This year marks eleven years of the Mail & Guardian’s annual edition of Young South Africans, featuring 200 notable South Africans under the age of 35. The edition has in many ways taken on a life of its own, becoming one of our best known projects. We love the fact that we get to introduce a new crop of talent to our readers — and to South Africa — every year.
We have also been gratified at how the list has grown in prestige. Our alumni proudly list their inclusion on their LinkedIn profiles, Twitter bios and CVs. As it is an honour to be included, so is it an honour to oversee this year’s edition as a young editor myself. Before I joined the M&G in 2009 I used to eagerly pore over previous editions, noting those who had made the list with a little awe and a lot of admiration.
Working at the M&G and seeing how the process was run has provided incredible insight into the sheer volume of talent our young people have to offer.
Every year we are inundated with entries across our ten main categories, adding an eleventh last year, Rising Stars, for those still at school. We received a good balance of entries and went through a rigorous process of selecting those who appear. At some point we adopted a policy of not repeating those who have made the list before. This makes our jobs tougher but it ensures that we are uncovering new, exciting talent event year.
The fact that we can so easily keep finding additional faces every year is indicative of the quality of people we have in this country.
Previously the list has been a pretty good harbinger of people who were going to become even bigger trailblazers in their respective industries. Alumni include people like Trevor Noah (2010), Julius Malema (2009, 2010), Lauren Beukes (2009), Michael Jordaan (2008) and Bryan Habana (2007), all of whom were profiled again in our special alumni edition last year, which you can find online.
This year the edition is being run by the M&G’s recently appointed special projects editor, Sipho Hlongwane, himself an alumnus. He has freshened up the edition and brought innovative ideas and energy to the attendant event, which promises to be a great party and celebration of the 200 young South Africans who have made the list this year.
South Africa in many ways finds itself at a crossroads, politically, economically and in multiple other ways. Now is the time when we need fresh ideas, talent and energy to move us forward as a country. We are confident that we have found some of that talent and profiled it here for you this Youth Month.
Editor-in-chief, The Mail & Guardian