By Karen Mwendera
This year marks the fifth milestone annual FORBES AFRICA 30 under 30 list, and we have introduced a new category of game-changers. Together, they are 120 in total across four sectors: business, technology, creatives and sport. Meet the class of 2019, a stellar collection of entrepreneurs and innovators rewriting rules and taking bold new risks to take Africa to the future.
The list is in no particular order:
1. Clarence Munyai, 21, South Africa
Track and Field Athlete
Clarence Munyai is right on track to becoming one of the world’s greatest athletes as he shatters more records.
Munyai is the third-fastest all-time junior in the 100 meters-race.
He currently holds the South African record of 19.69 in the 200 meters right under Usain Bolt who holds the record for 19:19.
Munyai also holds the Junior World Record of the 300 meters.
“I have been blessed with a talent to run fast and become a professional athlete, and am thankful every day for the opportunity to pursue my dreams and make a better life for myself and my family,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
He made his mark in the 200 meters World Junior ranking in 2017 and 13th in the 200 meters world senior ranking the same year.
Last year, he smashed the 200 meters record in a time of 19.69 seconds, making him the 10th fastest in the world ever, as he knocked off Wayde van Niekerk’s mark of 19.84.
Munyai is one of the youngest South African Olympians of all time and has always remained modest on and off the track.
Kim Collins, 2003 world champion in the 100 meters, once told Munyai to ‘always stay humble’ as he was.
Despite his global achievements, he says there is no better feeling than wearing the country’s green and gold colors.
“My immediate plans are to win gold at the World Championships in Doha later this year, and then, of course, focus on Tokyo 2020. Apart from that, I know there is life after athletics and so am looking into various business opportunities,” he says.
2.Jean Sseninde, 26, Uganda
Footballer and CEO
Jean Sseninde is one to watch on and off the pitch.
When she was eight years old, she began playing football with her brother in her home in Kasangati village in Uganda. That experience got the ball rolling.
She currently plays for the Ugandan national team.
Internationally, she plays for Queens Park Rangers W.F.C in the FA Women’s National League South in England, making her the first Ugandan female to sign with the team. Sseninde also previously played for the AFC Phoenix Women’s Football Club and the Charlton Athletic Women’s Football Club.
Although she enjoys an international career in football, her biggest highlight remains playing for her national team.
In 2016, the Uganda women’s National football team qualified to play in the semi-finals of the Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) Women Championships against Burundi.
“The only goal that was scored was from my assist,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.
Sseninde is the founder and CEO of the Sseninde Women’s Development Cup and the founder of the Jean Sseninde Foundation, which sponsors the annual Jean Sseninde Women Football Development Tournament, aimed at discovering and mentoring female soccer talent in Uganda.
Sseninde is also the first African and sole female player from the continent to join the Common Goal initiative an organization whose members pledge to give away at least 1% of their annual salary to charity.
Last year, she scooped an award for her philanthropic work at the Best Of Africa Awards event at the Rosewood in London.
3. Mohamed Salah, 27, Egypt
On June 1, 2019, the world watched as Liverpool made history, beating Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League final as Egyptian-born Mohamed Salah led the team to victory.
Salah scored the first goal of the match and in the end, the team had a 2-0 victory. Dressed in the team’s shirt, red as his blood, and with curly locks, Salah raised the trophy with pride in celebration while immersed in a sea of red on the pitch.
He was this year’s only footballer on the list of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential that called him “one of the best football players in the world”.
The iconic figure started his professional career nine years ago playing for the Egyptian Premier League.
Thereafter, his career went international when he played for Basel, a team in Switzerland and then Chelsea.
In 2017, he then signed with Liverpool at a club-record fee of £36.9 million ($46.6 million).
He has since won numerous awards and accolades such as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year. His next goal is to conquer the next season of the Premier League.
He is currently sponsored by Adidas and has appeared on Adidas commercials alongside David Beckham, Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba, and singer Pharrell Williams.
With a total of 148 goals scored in his professional clubs’ career, Salah is a name that will definitely go down in history books. He is one of the highest-earning sport stars in the world.
4. Wayde van Niekerk, 26, South Africa
Track and Field Athlete
The man currently holding the world and Olympic record in the 400 metres was born in a small town in Kraaifontein, in Cape Town.
As a child, Wayde van Niekerk dreamed of being the fastest man in the world and he is evidence that dreams do, in fact, come true. The world took notice of him when he won gold at the World Championships in 2016.
