You are here: Home Interesting people from Africa

Interesting people from Africa


Africa is full of heroes who have made significant achievements and a huge impact not just in their countries or on the continent, but on the rest of the world. Find out who some of them are right here or add your entry.

William Kamkwamba

William Kamkwamba is a young talented inventor from the Masitala village in Malawi who built an electric windmill out of junk at age 14. All he ever wanted was for his village to have electricity and running water which he helped the village achieve. Forced to drop out of school because his parents couldn’t afford the fees, he decided to learn by himself by reading books from the local library. Fascinated by science, he ran past a book about windmills and realised he could make electricity and pump water for his village. The book wasn’t about building windmills; but he used the images to figure it out and built the windmill from spare bicycle parts, a tractor fan blade and old shock absorber. A couple of windmills and water irrigation systems later he’s invited to international technological conferences and being interviewed for the Wall Street Journal. He’s now on a scholarship program at the elite African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg with the dream of having his own windmill manufacturing company and transferring knowledge to young Africans.


Wangari Maathai

A Kenyan environmental and political activist who was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, and the 1st woman in Africa to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari is credited with planting, directly and indirectly, 20 million trees through her Green Belt Movement organisation on schools, farms and church compounds. Maathai is internationally recognized for her persistent struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation. She and her Green Belt Movement have won numerous awards, over 20, including the Nobel Prize (2004), Woman of the World (1989), The Sophie Prize (2004), The WANGO Environment Award (2003), The Woman of the Year Award (1983) and many more. Sadly, she passed away in 2011; but her legacy lives on through her work. 2012 birthed The Wangari Mathaai Award and The Wangari Maathai stamp all created in her honour.


The Face of Senegalese Music

Most popularly known for his hit song "Seven Seconds", a song he made with Neneh Cherry which is considered a timeless classic the world around, Yousou N'Dour is a popular Senegalese musician who's arguably one of the most popular African singers to ever live. To add to his talents and capabilities, he's also a singer, percussionist, songwriter, composer, occasional actor, businessman and a politician (currently the Minister of Tourism and Culture in Senegal). N'Dour helped to develop a style of popular Senegalese music known in the Serer language as mbalax and has gained millions of fans worldwide by fusing musical styles like jazz and hip-hop to his music. He's collaborated with music greats like Sting, Wyclef Jean, Peter Gabriel,Tracy Chapman, Bruce Springsteen and many more. Like most great artists he earned himself a Grammy  Award for Best Contemporary World Album for his 2004 album titled Egypt, he has released over 30 albums to date. Take a look at the classic video for "Seven Seconds" below:


Tebello Nyokong

Tebello won the Africa-Arab State 2009 L’Oreal UNESCO Award for Women in Science for her pioneering research into photodynamic therapy specifically suited to the African environment. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a method used to destroy cancer cells and is being researched worldwide as an alternative to chemotherapy. This method is primarily developed outside Africa and Tebello believes more research will establish which ways it's more efficient in the harsh African sunlight. Tebello is a Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Nanotechnology at Rhodes University and is also looking into alternative ways for environmental clean-up.


The San of Africa

When you talk about truly self-sufficient human beings you’re talking about The San who have inhabited Southern Africa for at least 30 000 years and continue to survive without most of the technology that have made our lives easier. Also known as Bushman/Bushmen, they’re one of the most fascinating people on Earth known for their hunter gatherer way of living. They followed game, water and edible plants seasonally and were always mobile. They did not farm or keep animals and carried everything they had with them as they moved. The men hunted and the women gathered plants and water. The San’s most revered contribution to history has to be their rock art, some dating as far back as 28 000 years ago. Around 55 000 San still exist, though the existence of their culture is under threat as a result of absorption.


Find Out More About...

Recent Posts

1. He lived up to his name: Mandela's birth name was Rolihlahla. In his Xhosa tribe, the name means pulling the branch...
“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what th...
A young man from the Eastern Cape in South Africa can now boast about having a whole planet named after him. Siyabulela ...
1. Table Mountain in Cape Town is believed to be one of the oldest mountains in the world. 2. Table Mountain alone has ...
Fela Kuti – NIGERIA Fela Anikulapo Ransom Kuti is arguably Africa’s most globally recognized musician. Kuti was the se...