South Africans leading the world

The Young Global Leaders programme is
an important part of the World Economic
Forum’s mission.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
addresses the delegates at the 2009
annual meeting.

(All images: World Economic Forum)

Janine Erasmus

The World Economic Forum’s list of young global leaders for 2009 pays tribute to 230 outstanding young professionals from a range of disciplines. Among them are nine South Africans.

The 230 nominees are drawn from 71 countries and from the ranks of business, government, academia, the media, the arts, non-profit organisations, and society. All regions have been represented: East Asia (54), Europe (58), the Middle East and North Africa (12), North America (45), South Asia (24), sub-Saharan Africa (20) and Latin America (17).

This year there were around 5 000 candidates under consideration, but only the cream of the global crop made it onto the list. Of the 20 sub-Saharan Africans, two each hail from Gabon, Ethiopia and Kenya, one each from Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and then there are the nine South Africans.

The South African contingent includes achievers from the creative industries, IT and communications, the legal profession, real estate, environmental affairs, and business.

They are photojournalist Brent Stirton; Lawpoint CEO Adria Greene; Iburst CEO Alan Knott-Craig; Synthasite CEO Vinodan “Vinny” Lingham; Anthony Miller, founder of Lightstone; Euvin Naidoo, president and CEO of the South African Chamber of Commerce in America; Jack Vuyo, co-founder and CEO of Empowerdex; James Wanjohi, head of the Branson School of Entrepreneurship; and Kufunda eco-village founder Marianne Knuth.

The South African young global leaders are in illustrious company, with the likes of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, long-distance athlete and Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie, actress Zhang Ziyi, retired Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, singer Chris Martin of Coldplay, golfing hero Tiger Woods, and cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar.

South Africans who have made the list in previous years include swimmer Natalie du Toit, communications specialist and former CNN anchor Tumi Makgabo, golfer Ernie “Big Easy” Els, Mail & Guardian editor Ferial Haffajee, Jonathan Oppenheimer of De Beers, and academic and former politician Raenette Taljaard.

Global decision-makers

“The World Economic Forum is a true multi-stakeholder community of global decision-makers,” said World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab. “Among the Forum communities, the young global leaders represent the voice for the future and a catalyst for initiatives in the global public interest.”

Schwab added that amidst the social and economic challenges of the current age, the young global leaders would play an even more important role in developing, designing and leading a world committed to positive change.

The selection committee, made up of top media executives, was chaired by Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Members of the distinguished panel included Steve Forbes of Forbes Media, Nduka Obaigbena of THISDAY in Nigeria, James Murdoch, CE of News Corporation Europe and Asia and son of Rupert, and South Africa’s Peter Sullivan of Independent Newspapers.

To ensure that only the best candidates are chosen and a truly representative body is created, the selection process is rigorous and criteria are of a high standard.

Candidates must be 40 years old or younger at the time of nomination and must be in possession of a proven track record of extraordinary achievement and leadership. They must have made exceptional contributions to society, and must have an impeccable public record. Furthermore, candidates from the business sector must hold a leadership title such as president, managing director, chief executive officer, or equivalent.

Nominations must be made online, and all shortlisted candidates are evaluated by top executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. The final step sees candidates thoroughly screened by the selection committee.

Tackling global issues

Having made the 2009 list, the latest crop of young global leaders now go forward to join the broader Forum of Young Global Leaders, comprising 480 outstanding individuals.

Here, too, South Africans are actively making their mark, among them David Munro of the Standard Bank group, Tumi Makgabo, Nicky Newton-King of the JSE, Christine Ramon of Sasol, and Natalie Simons of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

Through summits, meetings and other events held throughout the year, this group of exceptional young individuals collaborate to address some of the key challenges of their generation. Their activities are founded on three core philosophies – building community, generating insight and undertaking collective action.

“We would like to integrate those young global leaders into processes which will allow them to have a real impact on global affairs,” said Schwab, “and to make sure that global decision-making preserves the interests of the next generation. The Forum of Young Global Leaders will be a strong force from all walks of life to shake up traditional thinking and to bring a bold, forward-looking approach to the world.”

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