Since then, he has shown no signs of slowing down.
He came first in the 2016 Olympic Games in the 400 meters in Rio de Janeiro, and again in the 2017 World Championships in London.
However, due to a knee injury, Van Niekerk was unable to participate in any games last year and he is still on his road to recovery.
After the long and painful wait, he returns to the track and is set to compete in the IAAF World Championships in Doha in September, alongside many other world stars. Usain Bolt, world record holder in the 100 metres and now Van Niekerk’s good friend, told FORBES AFRICA, when he visited South Africa this year, about what advice he gave the South African athlete.
“I always tell Wayde, ‘it is good to be fast and to be great, but if you want to build your brand you have to show your personality’. People will want you to be a part of their brand’,” Bolt said.
After news that he had temporarily withdrawn from athletics due to his injury, he showed love to his fans by tweeting that he was determined to race again. Many look forward to his return this month and, perhaps, more records to be broken.
“The race itself is a blank experience, I only remember the end. All stresses disappear right there. It’s about me giving my everything and leaving it all there on the track,” he told FORBES AFRICA after his 2016 win.
5. Chad le Clos, 27, South Africa
“Seas the day”, are words multiple Olympic medallist Chad le Clos lives by.
His claim to fame is being an Olympic, World and Commonwealth Games swimming champion.
He is also the record holder in the 50-meter and 100-meter butterfly.
Born in Durban, South Africa, Le Clos began swimming competitively from the age of 10.
By the time he was 20, he beat his hero, Michael Phelps, by 0.05 seconds at the London 2012 Summer Olympics in the men’s 200 meters butterfly, and the world stood still.
Phelps had held that record and the arrival of a young South African caused a huge splash.
History was made and Le Clos continues to do so today.
On top of the many accolades, last year, he was named FINA Male Swimmer of the Year 2018.
He is currently doing plenty of swimming drills in preparation for Tokyo 2020.
The proud South African swimmer goes to show that where there’s a will, there’s a wave.
6. Genzebe Dibaba, 28, Ethiopia
Track and Field Athlete
Genzebe Dibaba is a woman always gunning for gold.
With 10 gold medals already to her name, she continues to run the distance and surpass many alongside her. She currently holds five world records; for the indoor and outdoor 1,500 meters, the indoor 300 meters, the indoor 500 meters and the indoor mile.
This makes her one of the best female track mile runners in history. The last two gold medals she won for Ethiopia were at the 2018 World Indoor Championships in Birmingham for the 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters.
The 28-year-old’s talents, however, run in the family. She has three siblings who are also gold and silver medal athlete winners.
The Ethiopian world record holder continues to run for her life as she remains unbeaten in the 1,500 meters since the European Championships in Berlin in 2015.
Since then, she has received a number of accolades, including the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year in 2015, and IAAF Athlete of the Year 2015.
7. Jacob Kiplimo, 18, Uganda
Track and field athlete
Jacob Kiplimo can run for miles. At only 18, Kiplimo is a World Cross Country silver medallist.
He grew up in Bukwo on Mount Elgon in Uganda.
Making his debut internationally, he did what many 15-year-olds could only dream of.
He won the 10,000 meters bronze medal at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships.
His achievements put him in the running to be selected as part of Uganda’s Olympic team, making him one of the country’s youngest Olympians.
In 2017, he came first at the World Cross Country Championships in the junior men’s race.
Even when playing among the seniors, Kiplimo is still a top athlete.
This year, he was second at the World Cross Country Championships in Denmark.
According to the IAAF, he currently ranks fourth in the world for the men’s 10,000 meters.
As he continues to make a run for the top spot, he shows no signs of letting the dust settle.
Watch this space for more.
8. Sara Ahmed, 21, Egypt
Sara Ahmed is living proof that women can do absolutely anything and be great at it.
At only 21, she is the first Egyptian woman to receive an Olympic weightlifting medal.
Once, she had to miss her high school exams to compete at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Through the sacrifice, she has a great support system lifting her every step of the way.
Ahmed’s passion for weightlifting comes from her father and older brother who were national competitors in weightlifting.
Among some of her accolades are nine international gold medals, including two golds won at the 2012 Junior African Championships and Youth African Championships.
Her most recent gold medal was last year at the World Junior Championships for 71kg.
