9 youngest global leaders who shaped 2016

9 youngest global leaders who shaped 2016

Cover credit:  Pexels

Cover credit: Pexels

The World Economic Forum has selected the most innovative and influential leaders under the age of 40 who have marked 2016 in one way or another.

Established in 1971 with the purpose of bringing together people from all walks of life, the forum selects each year a number of young leaders who change their societies and the world for the better.

Chosen leaders come from many professional backgrounds, including science, technology, academia, culture, civil society, government, media and social entrepreneurship.

Among the young leaders of 2016, women represent the majority, a sign that the world’s leadership is becoming more diverse and broad in terms of gender.

Following is a selection of nine leaders from the original list, each from a different geographical or professional area of the world.


Farida Bedwei, cofounder of Logiciel and one of the top software engineers in Ghana, is considered to be one of the most powerful women in financial technology in Africa. Born with cerebral palsy, she helps change the lives of disabled people living in the continent.

North America

From the world of academia, Roland G. Fryer is a Harvard economics professor and the director of the Education Innovation Laboratory. An expert on education, race and inequality, he is the youngest African American to be tenured at Harvard, at only 30. His research focuses on elaborating effective policies for education reform and combating police violence.

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Latin America

As the director of Semana Sostenible Magazine and Sustainability Semana Publishing Group, María Lopez is one of the youngest and most influential sustainability leaders in Latin America and one of the pioneers of sustainability in media in Colombia.


From the public sector, Zunaid Ahmed Palak has been selected for being the youngest MP in Bangladesh and the Minister of State for Posts, who, at 33, is playing a pivotal role in pushing technology reforms.

From the private sector, Hassina Syed is the founder of Afghanistan’s Syed Group and the not-for-profit Afghan National Women’s Organization. She is the only female member of the 3,000-strong Afghan Chamber of Commerce, where she leads about 650 people, despite threats made against her and the time she spent in a Kabul jail for failure to pay protection money to the police.

Yao Chen is a leading Chinese actress at the Chen Xi Culture and Art Studio and a U.N. Refugee Agency Goodwill Ambassador. She speaks up about troubling social and environmental issues, especially the ones shunned by Chinese media.


As one of the main Russian cultural leaders, Julia Shakhnovskaya is leading the transformation of the Polytechnic Museum from a post-Soviet institution to a leading Russian science museum.


Eleni Antoniadou, from Greece, is a 28-year-old scientist who is pioneering the development of artificial lab-generated organs to combat organ trafficking.


Samantha Freebairn is an award-winning trailblazing pilot in the Australian Air Force. As a squadron leader, she has become an entrepreneurial champion for women and cultural change in the military and civil aviation.

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