By “most influential”, we refer to people whose actions, words and whatever they engage in turn out to bear a significant impact on the country, or at least on a major sector or industry in the country–politics, business, entertainment, sports, name it. Naturally, most of these youths are widely known and widely established household names, but a number of them are also people who without being so famous, influence big matters in this country or in specific areas. You might also like to know that to come up with this list, we relied on a mini survey as well as on our expert knowledge.
King Oyo Nyimba Iguru II (22)
The king of Tooro, who turns 23 next week, is certainly a top contender for the title of most influential Ugandan below 30 years. As cultural head of one of the four big traditional kingdoms in Uganda, he has influence and clout not only in Tooro but also in every power corridor in Uganda and in many power circles far beyond our borders that were fascinated when he was crowned king at just three years of age, becoming the youngest monarch in the world. Never mind that sections of his subjects led by Prince David Kijanangoma are attempting to knock him off the throne over allegedly not properly running his kingdom’s affairs. And, of course, he is wealthy, primarily courtesy of inheritances.
Prince Jjunju (28)
He is first born of Buganda’s Kabaka Ronald Mutebi, actually one of the only two known sons of Kabaka Mutebi, and therefore one of the two prime options should an heir be required for the Buganda royal throne. Of course the first Prince of the richest cultural institution in the country has to be loaded, not to mention that Jjunju has also made himself a popular figure on Kampala’s social scene.
Anne Kansiime (27)
This laughter inciter’s influence overleaped our local boundaries long ago, such that it’s now some time since she was christened East Africa’s Queen of Comedy. Without undermining Salvado Idringi and Dickson Zizinga, it could be justifiably said that no local comedian from whatever age bracket wields more influence (be it in the comedy circles or in the country at large) than this little woman who’ll be 28 this April.
Stephen Ssembuya (29)
He started Uganda’s first and only chocolate making factory, two years ago, and for it, he has already attracted attention (and probably proposals) from across the world. He has a partner in fellow 29-year old John Otuwe, but it is Ssembuya who is more renown for the initiative. Ssembuya is the son of, Christopher Ssembuya, one of the owners of the defunct Ssembule Steel Mills, and he also plans to stand for MP in his native Buikwe District.
Haruna Ssentongo (28)
Younger brother of the famous Hamis Kiggundu of Ham Enterprises. At 28 Haruna is already a real estate mogul of his own, and one of the famed arcade owners in the land. His multibillion commercial buildings in Kampala include Haruna Towers Wandegeya and Haruna Towers Ntinda.
Miraj Barot (26)
With a worth estimated to be beyond $30m, the Managing Director of his family’s Tirupati Enterprises (which comprises Tirupati Development, Tulip Consultancy and Virat Alloys) is also the sole owner of Tulip Enterprises, making him one of the youngest billionaires in the country. He runs a total of eight companies, some based in India and Kenya, and there’s no predicting how far he might go in making money.
Fashion and Modelling
Stacey Aamito (22)
The winner of 2013’s inaugural Africa’s Next Top Model competition has –in just a year and a half– become one of the top-rated models from Africa on the international scene. Recently ranked by style.com as one of the world’s top new models of the last one year, she has already strutted the runway in almost all the major fashion capitals, including the quartet of London, New York, Milan and Paris. On some of those, she has actually opened for top designers.
Gloria Wavamuno (29)
The founder and CEO of the Kampala Fashion Week is already one of the top fashion brands in Uganda and in the East African region. She has showcased at top fashion shows in the UK, USA, Germany and South Africa… And she’s the daughter of tycoon Gordon Wavamunno.
Ahumuza Brian aka ‘ABryanz” (25)
Courtesy of his ABryanz Fashion Awards initiative, this young man has turned himself into a leading light of the local fashion industry in a rather short time. He already owns one of the top-rated men’s boutiques in the country, styling many of the most celebrated figures in the arts and entertainment.
Leah Kalanguka (24)
Only ask yourself how many Ugandans below 30 have had the honour of individually representing the country at a major international competition, and while at it drawing the attention of the global media. She’s the reigning emblem of Ugandan beauty, with access and invitations to high places most Ugandans only dream. A recent computer engineering graduate, she is an example that beauty and brains can be put in one sentence. Agriculture has also become the it-thing among the youth partly because she endorses it.
Godfrey Massa (29)
We know you are questioning his being truly below 30 –but his passport indicates February, 19, 1986 as his birthday. And with Ibrahim Ssekagya now retired, the South-Africa-based striker is now the most powerful active footballer in the land. He captains the Cranes in absence of Andy Mwesigwa and last year he was named among the 50 best players on the continent.
Phiona Mutesi (22)
She hasn’t only already become one of the most famous chess players in the world today, she also already has her life story being adapted into a Hollywood film, The Queen of Katwe where Oscar Award winner Lupita Nyong’o will feature. Of course she is one of the highest rated young players in the sport, tipped to become a world champion someday.
Moses Kipsiro (29)
In the way of track success, this multi-medal winning athlete has been silhouetted since Kiproptich burst onto the scene, but he remains one of Uganda’s foremost cards for glory in sport, and actually he is already a local sporting legend. His voice and person have also turned out to be some of the most tremulous in the local sporting fraternity, as evidenced by the tale of his recent withdrawal from the national cross-country team over his troubles with coach Peter Wemmali.
Duncan Mugabe (25)
The 25-year old is already a local tennis legend, being the most successful Ugandan tennis player of the last decade. With the highest World ranking attained by a Ugandan tennis player in recent years, as well as several winner’s and runner-up medals collected from both local and international events, he is one of the sportsmen hoisting Uganda’s flag high on the international front.