9. Luvo Manyonga, 28, South Africa
Track and Field Athlete
Luvo Manyonga did not grow up with much but he had plenty to look forward to. When he started doing long jump in school, he fell in love with it instantly.
“Ever since, I wanted to break the world record,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
And in 2017, he did just that, becoming the world champion as well as holding the first place in the world rankings.
The same year, he won South African Sportsperson of the Year and South African Sports Star of the Year. His goals this year are to defend the world championship title in Doha, break the nine-meter barrier and defend the Diamond League title.
“There is always life after sport and I am looking at various business opportunities because I know that it’s so important for an athlete to plan for post-career while still competing,” he says.
10. Giana Lofty, 24, Egypt
Martial Arts practitioner
Giana Lofty started practising karate when she was only six years old.
Now, she practises it internationally, representing her country.
Lofty is the current world title-holder and the 2014 continental title-holder, making the 24-year-old a certified two-time champion.
She won gold last year at the 2018 African Karate Championships in Kigali.
This year, she won silver at the Karate1 Premier League in Rabat, Morocco.
In an interview with Olympic Channel, she said, “I encourage girls to start practising karate or any martial arts for self-defence”.
She is one of over 1.5 million Egyptians doing so and one of the very few women dominating it. “Girls are not allowed to practise any kind of sport, not only karate. So, sometimes they say that what I’m doing is something useless which is against our beliefs. But I don’t think that, so I don’t care what they say,” she said.
It was a milestone for Lofty when in 2013, women were allowed to fight wearing a hijab, allowing her to do what she loves while still staying true to who she is.
11. Beatrice Chepkoech, 24, Kenya
Track and Field Athlete
She’s fast, tall and currently holds the world record for the 3,000 meters steeplechase, and her name is Beatrice Chepkoech.
After clocking a running time of 8:44.32 in 2018, the Kenyan became the first woman to break 8:50 and 8:45.
Her career started in 2014 as a road runner. She later switched to track and field in 2015, making that one of the best decisions she ever made.
Among some of the medals she bagged are the two gold medals she received last year; one at the 2018 Ostrava IAAF Continental Cup and the other at the 2018 Asaba Nigeria African Championships.
She is ahead of the pack and shows no signs of looking back.
12. Patricia Apolot, 28, Uganda
Patricia Apolot is not one to mess with. She once punched a fraudster and he landed in a drain.
With agility, grace and the heart of a lioness, Apolot’s fighting spirit has seen her winning world titles and putting Uganda on the map through kickboxing. Also known as the ‘Black Pearl’, Apolot started her career in 2014.
She grew up in Ngora, Uganda; her family was barely able to afford three meals a day or give her clothes to wear.
Enduring a disadvantaged life, there was only one thing on her mind as a child, to be ‘the world’s best’ and that’s exactly who she’s become, in her chosen field.
She is currently the reigning Ugandan female kickboxing champion and holds the International Kickboxing Federation title for lightweight.
She earned her title after beating Ivana Mirkov of Serbia in Dunaújváros, Hungary, in 2015.
This made her the first female Ugandan kickboxer to win this title.
She still holds the title and has been defending it for three years now, making her undoubtedly the queen of kickboxing.
Apolot shares her skills and talent training youngsters in kickboxing in her hometown in Uganda.
“I want to believe that a world or a sport without boundaries is a country or a sport well-spoken,” she says.
13. Caster Semenya, 28, South Africa
Track and field athlete
Caster Semenya is the name of the 800 meters queen dominating headlines in the sporting world.
She has won over 15 international gold medals and the South African golden girl has no intentions of stopping any time soon.
In a recent controversy (where the IAAF wants female athletes with high testosterone levels to take testosterone blockers), the Swiss Supreme Court denied the IAAF’s request to immediately reimpose the regulation on Semenya.
This means Semenya is free to compete without restriction in the female category until the IAAF and Athletics South Africa make submissions to the Supreme Court on her request that the IAAF regulations be suspended throughout the entire appeal process.
But Semenya is not moved and she continues to hold her head high. To many, she remains a champion winning on and off the field.
In an interview with FORBES WOMAN AFRICA late last year, she said: “I like to be myself, I am true to myself. I just like myself the way I am and I don’t want anything to change in me.
“When I walk onto that track, I perform. So, when I perform, I expect people to recognize my work but not just because I am me, but for the work that I do.”
