The top 100 Most Influential Young Africans list was recently announced, and three outstanding individuals from Morocco made it:, former mayor of Marrakech Fatima-Zahra Mansouri, a prominent women in business and politics; Mustapha Mokass, who uses technology to solve social issues; and Yasmine El-Baggari, an entrepreneur connecting people globally. Initiated in 2014 by Ghanaian Prince Akpah, the awards are devoted to bringing attention to African youth between the ages of 15 and 36 working to advance the future of Africa. The African Youth Awards go to Africans living on the continent as well as those overseas (Trevor Noah, for example, is one of this year’s awardees), with participation from more than 140 countries.
This year’s list includes 45 women and 55 men, a laudable gender balance that the organizers hope will provide role models to inspire young African women. Twenty-eight countries are represented by the 2017 winners, selected from among public nominations by a jury of African peers.
Profiles of the 100 awardees are published on www.africayouthawards.org. The project is organized in partnership with key sponsors and media organizations from across the continent. Reflecting in many ways the emphasis of King Mohammed VI on the development of young resources in Africa, and the vital importance of Africans shaping their own future, the awards are intended to encourage mentoring programs for young people to enable them to develop a vision of Africa that is inclusive, citizen-centered, focused on advancing communities, and bringing greater awareness to the potential of young Africans.
Fatima-Zahra Mansouri is no stranger to public attention. Although a well-known lawyer in her home city of Marrakech, she was relatively unknown in political circles until she ran for election in 2009, in nation-wide local elections cited as free and fair by international observers. Elected to the city council, she was then chosen by her peers as mayor, one of the first women to lead the administration of a major city in Morocco.
A 2010 profile in Jeune Afrique said that “Mansouri had adopted a transparent, participatory approach, holding meetings with the citizens every week. She had vowed to eradicate poverty and attend to the woes of 20,000 households who have no access to drinking water or electricity. She also intended to readdress the tourism policy, based more on the tourism and hotel industry than on how to assist the poor. She announced that within six months of the start of her mayorship, revenues of the city had increased by almost a third.” She continues to be involved in promoting greater access to public services and support for community development.
She was also named to the 2016 list of 100 Most Influential Young Africans.
Mustapha Mokass was also awarded the honor in 2016. He focuses his talents and energies on innovative solutions to three key challenges: poverty, food insecurity, and climate change. With his previous experience with the World Bank and the UN Environment Program, he pioneered public-private partnerships for risk-sharing approaches to decreasing carbon emissions by enabling technologies available to developing countries.
He is the founder of Climate and Poverty Innovations, which builds financial and technological models to fight poverty and climate change in the Middle East and Africa. He is the author of Fostering a Global Clean Energy Market and has garnered recognition from the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. In addition to his climate work, he is dedicated to promoting social entrepreneurship by enabling “access to finance for innovative social business models that have the potential to create sustainable jobs, especially in helping small farming goods reach high added value markets (luxury, dietetic, etc.), and developing women’s capacities in entrepreneurship and marketing,” according to an interview in the alumni magazine of his alma mater, HEC.
Yasmine El Baggari has received international recognition as the founder of Voyaj, an online platform that enables personalized global connections among students, families, travelers, and communities to promote intercultural awareness and understanding through shared experiences. She notes on the Voyaj website, “I am passionate about connecting people and bridging cultures to encourage a more peaceful and caring world.”
Yasmine has worked with the World Bank, done research at Harvard University, sat with former Vice President Joe Biden and spoke at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). She acted as an “Engage America” Ambassador for the US State Department and has spoken at numerous conferences. At the GES she remarked, “By breaking down barriers and stereotypes we can all benefit from global understanding and tolerance, in our international business dealings, and in our goals for global peace.”
Yasmine has received awards from the African Studies Association, Hampshire College’s Award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, the Sander Thoenes Research Award, and two Ingenuity Awards. In 2016, she was invited to the White House as one of the 100 Most Influential Travel Bloggers, and she was on Forbes’s list of the most inspiring and promising entrepreneurs in 2016.