Two Nigerians among the eleven young enterprising Africans, who have been named Young Global Leaders (YGL) by the World Economic Forum (WEF) for 2021, are to benefit from the Aliko Dangote Fellowship endowed to support African Young Global Leaders.

The beneficiaries are among 112 persons under 40 years of age, selected as Young Global Leaders by WEF, from across 56 countries.

The two Nigerians, Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, founder, 54gene and Obi Ozor, the founder of Kobo360, joined the ranks of past Nigerian winners, Ambassador Debo Adesina, former Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian Newspapers and current Nigerian Ambassador to Togo, and Mr. Simon Kolawole, CEO of Cable Newspapers Ltd.

While announcing the winners, the WEF confirmed that the African YGLs will benefit from the Aliko Dangote Fellowship, made possible by the Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF).

To underscore his nomination, WEF said Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, 54gene, has quietly been making waves at the head of one of Africa’s foremost health technology companies, working in the field of gene technology. 54gene was created in 2019 and its stated mission is to understand the genetic factors that lead to disease in Africa.

The African genome has been understudied and misunderstood, according to 54gene, which addresses a vital gap in research and new healthcare solutions. 54gene’s work is included in Time Magazine’s list of the 12 innovations that will change healthcare in 2020.

Ene-Obong was also listed as one of the 30 most innovative entrepreneurs on the African continent in 2019 by Quartz Africa. Prior to 54gene, he worked in a range of pharmaceutical companies and research organisations. He gained a doctorate from the University of London, holding a PhD in Cancer Biology. He also has a Master’s in human molecular genetics from Imperial College London and a Master’s in Business Management from Claremont Colleges, California. As Africa starts punching its weight in science and technology, Ene-Obong is sure to lead the charge for gene-based innovation.

On his own part, Kobo360 floated by Obi Ozor, is a logistic technology company that aggregates end-to-end haulage operations to help cargo owners, truck owners, drivers, and cargo recipients achieve an efficient supply chain framework.

With only a click of a button, cargo owners can simply request for any truck of their choice and have their goods picked up and delivered to the required location through an all-in-one robust logistics ecosystem. Kobo360 raised $30 million USD in 2019, backed by Goldman Sachs, an impressive feat for a startup.

Since its inception, 73 Young Leaders from Africa have benefitted from the fellowship. The aim of the fellowship is to increase the quality and quantity of young African leaders by supporting the engagement of African YGLs in the community, such as those from small enterprises or the non-business sector. The fellowship, WEF added, supports YGLs from Africa to participate in global YGL and Forum events.

The YGL award, according to WEF, “is to recognise and create a platform for a dynamic community of exceptional people with the vision, courage, and influence to drive positive change in the world.”

“We are excited to welcome 112 Young Global Leaders for the Class of 2021. From a gender justice and human rights activist to a multi-award winning artist and advocate for indigenous literacy, to a celebrated leader from the world’s youngest country as well as leaders from business, civil society, healthcare and government.” 

Chief Executive of Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), Zouera Youssoufou, congratulated Ene-Obong and Ozor for this accomplishment and urged them to continue raising the Nigerian and African flags.

She said ADF was pleased to have worked with 54gene and Kobo360 at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when CACOVID partnered with various organisations for collaborative efforts to complement the government’s intervention to fight the pandemic.

“We are very pleased to see Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong and Obi Ozor recognised in this way given the remarkable work they and their young team have been able to accomplish recently and especially in this past year. 54Gene and Kobo360, have been an integral part of the national rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic displaying exemplary professionalism, efficiency, dedication, and patriotism. Truly inspirational and further proof that Nigerian and African youth are capable of anything given the right opportunities”, Zouera enthused.

Many of the past winners have gone ahead to prove their leadership and enterprising ability in their various fields of endeavour to justify the essence of the award and the genuineness of their nomination.

Giving a breakdown analysis of the winners, the WEF said among the 56 countries represented in the award, eleven leaders hail from Africa and their work brings the promise of a brighter outlook at a difficult time. “They join a group of Nobel Prize recipients, Pulitzer winners, Heads of state and chief executive officers committed to improving the state of the world”, it noted.

The Forum of Young Global Leaders was founded in 2005 by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, to create a world where leaders take responsibility for a sustainable future while meeting increasingly complex and interrelated challenges. There are 1,400 members and alumni from more than 120 countries to date.