Semenya has plans to continue racing, winning more golds and flying the South African flag high.
“I don’t see myself stepping down; until I’m 40, that’s when I’ll be satisfied,” she said. Some of her accolades include awards at the South African Sport Awards; the People’s Choice Sports Star of the Year, Sports Woman Of The Year, and the Sports Star Of The Year.
She was also nominated for the 2018 Female World Athlete of the Year at the IAAF Athletics Awards.
You cannot put a price tag on an athlete like Semenya. She describes herself as just being “priceless”.
14. Emmanuel Korir, 24, Kenya
Track and Field Athlete
As the sixth ranked fastest athlete in the men’s 800 meters, of all time, Emmanuel Korir keeps flying Kenya’s flag high.
According to the IAAF, last year, he won all but one of his races.
He holds the record for the fastest outdoor time of the year, winning at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London last year.
He clocked 1:42.05, making it the world’s fastest 800 meters performance since 2012.
He was nominated for the Male Athlete of the Year award in 2018 by the IAAF and won two gold medals at the African Championships, as well as the Continental Cup.
His current world ranking, according to the IAAF, is first place in the 800 meters.
He plans to set records at the World Championships in Doha this year.
“I can’t go and sleep even after the season ends. I have to work harder to be ready for Doha. It is a title that I long for in between now and then,” Korir told Capital Sports last year. He is also signed to Nike.
15. Faith Kipyegon, 25, Kenya
Track and field athlete
It is said that when Faith Kipyegon was a baby, she completely skipped the crawling stage and went straight to walking. She certainly has not stopped since.
Speaking to NTV Kenya, Mzee Kipyegon revealed that his daughter was extraordinary growing up.
As an adult, she is one of Kenya’s long-distance trailblazers.
Her last international race saw her winning gold and beating one of the world’s best, Caster Semenya, at the World Championships in London in 2017.
She recently returned to the track from maternity leave making her first return to action in two years, and is currently training for the next big race at the 2020 Olympics.
Kipyegon also won gold at the 2016 Summer Olympics and gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
She has stood on pedestals with the world’s best, and will continue to stand tall.
16. Francine Niyonsaba, 26, Burundi
Track and Field athlete
Francine Niyonsaba made history in 2016 when she won Burundi’s first Olympic medal in 10 years.
She won a silver medal, finishing second in the 800 meters Rio de Janeiro Olympics race.
She came second to her rival on the track and friend off the track, Caster Semenya.
Since then, she has gained speed at earning the gold medals at the 800 meters at the 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland, and last year, at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham.
For Niyonsaba, running had always been in her blood.
When speaking to FORBES AFRICA last year, she said that the challenge women face in Burundi is that they feel they can’t achieve anything elsewhere in the world.
“In Burundi, in our culture, women believe they cannot do something special in the world, but it is just a mentality,” she said. “A woman can do everything!”
This year, Niyonsaba revealed that she would be affected by the IAAF ruling on Semenya.
In an interview with Olympic Channel, she openly discussed her hyperandrogenism and the difficulties she has faced in becoming a top-level athlete.
“For sure, I didn’t choose to be born like this, what am I?…I love myself, I will still be Francine. I will not change,” she told them.
The 26-year-old is passionate about inspiring other women in sport and putting Africa on the map.
She ranks third in the Women’s 800m in the IAAF world rankings.
17. Kagiso Rabada, 24, South Africa
Kagiso Rabada’s bowling style is nothing short of a visual treat as he has been known to make many seasoned cricketers feel rather googly as his balls approach them.
Last year, he became the youngest bowler to take 150 test wickets, and Wisden named him the Best Young Player In The World.
His rise to fame in the cricket world was as fast as the balls he delivers.
He had his biggest year in 2016 as he went home with six awards at Cricket South Africa’s annual dinner, including the prize for Cricketer of the Year.
He currently is a fast bowler for the Highveld Lions, a South African cricket team, as well as the national team, the Proteas.
Off the field, Rabada, known as KG, is humble and grounded.
The cricket star founded an initiative called Inspire and Ignite under his foundation, the Kagiso Rabada Foundation. It was reported that early this year he sponsored 2,500 youth under the age of 25 with sports equipment to advance their talent and skills.
It’s best not to take your eyes off him.
18. Ruhan van Rooyen, 24, South Africa
Paralympic track and Field Athlete
Ruhan van Rooyen was born with cerebral palsy in his lower left arm and foot.
