The Time magazine 100 Most Influential List – also known as the Time 100 – selects prominent movers in the global political and social landscape.
As the magazine explains, those chosen for the list every year are recognised for changing the world, no matter the consequences, good or bad.
The list is divided into various fields, encompassing a wide range of professions and impact, namely: Titans, Pioneers, Artists, Leaders and Icons.
In 2016, the list includes, among others, British singer Adele, US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton and Apple’s Tim Cook.
Also on the list are a number of African figures.
South Africans have featured prominently on the list over the years since it began in 1998, among them Nelson Mandela, Thuli Madonsela and technology entrepreneur Elon Musk.
This year, there are four Africans on the list: actress Charlize Theron, for her philanthropy; gender activist Jaha Dukureh; Mussie “Father Moses” Zerai, known for highlighting the plight of refugees; and gynaecologist Dr Denis Mukwege.
US born Professor Lee Berger, lead paleoanthropologist behind the research and discovery of the Homo Naledi fossils, discovered at the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng in 2015, is also on the list. Berger is based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
In his citation of Berger in the 100 issue, Time science editor Jeffery Kluger calls the Homo Naledi discovery a controversial but important one not only for the science world, but also for the world. The discovery offers another piece of the evolutionary puzzle. If anything, Kluger argues, Berger, his team and their discovery has got ordinary people talking about anthropology again.
As founder and chief of the Panzi hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mukwege specialises in corrective surgery for women and girls who have been gang raped. He has treated thousands of women in the region following the brutal second Congo War that ravaged the country and its people for 10 years.
In his profile, the wife of current US Vice-president Joe Biden, Jill, writes that Mukwege is “a source of strength and sanctuary in a land of violence and despair during a forgotten war”. Mukwege has won numerous international awards for his important work, including the UN Human Rights prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom from the European Parliament. Biden says Mukwege is “beyond healer to these women and girls, (he) is hope”.
Ethiopian born Zerai is a Roman Catholic priest who highlights the plight of refugees crossing the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East. Father Moses, as he is known, advocates vocally for resolutions to the problems that drive people from their homes – namely war, persecution and environmental catastrophes – while tirelessly calling for more humane policies that will help refugees to travel more safely.
Chinese artist and refugee activist Ai Weiwei calls the priest’s view that “no one in the world is illegal” a brave and determined stand against xenophobia and political handwringing.
Since leaving Gambia when she was 10 years old, a victim of genital mutilation, activist Dukureh has made it her life goal to bring the scourge of female genital mutilation (FGM) to the attention of the world.
Settling in the United States, Dukureh soon began to petition her local government to highlight the issue in the country’s highest office, and effect a change in the US foreign policies with countries that still practice FGM. She has not only addressed the US Congress and the United Nations’ General Assembly, Dukureh has spoken to communities across her adopted country, as well returned to her native Gambia to educate women and girls on the dangers of FGM.
Author Peggy Orenstein says of Dukureh, “she has refused to let horror be silenced”, and has helped to draw attention to something so unspeakable in such a personal way that it has got people talking about it more openly and acting on it. Dukureh’s organisation, Safe Hands for Girls, has recently found support in American gender activist Caitlyn Jenner and cosmetics company L’Oreal to bring the issue to the attention of a wider audience.
Actress Theron’s Africa Outreach Project is more than just a vanity affair, says US entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie in Theron’s Time 100 profile. The project, now in its tenth year, is involved in grassroots support for HIV/Aids awareness and poverty eradication across Africa. Theron is in the thick of things, whether it is campaigning for support in the US – Mycoskie admires her results-orientated tenacity and her determination to never take no for an answer – or on the ground with the people of Africa, including her place of birth, South Africa.
“I’ve never met anyone who holds less back,” writes Mycoskie, adding that the work Theron is doing “is important, but the way she goes about it… is just as valuable”.