The TRUE AFRICA 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today.

Hadeel Ibrahim is the founding executive director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation created to facilitate and promote good governance in Africa. Hadeel, a graduate from Bristol University where she studied politics and philosophy, has been pioneering the opening of The Africa Center, a gateway to contemporary Africa in New York.

Why have the Africa Center in New York City and not in Africa?

The idea for the Africa Center was to change the global perception of the continent and build bridges between African policy, business and cultural leaders and their counterparts around the world.

That is why it seemed fitting that the centre is in a great global metropolis and one where Africa is, frankly, under-represented. There is an important case to be made for building more institutions on the continent but as a member of the diaspora this was a more natural fit.

You were the founding executive director of the Ibrahim Foundation at the age of 22. Are older generations ready to listen to younger voices when deciding on the future of the continent?

Great question! I think there is more space for young people now than there was a decade ago or so when I started out but the truth is that Africa faces a big challenge around managing its demographic curve. Our societies are still very deferential to age compared with much of the developed world, with all the advantages and disadvantages that brings.

Our particular challenge is that in Africa, the average age of our population is around 18 years old. If responsibility, authority and power are too closely linked to seniority, the majority of Africa’s population will not be able to fulfill their potential. So, to my mind, this is one of the most pressing issues we face over the coming decades.

Who’s your African of the year?

May I cheat slightly? I would say all those first respondents to the Ebola crisis across the three affected countries. We have almost forgotten now where we were a year ago. The courage of local health workers, community workers… really, all the citizens of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Would it count if I said they responded as one? They were my Africans of the year.

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