.

The renowned novelist is also an essayist, political critic and currently serves as Professor of African studies at Brown University, Rhode Island.

2. Youssou N’dour, Age: 51, Senegalese, Musician

In 2004, the Rolling Stone Magazine referred to the Senegal’s most coveted musician as “perhaps the most famous singer alive.”

That’s highly unlikely, particularly in a contemporary music scenery dominated by the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Justin Bieber.

But N’dour, 59, is arguably Africa’s most electrifying and mesmerizing entertainer. He helped popularize Mbalax, an inimitable genre of music which blends western sounds like Pop and rock with sabar, the traditional dance music of the Senegalese.

During the course of his career, N’dour has toured with stars like Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman and Dido and has been the subject of two award-winning films- Retour à Gorée and Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love.

Also a shrewd businessman, the Grammy-award winner owns a Nightclub, a record label and a Television station.

The UNICEF ambassador has been vocal in his campaign for an end to the humanitarian crisis in the horn of Africa.

3. Didier Drogba, 33, Ivorian, Soccer Player

A striker for England’s Chelsea football club and captain of the Cote D’Ivoire national team, Drogba’s dexterous strength and finesse on the pitch has consistently earned him the admiration of adoring fans across the globe.

But it is his transcendent compassion that has endeared him to both soccer aficionados and the uninitiated.

In 2006 Drogba had played a pivotal role in establishing peace to Cote D’Ivoire after five years of civil war and unrest.

After his country had qualified for the World cup in Germany, Drogba, surrounded by his team mates, famously fell to his knees on live television and urged the warring factions to give up their arms, It worked!

In 2009, he donated his $5 million endorsement fee to the construction of a hospital in Abidjan, his hometown. Very recently, the UNDP Goodwill Ambassador joined the Ivory Coast Peace Commission, an organization which aims to heal the wounds left by years of fighting in Ivory Coast.

4. Angelique Kidjo, 51, Beninoise, Musician

At 51, the Beninoise Grammy-award winning musician is still one of Africa’s greatest divas.

Over the course of her career she has collaborated with Alicia Keys, Josh Groban and Carlos Santana amongst others on tours and album recordings.

The UNICEF Goodwill ambassador is also the Founder of the Batonga Foundation, a Washington-based charity foundation which promotes and funds education for African girls.

Passionate advocate for African women’s rights.

5. Akon, 38, Senegalese, Musician

The Senegalese-American hip-hop act stepped into the limelight in 2004 with the release of Locked Up, his first single from his debut album Trouble.

He has gone on to produce 3 successful studio albums which have sold millions across the world.

Also one of Hip-Hop’s business savviest: Co-owns Kon Live, an Interscope-backed record label which helped jumpstart the career of Lady Gaga and T-Pain; Also owns Konvict clothing.

Maintains strong bond with home country, founded the Konfidence Foundation which promotes education and health causes in Senegal and elsewhere in Africa.

6. Wole Soyinka, 77, Nigerian, Playwright

In 1986 the Nigerian Playwright and author became the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Easily the most famous playwright ever to emerge from Africa, the erudite wordsmith has published over 20 plays including The Lion and the Jewel, A Dance of the Forests and The Strong Breed.

7. Salif Keita, 62, Malian, Musician

A direct descendant of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali Empire, Salif is one of the pioneers of Afro-pop.

As a member of a Malian Noble family, Keita was famously rebuked when he set out to become a musician as it was considered an occupation beneath his status.

At 18, he was banished from his village because of a superstitious belief that albinos brought ill fortune.

He went on to play for Les Ambassadeurs, a Malian music group before striking out on his own.

Success has been phenomenal. His latest album, La Différence is dedicated to ending the stigmatization of albinos across Africa and the world.

8. Yvonne Chaka Chaka, 46, South African, Musician

The Princess of Africa is one of Africa’s most illustrious musicians.

Debuted on the stage at the age of 18; rose to fame at the height of South Africa’s Apartheid regime with infectious pop melodies, sonorous voice and girlish charm.

She gained local and international acclaim with popular songs like I’m in Love with a DJ and I cry for freedom.

Now devotes her time to philanthropy as a United Nations Goodwill ambassador and UN envoy for Africa.

9. Oumou Sangare, 43, Malian, Musician

One of Mali’s most idolized musical legends, Sangare popularized Wassoulou, a popular genre of traditional music peculiar to Mali.

Wassoulou is typically performed by women accompanied by traditional instruments like the Djembe drum and the Kora (a traditional African harp).

Lyrics dwell on women right issues and feminism. Sangare, a United Nations Goodwill ambassador has been vocal in her advocacy against Polygamy; was named an official ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2003.

Also a successful entrepreneur: In 2006 she partnered with a Chinese automobile company to create a car named after her, Oum Sang.

10. Femi Kuti, 49, Nigerian, Musician

The eldest son of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti has his father’s fiery blood flowing through his veins.

Toured and performed extensively with his father while he was alive, but his biggest break came with his father’s death in 1999 when the Afrobeat mantle fell on him.