But that has not stopped him from representing his country internationally in track and field.
Van Rooyen is a Paralympics athlete from the Western Cape in South Africa specializing in the 100 meters and 200 meters T37.
He made his debut in 2013 when he was named Junior Athlete of the Year by the South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled.
One of his biggest achievements was being selected to compete at the 2017 World Championships in London, England.
He ranked sixth in the World Championships at the 200 meters T37 and 100 meters T37, while locally, he ranked second in both events.
Next on his agenda is to compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
When he isn’t on the track, he doubles up as a YouTuber, enjoys cycling and is also pursuing a career as a chartered accountant.
His coach said in one of his YouTube videos that “Ruhan is a very dedicated athlete”.
“I really believe Ruhan has what it takes to, not only be top three in the world, but to be the best in his events which is the 100 and 200 meter sprints,” he said.
19. Sadio Mane, 27, Senegal
Sadio Mané comes from Bambali, a village in Senegal where boys play street football until sunset with red earth clinging on to their clothes.
Now, Mané currently captains the Senegal National Team and is a winger for Premier League club Liverpool.
He started his career at a Senegalese football academy, then made his international debut for Metz, a French football team in 2012. He played for FC Red Bull Salzburg and Southampton before moving on to Liverpool in 2016 for a fee of £34 million ($43 million), making him the most expensive African player in history, at that time.
Last year, he scored a hat-trick for the club and overtook fellow countryman Demba Ba’s record of 43, to become the highest-scoring Senegalese in Premier League history.
Since then, he has become one of the top performers in the team.
He was joint recipient of the Premier League Golden Boot with 22 goals, and was part of the Liverpool team that won the 2019 UEFA Champions League Final.
With his impressive record in the Premier League, the Senegalese won Premier League Player of the Month in August 2017 and March 2019. He was also awarded the Premier League Golden Boot 2018 and 2019. On the continent, he has represented the Senegal national team at the 2012 Olympics, 2015 and 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Speaking to BBC, Fodé Boucar Dahaba, the President of the Regional League, says that whenever Mané returns home, he remains humble and dressed in shorts like everyone else in the village.
20. Sabrina Simader, 21, Kenya
Sabrina Wanjiku Simader was born in Kilifi, a small town on the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya, unaware that one day she would be conquering winter slopes in the alpine ski world.
Today, the 21-year-old Kenyan is a world-renowned ski racer.
But she is as humble as her early days on the mountain slopes.
She learned to ski in Hansberg, a small mountain in Austria. “Even as a little girl, I was fascinated by the white sparkling snow and the wonderful feeling of riding down the slopes,” she says. With some encouragement from her step-dad, a passionate skier at one time, she decided to pursue skiing. Her biggest achievement was when she became a triple Styrian champion in the Super G, giant slalom, combination and second in the Slalom in 2012.
“He was always proud of me and took a lot of time to train and support me in all races. Unfortunately, in June 2012, he died too early. For my mum and I, things became very difficult,” she says.
Her ski coach Christian Reif, coach of the Kenya National Ski Team, took on the ropes to groom her in the winter sport.
“Sabrina is for Kenya and for the whole world an inspiration, as a real Kenyan not from an alpine nation. And she shows that nothing is impossible, and you can reach anything with intensive work, effort and discipline,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
Simader represented Kenya at the Winter Youth Olympics in 2016 in Lillehammer, Norway.
She was nominated for the Sports Woman of the Year and the Youth of the Year awards in the African Women in Europe organization 2017.
She plans to conquer the Winter Olympic Games in 2022 in China and the Alpine Ski World Championships in Italy in 2021, making her the second Kenyan after Philip Boit to represent the East African nation at the Winter Games.
She founded the Kenya Ski Association to groom other young Kenyans in the sport.
21. Gerson Domingos,23, Angola
Gerson Domingos is one of the youngest players in the Angolan national basketball team and he plays a very important position, point guard.
He was named Most Valuable Player at The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Africa U18 Championship 2014, and he is part of the new generation of Angola’s young talent.
He made his debut for the senior team in 2016 at the Belgrade FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2016. He wears Angola on his heart and hopes to go down in their history books.
In an interview with FIBA, he said: “I have always dreamed of playing against the best teams in the world, and if I am healthy, I will do everything to keep the Angolan flag flying high. We have a history of playing at big basketball events and I hope to be part of Angola’s successful history.”
