This week we are celebrating Nelson Mandela Day and remembering other African heroes who have dedicated their lives to elevating not only the continent but also their communities as well as the environment. Our list includes two Nobel peace prize winners.
We kick off with Khaldi the legendary goat herder whose coffee discovery has benefitted billions of people globally through helping workers across the globe deliver projects, beat deadlines, brought singles together on first date coffees and connected us all through coffee conversations. Khaldi remains a cult hero in our books.
5. Khaldi (& the jumping goats)
According to popular legend, Khaldi was a legendary Ethiopian goatherd who discovered the coffee plant around 850 AD. Khaldi, noticed that whenever his goats nibbled on the bright red berries fromf a certain tree, they became much more energetic. Khaldi shared his discovery with people at the monastery, and the knowledge of the energising berries began to spread East. His discovery shortly after entered the Islamic world, then the rest of the world.
Coffee reached Arabia in the 15th century where coffee famers began growing coffee beans. Coffee finally made its way into Europe in the 17th century and continued spreading across the globe. We continue to deliver Khaldi and the jumping goats discovery, as we bring our subscription customers the best coffee from Africa travelling across the continent a cup at a time.
4. Mansa Musa
At the time of writing, French fashion tycoon Bernard Arnault is now recognised as the world’s richest person, with an estimated net worth of $186.3 billion.
That pales in comparison to Mansa Musa who is known to have been the richest man in history. Historians estimate that his wealth in modern currency, was worth around $400bn.
Mansa Musa became ruler of the Mali Empire in 1312. His riches came from mining significant salt and gold deposits in the Mali kingdom.
Such was his wealth and generosity that when he went on a pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca in 1324 C.E., Arab writers state that he travelled with an entourage of tens of thousands of people and dozens of camels, each carrying 136 kilograms (300 pounds) of gold and his caravan spent and gave away so much gold when camped in Egypt that the overall value of gold decreased in the region for the next 12 years.
Mansa Musa revitalised cities in his kingdom, built mosques and large public buildings in cities like Gao and the famous Timbuktu. Timbuktu became a major Islamic university centre during the 14th century due to Mansa Musa’s developments.
Did you know that in the 14th century the city of Timbuktu was five times bigger than London and was the wealthiest city in the world.
Musa brought architects and scholars from across the Islamic world to his kingdom, and the reputation of the Mali kingdom grew thanks to his expansion, administration patronage of culture in Mali.
3. Wangari Maathai
We are huge admirers of Wangari Maathai. Professor Maathai was no ordinary woman, she was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, also the first female scholar from East and Central Africa to receive a doctorate (in biology), and the first female professor ever in Kenya, her home country.
In 1977 she started a grass-roots movement aimed at countering the deforestation. The campaign encouraged women to plant trees in their local environments and to think ecologically. Dubbed the Green Belt Movement, this initiative spread to other African countries, and contributed to the planting of over thirty million trees.
Professor Maathai’s mobilisation of African women was not limited in its vision to work for sustainable development; she had a broader vision that saw tree-planting in wider perspective to include democracy, women's rights, and international solidarity. She was an elected member of the Parliament of Kenya serving between January 2003 and November 2005 as assistant minister for environment and natural resources in the government.
Maathai was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for converting the Kenyan ecological debate into mass action for reforestation, and was an Honorary Councillor of the World Future Council.
2. Akon - Yes, you read that right!
Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam, better known as Akon makes our list of African heroes. He is a singer, rapper, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and actor. Akon grew up in Kaolack region, Senegal in a town without electricity. In 2014 together with Samba Bathily and Thione Niang, they formed Akon Lighting Africa a project aimed at providing electricity through solar energy in Africa.
Today Akon Lighting Africa has enabled solar-powered electricity to 25 different countries and some 28.8 million people and have ambitions to provide solar-powered electricity to 250 million people on the African continent by 2030.
Akon Lighting Africa also launched Solektra Solar Academy in Africa, a school aimed at teaching young Africans about solar power, how to install and maintain expensive solar equipment.
Shine your light Akon. Coincidentally thats the name of the single that Akon features on with David Guetta & Master KG. Check it out on Spotify.
Beyond that the singer is building Akon City which is a 10-year project to build a futuristic city in Senegal that will be entirely solar powered and have its own form of cryptocurrency (AKoin). Akon City will have an airport, hotels, schools, homes, and a state of the art hospital with 5,000 beds.
1. Nelson Rohilla Mandela
Everyone knows about Nelson Mandela, the elder statesman of Africa. Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, on the 18th of July 1918 (now international Mandela day). Mandela, often referred to as Madiba (his clan name, as a sign of respect) got his nickname ‘Nelson’ from a teacher at school.
He was a social rights activist, philanthropist and politician who became South Africa’s first Black president between 1994 to 1999. Mandela spent 27 years in prison for opposing apartheid, the policy by which the races were separated and whites were given power over blacks in South Africa.
During his presidency, Mandela sought to ease the dangerous political differences in South Africa and to build up the economy. He was successful in his goals and was skilled at building compromise and leading the transition to democracy. Mandela believed in a multiracial society where each person had equal right with another and no form of oppression existed.
Mandela's birthday (July 18) was declared Mandela Day in 2009, as an international day to promote global peace and celebrate his legacy.
The annual event is meant to encourage people globally to give back the way that Mandela had throughout his lifetime whether it’s through dedicating your time supporting your chosen charity or serving your local community.
We hope these five heroes have inspired you as we continue to energise you with Africa's finest coffees.