Just like his father, Femi attempts to use his music to combat corruption, poverty, and other socio-economic issues prevalent in Nigeria and Africa through his lyrics.

In 2001 he collaborated with American acts, Common, Mos Def and Jaguar Fight on his album, Fight to Win, which sold over 500,000 copies.

The album is widely regarded as the most influential Neo-Afrobeat album of the 21st century.

11. Toumani Diabaté, Malian, Musician

One of the world’s most famous Kora players and an extremely popular Malian musician, Diabete has gained an international renown for his fusion of traditional Malian music with western influences like flamenco, jazz and the blues.

He has released over 13 albums which have sold over 3million copies across the world.

One of Diabate’s songs, Tapha Niang, is featured in the Playstation 3 Video game, LittleBigPlanet.

12. Oliver Mtukudzi, 59, Zimbabwean, Musician

Before the year runs out, the Zimbabwean legend will collaborate with Alicia Keys on an album that’ll sensitize African mothers on the importance of HIV programmes.

Mtukudzi, 59, is the most popular musician from Zimbabwe to have found substantial success and acclaim in international circles.

He sings in Zimbabwe’s dominant Shona language about political violence and struggles of everyday life and has released over 45 albums till date which have sold millions of copies.

He is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa.

13. Haile Gebrselassie, 38, Ethiopian, Athlete

The world’s number 1 long distance runner has won the Berlin Marathon four times consecutively.

He has also won the Great Manchester run in England for four times, and boasts 2 Olympic Gold medals for 10,000 Metre races.

But Gebrselassie is still searching for Gold. After announcing his retirement in November last year, he rescinded on his decision a few days later.

Reason: Plans to run in the 2012 London Olympics before bowing out.

Gebrselassie is a brand ambassador for Johnnie Walker.

14. Khaled Hadj Ibrahim, 51, Algerian, Musician

Popularly referred to as Khaled, the Algerian singer and songwriter is the most famous rai singer in the world.

His style of music, rai, is a special genre of folk music which intermixes French, Spanish, Arabic and African musical influences.

Found mainstream success in France, where his singles Aicha and Didi topped the charts.

Remains one of Africa’s bestselling artists of all time- has reportedly sold over 20 million albums.

15. Samuel Eto’o, 30, Cameroonian, Soccer Player

In August, the Cameroonian striker left Inter Milan to pitch tent with Russian club, Anzhi Makhachkala in a deal that has earned him the title of not just the highest earning footballer in the world, but the highest-paid athlete in professional sports.

Estimated salary: $29 million per season.

The four-time African player of the year also enjoys lucrative endorsements from brands like Ford and Puma.

16. Alek Wek, 34, Sudanese, Supermodel

The Sudanese-born supermodel fled her conflict-ridden country to find fame and fortune on the catwalk.

She first made her professional debut at the age of 18, featuring in music videos by Tina Turner and Janet Jackson.

Today, as one of the world’s most recognizable models, she has modeled for Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret and Christian Lacroix.

Wek is an active member of the U.S. Committee for Refugees’ Advisory Council and also serves as an ambassador for Doctors without borders in Sudan.

17. Liya Kebede, 33, Ethiopian, Supermodel

Born and raised in Ethiopia, Kebede stepped into the global limelight in 2000 when Gucci offered her an exclusive contract for its Fall/Winter 2000 fashion show.

Over the years, the svelte Ethiopian model has strut the catwalk for Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Hilfiger, Escada, Louis Vuitton and Estee Lauder.

In 2005 Kebede was selected by the World Health Organization as a goodwill ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

Through her Liya Kebede foundation she also funds initiatives which promote the use of proven, simple, low-cost strategies to save the lives of mothers and their children.

18. Dobet Gnahoré, 29, Ivorian, Musician

The Ivorian Grammy-award winning dropped out of school at the age of 12 to start singing alongside her father, the famed master percussionist, Boni Gnahore.

Today, Gnahore is one of the world’s most sought-after musicians from Africa, and has earned critical applause for her sonorous voice and her eccentric and energetic dance moves.

She sings in eight different languages, while the content of her lyrics dwell majorly on social issues and the plight of the African woman.

19. Genevieve Nnaji, 32, Nigerian, Actress

Nnaji has frequently been hailed as Africa’s own answer to the likes of Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon and the rest of the feminine Hollywood stars.

She started out in her acting career over 24 years ago, at the age of 8, playing a supporting role in a Nigerian TV series.

Today, she is arguably Africa’s most revered actress and the poster girl for Nollywood- Nigeria’s burgeoning movie industry.

The Nollywood diva has become one of Africa’s most recognizable faces, and has featured in over 80 successful Nigerian blockbusters.

20. Koffi Olomidé, 55, Congolese, Musician

Olomidé possesses a first degree in Business Economics and reportedly has a Masters Degree in mathematics from the University of Paris, but he found mainstream fame and considerable fortune playing music.

Olomidé is one of the more famous performers of soukous: an extremely popular and peculiar genre of African music which intermixes vigorous gyrations with finger-style guitar of Rhumba and African melodies.

Olomidé has released over 30 albums during the course of his career which have sold millions across the world.

…You Can View The Full List HERE



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