These dynamic young Africans are putting their time, energy and talents into making the world a better place.

24, South Africa

Being born with albinism didn’t stop Sanele from commanding international fashion runways. When he is not modelling for big brands like Adidas, he is fighting stigma and educating people living with albinism about their rights. Although his mother’s positive influence boosted his confidence, living with albinism was not always easy. He recalls instances of being hit with a rock and called all sorts of names by other children, but his strength of character won out. ‘Now that I’ve realised I can use my looks to raise awareness and to challenge the perceptions and stereotypes about the condition, I’ve started to take a lot more pride in my own albinism,’ he said in a media interview. He recently joined forces with Inside the Same, a Dutch NPO that empowers those living with albinism with the tools to fight stigma and live proudly.

23, Nigeria

At the tender age of 19, Elizabeth was already an active campaigner for sexual health and rights of girls and women in Nigeria. ‘As a young girl, you owe it to yourself, you owe it to your community, you owe it to your state, and you owe it to your country to make positive change,’ she said at a gender-equality event hosted by the United Nations Population Fund and The International Centre on Women. She works tirelessly to educate not just young girls but also boys. She believes that it is critically important that there is an understanding of every person’s rights, regardless of their gender, and that recognition of those rights is ‘essential to true equality’.

25, Lesotho

In 2016, at the age of 22, Kananelo publicly disclosed his HIV status in a radio interview in Durban. He had been living with the virus since birth. As soon as he left the studio he was flooded with calls and messages of support on social media. In a blog post on the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation site he wrote, ‘I decided that my focus will be to advocate for youth-friendly HIV and AIDS services, which were not widely available at that time in my country.’ In 2017 he took part in a roundtable meeting in London, hosted by Prince Harry, with global donors who support the fight against HIV and AIDS. He was also appointed a youth ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser foundation, teaching youth in Lesotho about the importance of knowing one’s status, joining peer support groups and supporting those living with HIV.

34, Botswana

An accounting graduate, Lillian is passionate about youth development and education, especially among young Botswana women. She lives by Nelson Mandela’s words, ‘Education is the most powerful tool that one can use to change the world.’ A prominent change maker who has been instrumental in the advancement of various youth development organisations in her country, she is also the first Motswana woman to travel to Antarctica. She founded the Botswana Student Network Society, an organisation that works with dedicated volunteers in advocating for academic excellence and empowering the student community. She also acted as a member of the advisory board for the Botswana Youth Portal, which provides access to development opportunities for the youth in her country. Lillian believes mentorship supported her in achieving success, so she pays it forward by helping the youth achieve their highest potential through mentorship programmes.

28, South Africa

Entrepreneur and former Mrs SA first princess, Olwethu campaigns for gender justice. Among many other projects, she collaborates with SafeCity, that helps promote awareness of gender-based crimes. She also founded the Red Wings Project, an NGO that helps improve access to sanitary hygiene products for SA girls and women. No small victory for them, that the government recently abolished tax on sanitary pads! She is also an ambassador for Play Your Part, a Brand South Africa initiative that was created to inspire and promote active citizenship and nation-building in SA. As though that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she’s also a wife, mother, digital strategist, social media influencer and public speaker. A woman of many hats indeed!

33 and 30, South Africa

Nela Qata and her sister Zintle Raziya are founders of Yabasha Energy Solutions and Africa Energy Capital. Yabasha aims to provide alternative energy sources to low-income households and developing black-owned green enterprises. These organisations have been established to provide innovative solutions for specifically the youth in the green economic space. The sister act is extremely passionate about clean energy, youth empowerment, skills development and are helping to shape and grow township economy by their daring approach to the energy crisis. Nela has also pledged 40 hours of her time to mentor young budding innovators in the energy sector. She is determined to help aspiring young entrepreneurs, by providing access to capital through their Green Capital Fund. The sisters are shaking up the industry and are determined to secure their own space in the renewable energy sector.

36, South Africa

Sihle has gone from raking in ill-gotten cash to dishing out skills that he hopes will make townships the tech hubs of South Africa. Sihle Tshabalala is the founder of Quirky 30, a non-profit company which offers free technology skills training for high school dropouts. He learnt to code using free online resources after his release from prison. He used his self-taught skills to design a programme that teaches technological expertise to those who did not complete their schooling. He believes that youth that are most at risk of turning to crime, are mostly high school dropouts. His coding school teaches underprivileged youth coding, design, graphic design, online digital marketing and entrepreneurship skills in a free year-long course with the aim of helping them find jobs in the field or start their own businesses. His inspiring story and work have landed him nominations for prestigious international awards and the opportunity to travel to Singapore, Dubai and France. Sihle was born and raised in the township of Langa and is now a global leader paying it forward in his community.

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