Most Influential Icons In Contemporary African Pop Culture

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These days, Africa’s favourite idols harness the “currency of celebrity” to impact social change on many levels. They are the greatest influencers on African pop culture and their ideas, skills, and actions bring us gratification and inspire conversations.

On several occasions, many of the biggest stars in the world incorporated elements of youth culture from across the continent into their sound, music videos, and performances, further highlighting the value of the continent’s cultural exports. Africa’s impact on global pop culture is undeniable.

Below are a few of Africa’s, influential icons who are not only influential through philanthropic ventures, but also through a multitude of breakthroughs in business and lifestyle by flying the African continent flag high.


Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has not only been an influential icon author, having written critically acclaimed books such as Purple Hibiscus and Americanah; but has also been a strong advocate for women’s rights and for cultural diversity. She gave a TED Talk in 2009 titled “The Danger of a Single Story” in which she expressed her concern for the under-representation of various cultures.

She gave the popular TedXFuston talk in December 2012 titled, “We should all be feminists,” which initiated a worldwide conversation on feminism and women’s rights.” This talk caught the attention of American singer, Beyoncé, who included a sample of the talk in her popular song “Flawless.” In October 2016, she released yet another influential body of work titled, “Dear Ijeawele,” or “A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,” in which she gives suggestions on raising a daughter as a strong woman in a patriarchal world. Chimamanda is definitely one of the best African influential icons.


Ethiopian supermodel, Liya Kebede, has made great strides not only on international catwalks as one of Africa’s top supermodels; but also in the bid to advance safe motherhood in Africa foundation through her foundation, Lemlem Foundation, formerly known as the LK Foundation. The foundation was founded in 2005 in an effort to help combat maternal mortality, after years of Kebede working as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador.

The foundation works in tandem with Lemlem Clothing Company, which is Kebede’s clothing brand that works with artisans and designers particularly from her native country of Ethiopia and from across Africa to design and distribute eco-friendly and locally designed clothes. This is in the effort of community development and job creation for locals.


Ghanaian- American, Bozoma Saint John, has made significant strides in the marketing industry, particularly in music and entertainment, having led PepsiCo’s music festival-based marketing as Head of Music and Entertainment Marketing and turned Apple Music into a brand that people love and identify with.

Her work in music marketing and global consumer marketing has earned her being named one of the top women in music by Billboard, 100 Most Creative People by Fast Company, and Adweek’s Most Exciting Personalities in Advertising. She is now Uber’s Chief Brand Officer and one of the most influential African icons.


Senegalese-American rapper, Akon, has been continuing on his quest to light up Africa with his Akon Lighting Africa initiative, which is launched in February 2014. His company, Solektra has 200,000 small solar projects that are active in countries including Mali, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Namibia, Madagascar, Kenya, and Nigeria.
Apart from solar power to communities that are off the grid, Solektra provides training for workers in solar technology at a school that Akon created at the company’s headquarters in Bamako, Mali. Thus Akon is indeed an icon for contemporary Africa.


DJ Black Coffee has been one of the prominent musicians to fly the South African flag high in the international music industry. He has become a force to be reckoned with in the music industry, having driven a social media trend with his smash hit single “Dance Again,” where fans recorded themselves dancing to the song and posting the videos on social media. And received a nod from American hip hop musician and mogul, P.Diddy.

He made history in 2016 as the first South African recipient of the BET Best International Act, Africa award. And he also won the Best Deep House DJ Trophy at the 2017 DJ awards in Ibiza. His influence on the music industry on the continent cannot be over-emphasized.


Flaviana is not only one of the most influential models to come out of Tanzania; but is also instrumental in improving the livelihoods of women and assisting in reducing poverty at a grassroots level through her nonprofit Organisation ( NGO), the Flaviana Matata Foundation (FMF).

The foundation empowers the lives of young girls and women through education, training, and through micro-financing various community projects. Some of the projects that the foundation has done include Binti Boxes Donation, which donated, personal care packages to over 100 girls in Bagamoyo, and the Education Sponsorship for Young Girls Project, which also provides life skills and educational training for young girls, as well as providing micro-financing to women for their various projects.

Flaviana is an avid advocate of the education of women, believing that it is a sustainable way out of poverty. In one of her posts, Matata talked about the importance of education for African children, especially girls “I always encourage girls to take education seriously because no one will take it away from you. It’s the one thing that no one can ever take away from you. Know what you want, focus, work hard, and stay grounded. And most of all support one another.” This is what makes her an influential icon on this continent.

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