Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature, the acclaimed Nigerian playwright, Prof Wole Soyinka, was among the winners of the 2022 African Genius Awards (AGA) announced on Wednesday at the University of Pretoria’s Future Africa Institute.

The two other winners at the second awards event celebrating Africa Day on 25 May, were Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Kenya), a Kenyan writer who was considered East Africa’s leading novelist, and Prof Ali Mazrui, the Kenyan-born American academic, professor, and political writer. 

Prof wa Thiong’o’s Weep Not, Child (1964) was the first major novel in English by an East African. Prof Ali Mazrui is a renowned expert on African and Islamic studies and North-South relations.

The African Genius Awards, which rewards exceptional Africans working to advance Africa’s competitiveness, problem-solving skills, and self-love, is run in a partnership between Plus 94 Research and Priority Performance Projects and the University of Pretoria (UP). This year 31 finalists were shortlisted from 69 people nominated by the public and the Adjudication Committee. 

“Africa is truly an amazing continent with so much potential. I personally congratulate all our geniuses and achievers. We are pleased about the number of outstanding achievers. It shows us where we all need to shine the light, this being where such pockets of excellence exist,” said Dr. Sifiso Falala, CEO of Plus 94 Research and Priority Performance Projects.

Dr Falala said the AGAs aim to provide a solid foundation on which to inspire, direct, and build, Dr. Falala said the 2022 awards had provided an invaluable sense of the types of leaders that the continent has. “With such incredible talent, African global subservience should be a thing of the past. We always knew that geniuses are a rarity and that competition in this space is affected by global trends,” he said. 

On the night, awards were also bestowed upon several Outstanding African Achievers 2022. They were: 

  • Dr. Akinwumi Adesina (Nigeria) a Nigerian economist who is currently serving as the President of the African Development Bank. He previously served as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
  • Dr David Moinina Sengeh (Sierra Leone) Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and Chief Innovation Officer for the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation in Sierra Leone.
  • Dr Ngalula Sandrine Mubenga (DRC) a Congolese engineer, a professor of electrical engineering technology, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, and a government official leading the electrification initiative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Ms Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu (Ethiopia) a businessperson, founder, and executive director of SoleRebels, Africa’s “fastest-growing footwear company”.
  • Mr Joseph-Achille Mbembe (Cameroon) a philosopher, political theorist, and public intellectual who is Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economy Research at the University of the Witwatersrand.
  • Mr Kelvin Doe (Sierra Leone) an engineer known for teaching himself engineering at the age of 12 and building his own radio station in Sierra Leone.
  • Mr Paulin J. Hountondji (Benin) a Beninese French philosopher, politician, and academic considered one of the most important figures in the history of African philosophy.
  • Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba (Kenya), an advocate of the high courts of Kenya and Tanzania, prolific lawyer, and law lecturer at the University of Nairobi, who has been the Director of The Kenya School of Laws since 2014.
  • Mr Nana Kwame Bediako (Ghana) is an entrepreneur, industrialist, philanthropist, and real estate mogul.
  • Mr Runcie C.W. Chidebe (Nigeria) an oncology researcher, cancer control advocate, and psychologist at Project PINK BLUE – Health & Psychological Trust Centre in Abuja, Nigeria.
  • Mr Vusi Thembekwayo (South Africa) a business mogul, global business speaker, author, and CEO of MyGrowthFund Venture Partners.

UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said the AGA reflected the strength in depth of talent and richness in individual ability of individuals on the continent. “Annually, we celebrate the prowess of such individuals, reminded that despite our many challenges a continent, there are wonderfully uplifting stories of people rising above their circumstances. It is our wish that the AGA may continue to recognise such individuals while also inspiring the young people on our continent to walk in their footsteps in the knowledge that it can be done,” said Prof Kupe. 

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