Angola is ranked in the top 50 national teams according to FIBA world rankings.
22. Siya Kolisi, 28, South Africa
Siya Kolisi stands as a dream fulfilled for the South African nation when he became the first-ever black captain of the Springboks.
It was exactly a year ago when he first captained South Africa’s national rugby team, the Springboks, on home turf against England while donning the number 6 jersey, the number famously worn by Nelson Mandela at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
It was a step in the right direction, echoing Mandela’s vision which sought to unite a racially divided South Africa through rugby that year.
“Sport has the power to change the world… It has the power to inspire,” he said to the thousands.
Twenty-four years later, Kolisi has inspired many as well.
“I’ve learned that no matter where you come from, or what your background is, you can aspire to be whatever you want to be,” he said in an Instagram post.
Weighing 102kg, just shy of the average rugby player’s weight estimated to be 105.1kg, he carries the hopes of many on his shoulders.
He also captains the Stormers, a team which is part of the South African Rugby Union, and is based in the Western Cape province.
Despite his knee injury preventing him from playing, many hope for his return this month in a shortened Rugby Championship against Australia at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
This year, Kolisi was nominated for a prestigious Laureus Sports Award under the category of Sporting Moment of the Year for his role in ‘uniting the rainbow nation’.
23. Thembi Kgatlana, 23, South Africa
The dusty grounds of Mohlakeng, a township west of Johannesburg, is where Thembi Kgatlana honed her talents.
Yet, on some of the world’s greenest international pitches is where she won her awards.
Whenever she gets the ball, she displays sophisticated athleticism, making it difficult to take your eyes off her as she leverages speed, agility and impressive dribbling skills to get the ball behind the net.
Kgatlana is a product of South Africa’s Banyana Banyana women’s football team, and she also plays for the Beijing BG Phoenix FC in the Chinese Women’s Super League.
She also previously played for Houston Dash in Texas, US.
When speaking to FORBES WOMAN AFRICA late last year, she said her goal had always been to play abroad and make a living out of her passion.
“It’s a dream I have been working towards for the whole of my life, since I started playing as an eight-year-old, working my way through the junior national teams, then to the senior national team. It’s been a long and hard road, but I’m here now,” Kgatlana said. After representing South Africa at the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations, she was named Player of the Tournament and was the highest goal scorer.
24. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 29, Gabon
If there’s one person who loves the biggest blockbuster movie of 2018, Black Panther, it is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. After scoring two goals for Arsenal against Rennes earlier this year, the footballer celebrated by wearing a Black Panther mask and did the signature pose with his two arms crossed over his chest
It was a true ‘Wakanda Forever’ moment.
When interviewed after the match by BT Sport, he said: “I needed a mask [which would] represent me so it’s Black Panther and in Gabon, we call the national team the panthers of Gabon, so it represents me.”
Loved by many back home, Aubameyang is a superhero in his own right. He has previously won African Footballer of the Year, Top Scorer and the French League Cup.
This year, he received the Golden Boot.
The 29-year-old Gabonese professional footballer plays for the Arsenal in the Premier League and is the captain of the Gabon national team.
It seems the apple has not fallen far from the tree as, Aubameyang’s father, Pierre-François Aubameyang “Yaya”, is a retired Gabonese international and national footballer.
25. Aphiwe Dyantyi, 24, South Africa
Last year, Aphiwe Dyantyi won the Breakthrough Player Year Award at the World Rugby Awards for his outstanding performance on the field.
An emotional Dyantyi accepted his award in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
“It’s been a blessing. I have been truly blessed in so many ways and the people that I have had around me, people that have helped me in the last few years have truly been amazing,” he said as part of his acceptance speech.
Dyantyi has been described as a natural-born player and his skills on the field can attest to that.
Coming from humble beginnings, he was born in Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
He plays for the South African national team, the Springboks.
He also plays for the Lions in Super Rugby, the Golden Lions in the Currie Cup and the Golden Lions XV in the Rugby Challenge.
He started his career in rugby while he was studying at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).
There, he played for the UJ senior team in the Varsity Cup before moving to play in the provincial championships.
Dyantyi not only strives to make a difference for his country but also for those around him.
26. Percy Tau, 25, South Africa
He plays for the Union SG and Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion, and the South African national team, Bafana Bafana.