Stephen Kiprotich (26)
Reckoned to be Uganda’s greatest sportsman ever, the reigning Olympic and World marathon champion’s influence is testified by the fact that he is one of very few sportsmen who have been hired to endorse a local product (remember the ‘Kip Sipping’ advert). Anything that happens in his personal life is cause for national celebration or mourning and on social media so many have at some point added ‘Tich’ to their names.
Peace Proscovia (25)
In qualifying for the World Cup last year, The She Cranes, the national netball team, became the first major-sport team from Uganda to qualify for a World Cup. And for team captain and star-player Peace Proscovia, in leading her team to honour, elevated her stature. She was nominated for Sports person of the year and signed by UK professional netball team Loughborough Lightning, becoming the only professional/overseas-based netballer in the country.
Douglas Mayanja Weasel (29)
Being one half of one of Uganda’s most prominent, most successful and most in-demand music acts means the singer who turns 30 in July isn’t only famous, popular and rich, but also an icon for many youths. He is one of few Ugandan musicians who have a fan base across the continent, let alone who have been nominated for a BET Music Award.
Eddy Kenzo (26)
In making a routine of the churning of blockbuster hits, he hasn’t only made a fortune and become a household name, but also clearly won himself popularity and clout across all strata of society. Dance moves from his videos have become entire trends on the local dance floors, politicians are always seeking him to perform at their public events, he is very popular with diasporan Ugandans, and perhaps he is the favourite local singer for every child below 12 years. His 2014 Sitya Loss hit made him a continental household name with stars like P. Diddy and Akon sharing his video.
Gravity Omutujju (22)
Once it seemed like no musician would ever rival Bobi Wine for the hearts of the downtown youth (popularly known as Ghetto youth), but this Luga flow rapper has defied the picture. The majority of downtown youth now being more of agemates of Gravity than of Bobi Wine (who is surely getting to the upper limits of youth), Omutujju is now more or less the new Ghetto president –NGOs are already using him more than Bobi Wine to headline their events with the downtown youth.
At just 21, Nessim is already rivalling veterans like Washington, Paddy Man and Benon Mugumbya for the title of Uganda’s best music producer today. He is behind successful tracks like Bebe Cool’s Everywhere I Go, Goodlyfe’s Ntunga as well as all of A-Pass’ recent hit songs.
Rema Namakula (23)
Extraordinary vocal prowess has turned this young woman (who’ll be 24 in May) into one of the most critically-acclaimed, most popular and most-sought after singers in the country. She is already rivaling the likes of Iryn Namubiru and Juliana Kanyomozi for the tag of best female singer in the land.
Iryn Ntale (26)
Like Rema, Iryn Ntale is not only one of the most critically acclaimed musicians in Uganda today, she is also steadily churning out hit after hit, is in demand for performances across the country and abroad, artistes are seeking to collaborate with her, aspiring singers are seeking to emulate her… Also already one of very few Ugandan musicians to have featured on BBC showcasing Ugandan music, she is as well one of the few Ugandan artistes currently enjoying big product endorsement deals (she is an ambassador for Oriflame as well as the UBL Red Card Campaign).
Corporate, NGO and Humanitarian
Trevor Ariho (28)
At 28, Trevor Ariho, General Manager of AAR Health Services Uganda, is one of the youngest General Managers of a multinational in Uganda. But even more than his position, Trevor bears influence in many circles because of his expertise at media and marketing.
Humphrey Nabimanya (25)
Humphrey is the brain and hand behind Reach A Hand, one of the NGOs spearheading the fight against HIV/Aids among youth in the country. The NGO’s work hasn’t only been highly acclaimed and commended by the high and the low both within and abroad, it is running projects worth tens of thousands of dollars, and it is endorsed by global icons like Tiwa Savage and Brick and Lace. For his work, Humphrey has previously won a Young Achievers’ Award and was nominated for the MTV Base Leadership Awards (where young people going out of their way to improve the condition of life in their societies are recognised).
Esther Kalenzi (26)
Ever since she opened a Facebook page with the goal of raising alms over the 40 days of Lent to help needy children around Kampala three years ago, there has been no turning back for Esther who is now one of the most reknown young individuals working for the welfare of needy children in Uganda. The Facebook page has since grown into a fully-fledged foundation, the 40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation, which is helping support vulnerable children using funds it gathers from willing givers at fun fundraising events. She has also won a Young Achievers’ Award for her work, and two months ago she was named finalist for the Commonwealth Youth Leadership Awards (which aim to award youth who are making a difference in their communities.)
Bwesigye Mwesigire (27)
The Centre for African Cultural Excellence, which Bwesigye founded four years ago, has become one of the most influential organisations on the local arts scene. In its five years of existence, CACE organises the biggest writing contest in the country, the Writivism contest. Bwesigye is a lecturer of Human Rights at Makerere, but even more he is a highly rated young leader and activist has been named British Council Young Global Change Maker, among other leadership honours he has received.
Not many Ugandan broadcast media personalities have had a chance to go continental by working with South Africa-based broadcaster DStv. But Flavia went even one better, hosting the Big Brother show alongside Nigerian IK two years ago. Flavia’s Big Brother stint was of course brief, and we still don’t know why she wasn’t called back, but it remains a landmark. Besides, she has been a presenter on Channel O, and locally she is one of today’s most popular, admired and followed radio presenters (with her midmorning show on Capital FM).
Sheila Gashumba (19)
There is always a teenager with abnormal clout in the media and entertainment world, and presently the controversial teen indubitably occupies that station. From being the envy of teenage girls across the country, to presenting a popular show on NTV TV station, to endorsements with beauty product manufacturers and dealings with continental broadcaster Dstv, she has quite some clout.