His football career started in 2013 when he played for Mamelodi Sundowns in the Premier Soccer League.
Since then, he has kicked it up a notch and has been climbing the football ladder. He made his debut with English Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion last year, signing a four-year contract.
However, Tau experienced issues obtaining a UK work permit and was loaned out to join Union SG, a Belgium football club.
The loan was a blessing in disguise for Tau as he went on to score four goals for the team in six appearances, helping the club reach the semi-finals.
He then won the Player of the Season award and was in the league’s team of the season.
Last year, he was one of South Africa’s goal scorers as the nation recorded its largest-ever victory with a 6-0 win over Seychelles in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
He won Premier Soccer League’s Player of the Season for 2017 to 2018.
But what makes this Mpumalanga-born South African one of the most talked-about footballers in the country?
When speaking to local publication Sport24, Tau expressed his love for football no matter where he plays.
“I think everyone is happy when they’re playing football, so, yeah… football is football. Regardless of where you play, if you focus on the football, then everything else becomes easier,” he said.
27. Quinton de Kock, 26, South Africa
This Johannesburg-born 26-year-old is a wicketkeeper and batsman known for his fearless striking and handy glove work.
Early in his career, he has been compared to some of the greats in cricket like Adam Gilchrist and Mark Boucher.
Cricket experts have considered him to be one of the most promising young wicketkeepers of this decade.
He plays for the South African national team, the Proteas, a local team called the Titans and internationally, for the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.
He made his debut for the national T20 team against New Zealand in 2012, scoring 28 off 23 balls while chasing.
Since then, he has been making quite an impression in the sport.
He was named Cricketer of the Year at Cricket South Africa’s 2017 Annual Awards.
One of his other milestones is being the fastest South African to reach 1,000 ODI runs.
28. Alex Iwobi, 23, Nigeria
If your uncle is award-winning Nigerian professional footballer, Jay-Jay Okocha, it is possible those good genes would place you at the top tier of the football ladder.
Alex Iwobi is blessed to live up to his uncle’s legacy.
Iwobi has been described as smooth and dangerous with the ball.
At only 23, he is skilled on the pitch and shows promise as he is one of Africa’s rising football stars.
Iwobi currently plays for Premier League club Arsenal and the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles.
He was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and left his home country at the age of four.
He joined Arsenal in 2004, however, started playing with the senior team in 2015.
In that same year, he started playing for Nigeria, making his debut at the 2016 Summer Olympics when he was selected for their 35-man provisional squad.
The following year, he scored for Nigeria in a 1-0 win over Zambia.
This secured the Super Eagles a spot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Speaking to BBC Sport earlier this year, he said he was proud to be related to Okocha.
“I can never get tired of people comparing us. I see my uncle as an idol, someone I have always looked up to as a footballer,” he said.
“I still have a long way to go, maybe one day, I can be on his level or greater.”
29. Akani Simbine, 25, South Africa
Track and Field Athlete
Akani Simbine was born a winner.
Born in Kempton Park, South Africa, Simbine has lifted the coveted crown as the country’s fastest man.
He broke the South African record in the 100 meters with a time of 9.89 seconds in 2016, which became one of his personal bests. He further sped on to win more accolades.
His current world ranking position, according to the IAAF, is sixth on the men’s 100 meters.
Among the 10 international medals he has, five of them are gold.
Simbine has been nothing short of consistent; he remains one of South Africa’s best track and field champions. He currently has deals with Mercedes-Benz and Adidas.
30. Margaret Nyairera Wambui, 23, Kenya
Track and Field Athlete
Margaret Wambui won her first international gold medal when she was only 19, at the World Junior Championships in the US.
She went from running in a small town in Nyeri County, Kenya, to some of the world’s largest arenas.
Today, she has over four more international accolades, including a bronze medal from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
By then, she had her signature celebration style ready, placing one hand on the hip and the other in the air with a triumphant beaming smile.
Last year, she earned herself a second spot at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, receiving the silver medal, after Caster Semenya.
Like Semenya, Wambui has also been faced with questions regarding her testosterone levels.
However, according to reports, she has not been forced to undergo tests for hyperandrogenism.
Her current world ranking, according to the IAAF, in the Women’s 800 meters is 15.
At only 23, Wambui has achieved only what some of her peers dream of.
Imagine what the next seven years have in store for her. A gold medal for Kenya is closer than we think.